Clarity

Thank you so much for all the love and support you showed after I published my last post. I should have known all along that I could count on you to lift me up. I don’t know how often I’ll be posting from here on out — probably much less than I did in my last pregnancy — but I do know I want to be able to come here from time to time as needed. Thank you all for following along.

The start of this week was rough. With daily headaches and barfing three times in the span of 48 hours (I can’t believe I’m STILL dealing with “morning” sickness at 15 weeks pregnant!), I was feeling really crapping. Also, my head and heart weren’t in a good place because a good friend of mine had broken up with me. Seriously. I don’t know any other way to say it. It would be almost laughable — to be dumped at the age of 31 by one of my best friends (I thought this drama only happened in high school?) — if it didn’t hurt so damn much. I’ve lost a lot of sleep and cried a lot of tears over this and may write about it in my next post since the friend in question is one I have talked a lot about on this blog, but for now I’ll just say…it’s been a sad week here. It’s messed with my head. It sucks.

People talk about moments of clarity. Like when you nearly lose your life and, afterwards, take stock of everything that you are grateful for or need to change. I find that my moments come to me on a much smaller scale, but they have the same effect. Earlier this week, I was feeling normal pregnancy worries. I hadn’t felt the baby (we’ll call him/her Poppy…as in poppyseed…as in, my baby was the size of a poppyseed when I first learned s/he existed) move in days and, though I know this is very normal since it’s still super early to be feeling any fetal movement, I let it get to me every time.

I brought out the doppler as I always do when I start to feel the anxiety creep in, almost-but-not-quite expecting to hear just silence and my own slow heartbeat and the gurgle of whatever is going on inside of me. I always feel just on the edge of believing my baby will die at any given moment…probably a form of infertility and miscarriage PTSD. But then there it was instantly…that fast and beautiful thumpity-thump-thump and, simultaneously, the sweetest, smallest baby wiggle or kick or whatever it was and I breathed out, “Thank you, God,” and then I knew.

I knew that nothing else really mattered besides that baby. That heartbeat and that kick. And the two other squealing, bouncy little ones in the next room. And the husband who has done my normal household chores — dishes and making dinner and picking up toys and on and on — without a word of complaint, even though I know he’s tired after a long day of work, because he knows my pregnancy sleepies and queasies trump that. And nothing matters more than the others in my life who choose to love me. And nurturing my relationships with them. And showing them and telling them what they mean to me.

That is what’s important.

Not a friend who has decided she finds no more value in my friendship. Not a friend who tells me all the things I need to change about myself, but can’t handle the truth when I meet her with brutal honesty and refuse to be bullied. And not the words I say to myself about what must be wrong with me. About why I don’t deserve to be loved.

Because there are people who love me. People who want to love me. People who can’t help but love me. At my best. At my worst. No makeup. Unshowered. Raw. They see me and they love me anyways.

Clarity.

We all need some of it from time to time.

Unexpected

There’s no other word for it.

Well, that’s not entirely true, is it? There are other words for it really…surprising, unplanned for, accidental, unforeseen. There are more surely, but “unexpected” seems to perfectly describe the course my life has taken. The path most of us infertiles face. The pregnancies that come when we’ve hit rock bottom. The losses that occur just when we start to feel “safe.”

And it’s unexpected that I’m coming here now, under much different circumstances than I predicted in my last post. I’m here because I need to say this, because I need to tell you, though I don’t have the right words to say or know how it will be received. But let’s not beat around the bush.

I’m pregnant.

Unexpectedly expecting, so to speak.

In fact, today I am thirteen weeks pregnant. Entering my second trimester. I have had three ultrasounds. Baby has a good heartbeat and is measuring a couple days ahead. When I start to feel anxious, I bring out the doppler and search for that heartbeat while muttering prayer after prayer. It all still feels unreal.

