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Five Years

Today, Honey and I celebrate five years of marriage. Five years! This feels like a long time and no time at all. And I hate to admit it, but it seems that the last five years have been consumed by trying to make a baby, infertility, pregnancy, loss, and babyhood. These years have given me my deepest heartaches and my greatest joys. And I am so thankful to have someone I respect, love, and trust to hold my hand as we go through it together. He has held me together when I’ve started to fall apart, held me up when I was spiraling downwards, and held me close when I felt utterly alone. Today, as we celebrate this small marital milestone, I have never been happier or felt more blessed.

In celebration, we’re having a date night this evening. With my mom in town, she has agreed to stay with my daughter while Honey and I spend the night in the city. And I do mean spend the night. We have one of the best rooms at one of my favorite hotels reserved. It has a jacuzzi tub with a view over the water. After a nice dinner, we’ll spend a laid-back evening at the hotel and, tomorrow, we’ll do a few of the touristy things we’ve never done before in the big city to the north. It will be my first night away from Cupcake, and I’m very excited. Though slightly exhausted by the thought of all I have planned.

However, I also have to remember that today is a day of remembrance for our family. It was this day, last year, that our cherished Teddy Graham was conceived. I remember the excitement of seeing that super dark OPK and the hope that filled me as my husband and I enjoyed our date night. And two weeks later…just pure joy as I saw those two beautiful lines. It all went downhill from there, but I will never forget the great delight that Teddy brought to us for those few wonderful weeks. I remember, I remember, I remember.

With that, I’ll leave you with a few kinda-sorta-non-identifying photos from our Big Day. It wasn’t a perfect celebration and, in retrospect, there are so many things I would change if I could. But it was still one of the best days of my life and only the good memories have lasted…

My comfy ballet flats with a blue ribbon ("something blue" and the charm I picked out). Two garters...one to throw and one (the one with the light blue ribbon) as my "something old." My mom wore it on her big day!

My comfy ballet flats with a blue ribbon (“something blue”) and the charm I picked out. Plus, two garters…one to throw and one (the one with the light blue ribbon) as my “something old.” My mom wore it on her big day.

My bouquet...all roses, my favorite flower.

My bouquet…all roses, my favorite flower.

our wedding rings

our wedding rings

My mom gave me this bracelet on our wedding day...two months later, it was stolen from my suitcase on our Australian honeymoon. :(

My mom gave me this bracelet on our wedding day…two months later, it was stolen from my suitcase on our Australian honeymoon. ūüė¶

Ignore the heads that have been chopped-off...just wanted to show my dress because I loved it so much. A 10-foot train...I really did feel like a princess!

Ignore the heads that have been chopped-off…just wanted to show my dress because I loved it so much. A 10-foot train…I really did feel like a princess!

Exiting after the ceremony, with our pages carrying my long train.

Exiting after the ceremony, with our pages carrying my long train.

The gorgeous ballroom where our reception was held.

The gorgeous ballroom where our reception was held.

Our wedding cake. I was so pleased with the end result. And it tasted good too!

Our wedding cake. I was so pleased with the end result. And it tasted good too!

The first dance.

The first dance.

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To You, On the Day in Which You Were to Be Born

My dearest tiny Teddy Graham,

Today is the day in which you would have, could have, and should have entered the world, naked and gooey, beautiful and perfect. It is the day I was to hear your first cry and the day I would have held you in my arms, finally. Today could have been your day to shine, and yet it’s still your day, and always will be, regardless of whether you are here or not.

It is a relatively nice day here in our new town, considering we’re in the last days of autumn. A little rainy and the mid-40s. So very different from when your sister came during the first snowfall of the season and the temperature was 15 degrees. Today would have been a perfect day to be born. I wish you could have been. For me, it’s turning out to be a much harder day than I anticipated. I thought I could make it through without any tears, but instead I can’t stop crying, or imagining, or wishing for what was. I can’t stop thinking of you.

