A blog about babies: the babies I lost, the babies I never had, the baby who made me a Mama.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Of Clean Slates and Second Chances; or, Answers

I periodically wondered in the last three years since our first miscarriage if it would be better to know or not know why it happened. Not "Why it Happened" in a religious or fatalistic or moral sense or anything like that, but just literally, physically, why this happened. What was wrong? Why didn't this baby make it?

I never found out last time. We waited and waited for the results to come back, but when they did we didn't learn anything. It wasn't even clear whose tissue was tested.

I expected something similar this time around. I was prepared to once again accept not knowing forever.

Triploidy. Three full sets of chromosomes instead of two. Invariably fatal with almost no chance of live birth.

I think it's better to know. The doctors always say "It's not your fault," and we tell each other that on blogs and message boards. And we say we believe it. And we kind of do.

Maybe it's just me, but there's a part that always wondered nevertheless if it didn't have to be like that. If there was a chance for those nuggets after all, if they'd belonged to someone else. I couldn't help feeling a little bad about that thought, either.

We have a meeting with a genetic counselor at my OB's office next week, so I'll know more after that point. From what I've read, though, this--triploidy--really is the freak accident people always ascribe miscarriage to. Ironic that after cycle after cycle of sperm refusing to meet eggs, two apparently got there at the same time. Probably. Possibly.

For whatever reason, I feel comfort in the fact that this was never meant to be--this little one could never have become our baby. Any further gestation would have simply prolonged the inevitable, so I even feel gratitude that it happened when and how it did. I take some reassurance from the fact that there really isn't any increased likelihood of this specific chromosomal abnormality occurring for us again, though I can't rule out the possibility that it will.

I've thought a lot about the differences between this miscarriage and the last, and obviously the biggest difference is made by Smudgie, who makes all the difference in the world. This is another-- to have a reason or a diagnosis or a cause allows for a sort of closure. But beyond all that, I think there's a difference in me, too. I'm three years older now. Those three years were filled with horribly low lows and wonderfully high highs and all those lows and highs and the ways that I dealt with them, whether well or badly, changed me.

I worry a lot about what comes next. I think about the possibly rough road ahead. The months of trying, the difficulty of treatment, vividly come back to me as I anticipate the next year or so of our lives.

And then I stop myself and say: I have a son, and he's everything. If he is all I ever have, he will be enough. And I did this before, and it turned out fine--better than fine. It was wonderful. Which doesn't mean it will be again. But it also doesn't mean it won't be. So have faith. And be calm.

The years of trying and losing-- they take a toll. I know full well how ugly it can look, the business of surviving until the next day. I don't blame myself for those uglier emotions, the anger and bitterness and selfishness that came along with all the pain. But I also don't celebrate them, and I realize that not everyone who goes through this becomes as warped as I did during the experience.

So with all the questions that I have about what comes next, perhaps the most central (today, anyway) is just to wonder: who will I be at the end of whatever lies ahead? Whoever that person is, I hope she can reflect on these yet-to-come months or years and feel, not just understanding and forgiveness, but pride that this time struggle inspired her best.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Getting By/Through/Over; or, Thoughts on Driving Into the Future

How are you doing?


Not great.

Kind of awful.


Really good.

Ask again tomorrow.

Some nights I go to bed with a big hard lump of sad sitting on my chest.  Some mornings I wake up and need to count to ten, need to breathe all the way in and all the way out, before I can throw the comforter back and feel the floor under my feet.

And sometimes none of that is true.

Smudgie woke up the morning after LG and I decorated the Christmas tree and he looked like a miracle had just unfolded in his living room. And then he pointed at it with his little crooked finger gun and very clearly said "tree." It sounded sort of like "tchrai" but whatever, close enough, and my kid's a genius, okay?

(Last night sitting in his high chair he pointed at the lit menorah and also said "tree." Which leads me to believe we need some family education on the meanings of our respective holidays. And probably a botany lesson, too).

On one important, quite crucial in fact, level life is very beautiful and I am very happy.

This is not the crushing, all-encompassing despair of the last time. How could it be? I'm too aware of all that is bright and lively in this chiaroscuro drawing.

But, like I said, the sad still comes sometimes, and it's not a matter of dwelling on things or thinking about losses or even worrying about the future. It's not thinking at all. The sad just is--it has a weight and a presence of its own and it has to be gotten through before it can be gotten over.

Maybe it's a good thing that I've been through this before. I can see how it would be overwhelming to pop a kid out, no problems at all, and then suddenly be smacked in the face with the fact that These Things don't always work out the way you think they will. I can see a lot of "Why Me?" and "How Can it Be?" in that instance. Whereas I sort of feel like: oh, right, of course. These things happen to me. For a minute I'd forgotten. I'll try not to make that mistake again.

But good things happen to me, too, and I'm reminded of that every day-- and of the fact that we never know when bad will turn to good, or how. Two years of really awful crap turned into the best little person that ever was. It's not that Everything Happens for a Reason, but more that I now have a reason for everything that happened. I believe I'll one day find my reason for this, too.

I'm trying hard not to worry this time around. Or at least to have faith even while I worry that all can be well even when it doesn't go according to plan. A few years ago, a writer friend of mine sent me a little framed quotation about novel-writing: that it's like driving at night with the headlights on, only able to see a little ways ahead of you, but secure in the chance of reaching one's destination. You can drive quite far only watching a little bit of road.