This is my first natural pregnancy. No Clomid, or RE, or monitoring. No endless cycles of hope and then failure. My body is a funny thing. Since puberty, it has not cycled regularly. It did not know how to put all the pieces together to make it all function so that a mature egg would be released on a monthly basis. By my college days, it hardly happened at all. And yet, there is something about the weaning process that just works for my body. My menstrual cycles don’t start until after I wean my babies, but always within thirty days of the time when I have officially stopped breastfeeding, I ovulate. And this time, I was prepared for it. Watching and waiting and having a bit more sex than is usual for us. They say it only takes once and I’m proof that it does.

I’ve been wanting to come here for a while now to share my news. But I didn’t know what to say. And I was scared. Scared that putting my news out into the world would be an irreversible curse. But if I’m being completely honest, even more scared that the easy road I have walked to achieve this pregnancy would mean I was no longer wanted or welcomed here. I didn’t want to face the rejection.

The day I learned I was pregnant, I told two of my good friends. One of them said to me, “See! You’re not really infertile at all!” I didn’t say much to that (well, I did actually — I argued with her over it, but she didn’t want to hear me or believe me, so I let it go), but she just clearly has no idea. If I hadn’t caught that one lucky, post-weaning egg, we would be right back where we were two or three years ago as we were trying to conceive Skittle…smack dab in the middle of Clomid and uncertainty. One ovulation doesn’t mean anything. I will always be infertile. Who else prays so fervently countless times each day for a healthy baby? Who else has high blood pressure only when at the OB’s office? Who else lives from one doppler listening to the next, just hoping her baby will still be alive? There was once a time when I wanted nothing more than to be as fertile as the next gal. But infertility is part of my identity now, a part I am not ashamed to own anymore. And if I don’t belong here, in this community, then I don’t know where I belong at all.

With that said, I don’t know if I’ll be posting here again in this pregnancy. That’s not to say that I definitely won’t…I just really don’t know. Maybe it will depend on the feedback I get to this post. Maybe it will depend on how anxious I become over the next few days or weeks or months. Maybe it will depend on something completely unexpected. I think when it’s time to post again, I’ll know. I’ve known this post needed to be written for weeks now and I will trust my heart to tell me when there is more to say.

Until then…may life’s unexpected twists and turns be kind to you, friends. Thinking of you all. xo

One Year Later

Well, well, friends. It’s been a long time. Hello!!! How long ago it was that I last posted here. Do you remember me? Does anyone still have this blog on their readers? If you’re still out there…thank you.

It’s been nearly a year since I turned out the lights on Waiting to Expand. I have missed all of you. Skittle is one now and all chub and smiles:

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She has grown too fast and time has passed too quickly, as is the usual refrain of parenthood. But she is the perfect addition to our little family. Her big sister Cupcake (who is four now!!!) is smitten with her (mostly) and Honey and I have enjoyed watching the bond between sisters blossom. It’s not something I have ever had — even after finding my long-lost half-sister as an adult — and it’s beautiful.

It has been an incredible year filled with road trips and beach visits and Disneyland and so many firsts — first plane ride, first laugh, first taste of grass (haha), first kisses. She’s not walking yet, but I know that won’t be far off. It has also been a year of some struggles — just one of them being that we’ve been waging a war against Skittle’s tenacious eczema (seriously! I’ve never known eczema could be this bad) and a multitude of food allergies for what seems like a very long time. But as I approach another anniversary for Teddy Graham’s unfulfilled due date, the trials we have faced this year mean very little and I am only filled with gratitude. I get teary-eyed thinking of how far we’ve come and where I was just two years ago. Lost and scared and grief-stricken. I still feel in touch with those emotions, but for now they are overshadowed by thankfulness and joy for the two beautiful girls I do have.

There have been many times over the last twelve months where I have thought of you — collectively and, many of you, individually. My blogging family. My dear friends who once knew my body almost as well as I did. I have wanted to turn here on a number of occasions, not just to rant and rave and cry over the lasting scars of infertility, but to talk about other things as well — friends who have disappointed me, times I have been hurt, frustrations with my husband, worry about my parents. This space is a safe place for me and I have missed it. At times, I have longed for nothing more than to come here to purge my sorrow and regret and sadness when I have felt it so deeply, it has left me weeping into my pillow. There have been many births in my life this year — including the birth of a sweet baby boy to my friend Lillian — and just as many pregnancy announcements. And why those are still a little hard for my heart to handle, I can’t quite say, but I have often said to myself, “They would understand.” They being you. All of you. There are so many mixed emotions when it comes to conception and pregnancy and childbirth, I’m not sure it will ever be so simple for me to celebrate any new baby. And I’m learning to be okay with that. To carry the sorrow and happiness side by side. It’s either that, or forever be bitter for what others have and for what I cannot have so easily.

