Archives

Six Years Ago Today

Six years ago today was a very dark day. We had been struggling to conceive our first child for well over a year. I had just learned that a close, childhood friend had given birth to her son just days before. I was about to take a pregnancy test that I knew would be negative. And it was time to finally accept that the Clomid wasn’t working and we needed to try something else.

I didn’t know then what was in store. I couldn’t have know then, on that dark, lonely day, that I would give birth three times in the next six years. I was sad and scared, desperate and distraught. And yet, everything was about to change. Because six years ago tomorrow, I would get a positive pregnancy test. My very first. For the first time in forever, I would see two lines on that pee stick instead of one. What a glorious moment.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of a day of celebration. A celebration of so much hope, anticipation, and joy. But today? Today, I remember what it was like before. Before this all began. The heavy heart. The quiet house.

Six years ago today, I was in so much pain. I will never forget that.

Advertisements

Mostly Sad

Two weeks ago, my once-dear, but now non-friend Lillian and I were in the same place at the same time, for the first time in an entire year. We were both attending a birthday party for the son of our mutual friend, Leigh. In addition to being a party guest, I had also been asked to be the official party photographer, which I was thankful for. It was a small mercy Leigh gave me, asking me to do that, giving me an excuse for not socializing, giving me a shield of protective armor to hide behind.

Lillian’s dark hair was shaped into the same short, spunky cut that she’d had for a while, but she looked different to me. Maybe she’d lost a little weight? And she was wearing a scarf and stylish ballet flats that seemed so different from what I remembered as her style. She looked good, but acted more subdued and reserved than the bold, loud, laughing Lillian I knew. I could practically see the wall she’d built around herself and, if it hadn’t been for my friendly, loving Cupcake running up to greet her and talk her ear off (because somehow, over a year and half later, my big girl still remembers Lillian and her daughter), I probably wouldn’t have heard her voice at all. She was quiet. Reserved. Guarded. I felt it, and I know my husband and Leigh did too.

When Lillian entered the party room, she gave me a little wave and when she left two hours later, she did the same, but other than that, she ignored me completely. Didn’t even look my way. We both moved about the room, her focused so completely and intentionally on her two little ones and me hiding behind my camera and snapping away. By the way we barely acknowledged one another, never connecting like the identical poles of two magnets, you wouldn’t know that we have a history. You wouldn’t know that she was there for me, one of the few IRL, when I miscarried. You wouldn’t know that I was one of the first to know when she found out she was pregnant with the baby she lost or the one she gave birth to a few months after Skittle. You wouldn’t know that we went on weekend getaways together, that she threw a baby shower for me, that she attended our gender reveal party, and that Cupcake spent the night at her house while I went to the hospital to have Skittle. You’d have no idea because there, at that party, it was like we didn’t know each other at all.

Which is freaking sad, ya’ll.

I felt awkward and nervous and unsure and confused and surprised and insecure and reserved that day. But most of all, I felt sad. I wanted to feel indifferent. Or at the very least, mad. But I just felt mostly sad.

Sad because Lillian was once my go-to girl when it came to grieving my loss. She was my greatest support and my greatest cheerleader in the year or two that followed as I fought to bring Skittle safely into our lives. Having suffered RPL, she knew better than anyone else what I did and did not need from her. And she helped me. She helped me so much.

Sad because, if things had gone differently, it would have been Leigh, Lillian, and I working together to make that party a success…and then standing against the wall, laughing and eating the fattest pieces of cake we could eat while still being socially acceptable.

Sad because it was never more clear that my daughter, precious 5-year-old Cupcake, had lost someone, too. Lillian was in her life from the ages of one to four and then she, and her daughter (whom Cupcake had regular playdates with), were gone. And when Cupcake saw them both that day at the party, her face lit up, and she ran to them, and held hands with little Mini-Lillian, and it was almost as though nothing had changed at all.

Sad because while Cupcake knows and remembers Lillian very well, Skittle does not. My friendship with Lillian started unraveling sometime around Skittle’s first birthday. Skittle doesn’t know her much at all. And Poppy just doesn’t know her. Period.

Sad because, all this time later, I still don’t exactly understand how it all fell apart, or why it had to, or what it was that made Lillian start to hate me so.

Sad because, all this time later, I’m still affected by it. Still mad. Still hurt. Still sad.

And maybe that makes me terribly pathetic. Or maybe it just makes me human. And maybe I’ll write more about all of this as I continue to process. Or maybe I’ll just keep it close to my heart forevermore.