That's how I feel right now. I can't see past the next month or so. When I try to-- when I think about the spring or the summer or the fall--I feel that familiar anxious ache. But when I focus on the headlights in front of me, on Christmas and New Years, maybe a trip somewhere warm in the winter, and lots of work and time together, that all seems quite nice. If nothing changes for us then, nothing needed to change. We'll be happy just as we are.

And the future will get here soon enough on its own.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The News I Thought I Was Going to Share and What Became of It; or, November, Again, Always

I've read some special posts in the last few months. Women who'd been through hell to get their long-awaited miracles and then, unexpectedly, found luck and joy when they weren't even looking for it. Women who kept these secrets close to their hearts until 12 weeks or 16 weeks, some point when the crazy dream started to feel real, and then revealed on their blogs that they weren't "cured" but somehow they were, and blogged about the tremendous awe and gratitude they felt.

This was supposed to be one of those posts.

But you've probably figured out right about now that it's not.


On Halloween, I got the surprise of my life. Okay, truth be told, I wasn't actually that surprised. My period was almost a week late. The surprise came in the fact that I was doing what I was doing at all--going into the bathroom, peeing in a cup, taking out the very last dollar store pregnancy test left in the drawer, left over from before Smudgie's conception, so old I had no idea if it would even work.

We weren't trying. We weren't tracking. The basal body thermometer stayed in the drawer. I never once thought of pulling out the $200 fertility monitor sitting next to the pregnancy test in the bathroom. Two periods since night weaning. That was it. One normal (for me) 35-day cycle. And the next one we maybe had sex twice.

In all honesty, I didn't even really want to be pregnant right then. I was so happy with my little family the way it was. I felt no urgency or compulsion to make it larger just yet. I had plenty to occupy myself-- a growing, amazing 13-month-old little boy just learning to walk and talk, a wonderful husband to finally reconnect with now that we were getting a little more sleep, a dissertation to write, a conference to prepare for, races to run, a life to live. The thought of returning to try to conceive was unbearable. So I didn't think about it. I just lived my life.

Waiting to go back into the bathroom and check the test, I imagined seeing that it was negative, and my heart sank into my gut. So that told me something.

It was positive.

Over the next few weeks, it continued to feel like a strange dream. I'd forget about being pregnant for long stretches of time-- having an active baby to follow around and care for will do that--but even when I remembered, even when I talked about names with LG or pictured in my head how we would rearrange Smudgie's room to accommodate a toddler bed and more clothes or tried to wrap my mind around how we were going to handle childcare for two kids in less than a year-- it all felt exceedingly academic. An exercise for my brain, not for my heart. And really, not even for my body.

I was tired. I peed more. I was occasionally crampy. That was it. My boobs didn't even hurt (probably because I was still nursing until told to stop by my doctor a few weeks ago) which was why I waited so long to take the test. But it didn't really worry me-- I'd had no nausea until 8 weeks with Smudgie, after all, and tons of nausea with the m&m, the first pregnancy. Symptoms don't mean anything.

And I knew I was pregnant, because I kept getting confirmation from my gynecologist. A 5 week appointment with a sack and yolk sac. A 7 week appointment with a right-sized pole and a heartbeat--133 bpm, perfectly on track. I'd had to take Smudgie to the appointment with me, because LG was at work, and the nurse held him up to listen while my doctor filled the room with the sound of a beating heart. "That might be your little brother or sister!" the nurse said to my son. "We'll see you in 15 months," my doctor told me with a big hug as she waved me out the door. "With two kids!"

I knew how lucky we were of course. After trying for so hard and so long the first time, enduring so much, doing so much damage to our hearts and lives together and even, though not irreparable, a bit to our love for each other, how could we not look at this as the unexpected and astoundingly precious gift that it was?

I was also nervous. This really wasn't part of the plan. Would I be able to finish my degree with two kids less than two years apart? Would we be able to stay in this apartment the length of time I felt we needed to for the security of our investment? And if we stayed, how would we all fit? How would all the stuff fit? How was I going to be able to carry two kids up and down the two flights of stairs to our walk-up every day and also maintain my sanity? How the hell was I going to be able to do this? Was I ready for the midnight wakeups again? The return to nursing bras and spraying milk and hours-long feeding sessions? Didn't I just finish with all of that?

There were deeper concerns. I felt detached, unemotional. The intense agony and fear that accompanied every waking moment of my first trimester with Smudgie had been replaced by a calm acceptance of the will of God or fate or whatever you want to call it. "What will be will be," I thought. "Let's see how this pans out." I listened to that heartbeat in the doctor's office without a tear, without even any real excitement. "Okay. One step down. Let's see what happens when we reach the next one."

I worried about this detachment. I worried that I was already loving this baby less than I loved my Smudgie. I worried that I could never love it as much as him. That the utter joy Smudgie brought into this world for so many people just by existing could not be replicated in this strange gift of a child. I know many parents of second children who have said they had similar fears before their younger kids were born, and that in the moment of their birth you realize how wrong you were to fear. I knew that when this baby came, I would love him or her unconditionally. As a result I didn't even feel guilty about my passing thoughts.

But still, they persisted. Is that how I would always think of my children? The baby I dreamed of, fought for, cried for, suffered for, and finally welcomed with the greatest rejoicing. And the one that just showed up on its own.