I am so sorry, my sweet angel baby, that you never had a chance. Already, in the short time that you were with me, I had plans for you, hopes for holidays at Disney World and a happy childhood and a college education. And I often wonder what you would be like, if you would look like your sister when she was born or something completely different. Would you be quiet or colicky? Would you be happy or serious? Would you have my nose? Your daddy’s toes? Cupcake’s cheeks? Your grammy’s eyes? Or would you be someone fully, totally, uniquely you? It is a sad thing that I will never know and that you will never get to grow and evolve and become who you were meant to be. And I am sad for the world, because it would be better if you were in it. I am certain of that.

I want you to know that I never once have regretted your existence. I am not sorry that you were conceived. I am not sorry that I knew the joy of having you in my life. My only regret is that you left so soon. But you are still my little miracle. It does not matter that you did not make it. You are as precious and as cherished as any other miracle in my life. And there is a tiny part of me that does not want another miracle, another baby, because it is you who I want. I want it to be you who grows in my belly and tunnels through my pelvis and suckles at my breast. I know that can never be. You are where you are and there is no reaching you, not now. And I know that I would never forgive myself if I quit now, if I fail to give your sister the one thing I never had as a child: a sibling. So we will move forward and continue trying, but please rest assured that no one else will ever replace you. For the rest of our lives, there will be someone missing. Someone missing in our home. In our family. During the holidays. At the dinner table. You are, and will always be, missed.

But in your life and your death, I have gained so much. Things like strength and faith and hope. I have learned a lot about myself and about others. I have made new friends, because of you. Some of my relationships have faltered in my loss, but others have grown. I know now that it is possible for me to love someone in the most extraordinary ways from the moment they enter my life. And I know what it means to lose one of the most treasured things in life, the intensity of the broken heart in those first weeks, and the tide of pain that ebbs and flows in the months thereafter.

Our Christmas tree is up and I should be facing middle-of-the-night feedings and diaper blowouts, or preparing the nursery and our home for your imminent arrival. Instead, I am trying to find ways  to remember you and to keep you alive in our small family. This ornament was placed on our tree today, for you:

IMG_3789

I have also hung a stocking for you. And today, I am wearing a bracelet with pink and blue roses that says “Remember.” I am writing you this letter, as I have occasionally done in the past. And every night, we still light a candle for¬† you. I imagine that we will stop doing some of these things as the years go by, but I don’t ever want to let people forget about you. You will not be forgotten. Not in our home or in my heart.

There are several people who miss you, who still mourn for you, people like your daddy and my mother. Maybe even my sister. But no one will ever miss you like I do. You grew inside of me, and I am so thankful for that, even if it was just for a few short weeks.¬† I still weep for you, Teddy. Every day, I wish you were here and that you never had to leave. I look at other infants and think of you. Forever and ever, you will be my baby. But I must believe that we’ll see each other again. One day, in an everlasting life, I will hold you in my arms. I can’t wait, my darling. I love you.

xoxoxo,

Mommy

On Motherhood

Today is my daughter’s birthday, so this post is a little about her and a lot about mothering. I want to write this post mostly for me,¬†but also to explain my experience with parenting after infertility and to give some of you hope (I hope). What I don’t want — the very, very last thing I want — is to cause anyone additional pain or grief. I hope this post is okay.

Two years ago today, I became a mother. The child I had longed for, cried for, and craved was finally placed into my arms. After fifteen months of infertility and nine months of worry, fear, and complications, she was finally here. It was a moment I once believed I would never experience. But in that instant, it did not matter what it took to get her there. The memories of Clomid, charts, OPKs, and doctor visits were gone. The tears, the pain, the grief were gone. Not forgotten, just entirely insignificant. Because all that mattered in those first moments was the miracle that was in my arms. She was mine at last and she was no different than any other baby born at that hospital, except (perhaps) she was more loved and more cherished than most.