I don’t yet know if I’ll return to blogging. I’m in the process of weaning Skittle (after fourteen months of breastfeeding) and Honey and I are about to start “trying” again. We may just try timed intercourse, seed cycling (google it, all you PCOSers!), and some herbs (Vitex) at first. But we’ll most likely toss the Vitex and add Clomid into the mix before too long (because I’m just a naturally impatient person). I’ve already started Metformin and I have my prescription for progesterone and Clomid in hand. And maybe as I start to feel anxious and desperate and panicked once more, I’ll be ready to come back here to seek and give more support. I’m scared to be on this road again — excited, but mostly very, very scared.

Until then…take care. Where ever you are at in your journey, I wish you peace and strength and hope. Be kind and gentle with yourselves and may every one of your dreams come true. Happy Holidays. I’ll be seeing you again, friends. xo

This is the end.

I have been alluding to this post for some time and, alas, I am ready to write it. This will be my final blog post, friends.

Skittle is two months old now. The anniversary of her conception is less than a month away. The holidays are upon us. The year is coming to a close. It just seems appropriate, I guess. It feels right.

I began Waiting to Expand with a sense of desperation. I was three weeks post-miscarriage and feeling utterly alone and lost. My dear friend Lillian suggested I blog it out and, for nineteen months, that is what I have done. I have come here in good times and, especially, in bad. With every fear, every worry, every uncertainty, every freak out, I have turned to all of you.

But that season has passed.

While I still have my fears, worries, and uncertainties, they are not at the same intensity. The emotions I experience now don’t run as raw or deep. The scars of infertility remain, but I am no longer in need of constant reassurance and no longer as passionate about blogging. I knew the moment I began this infertility blog that it would end when my journey to have a baby ended as well. I have never intended to be a mommy blogger. Blogging about one’s adventures in parenting can be wonderful, but it is not for me. Quite honestly, I feel as though I don’t have much to say on the topic. If I have nothing worthwhile to contribute, there is no reason for me to be here. I am wasting my time. And yours.

That’s not to say that I will never return here. I may. To give an occasional (very occasional) update on Skittle. Or more likely, to blog through our next effort in TTC in a year or two. But by then, I imagine many of you will have moved on as well. And if I do continue with my blogging here in the distant future, I am fairly certain my blog will be a rather pitiful, lonely thing. After all, what infertile wants to read about someone trying to conceive their third child? Even if every child has come after a lot of work.

I have spent a lot of time trying to think of the right words to say thank you, and good-bye, to each of you. There are none.

For the most part, I have led a blessed life. But I have suffered too. I was molested as a child. I lost people who were dear to me. I have attended too many funerals at the age of thirty. Friends broke my heart. I struggled, and continue to struggle, with feelings of inadequacy and self-hate. And yet, my darkest days have been those two periods in my life when I have fought to bring a child into this world.

On many of those days, I felt like I was drowning. Like a piece of me was dying.

But you were there. Each of you beautiful souls were there. You lifted me up. You offered comfort, encouragement, and wisdom. When I felt like I had no one else, I had you. This community saved me when I needed salvation the most.

Thank you.

Those two words are so small, just a flip of the tongue. Just eight letters that take mere milliseconds to type out. They are not enough.

But nothing is.

There are no words big or strong or loud enough to speak my thanks to you. I feel such a fondness, so much love, for every one of you — those who regularly comment on this blog and those who I know lurk in the shadows. You supported me when I was at my lowest low. This blog was my safe place. It offered so much solace. In many ways, it became my home. And you, my family.

Thank you.