On Tuesday I had my first appointment at my OBs (my gynecologist does not deliver, but she will handle early first trimester monitoring). I had to attend alone, as LG needed to get Smudgie to his nanny share. It felt like no time had passed at all. Give the urine sample, get on the scale, talk to the doctor, pants off and on the table.

I think the doctor was bemused by my strangely calm reaction. "This wasn't planned," I said, as we finished our pre-exam conversation. "Do you have some reservations about this pregnancy?" she asked with concern. "No. But given our history, I don't want to get too invested before I know how it's going to turn out."

Almost immediately after she put the wand in, I realized something was wrong. The nurse asked if the doctor wanted the lights turned out. She didn't respond, just continued looking intently at the screen.

I lay my head back on the table. "It's happening again," I thought. "I can't believe this is happening again."

"I'm sorry, [Sloper]. I can't find a heartbeat."

She brought in another doctor to confirm-- the OB who delivered Smudgie, in fact. Yup. An 8 week embryo with no heartbeat. No one's fault. Nothing you did. Probably something wrong from the beginning.

I felt strangely calm and very afraid at the same time. "This is the second one. What does that mean?"

No one can really tell me.


I called Lawyer Guy while I pulled my jeans back on. He didn't answer. I didn't leave a message. I called again. Same thing. He knew it was bad news when he finally reached me. "If it was good, you would have just texted me." He felt terrible that he wasn't with me. Honestly, though, I realized it wouldn't have made a difference. I least I didn't have to worry about being strong for anyone else.

I sat in a coffee shop for two hours staring at a grapefruit and cup of tea, crying a little, thinking and not thinking, killing time until the volunteer session I had to run with a group of geriatric patients at the hospital around the corner. Then I spent an hour making Christmas cards with my volunteer committee and our elderly members. If I looked like hell, no one mentioned it.

I picked up Smudgie from his nanny share with a smile on my face. I chatted with his sitter as we walked down the street, my nerves strung tight, just waiting until she peeled off and left us so I could finally let that cheery demeanor drop.

I played with Smudgie on the floor of our apartment for an hour and every so often I grabbed him close and smelled his sweet neck and stroked his sweet hair. My precious boy.

It took me 24 hours to schedule it, but I finally opted for the d&c at the hospital with anesthesia. I felt paralyzed by indecision until I did. Like I was being asked to order from an a la carte menu designed by Satan's catering hall. D&C or natural miscarriage? And would you like your dead offspring with an extra order of genetic testing? If you choose the natural option, you'll have to provide your own tupperware.

Why can't the answer be e) None of the above?

Smudgie's OB did the d&c yesterday morning. I don't know if he did something differently than the first doctor or if having a vaginal delivery in between made the difference, but it was nothing like the previous time, when I woke up with searing pain and tons of blood and copious vomiting. They gave me zofran in my IV, so I had no reaction to the anesthetic. I have had essentially no pain at all since I woke. The bleeding has been minimal. I finally understand how people can return to work the next day without problems, which was unthinkable to me before given my previous experience.

We haven't told very many people. Our parents, my sisters, two of our close friends. That's it. What's there to say, really? Whoever we tell will feel uncomfortable, will say the things people say to people who have this sort of stuff happen to them and then we'll have to say the things back that we're supposed to say in response. Plus, if people don't know, we can't be disappointed in their reactions. It's not shame that makes us hide it. It's exhaustion.

So what comes next?

We wait for the testing. We hear the results. If it's normal or inconclusive, that's that. If it's abnormal, same thing. I've had all the repeat loss testing already, back with Dr. Wonderful, our RE. It all came back negative (with the exception of the single MTHFR mutation). And if it's abnormal, there are really only two options: either we've just had some unusually shitty luck. Or we've got some unusually shitty eggs or sperm.

Not much to be done in either case, is there?

We're not ready for more testing. We're not ready for more procedures. We're not ready to put our lives back on the treatment clock. We will eventually send these results to Dr. Wonderful at our clinic, but not until we're ready to do something about them. That time is not now.

For now, we're willing to wait. To try to return to something like the peace and contentment we felt before, to take a few months to heal and love each other, all three of us, without fear of the future or sadness for what isn't going to be. I hope we can.

I read something a long time ago, maybe on one of your blogs or in a newspaper, about the way they consider miscarriage in Japan. They have memorial sites set aside for lost babies where people visit and leave little trinkets and toys. They call them "water babies," babies who lost their way trying to go from the insubstantial to the solid. And sometimes they think that the spirits of those babies come back to their parents, keep making the attempt to be born, until one day, we hope, they succeed.

I like that thought. I like it better than the thought of a collection of angels on a shelf up in Heaven, getting dusty as they wait in eternally frozen arrested development for a family they will never have.

As I changed into my gown and slippers and hairnet before the surgery, I put my hands on my belly for the first time and spoke to the baby that weirdly, finally felt real.

"I'm sorry it didn't work out for us, baby July.  But we both did our best, so there's nothing to regret. I won't be mad at you if you won't be mad at me."

"It just wasn't your time yet. You tried to get here too early. But do come back again, and next time we'll be ready for you."

"I know we'll meet again."

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Disasters from Distances Great and Small

I've been meaning to post about so much the past few moths-- Smudgie's first birthday and our TTC plans, such as they are, and the brutal schedule I'm hewing to right now, trying to get this dissertation written and feeling like I've fallen so short.