I honestly don’t even know what the point of this post is. Except to express how amazing and incredibly unbelievable it is to me that someone whom is not family and was in my life for a relatively short amount of time (3-4 years) can have this much power over me. Except, she was there during one of my greatest crises. And she does know things about me that most others do not. And I did once see her on a weekly, if not daily, basis — so much more than most anyone else, except for my most immediate family. So I guess that probably explains it.

But still, it’s sad. Sad how quickly things can change. And sad that, once they do, there’s no going back. This can’t be undone. I don’t know what the future holds or if some event or turning point, big or small, will reunite us. I just know that what’s been said and done is permanent. It’s left a lasting mark. If not on the universe, at least on my heart.

2015 in Numbers

When 2015 began, I knew it would be a big year. We had *just* (as in, just just just) started trying for another baby. That alone was going to mean that, if 2015 turned out to be a lucky year, it would end with a pregnancy…or, on the other side of things, it would be spent trying to get pregnant and end with a lot of heartbreak, tears, and defeat if we failed or lost again. We conceived our baby on January 6th(ish) and in that moment when egg met sperm and we were looking ahead at a fresh new year of hope and anticipation (and dread and fear), I could not have fathomed the end of the year would actually mean holding a baby, nearly three months old, in my arms. What an incredible surprise this entire year has been!

It’s been mostly good surprises (and the good ones were really good), with a few difficult ones thrown in just to keep us humble and show us who is really in charge. This is what 2015 looked like in our home:

6 movies watched over the New Year’s holiday, per our annual tradition. (My favorite was Captain Phillips.)

3 times Honey and I had sex the first week of January when my ovulation tests were positive.

2 pregnancy tests taken when I 4 days late and 5 weeks past weaning Skittle…compared to the 5 I took in my first pregnancy.

10 days spent on the Big Island in Hawaii, frolicking in the waves, sipping tropical mocktails, getting sunburned despite the ample amount of sunscreen used, and watching the glorious sunsets:

Hawaii

9 weeks 1 day into my pregnancy when I heard Poppy’s heartbeat with the doppler for the first time, while in a bedroom in a Hawaiian rental house with an audience of 2 geckos.

17 months was how old Skittle was when she took her first steps…right into Grammy’s arms.

3 big prizes won at a local baby expo I attended with my doula-friend Leigh and where I met January Harsche of Birth Without Fear fame. (And for those of you who are curious, the prizes were two diaper bags stuffed full of baby loot like wipes and nursing scarves, as well as an Uppababy G-Luxe stroller, which I love!)

1 dear friend lost this year because she chose to believe the worst of me and decided our personalities didn’t mesh well.

1 dear friend gained because I went searching for a birth photographer and found a fabulous one — and a fabulous new gal pal, too!

36 times vomiting, 31 of them in the first six months of my pregnancy and 5 of them when the stomach flu hit at two weeks postpartum.

58 jars of freezer jam made with Leigh on something of a whim one long Saturday in June.

6 hours relaxing at a spa in Idaho with my mom as an early 60th birthday gift to her.

8 hours spent in a car on a road trip with two kids and a 27-week baby belly when it should have only taken 5 hours. (Wildfires forced us to detour and traffic was crawling.)

2 nights sleeping in a rental house on the beach as our final getaway as a family of 4.

4 crying/screaming fits Cupcake had on said getaway because she’s just that kind of kid.

8 hours of labor to welcome our sweet Poppy boy, 3 days past his due date.

6 other babies welcomed by friends and family this year, all of them boys except 1.

80+ words that Skittle could say by her 2nd birthday, compared to the 50 that Cupcake could say at the same age.

1 birthday party thrown, this one for Cupcake at the local Children’s Museum. (We will be taking turns with the birthday bashes in this household as who has the time, energy or money to do that more than once in a year? Next year, it will be Skittle’s turn. And Poppy’s! Since his big day is so close to his sister’s.)

11 hours spent shopping on Black Friday with my friend Leigh, 4 hours of which I had a sweet baby boy attached to me.

23 allergens I tested positive for during a recent allergy test…the worst of which are dust mites and grasses. Ugh. (In my doctor’s words, I’m “basically allergic to everything that’s green and grows.” Boohoo.)

12 hours that Poppy is now sleeping at night. Ahhh…do you hear that? That’s me breathing a sigh of relief. Now, if only I could get him to take some good naps during the day!

5 times my mom came to visit from Idaho, doing countless loads of laundry, dishes, and other household chores while she was here.