I have found, though, that in the days, weeks, months, and years since giving birth, the road that I walked to achieve that dream has colored my parenting experience. There is still a part of me, even now, that is afraid that we will lose Cupcake. I remember, early on, being very scared of SIDS. This was not a normal fear; it was truly a phobia. The highest risk of SIDS is from two to four months and as my daughter approached the two-month mark, there were nights when I felt such panic in my chest that I could scarcely breathe, I was unable to sleep, and I was sweaty and clammy with the thought of what could happen. I obsessively googled and did everything I could that might prevent SIDS, even waking up multiple times a night to check on Cupcake, but even then there were days I was convinced that we would lose her. I felt as sure of it as anything else I have ever felt. It was only time that helped to diminish the panic and reassure me that SIDS would not take my daughter away. These days, I am a bit more chill and a bit more confident that she will be sticking with us, but it does not take much to send me right back to that dark and fearful place. The other day, I was watching a show about a young child with cancer and I spent many hours after that crying and worrying. Is this normal? I can’t really say because it is all I’ve known,but I imagine it’s probably not. Not to this degree anyways. Perhaps these fears stem from having lost so many people I love early in my life. I am always afraid that I will lose one more. But I think it is because infertility has the power to fundamentally change a person and the way she reacts to the world. We know too well that there are no guarantees. No guarantees that we will ovulate. No guarantees that we will conceive. No guarantees that what has been given to us will be with us forever. We realize the fragility, and utter value, of life itself.

But infertility has not damaged me completely. In some ways, it has built me up and made me a better mother. As I told Theresa in a comment on one of her recent posts, I have a constant sense of gratitude. I have been faced with the possibility of never holding my own child, and this does not escape me any moment of any day. During midnight feedings early on and during tantrums yesterday and tomorrow, I have never forgotten that, while what I’m going through in that minute is hard, there are other things that are much, much harder. You know that poem about infertility? The one that starts like this:

There are women that become mothers without effort, without thought, without patience or loss and though they are good mothers and love their children, I know I will be better.

I will be better not because of genetics or money or that I have read more books but because I have struggled and toiled for this child. I have longed and waited. I have cried and I prayed. I have endured and planned over and over again.

There have never been any truer words. I am not a perfect mother. I lose my patience, sometimes I yell, sometimes I do things that do not set a good example (like eating a lot of Nutella straight from the jar). But I know that I am better than I ever would have been without going through what I did. I am better because I know the life of my child should not be taken for granted. I treasure her every day, even when she is crying, or screaming, or hitting me in the face with her new Elmo doll. I cherish the chocolatey kisses that stain my clothes, the hair pulling when she tries to brush my hair, the toys flying across the room because she is frustrated and doesn’t have the words to say it. Every day, I am reminded of what could have been if I had had never had her, and what might never be again if I am unable to have another baby and experience this all from the start one more time. So I work harder, play harder, and laugh harder, all because infertility has shown me that every child is a precious, precious gift.

They say when a child is born, so is a mother. How true. It’s funny to think that while I imagined having a big family most of my life (except for one period in middle school when I declared I would never have children), and for all the trouble I went to trying to start one, I was never positively sure that I be a mother. Or that I would be any good at it. I thought maybe I’m too selfish, too lazy, too unsure, too indecisive. My free time too precious and my sleep at nighttime too cherished. But once you have a child, nothing has meaning without that child. I didn’t care that my time became our time. I didn’t mind the sacrifices I had to make or the things I lost because so much was also gained. This is one of the things that my daughter has taught me. Because of her, I have learned that the only thing that truly matters in this world is love. Giving and receiving it. Because of her, I care less about things and care more about treasuring those I have in my life. In the last two years, I have also learned to have patience when necessary, to appreciate the simple things in life (like the slug creeping on our sidewalk and the sound the leaves make when blowing in the wind), to speak up at the most important times, and to not sweat the small stuff (though I’m still working on that one, every day). As a new mother, and especially as a survivor of infertility, I have come a long ways.