But it's been a hard month, for a lot of people, and that's what I keep coming back to. I saw a man collapse and turn blue running my first 10k the other weekend on a beautiful October morning, the triumph of finishing marred by worry for what had happened to him. And sadness days later when my running group learned of his death.

The brutal murder of two beautiful children in this city last week tore my heart out. Thoughts of a mother and father's devastation are still haunting.

And now, a storm like I've never seen before battering my beautiful city.

For the record, LG, Smudgie, Bella and I are fine. There are benefits to living in a neighborhood built on a hill. Some downed trees and a few hours without cable for some families around us were the extent of the damage. LG's office is in the Lower Manhattan flood zone and completely closed (though miraculously not flooded). He and I trade off staying home with Smudgie and trying to arm-wrestle for a table at one of the suddenly over crowded coffee shops near our house. But we are lucky and don't we know it. Hot showers have never felt like such a luxury.

Obviously, so many others are not lucky. We're swapping out my couch-surfing sisters day by day. They're three days without power now, and it's getting cold. They're desperate enough for some basic comforts to put up with Brooklyn's sudden isolation from Manhattan. Because, yeah, there are 43 MILLION gallons of water in the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and not a single subway line running between the two boroughs. Or any power from Battery Park to 39th Street once you get into Manhattan, if you choose to walk for over an hour from my house to the Brooklyn Bridge and across. We're a little, tree-lined island of kids who can't believe they're getting yet another day off school. Like I said, very lucky. But isolated.

It's weird. This is bad. I see the footage of flooding in Manhattan, in Red Hook just down the hill, in Hoboken, of power stations exploding, see the snarling traffic at the end of our block, several miles from the Bridges, as people pick up hitchhikers to take them into the city. And I see worse things on tv--the houses burnt to the ground in Queens, the devastation on the Jersey Shore. But I know it's going to be okay.

I think for anyone who lived in New York on 9/11, that will always be The Event, the one that everything else is compared to. It's difficult to describe how terrifying that day was here--and the weeks after, in a city where even the air smelled like death. It felt like we would never be done mourning and that life would never, never be normal again.

So I always think, we got through that. We came back stronger. We'll get through this, too, and be better able to deal with the next one. New Yorkers are tough, but pretty awesome to each other when things go bad.

I'm fine. My city isn't, but it will be. If you want to help those who've been displaced in NY/NJ, the Red Cross is always good.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Not There Yet; or, Ten Months

The summer's racing by. They always do, even when life was sad and slow. Now, with a baby in the house, they go even faster. An army crawler turns to a speed-demon maniac racing about the apartment and teaching himself how to open and close all the doors (and lift the toilet seat. Need to take care of that). A week at the beach passes easy, sweet day by easy sweet day (even if very few of them are spent beachside. Less sand consumption and better naps that way). The birthday party that is soooo far in the future with plenty of time to prepare for is...gulp...six weeks from now. And we just wrote out the guest list yesterday.

He's going to be one year old soon. I am so happy for him: he tackles the world with enthusiasm and a big smile for everyone he meets. He thrives on new experiences and situations, new places and faces. He gives slobbery kisses with a wide open mouth and big, big hugs when he wakes up from his nap (always with a grin). I know his next year will be filled with wonderful discoveries and adventures-- walking! talking! learning! playing! But I am going to try to slow time down a little to soak up every bit of baby goodness until the end of September.

As wonderful as the idea of Smudgie's next year is, it's of course tinged with bittersweet emotion. I won't get into that now--plenty of time on October 4th for remembering and reminiscing. But with all the excitement and nostalgia, there's also a lot of fear.

I've seen so many blog friends cross this bridge in the last few months: from not thinking about trying, to thinking about not trying, to thinking about trying, to...

I don't want to be there yet. I don't want to go back to my life circa 2009/2010. Especially not now that I have the most incredible little boy to spend my days with. I don't want to waste a day of my time with him obsessing over positive opks or temperatures or cervical mucus.

And honestly, if I didn't worry that there's another 2 year road--or even more this time--ahead of us, I'd probably hold off on trying for another until Smudgie is two and I've finished more of my dissertation. (My proposal has been accepted and I'm just getting started on my first chapter. The end is in sight, but still a long way off).

But it's not like we have a firm TTC date set. First of all, I haven't even broached the subject with Lawyer Guy, other than that we both acknowledge we're not using any protection. He still needs more time to recover from the frustration of those two years and doesn't even want to consider getting back into sex on schedule.

Second, my cycles haven't started up again yet. I'm still nursing Smudgie regularly (five or six times a day), though we're finally going to night wean him beginning this week on the recommendation of his pediatrician. I'm hoping to continue to nurse past his birthday, though I plan to stop pumping on the days I'm away from him once I can substitute cow's milk (I love nursing but I LOATHE pumping. I am so ready to be unhooked from that thing). Will my cycles return if I'm only nursing morning and evening? If they don't, do I wean him sooner rather than later? I'd like the weaning process to happen on Smudgie's timetable, not mine, but that may not be possible.

Ideally, we'd start "trying" again after my first/next period--but a trying without timing things or planning or tracking, none of which I have the strength to handle again. We'd just give it six months (or maybe a year, depending on when we began and how our emotions are handling things) of low-planning conception efforts and at some point before Smudgie's second birthday, if nothing's working again, we'll go back to the RE for round two.

