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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Change of Address; or, A Long Awaited Farewell

We had a great 16-week appointment with the littlest member of the Sloper-clan. There's still a long way to go, of course, but we're feeling very hopeful right now. I still feel worried a lot--more than a lot, if truth be told. But I also know that I'm a lucky girl whatever may come our way, and I'm trying to embrace the optimism in spite of my fears.

If things go all pear-shaped suddenly, I'm pretty sure I'll be back over here. But for now I'm going to be living at this address*:

Stop by and say hi! I made muffins.

And thanks for reading.

*I'll leave this hyperlink up for a month or so (or whenever I remember) before taking it down so as not to link these two blogs for all eternity.
[Edit: I have removed the hyperlink to the new blog. Please send me an e-mail if you would like the address].

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hello, Hello

I've been very quiet the last few months. I've been very tired, as well. And very anxious. But not unhappy.

I bailed on a half-marathon I was scheduled to run in April. I turned in a draft of my first dissertation chapter to my advisor. I slept. A lot.

Because happily, strangely, amazingly, I'm pregnant again. 13 weeks and all seems well. With an active little squirt who's already refusing to play by anyone else's rules, making the ultrasound tech work for those nasal bone shots at our nuchal scan.

We're both piling on the pounds (or ounces). I'm finally out of the eat-everything-then-puke-it-up stage. I feel hopeful sometimes and afraid others, but I'm ready to start revealing this secret without worrying (too much) that saying the words will doom them to not come true.

I'm due the day after Thanksgiving. Which is also the day before I had my d&c last year. Which is all rather fitting.

So I'm saying hello to all of you and hello to the little person we hope will join our family this fall. And also goodbye. Sort of. For now.

I have another space in the works that I'm not quite ready to invite everyone into yet. But I think it better fits my spirit these days, as someone trying to do a million things in a crazy city, the most important of which is raise my little family.

I'll always keep this space too, as the record of what we went through in our search for our family and a way to reach out to anyone facing those same struggles today. And maybe as a safety net, just in case.

But it's time to move on. To someplace new and full of possibilities, where I hope you'll join me soon.

Hello. Goodbye. Thank you.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

She's Up and She's Down; or, Reminders of the Lucky

I've been cruising along for the last month: running (a ten-mile race!), writing (a conference paper, part of a chapter, part of a novel!), working hard. I've loved getting to watch Smudgie label the world around him--saying "hot" to the humidifier going in his room (we'll ignore the fact that it's cold steam), asking "peeze" when he wants something especially much and requesting "encore" after we read his favorite books (his nanny is Quebecois and taught him that) . I've been making plans-- for a trip to the West Coast this summer for our family, to run a half-marathon in April, to visit lots of museums and parks and other fun places once the weather improves.
And on top of all that, LG and I were able to grab a quick four-day getaway to the Caribbean together in February-- just the two of us! We missed Smudgie, of course, but he was in great hands with my parents, all three of whom had a blast spending time together. And it was so nourishing to be able to spend time alone with my husband, relaxing and appreciating each other.

Things are still good overall. But those little intrusions of my worst self do keep knocking on the door. It's pregnancy season, you know, and I'm face-to-face with a whole lot of them. Most of them, I handle just fine. It's easy these days to rejoice over friends having first babies. Second-pregnancy announcements on Facebook, I admit, have a special sting. But giving FB up for Lent has helped with that, too-- if I don't hear about it, it didn't happen!

This week has been made up of a serious of little chisels chipping away at my contentment, though, and I'm feeling mopey as a result. Smudgie's been sick since Saturday with a bad cold and 103-degree fever, so obviously I couldn't send him to his nanny share--and thus couldn't really get any work done. Or go anywhere or do anything, with an infectious, cranky-as-all-hell seventeen month old on my hands. Today he was finally fever-free in the morning...and his nanny texted that she's got a fever and couldn't come in. And she already scheduled to take next week off for vacation, so now I'm really not going to get anything done. LG is slammed at work, so my plan for him to work from home on the day of my fellowship meeting doesn't look promising.