It seems appropriate to me that Cupcake was born the week of Thanksgiving. As you might remember, I have a lot to be thankful for, but there is nothing in this world that gives me more gratitude than my daughter. Every year, as we celebrate her birthday and especially in a particularly difficult year like this one, I am reminded of how lucky or how blessed (take your pick) I am. I hope one day soon each of you are able to say the same. Really, there is little else in this world that I want more.  And for all of my fellow Americans, I wish you all the happiest and sweetest of Thanksgivings and, no matter where you are at in your journey, I hope and I pray that there is something, however small, for which you can be thankful. XO

Remembering

I’m back! And while I will happily post about our trip abroad very soon, today my post is about something else. It’s October 15th. It’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. And coincidentally, later this week will also mark six months since my miscarriage. Six months since I had to say good-bye to a baby who was so very much wanted.

And so, today, I remember.

I remember my Teddy Graham, the Baby Who Almost Was. I remember the day I learned he existed, the elation I felt, the rainbow I saw that evening. I remember spending the Easter holiday with him in my belly, already imagining the next Easter when he would be in my arms. I remember never having been happier. And I remember the day when it all ended, when my world stopped turning as I learned my baby’s heart had stopped beating…or perhaps it just had never begun. I remember, and it hurt and it heals at the same time.

My precious baby,

I miss you. Every piece of me misses you. Time has not changed that, and I don’t imagine anything else ever will. There is someone missing in our home. It’s you, and I think there will always be an incompleteness without you here. But I hold you in my heart, I love you still, and you will never be forgotten. Be well, my sweet child, until we meet again.

Love,

your mama

And today, I also remember all of you and your babies who left too soon. I want to gently remind all of you that your pain and loss is only so great because your love for your child was so extraordinary. You gave your child all the love that s/he deserved for all the days of his/her life, even though those days were so short. Each and every one of you are strong women to endure such loss and, through you, your babies need not ever be forgotten. XO

ICLW and My Necklace

I’m tired of talking about my sister. Tired of letting her monopolize my blog. Surely, there will be days ahead (probably in the near future), where I will need to come here to complain about her once more, but right now we seem to be back on track and so let’s talk about other things…

If you’re here for ICLW, welcome and thanks for stopping by! I’m currently halfway through my two-week wait and am starting to feel anxious and get impatient. I do have one child already (who will be TWO in exactly three months! gasp!) and we lost a baby in April, which has completely wrecked me. This cycle, with the first opportunity to finally create another life, is the first time I have felt my hope soar in quite a while. It feels so good, and so terrifying, at the same time.¬† To know my full story, you can read part 1 and part 2, or you can get it in a nutshell.

For those of you who have been with me for a while, you may remember that my husband tried but ultimately failed in getting me what I wanted the most (besides a baby, that is) for my birthday. Well, we went online to order exactly what I did want and it recently came in the mail:

It’s simple, but that’s perfect as I plan to wear it every day and it won’t get in the way or clash with much.¬† On the left is my daughter’s November birthstone.¬† On the right, is the birthstone for The Baby Who Almost Was, had he been born around his due date this coming December. Now, I can carry my two babies around with me wherever I go and that feels pretty good.¬† Even though, of course, I have always carried them in my heart (SO cheesy to say it, but I just couldn’t resist…and it’s true!).

For a moment, as I have tried it on in all sorts of light and turned this way and that in the mirror to examine it from every angle, this necklace has served as a welcome distraction from more pressing matters…like Am I pregnant? Am I? Am I? Am I?¬† But alas, I cannot really get my head to go anywhere else for more than a few minutes. I’m obsessing. Like, seriously. Like, a-preteen-girl-in-love-with-Bieber sort of obsessing. In my next post, I’ll let you obsess with me. Together, we can analyze the life out of every possible “symptom” I may or may not be having.

Please refrain from rolling your eyes.