Truly, I mean that. Thank you a million times. What you have done for me no one else has. And though sometimes we have to fly from the nest, leave a place that we call Home, that place always stays with us. We are part of it, and it of us.

So please don’t think I’m abandoning this community. I’ll be around. If I follow your blog, I will continue to do so. Maybe not comment as frequently, but I’ll be reading. I want to see each of your journeys come to their own rightful, perfect endings. And if I don’t know you through your own blog, you can always reach me at my e-mail address: cassie.s.dash@gmail.com. Please e-mail me! I don’t check it often, but I will be checking it, and I’ll respond when I can. I promise. I’m not abandoning you. Time and distance may separate you from your family, but they are still with you always. I’ll see you again.

And for those of you still in the trenches, I want to say this: Please don’t give up hope. I am not naive or ignorant. I know I was never a worst-case scenario. I may have lacked perspective and felt as though I was at rock bottom many times, but I know there could have been so much farther for me to fall. And yet, I do know women who can’t say that. Who really were given no reason to hope. My friend Kat was told her egg and her husband’s sperm were incompatible (such a lame explanation, if you ask me) and unlikely to produce a baby. And yet today, as I write this, she is probably snuggling her boy-girl twins — babies who are half her, half her husband. And there is my cousin Lily, who endured ten years of infertility (and two failed IVFs), before she miraculously and unexpectedly conceived her daughter, who was born mere weeks after Cupcake. And there is another childhood friend, Em, who suffered through six years of infertility and nine miscarriages, including an ectopic that nearly took her life, before her baby boy was born a year and a half ago. My point is, even on the darkest day, there is always hope.

I began this year with such despair, as you might remember from this post. I felt like I had 365 days of unbearable pain already laid out before me. I was afraid for what the year might — or might not — bring. But a week later, I was pregnant. It only takes one breath, a single heartbeat, for everything to change. It may happen when you are entirely too hopeful or when you least expect it, but miracles occur every day. Even to us infertiles. Statistics show that most of you, no matter how long it takes or how hard it is, will eventually cross to the other side as well. And my heart believes that, too. Regardless of where you are at in your journey, at the end of it, most of you will be holding a child — your child — in your arms. That probably provides little comfort or peace right now, but it will. One day, it will.

I can’t believe this is it, my friends. My last post. My good-bye.

To conclude, I’ll leave you with this photo:

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You may remember this post and this one from last year, explaining how this necklace came to be. Each birthstone represents one of my babies. Cupcake. Teddy Graham. And now, Skittle. These three are the reason for everything. For all the pain. All the suffering. The tears, the despair, the doubt. For questioning my faith, and for strengthening it. They are the reason for the frustration, the anger, the sadness. And finally, for the joy. And all the love in my life. The reason I am celebrating throughout this holiday season. Ultimately, they are the reason for this blog. They started it all. Before they were ever even conceived, my journey began with them.

And so here it ends with them, too.

December 6th

Today is December 6th. St. Nicholas Day. The day we fill our children’s shoes with an ornament to hang on the tree and a special treat, as is tradition in our home.

It is also the one-year anniversary of my unfulfilled due date.

Today, or yesterday or tomorrow or some day nearby, Teddy Graham could have been one year old.

Unfathomable.

Enough time has passed, with plenty of unexpected events in between, that I can no longer imagine the alternative to what I have right now. I cannot imagine living a life with a one-year-old and three-year-old. I cannot imagine what might have been, what Teddy might have looked like, or how he might have been similar to or very different from his big sister. I cannot imagine living a life without the grief from a miscarriage, the pain from enduring another year of the uncertainty of infertility, and the utter relief and gratitude that came from bringing Skittle safely into this world.

Life is so different from what it could have been, and I am glad for that, and sad for it.

Certainly, this year’s December 6th is easier than last year‘s. In 2012, I greeted this day with what I thought was peace and healing, and ended it in tears. It was a hard day. But I have Skittle now and we are not actively TTC and I really do feel peace. And I really do feel the wounds healing.