1 fight I had with my mom while she was here during those said five visits and 1 fight Honey had with her because she just doesn’t have it in her to talk about or accept the abuse I suffered as a child.

21 total common colds had between the five of us in this family, most of them in the first half of the year thankfully…plus one round of the stomach flu.

4 BIG, chunky salted caramel chocolate chip cookies eaten in one sitting, just yesterday…because that’s what I do when feeling sad, stressed, bored, or hormonal…and that’s especially what I do when feeling all four of those things!

31 new posts published on this blog this year, after I hit “Publish” for this one…even though, two years ago, I said I was done…but then Poppy came along and I needed the support…and you gave it…so thank you. Thank you thank you thank you.

And now 2015 is done. I always find it a little hard to bid farewell to a year when it has been so kind to me, so full of incredible blessings and gifts. Where is there to go from here, but down, you know? And we have no great plan for the year, no huge thing to look forward to. No trip of a lifetime. No new pregnancy or baby. No moment that we will surely remember forever. Well, except maybe buying a new house. I hope 2016 can be the Year of the New (Bigger, Better) House. That’s what I’m hanging my hat on. That’s my “something” for the new year. The thing I can look towards with excitement and hope and anticipation.

That and some more of those chunky chocolate chip cookies. I think I’ll have to make another batch tomorrow.

Happy New Year, friends! Be safe. Be well. xoxo

 

To the One Who Isn’t Here

Dear Baby-of-Long-Ago,

Sometimes I feel you. Not so much in the ethereal, mystical, magical way of smelling the random scent of lavender or feeling a gentle breeze blow through a room with closed windows and knowing it’s you. That’s only happened once or twice, when seeing a rainbow or a butterfly in the most unexpected places, and even then I don’t know if it was you or my hoping it was you. I’m not sure the dead come back to us like that, or if they leave us whom they love alone so that we can move on in peace.

So it’s not you I feel precisely, but the absence of you. The ever-constant, gentle (and sometimes less-gentle, more raw, stinging, pinching, punching, painful) knowing you are not here. You are not, and never will be again, here. In this very place. With me. With us. Your family.

I go about my day just as I did before your short stay here on earth, except now I have two living little ones to look after, and I am more tired, busy, and cranky and happy all at once. I don’t light your candle every night anymore or cry for you every day. And yet, your not-here-ness is here, drifting silently and invisibly around me, humming in my ear like a mosquito at times, fluttering through my thoughts like a hummingbird at others, and rattling me like an earthquake when things go really badly. These days I feel free, mostly, and yet I am still somehow never quite free of you. Which is okay, because your memory doesn’t hurt me all the time now, and on most days there is a sweet nostalgia in thinking of you, the baby who has stayed a baby to me, the baby who never got to grow up and forever remains as small and precious as a tadpole.

There is something unique and uniquely painful about losing a barely-there baby. It does not take long for people to feel justified in forgetting. And they start to expect you to forget, too. And with time, you do. Not entirely and not forever, but there are minutes and then hours and then maybe even days when you don’t think of your loss and what was and what could have been, and you start feeling guilty for that. I feel guilty for that and find myself grasping at moments, trying to prove I haven’t moved on, haven’t betrayed you, because that somehow means I’m the mom I want to be. The one you deserve.

But the truth is, no matter how often or how little you cross my thoughts, I will never move on, not fully. There is a part of me, the old, pre-miscarriage me, who lives with you in the past. And unlike everyone around me who doesn’t remember anything about you and your time here unless I forcefully bring it to their attention, you are always on my mind during the “remembering days” — the anniversaries of the day when I learned of your conception, and of your goneness, and of course I couldn’t forget your due date if I tried.  But your memory comes to me at other times, too. I am reminded of your absence most when I watch your sisters for too long. They bring me such joy. Across years, I have seen their personalities evolve and unfold. I held them in their immediate, wet, oh-so-real newness and, with awe and some heartache, watched as they have each grown into a bigger, more independent, strikingly beautiful version of those babies they once were. And now there is another baby on the way and, God willing, I will get to experience that with him too. But for you, I have none of that. I did not just lose a baby, but years and years of feeling your soft weight enfolded in my arms in a hug, and watching your eyes widen under the same long lashes as you discover the world around you, and seeing all the ways you change and stay the same as decades tick by. You never got your chance to become anything and it makes me sad for you and sad for me because there is so much more than a kidney bean-sized embryo that I lost.