On top of that, plans for Smudgie's school/child-care next year are getting complicated and tough to juggle. He got into a great program...that costs way more than we want to spend, especially for only three days a week. But none of the other programs can give us a firm commitment yet. And we need to put down a $3,000 non-refundable deposit at the first program to hold our place this Friday! I hate the thought of spending so much and I also hate the thought of not having anything set up for next year.

That's all frustrating, but what's really got me down is my knee. I've been having pain around my kneecaps since my run last Saturday. I'm so worried I've developed an overtraining injury and won't be able to run the race I've already signed up for. Partially because I don't want to lose the entrance fee, but mostly because running is keeping me sane right now. I love the camaraderie of my running group, love the feeling of being outside and active, love feeling strong and fit. I love having time to myself that is already budgeted in the week and that I refuse to feel guilty about. I love having goals to look forward to that don't have anything to do with getting pregnant.

That's what I'm most worried about. That if I can't keep running, I'll revert to obsessing each month about pregnancy. I'll lose that little reassurance that getting my period doesn't matter that much, because I've got a race ahead of me.

So which of these made yesterday's pregnancy announcement settle so uncomfortably in my heart? Was it the stress of a week with a cranky toddler? The fears of my running adventure being put on pause? The fact that it was the third in the past 10 days? I'm happy for my friend. She's waited a while to get started on her family and I wish her only joy with this pregnancy. So why did I choose that dinner to finally tell her about my latest loss, after three months of saying nothing? I could see her growing uncomfortable as I told her how it all happened, the heartbeats that stop, and I realized that I might be scaring her (she's only 10 weeks along), and we sort of both changed the subject and didn't bring it up again. But why do I worry about shielding her from the reality that I've lived through, more than once? Why do I feel it was a selfish thing to do, somehow damaging to her happy news to bring up events so unhappy?

I think of trying to conceive so differently than I once did. I don't live or die by each cycle. In my heart of hearts I don't even feel quite ready yet to be pregnant now. But...I probably won't get pregnant anyway. And if I do, there's a chance I'd miscarry yet again. So I might as well get some of those wasted cycles under my belt before the "real" trying starts, six or so months from now, when we confront going back to the doctor.

I'm mostly sort-of okay with this most of the time. This is just our burden right now (one of them, so far) and bemoaning it won't make anything better. It could be worse. It has been worse. It might be worse in the not-so-distant future. I don't want to ruin a pretty good thing by grieving for something I do believe I'll one day have again.

But then those reminders come that it's not this hard for everyone. That some people would see six months or a year of trying to get pregnant and a collection of miscarriages along the way as a horrifying nightmare rather than a reasonable summation of the cost of doing business. Those reminders are pretty shitty. Not shitty enough to cry about it or anything. But still.

Shitty enough to make a day trapped inside with the cutest, funniest, crankiest toddler around just a little bit sadder than it needs to be.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Get Busy Living; or, The Restart

I got my period yesterday, six weeks after my d&c. For once, everything's proceeding in textbook fashion.

For dating purposes, my OB had recommended waiting until this point to start trying again. We...sort of did. And sort of didn't. So I spent the last two weeks wondering if lightening would strike twice. Hoping it would, worrying it wouldn't, worrying it would, wondering what my childcare arrangements will need to look like next year, and feeling a lot of financial anxiety about what this would mean for the surprise fellowship I was just offered that starts in September.

I greeted the unmistakable evidence of another cycle with resignation and some mingled relief and disappointment. I'm sure I'll greet the end of this cycle with a similar emotional blend, though possibly weighed a tad more heavily to the disappointment side. And on and on until...

Well, we're not there yet, are we?

I'm not going to update here with a record of each ovulation, each failed cycle, the minute fluctuations between hope and despair that make up my five weeks between beginnings and ends. I don't want that kind of record this time around. I don't want that kind of focus.

But that's what will be happening in the background, under the surface of all the other things that we do every day. I hope that we will be lucky again and that's all this second try will ever need to be. But if not, eventually there will be doctors' visits and treatment plans and I will write about them.

This is just living, though, and I think, this time around, I'd like to try just living it.

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."