I write it out like that and it seems so reasonable and sane. I know it won't feel that way once I'm living it. The fear will return, the impatience, the stress. The jealousy.

But also, I hope, the gratitude and wonder that we got a miracle once and he's still ours to keep.

He's ten-and-a-half months old. Isn't he the cutest?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Baby on the Go; or, Mama on the Move

When were struggling with IF, I often felt like I was walking on a treadmill while the world flew past me-- every one racing along and me stuck in one place. And now that I measure the months by Smudgie's smiles (and laughter and shrieks and dirty diapers), it feels the opposite. Time is flying so quickly I can hardly catch my breath.

Smudgie is eight months old now-- he'll be nine months in about 10 days. And he is a bundle of wild, adventurous, wiggly, sweet boyish energy. He crawls like he's doing a variation of the worm-- arms out and straight, belly and butt up, lean forward, flop down and repeat the process. But my little inchworm manages to cover some ground! If he spots certain enticing treasures (Bella's disgusting rubber ball or the cordless phone, primarily) he books it like he's doing the butterfly across a pool. He's also been spending some time in actual pools and he just loves them! He is so happy when he gets a chance to kick and splash in the water, whether he's in his little bathtub or a wading pool or being held by Daddy in a big pool. I think we've got a future swimmer on our hands.

He had his first trips in the last few months, too-- a flight to Chicago for a family wedding over Memorial Day weekend and weekend nights at Grandparents' houses (with mom and dad. We still haven't felt comfortable enough to leave him for a full night out). Smudgie does not like going to sleep in a strange place, and both in Chicago and last weekend out in the Hamptons he completely refused his afternoon nap, only falling asleep at night when his exhausted little frame couldn't tolerate another waking moment. But once he fell asleep once in the strange crib he was able to do it again the following day with much less fanfare. We're hoping this bodes well for our upcoming family trip to the Outer Banks-- we'll be renting a place for a week which should give us time to settle into a routine and not sacrifice too many naps and nights.

While Smudgie is working had to cross a room, I've been trying to tackle (slightly) longer distances, both physical and mental. In the spring I joined a local mom's running club. We trained for a 5k, I ran it in May, and loved it! I've never enjoyed running, but the camaraderie, the chance to be outside, and the physical challenge has all been just what I needed right now. I'm going to run another 5k later this summer and hope to to a 10k in the fall (more races and further distances after that would be great, but I'm trying to take it one goal at a time and enjoy the here and now). It feels so wonderful to have a physical goal that is purely, selfishly, 100% for myself. I'm not trying to lose weight. I'm not trying to make my body a perfectly hospitable place for a baby. I'm just trying to run faster and for longer distances to see if I can do it. It's great.

I'm also working on my dissertation proposal. After a semester of reading and teaching, I'm determined to have my proposal approved by the end of the summer and to start writing my first chapter. I've already received feedback from my advisor on one draft, which she thought was approvable as is but could be made more enticing for fellowship applications (so back to the editing room I go). It's hard for me to believe, but after six years in school, an end is in sight. Very, very far away still-- quite at the line of the horizon. But I am getting there.

I'll leave you with what I know the people want: Smudgie pics! This was his 8-month shot. He's a laughing, smiling, squealing boy. He loves people and Bella and daddy and splashing and broccoli and his mama. And I love him!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Please Ignore...; or, Infertility Revisited

You know that voice that whispers to women trudging through infertility, "Maybe they're right"? The one that wonders if maybe she is too self-focused. Maybe she's obsessed with what she can't have instead of appreciating what she does. That maybe there are worse fates and worse pain and it's self-indulgent to elevate her struggle to their level. That maybe she's lost perspective and will come to regret the time "wasted" feeling sad all those years. That maybe she's just an unhappy person fixating on a baby as the solution to all her problems, and once (if) she gets that baby there will be something else to focus on as the source of future happiness-- a job, more money, a house, her body.

Was it only me who heard that voice? On the chance that one other person has felt this way and asked herself these questions, I'm here to say: ignore that voice. It's a liar.

My worst day as a mom is 100% better than my best day with infertility. Which is not to minimize the difficulty of parenting a baby. Yes, I am sometimes frustrated, often tired, always stressed, frequently harried, and occasionally bored. But underneath whatever momentary storm is shaking the emotional trees, there's a firm, steady bedrock of contentment keeping those roots firmly in place (and inspiring cheesy botanical metaphors, apparently).

I am happy. Not only happy all of the time. But ultimately and essentially happy.

I used to be sad. Not only sad all of the time. But ultimately and essentially sad.

One day your infertility journey will be over, whether through the birth of your child, through adoption, or through the decision to embrace a childfree life with your partner. There is an end in store. And you will rediscover that happy person you used to know, the one who seemed to vanish in the years of struggling. You'll sit down with her like the best of old friends, the kind who can pick up conversations after years apart without a break or pause.

You'll realize that you weren't selfish, obsessed, or broken. Infertility was all of those things. You were just holding on for the ride.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Weighed and Found Wanting?; or, 6 Months!

I haven't written much about breastfeeding for a couple reasons, primarily because it's gone pretty well, so it didn't seem like a very interesting topic for discussion. A series of posts detailing the ways breastfeeding was a success for me just didn't seem like must-read blogging. So here we are, six months into this whole mommyhood thing and this is my first real feeding post.