I often think of you as the Baby-Who-Almost-Was, but even when I do, I know there is no truth in that name. Because there is no “almost” about the place you had here. You were. You existed. And in my past, and my memories, and the empty space in my heart that no amount of babies or love can fill, you still do. You were. You are. In some ways, even if it’s only in the hole that you left behind, you still live amongst us.

So you’re not forgotten. I don’t always remember, but I can’t forget. I won’t and I don’t want to. There’s not much I can give you now with me here and you in some not-here place, with me solid and alive and you a wisp-of-smoke ghost in my life, but I can promise you that I love you still and I won’t forget you and I won’t try to. You are still, and forever, mine.

And maybe that’s the best way to be.

With big love,

Your Mama

Reflections at 1 Month

Today, my Skittle is one month old. It was one month ago that I screamed for an epidural that came too late. One month ago that I pushed a beautiful, 8-pound squishy ball of baby from my womb and into this world. One month ago that another dream came true. How is that even possible? As a mother, I am always reminded how quickly time does indeed pass. How fleeting every moment is.

I have spent much of the last month reflecting upon our journey to get here. I have not taken any of what I have for granted, have not wished for anything else but exactly what I have. I have cherished and treasured every gassy smile, every midnight cuddle, every dreamy giggle, every tiny baby sneeze, every time Skittle rests her soft head of hair against my chest and drifts off into a sleep full of whimpers and sighs.

And yet, it can be so bittersweet.

I’m lucky in that pregnancy usually doesn’t take much of a physical toll on me. But emotionally? It’s hard. I know you all understand when I say that I live in constant fear for nine-plus months.  Every day of every month of my pregnancy is spent white-knuckling it, gritting my teeth, just trying to make it safely to the end. And yet, in many ways, I love it. The excitement, the wonder, the joy, the preparations. The baby kicks, the ultrasounds, the growth of my belly. The new ways I find to love and respect my body. The hopes, the dreams, all the photographs of our future that unfold in my head and heart. I love that. All of it. And now, I miss it.

There is a saying I stumbled upon not long ago:

“If I had my life to live over, instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside of me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.” (Erma Bombeck)

And while I did not spend one moment of my pregnancy wishing it away, I do understand what is being said here. Pregnancy, and every little baby, is a miracle. I feel something magical happening inside of me when I’m expecting. Every moment of those nine months feels miraculous.

And of course, every day with Skittle alive and well and smiling at me in my arms is a miracle of its own…but it’s a different kind of miracle. And I become very melancholy when I realize that, every morning, Skittle and Cupcake wake up one day older. They are getting bigger and, with each second that passes, I am drifting farther and farther away from the tiny, miraculous way their lives began.

There is still pregnancy paraphernalia dotted around our house: Two boxes of maternity clothes awaiting their transfer to storage. A body pillow in the corner of our bedroom. My pregnancy scrapbook, four pages away from completion. Maternity photos that I’ve displayed like artwork around our house. The protein bars and shakes that I stocked up on to combat preeclampsia. As I look at it all, I feel pensive. I let out a little sigh. I try to shake the sadness. Sad because those pregnancy days are hard, but they’re beautiful too. And now they’re over. And as an infertile, there is no guarantee that I will ever experience them again. With each pregnancy, I have to wonder if it’s the last. I’m not ready to be done. There are more siblings I want for my daughters. More babies I want to birth. We will try again, in a year or so. But a part of me always has to be prepared to accept that I am allowed only a limited number of miracles and perhaps this pregnancy was my last one. It makes the end harder.

And there’s something else.

I have learned that grief is a windy road with lots of pit stops, u-turns, and dead ends and, unexpectedly, our Teddy Graham has been on my mind more over these last four weeks than he has since the early days of my pregnancy. I have cried for him a handful of times. I can’t say for sure why that is. Maybe it’s the hormones. But having Skittle here in flesh and blood has reminded me of all that I missed out on with Teddy. I get to hold Skittle and watch her grow and change and learn and explore. But Teddy never got that chance. A whole life of possibilities was lost in my miscarriage. This is not something new I’ve learned just recently, but the thought has become vividly raw since Skittle’s birth.

Of course, I would never wish for things to have happened differently now that I have my precious Skittle. As I conceived Skittle just one month (almost to the day) after my unfulfilled Teddy Graham due date, it technically would have been possible for Teddy and Skittle to coexist…but the likelihood of it is next to none. Not only because of irregular (i.e. nonexistent) menstrual cycles being my norm, but because the chances of my letting Honey put his dingdong into my hoo ha only a month after the theoretical delivery of TG would be less than zero. Less. Than. Zero. And yet, if things could be different — if, somehow, I could be holding both Teddy and Skittle today — that’s what I would choose.