10 Things, Part 2

On Monday, I revealed the first five of ten things about myself so you all can get to know me a little bit better. Here is the second part of that list:

6. I was a good student. I graduated from high school with all A’s except for two lousy B’s that still make me mad these many years later. In college, I graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in English.¬† I also won a writing award, had two of my short stories published, and won the top award in the Humanities Department for my senior research project on Harry Potter (yes, it’s true). Several of my professors encouraged me to pursue grad school and I am sure I have disappointed them all by choosing to stay home and parent my daughter instead. But I do hope to one day return to school, hopefully this time to finish my degree in nursing, because I studied that for two years too. Okay…bragging done. ūüôā

7. I’ve suffered a lot of loss. And I’m not talking just about my Teddy Graham or my sanity as I have taken this infertility journey. In my 28 years, I have lost six grandparents, two uncles (and one was only 40 years old), and a 19-year-old cousin. I don’t know if this is a lot for my age or not, but I do know that in my circle of friends, it is. Some of these deaths were more unexpected than others and some have hurt my heart more than others have, but they have all affected me in some way, big or small. And I still mourn my losses, especially my maternal grandparents, my maternal uncle, and my cousin. My cuz and I shared the same birthday (five years apart) and our children were born on the same day (three years apart), so we always had a connection, even if we fought like crazy. Not to mention that he was very young and died in a senseless act that could have been prevented. I miss him. I miss them all.

8. I love to travel. Like, loooooove it. If I could travel for a living, I would. I love it that much. It all started when I was very young and my beloved grandparents would take me along on their summer road trips. Two of my favorite places on Earth are London (where we will be returning to in October) and Kangaroo Island in Australia (where the Honey and I honeymooned), but I also have enjoyed Paris, Zurich, Venice, Cairns (in Australia), Sydney, Hawaii, New York City, San Francisco, Alaska, Cancun, Carmel (California), Yellowstone National Park, Walt Disney World, and so much more. In fact, there are very few places that I haven‘t liked. Some day, I hope to visit every state (I have 15 to go) and every continent…both are on my very-long-and-perhaps-impossible-to-complete Bucket List!

9. I’m very flawed. I’m lazy. I’m self-centered. I’m bossy. I’m so indecisive that I changed my college major a total of five times. I half-ass things (like housework) if I can get away with it. I’m a control freak. I’m super sensitive and get my feelings hurt very easily. I’m painfully shy, which I’m afraid sometimes comes off as stuck-up and snobbish. I’m terribly insecure. I’m occasionally self-righteous. I have unfair and unrealistic expectations of everyone, including myself.¬† The list really could go on, but I would hate to make you think I’m totally unworthy and then cause you stop reading my blog.

And finally number 10. I’m an only child…sort of. I was raised as an only child and I am my mother’s only child, but not for lack of trying. My mama would have loved to have a handful of children, but my dad (the man who raised me as his child) was sterile due to diabetes (type I). So I was conceived by a sperm donor. I guess I’m part of the first generation of sperm donor babies! My mom tried to have another baby after me, but after 12 tries, she finally gave up and I was raised without any siblings (which I hated, but I’ll save that rant for another post). However, in January, thanks to The Donor Sibling Registry, I connected with a half-sister who was conceived by the same donor and lives just three hours away. Amazing, right? Like, we could totally be a Lifetime movie. I’ll save our full story for another post, but I can say now that I have a sister (which still seems so weird to me)…and yet, she doesn’t feel like one. Not yet. Not at all.

So there you go! A little about me. But what about you…any little-known facts you want to share?

A Keepsake

Today, this arrived in the mail, in memory of my Teddy Graham:

It’s a rear-view mirror dangle thingy for the car and I ordered it from Remembering Our Babies. For those of you who have lost a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death, or know someone who has, this is an online boutique that has plenty of memorial keepsakes to honor your lost little one. They have these little butterfly car ornaments in blue, pink, or a combo, plus a healthy selection of keepsake jewelry, amongst other things. Beautiful, unique items that could be a treasured and cherished by someone who needs them. And they didn’t even pay me to say that! No, I’m not a spokesperson. Just a happy customer.

I know some people just want to forget their loss. Maybe they want no reminder whatsoever of it. They lock collected baby items away in a box.¬† They hide pregnancy books at the back of the bookshelf. They move forward and fake a smile and pretend that they never had a child inside of them. And that’s okay. That’s so okay if that’s what they need to do to get through it. I did those things in the beginning, too. But it’s not for me anymore.¬† I know I lost him early, but now I just want to remember my baby. In every sense. And this is just one more way for me to do that.