I feel very lucky--particularly after reading so many reports of how differently it could have gone--that Smudgie and I had such an easy time of it. No real pain beyond those first two weeks or so, no supply issues, a great latch right from the beginning. We had pretty much the dream breastfeeding relationship. Smudgie was exclusively breastfed up until we started solids this week. And while I choose not to talk about or write about it much (partially because I realize how lucky we are and don't want to seem smug), I feel damn proud of myself. Middle-of-the-night feedings, constant nursing, pumping when away, and wearing only easily accessible outfits for the last six months--I've done it all to sustain him in the way that feels healthiest and the most right to me.

This past week, though, Smudgie had his six week checkup and we got an (mildly) unpleasant surprise. He's always been a teeny little dude, but his weight gain curve is leveling a bit and he dropped from the 5th percentile to the 3rd for weight (he's more for length and head circumference). His doctor did not suggest that this was due to breastfeeding, that it's a sign of anything wrong, or that I need to switch to formula. She encouraged us to begin solids feedings right away (which we have) and to bring him in for a weight check in a month or so and see where we are then.

But I can't help feeling guilty. Have I doomed my son to shrimpitude thanks to my egotistical desire to solely breastfeed? Is he truly healthy? Rationally I know the answers to these questions, but it's hard not to feel like I'm failing him when I learn that he's so tiny.

Despite his small size (he can still wear some of his 3 month clothes), Smudgie is doing great in all other respects:

- Smudgie rolls eagerly in both directions. He now flips instantly to his belly as soon as I lay him in the crib, and seems to sleep better that way.

- He smiles, squeals, giggles, grins, and belly laughs at new faces, familiar friends, and all our little games.

- He naps about 4 hours a day in his crib (over two or thee naps) and wakes once in the night (over a 12 hour period) to nurse. Incidentally, I am so glad I continued with that feeding, despite reading that he didn't need it any more and I could drop it without a problem. His pedi confirmed that with his weight being so low, continuing the night time feeds makes sense. Score one for mom's intuition!

- He looooooves to stand and can hold himself up like that with no external support save his own grip on my fingers (and quite a grip he has).

- He plays attentively with favorite toys, observing them from multiple angles, dropping them, moving them around, passing them between hands, and (of course) sticking them in his mouth.

- He recognizes Bella! He smiles ear to ear when he sees her and is quite fond of grabbing her beard fur (we're working on this one).

- He's a big fan of books, following my finger on the words, examining the pictures with rapt attention, and trying to stick them in his mouth.

- He's all about his exersaucer--his little legs kick and flail crazily as he plays with the toys.

- He loves music, whether it's me singing him show tunes while I change him or the classical music station on the radio or the first sing-along I brought him to (he shrieked happily at the musicians the whole time).

- Smudgie responds to his name now and loves playing imitative sound games (repeating ba-ba-ba back and forth to each other and so on) and peekabo.

- He also loves his bath time. He starts kicking his legs emphatically before he's lowered in the water. Once he's in there, he's all about splashing, chewing on the washcloth or his bath toys, and smiling at mommy and daddy. He doesn't mind at all when he gets water in his face. He can be about ready to scream with hunger, but show him the bathtub and he's all smiles.

- He's started noticing other babies, smiling at them in church or at our playgroup. He's still a massive flirt, as well, giving coy smiles to women (while basically ignoring all men except his daddy).

Smudgie still has his challenging days here and there. But overall, he is a delight--the cutest, sweetest, silliest, most fun, most wonderful little person I can imagine. Gosh, I am so lucky to have him!

Friday, March 9, 2012

How Things Should End; or, Self-Definitions [edited]

Before Smudgie was born, I thought I knew how this story was going to end. I had that final post all planned out well into my third trimester: a picture of a baby, the title "Paradise," an offering of thanks to those who followed my story, the words "The End."

A little grandiose? Probably. But it felt fitting. This blog was the story of my journey to have a baby and I always thought it should end with that baby in my arms.

But when Smudgie was born that no longer felt right. Those who had followed me, cheering me on for years, deserved a little more of this special boy than that. And perhaps my understanding of what my story had always been changed: not the journey to this baby, which was special and complete. But the story of my experience with infertility and loss--which is most certainly not complete.

So I continue (somewhat haphazardly) to blog. While parenting. After infertility. (See where I'm going with this?)

But it's not truly "parenting after infertility." Our infertility doesn't feel over and done with but rather gloriously halted for a happy breath. And so this blog, too, as you may have noticed, is catching its breath, pausing for a space in the parenting bubble before getting back to the infertility plains, where hopes rise and crash, where expectations and dreams twist and change.

Or maybe it's not that at all. Maybe, strangely, I have simply discovered that while infertility was something I needed to process, to write about, parenting is something I simply want to live. I guess that's how I know I'm an infertility blogger-- the stories that engaged me, the posts I crafted in my head for days before typing them out, were always stories of loss, not triumph. Parenting is a rich, wonderful waterfall of mingled exhilaration and fear and discovery and tedium that certainly deserves its chroniclers. I just don't think I'm one of them.