I miss Teddy now more than (almost) ever.

But I am not sorry that I ever conceived him, or carried him, or loved him. In fact, it is because of him that I am able to love Skittle so thoroughly. Surely, I would have loved her with all that I had regardless of who or what came before her. But I know and understand and have more now than I would have without infertility and loss. The depths of my love, the intensity of my relief, the strength of my gratitude and joy, is all because of the journey I took to get here, and more specifically, all because of what I lost along the way.

Maybe I’m romanticizing my experience. And again, I could blame it on the hormones. But truly, I think it’s my way of coping. I need there to be a reason for all of the pain I endured. I need to believe that our Teddy was only ever meant to be with us a short time and that, in the end, everything worked out in the most beautiful, perfect way for all of us. Because to think that there woulda/coulda/shoulda been another beautiful, whole, perfect little soul here with us… To think that someone is missing from our lives and forever will be… To think that my child died… That, if things had gone a different way, Skittle would never have come to be… It is almost too much to bear. So I hate that Teddy Graham had to be a sacrificial lamb. I wish there could have been a different, and yet similar, ending. But I am thankful for the sacrifice nevertheless. I have to be…for how else do I make sense of it all?

So yeah…I’ve done a lot of thinking these last few weeks. Thinking and reflecting and crying and sighing. And I’m not sorry for what I’ve gone through. I can say that now that I’ve made it to the other side (a year ago, I would have sung a different tune). In fact, there’s been beauty in the sadness of it. And there’s a certain sense of loss and grief in knowing it has come to an end. I have finished one journey. I am starting another.

So I am now able to appreciate all of the ups and downs of trying to build a family. I have perspective. I can see that the greatness of my struggle has made me a better mother and, hopefully, a better person. And yet, as I look ahead, I am so afraid of going through all of this again. I think I’ve made it very clear to all of you: I am ever so grateful for my two healthy, beautiful girls. But I know our family is not complete. We are not done trying. It’s not over yet. And who knows what we will encounter on the next journey? This one was harder than the last. Will the next one only be harder than this? It is frightening to think of all the horrible possibilities that could lie in wait for us. I am thankful for what my infertility and miscarriage has given me, but good God, I’d rather not go through it a third time.

But I guess that’s another post for another day for another blog for another year.

IMG_0035

October 15th

I will keep this brief, but I could not let Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day go unacknowledged. I may have my rainbow baby suckling at my breast as I type this, but I have not forgotten. I have not forgotten my Teddy Graham and I have not forgotten each of you and your babies who have come and gone. In fact, since giving birth to Skittle, I have felt the weight of my previous loss heavier than I have in some time. Things change, we move forward, we find new hope and joy in the days that follow, but still…our lost babies live on in our hearts. The lessons they teach us in their absence and the role they have in our lives forevermore may be their only legacy, but it is a valuable one at that. Your babies matter, friends, and I hope today has been kind to all of you and gentle on your hearts. Hugs today and always. xo

Remembering…

Today, I remember.

I remember April 19, 2012 when I started to bleed at just 7 weeks 1 day pregnant.

I remember the sight of the dark red blood on my fingers, an image I see in my nightmares to this day.

I remember my sweet Teddy Graham, whom I knew was gone before an ultrasound ever confirmed it.

Today, I remember the ultrasound, the black space, the firm line the sonographer’s mouth made as she stared at the screen.

I remember the simple text I sent to my sister, a friend, and my mother: “No heartbeat” and the ding, ding, ding as my cell was flooded with texts in response.

I remember the tears that went on and on, that came and kept coming long after I lost all the energy to wipe them away.

I remember the days that followed, how they zipped by and dragged by at once, all a blur of grief and unbelief.

I remember the dissolution of my new relationship with my sister, how it unraveled like a poorly-made sweater, coming further undone with each insensitive or critical comment she made as I mourned my way through the summer.

Today, I remember those who were there for me when I needed them the most, and those who were not there when I was at my most vulnerable.

I remember the fear and the despair and the rage that engulfed me when I let it.

I remember how I was broken and how this blog — and all of you — picked me up and put me back together again, just like Humpty.

I remember that today is not about the baby growing inside of me right now, but about the Baby Who Almost Was, the baby who was but now isn’t and never will be again, and yet will somehow live in my heart forever.