I have my rainbow baby finally. The baby who came after. After so many tears. After so much sorrow. After Teddy Graham. But the heart is an amazing thing. It’s capacity to love is incredible. And there will always be a corner of it reserved for Teddy.

So this morning, I shed a few tears. Today, I will remember. Tonight, I will light his candle. And then I will move forward again. Never forgetting the baby who never made it into my arms, but continuing to heal and to celebrate the babies I do get to hold.

On Breastfeeding

** Please note: I am pro-breastfeeding, but I understand there are multiple reasons why a woman is unable to or chooses not to breastfeed. All thoughts and opinions in this post are in regards to me and my child only. They are NOT a comment on you, your baby, or your situation. **

Growing up, my mother would often reminisce about breastfeeding me as an infant. She loved it and seemed to have a romantic view of how beautiful the experience was. It inspired something inside of me and I knew from a young age that I, too, would breastfeed my children. Of course, I didn’t know then that 1) having children was not a given and 2) neither is breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is hard. Let me acknowledge that. It is hard, hard, hard, especially in the beginning. It is not always, sometimes not often, the beautiful picture my mom painted. It can be messy. It can be frustrating. And it can be HARD.

And yet, I knew I had to try. I wholeheartedly believe that breastfeeding is the right thing for my babies. For most babies. It has benefits for both Baby and Mom that formula cannot provide. (Side note: I do not believe formula is the devil. I recently read a book that seemed to make that argument and I couldn’t finish it, it upset me so much. If you want or need to give your baby formula, do it! Don’t feel guilty about it. I know not a single formula-fed baby who is any worse the wear for it.) I feared failure when it came to breastfeeding. I feared having one more reason to hate my body (which I surely would, if it failed me and my child in yet another way). But I was determined and committed too. Partly for financial reasons and partly because I did believe in the importance of breastfeeding, I vowed to stop at (almost) nothing to make the breastfeeding thing successful.

Thankfully, it all worked out and I breastfed Cupcake until she was a year old. I would have breastfed longer, except we were ready to start trying to make another baby and my periods had not yet returned. (No surprise there. Go figure.) I am now breastfeeding Skittle and, as far as I can tell, things are going just as well — better, really — for us.

Somewhat embarrassingly, I talk about breastfeeding a lot. My mom hears about it. My friends hear about it. My cousin hears about it. My husband certainly hears me complain about it. I discuss it so much not only because I’m passionate about it, but because right now, I spend five to seven hours  (or more?) of my day with a baby at the boob. So I guess it’s only natural. A lot of my day, every day, is devoted to it. Monitoring intake. Monitoring output. Isn’t that the mark of a having a new baby in your home? Even when it’s not your first?

I am often asked if breastfeeding is easier the second time. I can’t speak for others, but it has been for me. A bit like riding a bike, or so the cliche goes. You worry you won’t remember how to do it, but low and behold, you do. It’s been some time since I last did this (about two years since I weaned Cupcake) and yet, holding a baby in the crossover or cradle hold, helping her to find the nipple, positioning Skittle on the Boppy to allow me to simultaneously eat dinner and check my e-mail…it’s all come naturally. Sigh. Of. Relief.

I suppose some of the ease of this is because I have more confidence this second time. I am able to do it because I know I can. I did it once before, after all. This time, I was less stressed in trying to get Skittle to latch that on that first day in the hospital.  Less concerned when she would sometimes only eat for a few minutes. I didn’t fumble in trying to hold her in the right position. I didn’t need the help of a nurse or lactation consultant. I just figured it out on my own and didn’t question my ability to do so.

That’s part of why it was so easy. I think the rest of it can be contributed to having a baby who just knows what to do and has from the beginning. I don’t know if it was the natural birth or the luck of the draw, but Skittle has been a champion nurser from the very start. She latched on within the first couple hours after birth within minutes of me trying and has been eating well (and pooping and peeing well, too) ever since.