[edited: I guess I got a little too poetic for my own good. This isn't goodbye, certainly not. Just an explanation of where I see myself in light of the recent ALI community brouhaha. And an explanation of why my blog is the way it is: quiet now, likely more talkative in the future.]

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dream Houses; or, Sublimation

*WARNING-- To my friends struggling to conceive Baby #1: Don't read this unless you're in a good place*

I've been a bit of a mess the last few days: edgy, irritable, tense, twitchy. A lot of it boils down to a very New York concern that's occupying much of the "worry space" I used to reserve for TTC. Yes, I am talking about real estate.

I stop at every realtor's office in our neighborhood and scan the listings of condos and coops for sale. I trawl through the New York Times real estate webpage. I work out hypothetical budgets on online mortgage calculators, trying to figure out how much we can afford if we sell our current apartment for X or how much we'll need to save to have a down payment of Y.

Oh, did I mention that we're not moving? We have a two bedroom. It's just the right size, just the right location, just the right monthly cost. We're really happy here. We don't want to leave.

But I've become obsessed with trying to figure out how we'll be able to afford a larger place in a few years' time. Which neighborhoods I'd be willing to live in. I start to worry that we'll miss out on IT--the perfect place to raise our family, in just the right spot at just the right price.

Meanwhile, I have no idea where I'll be working when I finish my degree. I've always known it makes no sense for us to buy another apartment until I get a job and we know where I'm commuting to. I've just fallen so in love with life in this happy place, with my happy mama-to-a-Brooklyn-baby existence, and I want to do whatever I can to prolong it. I worry about my life not taking the shape I dream it will.

I suspect I'm worrying about apartments instead of about my uterus. When I lift the covers off this real estate obsession and peek at what's underneath, I start wondering about how much time we'll have to save or enjoy life here before we "have" to move. Which means before I have another baby. And I have no way of answering that question because I have no idea when we'll have another baby or how we'll conceive said baby. I don't believe I have any control over that. (The more I look into New York City real estate prices, the less ability I seem to have over that, as well).

Oh, did I mention I took a pregnancy test the other week? I haven't had my period yet, but I was feeling off and there was a faint possibility that could be it and I had a test sitting in the bathroom, so I took it. And I sat there watching it change with my heart in my throat. Wanting to NOT be pregnant. Wanting to not have to move, not have to take time away from my precious boy, not have to worry about miscarriages again. Wanting to just be in this happy place where I've found myself.

I got my wish. False alarm. I felt guilty for the relief. I worried I will one day look back on that morning and hate myself for feeling relieved.

I want to finish my dissertation. (Heck, I want to *start* my dissertation). I want to live here in this lovely place and take my bubba to swim classes and music classes and the park and playdates with his friends. I want to soak up every drop of firstborn-baby goodness. If I could be one of those women who thinks to herself, "I'd like to get pregnant in April 2000-whatever" and have it come true, I would most likely not be thinking about conceiving again for a few years.

But I'm not one of those women. And I one day want to have another baby. I want to have another baby without trying to have another baby. I never want to look at another basel body thermometer again. Or another CBEFM test strip. I'd like to avoid more trips to that sterile, glassy, eighth-floor doctor's office, if I possibly can.

What will happen? How will our family grow? Will our family grow? How can I envision a future that feels so out of my grasp? How can I let go of my need to envision it in order to love this life I'm so lucky to have found? (And I do love it, so very much and so very much of the time).

How can I stop researching real estate?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

How Are Babies Made?; or, Putting Money Where Mouths Are

Here's an amazing project that I recently learned about: a new kind of "where did I come from?" book that's inclusive of all kinds of families and all kinds of ways families come into being. I'm not affiliated with the people developing this at all, but I think it's a great project that deserves our support.

Whatever stage we're at in our family building, I'm pretty sure that gaining wider acceptance for families created through adoption, donation, and ART is a worthy goal.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That; or, 4 Months!

I hate to write a quick bullet-point post, but life has been hectic of late and I'm afraid that's all I can squeeze in right now. So here goes!

My Sweet Smudgie is four months old now. He is incredible: full of smiles and wiggles, so alert and eager to explore the world around him (especially if the piece of said world can be jammed in his drooly little mouth).

He's a wee little peanut, only 12 lbs 1 oz and 24 inches long. Definitely going to be long and lean like his papa. He had his four month shots earlier this week and was a total champ about them-- not even 30 seconds worth of crying and then he was back to flashing his huge, flirty grin at the nurse (this kid's a hit with the ladies, let me tell you). That night he was very drowsy and had some sad moments of crying, but overall he was great.

Twice a week, Smudgie is with our nanny and another little boy (who's just under two months old [ed. no, I mean two YEARS old!]). And Twice a week I criss-cross NYC: teaching a class in one borough, auditing a class with my advisor in another, fitting in a yoga class or a therapy session or errands or doctor's appointments in between. The days are so full that I don't have time to miss Smudgie too much until I see him again at night and my heart explodes. Then we only have a half hour to spend together before he goes to sleep, and I hold him close and nurse him and read to him and feel extr-super grateful that we get to spend the whole next day together.

It took some diligent effort on my part, but Smudgie is a total hero at napping in his crib. Starting at about three months, I made sure to put him down in there for at least one of his naps every day and to do whatever it took (rocking, shushing, patting, stroking, covering his face with a burp cloth--while I stood directly next to him the entire time, of course) to get him to fall asleep. If he only slept for 20 minutes, I still counted it a success so I wouldn't get discouraged and give up in desperation. I wanted him to learn to associate day-time sleep with the crib before I went back to teaching. And now, four weeks later, it's working really well! Smudgie takes three naps a day and I try very hard to make sure the first two (which are both 1 hour+) are in his crib. That gives me time to get some reading or lesson-planning or chores--or blogging--done.

Also right around 3 months we started cloth diapering him. I had bought all the diapers on sale over the summer while I was pregnant but wanted to wait until he was close to 10 pounds before using them. And then I just felt nervous about making the transition. But it only took a few days of trial and error to get the hang of it, and now it's going great! We still use sposies at night and when he's with his nanny, but the other five days of the week we are exclusively cloth. His tush looks so chubby and adorable in them, they are easy to put on and change, they don't blow-out as much as the sposies, and they are so soft and comfy. I kind of wish my undies were that delicious feeling. I also installed a diaper sprayer to our toilet water supply all by myself (with an assist from YouTube). See, motherhood does develop new skill sets!

The first day that we transitioned him he got very upset during diaper changes. He doesn't love new sensations, so I think he was just trying to process it. But the next day (and ever since) he's been fine. Our favorite of his dipes are his bumgeniuses--they are SO absorbent and fit like a dream despite being adjustable up to 35 pounds. When we have another baby, I will definitely jump into the cloth diapering faster now that I've seen how manageable it is.

Not much else is going on. Life is full of reading and writing and teaching and playing and doing laundry and pumping breastmilk and cuddling my perfect little one. I have truly never been this busy or this happy. I hope I can hold onto this feeling of deep contentment all my life--I know things will get harder (and easier!) at various points, but I want never to forget how blessed I feel right now.

And finally, what you've all been waiting for...Smudgie pic!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mid-Month Mish Mosh; or, Names and other Items

I haven't shared Smudgie's name in this space out of respect for his privacy (and also for my anonymity-- I've met a ton of new moms in this neighborhood in the last few months and I'm the only one who has a baby with this name), so I thought I would share a few of his nicknames.

While I do occasionally still call him Smudgie, it's rare and infrequent. Most of the time, Lawyer Guy and I call him Buddy or some variation of that (Buddy Boy, Buddy Bear, Bud, Budda). Despite being a skinny little fellow, he's got some adorable leg chub, so to encourage his further weight gain I call him Chunky Monkey, Chunka-Monk, Chunky Chicken, and just plain Chunka. When he was going through his bad reflux phase we'd call him The Spit-Up King of Chicago. When he's a happy boy in the morning he's Smiles Davis and when he's soiling a bib in an hour he's Drools Verne.

At (almost) 16 weeks Smudgie can lift himself up with his arms during tummy time and can sometimes flip himself onto his back. He smiles and chats with his guys on his activity mat and mobile and beams at the monkey clock over his dressing table. He loves when LG plays games with him, loves when I bicycle his legs, and is maybe starting to notice Bella. He holds onto rattles and toys when we place them in his hands and is quite good at ripping the pacifier out of his mouth-- and once he even got it back in!

We're working on his naps-- he takes at least one in the crib every day, even though he needs a lot of soothing and rocking to get him down. His nighttime sleeping is okay--not awful, not great. He averages an early stretch of 6-8 hours and then a 4-hour stretch between night feedings. No sleep training yet for us-- he's so little I want him to get as much nourishment throughout the day as possible. Plus, my SIDS fears are somewhat allayed by his middle-of-the-night wakings.

Next week we start transitioning him into our nanny share and the following week I go back into the classroom. He'll be with the nanny (and one other toddler boy) from 8am-6pm twice a week. When I think about having two days a week to teach and read and study or get my nails done, hit up a yoga class, go shopping, or run errands, I'm excited. When I think about being away from my baby boy for 10 hours in a row, I feel sad. I suppose that's normal, right?  I'm glad he and I will still have three days a week together by ourselves in addition to the weekends as a family.

I'm not really ready for this special time to end, but I'm also very ready to start using my mind again and feeling like an independent person. Mostly I love watching Smudgie grow and change and discover the world. He is an endlessly wonderful part of my life.

Friday, January 13, 2012

One Year of Smudgie; or, January 13

On January 13, 2011, I sat across from my husband in a Le Pain Quotidien on the Upper East Side eating a yogurt and granola parfait and waiting for the wizards at our fertility clinic to finish doing whatever voodoo they do to the samples before show time. LG looked at me and said, "This is going to work. This is going to be the one that works." He looked tense and sounded like he wanted to believe the words more than actually did believe them. I smiled a little and didn't respond.

Later that night--as LG likes to remind me--we tried to make some magic of our own at home, or at least some insurance in case the nurse's aim was off that morning. And at some point that day, this amazing, sweet, adorable, dome-headed, twitchy-legged, smiley, perfect little boy was made.

I think about the last year of Smudgie's existence and marvel that he has grown from a couple of teeny tiny little gametes to the warm, cuddly weight that curls against my neck when I hold him in my arms. I think about the girl I was on that day last year--sad, worried, afraid to hope, but determined--and can hardly believe that today she's a mother. A mother who, whatever frustrations and irritations she has to handle, is happy right deep down to her core.

Happy one year of being in this world, my sweet son. You have made it glow brighter than I ever thought possible, and I love you.