And yet, every baby and every situation is different and there still have been a few surprises this time. Such as:

  • With Cupcake, I did not find breastfeeding very fun in the beginning. In fact, I detested it. It was unbearably painful (I had thrush, which really did threaten my resolve to breastfeed for the long haul). It took too much time. I always felt unsure of myself. It was just not very enjoyable at all and, indeed, it was a long time before it became that way. But with Skittle, I have enjoyed it from the beginning. With the exception of a few long days of sore nipples (which could be contributed to my large nips and Skittle’s tiny mouth), it has been nothing short of wonderful and relaxing and easy. Which was unexpected and lovely. I’m so thankful for that.
  • I have successfully learned how to breastfeed in public without using a nursing cover. I have never hesitated to nurse my babies in public places, but now I can do it without the burden of covering up. Some people figure this out with their first babies, but not me. I tried to hide myself as much as possible with Cupcake. But not with Skittle. No, she has dined on Mama’s booby everywhere from a friend’s house during a party to a restaurant to the airport to the movie theater so I could watch About Time to Starbucks during a meet ‘n’ greet with a blogging friend (you know who you are! xoxo!), and never once have I gotten a funny or nasty look from those around me, as I always feared I would. What a nice surprise.
  • I have worried about my milk supply much more than I ever did with Cupcake. I think this is the result, once again, of knowing too much. Since Cupcake’s birth, I have been diagnosed with PCOS (by default) and I know now that women with PCOS often suffer from low milk supply. I had no problems with supply while breastfeeding Cupcake, but that hasn’t stopped me from obsessing over it now. I am a stay-at-home mom, but I pump every day in order to maintain my supply — even though I probably don’t need to. Skittle will be eight weeks old tomorrow and I already have over 100 bags of milk (5-8 ounces each) in our freezer. Now that I’ve typed that out, I realize how ridiculous I sound. I’ve gone overboard, haven’t I? Way, way overboard. Imagine that. Me, going overboard. Shocking, isn’t it?

So clearly, regardless of how “easy” it has been so far, I am always able to find something to worry about. I’m good at that. But right now, I know that regardless of my supply (which is probably perfectly adequate), it is enough for Skittle. Cupcake’s pediatrician used to joke that I must make cream instead of milk because Cupcake grew so fast. By the time she was two months old, she had gained five pounds. Babies should double their birth weight by the time they turn six months. Cupcake did it in half that time.

And so it seems that Skittle is on track to do the same. At two weeks old, she was already a pound above her birth weight. She lost 10 ounces after birth (as every baby does, give or take a few ounces) and, so in the span of ten days, she actually gained a pound and a half. Amazing! I don’t know how much she has gained since then (her 2-month appointment is scheduled for next week), but I do know that she’s a different baby now. She doesn’t look like a newborn anymore. She is all chub and smiles. In just three weeks, she went from this:

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To this:

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So she’s growing. Obviously. She’s growing and thriving and that’s all that matters. Proof that my boobs are enough. That I’m enough. I guess.

I guess.

No matter what, there’s always that bit of doubt, isn’t there?

One kid or two or ten, there’s always that doubt.

But doubt or no doubt, I will go on breastfeeding. I’m proud that I’ve been able to do it. Do it when it’s easy and do it when it’s hard and do it when it felt impossible. And I’m thankful that I have a baby who can do it and boobs that can do it and a situation that allows it.

Finally, my body has done something right.

And here again, I have another reason to love it.

Hard Candy Christmas

It’s December 1st. That means Christmas is just around the corner. For those dealing with loss, grief, regret, illness, disappointment, homesickness, and/or loneliness, the holiday season can be so difficult. It can be especially so for us infertiles, who know that Christmas is made all the brighter when seen through the eyes of a child. The child we so desperately long for.

So, friends…wherever you are at in your journey — be it, grieving the loss of an unborn child, or still hoping for a miraculous conception, or holding your breath through a long-awaited-for pregnancy, or finally celebrating with the child your heart had yearned for and already dreaming of another — I wish you well this month. I know these festive days aren’t often easy, but may a great sense of peace find you and may you find something great to be joyful about.

Last year, this was my theme song:

This year, it is a gentle reminder of how far I have come, and a quiet nod to those who still have sorrow in their heart. Thinking of all of you today and in all the days ahead. xo