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Photo Vomit

Note: This post will include an overload of cute baby photos. You’ve been warned.

I am often told that I could be a spokesperson for professional photography because we so regularly have family photos of one kind or another taken. It’s true. Since having children, I don’t think we’ve gone more than six months between photo sessions. I expect this to change some as my children get older and stop morphing into entirely new people with every turn of the seasons, (If you have children, you’ll understand what I mean by this. They grow so fast! They change so quickly! Every cliche is true.), BUT I am still committed to having family portraits taken as often as possible. They are so important to me. These moments as a family, with our children so small, are passing us by. They are often gone before we even remember to savor them, cherish them, treasure them. And there is nothing at all to prove that they even existed, except for photographs and our memory — which is inaccurate and ever fading, at best.

And so I turn to the camera, both mine and that of a professional. I am often encourage by friends and family that I should take our own family portraits. You’re so talented, they say. You’re photos look professional already, they say. You have skillz!, they say. While that’s flattering, I don’t have the same faith and confidence in my abilities. And I don’t have the same resources (like the beautiful maternity gown provided by our maternity photographer and all the sweet little bonnets and wraps that our newborn photographer had). And also? What about me? I want to be on the other side of the camera sometimes. I want the lens to capture the love I have for and the unique relationship I have with each of my children. And yes, there is such thing as a timer. I could set it and run to join my family and hope that I don’t look like a disheveled mess when the camera starts clicking. Or I can hire someone to do it for me and enjoy the experience.

Every photo session we have as a family is an experience, a memory to be added to our collection of memories. A moment that is worth remembering.

See?! I really could be a spokeseperson for hiring a professional photographer!

But all of that to say, here I am again with another post of photos we’ve had taken. The girls were so wonderfully cooperative for this shoot (unlike two years ago, when Cupcake would just NOT take a single decent photograph with her baby sister) and our photographer is uber talented. Expensive, but worth every penny. One of the best and one of my favorites.  Poppy, who is a restless sleeper and does not particularly love to be fussed over, did make her work hard for her money, but she somehow still made magic. I regret that I can’t post most of the family photos since I’m still trying to stay mildly anonymous here on this blog (though my resolve on that has wavered quite considerably over the last few months), but here are at least a few beauties that she captured…

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Which one is YOUR favorite?

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Update: 6ish weeks to Go

It’s time for a little update, I think. And on this Monday morning, when I’m tired and have a lot to do, bullet points seem like the way to go:

  • I’ll be 34 weeks pregnant tomorrow, which is crazy. Because in one way, I feel two weeks past-due. This pregnancy is going sloooooowly and I’m really thankful for that, but it does make it seem like the baby should be here anytime now. And in another way, I keep thinking, “I can’t believe we’ll have another baby here in about two months!” It’s impossible to believe that I am soon going to be responsible for three children. Impossible and exciting and frightening. And very, very exhausting.
  • I had to take the 3-hour glucose tolerance test recently. I passed, but just barely. Still, I’m thankful there’s no “gestational diabetes” diagnosis on my medical record for now.
  • I wrote my birth plan last week. My goal is another natural birth. I’m nervous and excited for that. I know it’s not practical, possible, or desired for everyone, but I am certain it’s the right thing for me. I can’t wait to give it another go! (Well, I can actually, since I’m not ready for Poppy to arrive just yet!) Fingers crossed it all works out mostly as planned.
  • I’ve been having a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions lately. I think. Not that it means anything. I’ve never gone into labor on my own. And while I’m hopeful that I will this time, I also have a lot of doubts that it’s even possible for my body, though everyone assures me it is. I don’t want an induction, but thankfully they usually work out okay for me, so I’m not entirely opposed to one if necessary.
  • I totally rocked my prenatal appointment last week. As if it’s some sort of performance or job interview! 🙂 No, what I mean, is that my blood pressure was stellar, which always makes me feel like I deserve a gold medal or something. Last week, it was 102/63. If you remember from my last pregnancy, my BP started to skyrocket and I was having some major swelling in my feet by this point. So far, I’ve had neither of those problems and I’m super relieved.
  • I had maternity photos taken late last month and the digital files just arrived in my Inbox on Friday. I’ve already posted them on Facebook and will be posting a few strategically-cropped and -angled ones here in the coming days/weeks. I’m in love with them! With every pregnancy, I’m just so pleased that we invest in this and that I get to cherish these photos forever.
  • Completely unrelated to this pregnancy, Skittle saw her allergist last week. Her dairy allergy is now classified as “borderline.” I’m thrilled by that and hopeful that, by this time next year, she will be testing negative. Her egg white allergy is still clearly present, though. And she also is very allergic to peanuts and dust mites, both of which have me feeling really bummed. Peanut allergies are so scary and dust mites are impossible to avoid. We had some blood drawn to get a few more answers, but my poor girl. She just can’t catch a break.
  • Also, we drove three hours over the weekend to see my sister. Things are kind of awkward between us right now. Her divorce is almost finalized and it’s obviously a really sad time in her life and a really happy one in mine. I don’t know what to say or do, except to listen when she wants to talk (which isn’t much) and to let her know I’m here, always. I never know if I should talk about the pregnancy or avoid it, because her daughter is two-and-a-half now and this is the point at which she really wanted another baby and I don’t want to rub it in her face, so I just let her lead the conversation when it comes to that. It’s funny….for the longest time, she had the life I wanted for myself (a good marriage, her dream job, a big house, lots of money, and a pregnancy that comes after two months of trying) and now the tables have turned and I know she would give anything to have what I do. So it’s weird between us. We’re both making something of an effort, though, and I guess that’s something.
  • Up next for us: preparing the nursery, a weekend ocean getaway over Labor Day (our final trip as a family of four!), and more doctor appointments.

So that’s it for me! A lot going on, and a lot to look ahead to. What’s new with all of you? What are you looking forward to before summer ends?

Boy, Oh Boy!

The vision that I have of our family is ever changing.

I was once convinced that my first child would be a boy. I was wrong. And then, I thought my second one would be. Wrong again. I think, if I’m being completely honest with you and myself, I really only told myself they would be boys because what I really wanted was a girl and I didn’t want to feel the biting pain of disappointment when there were no vaginas in sight. But either way, I somehow convinced myself — I was destined to have a boy.

But after the arrival of Skittle, my second precious girl, I began to allow myself to imagine a house full of little girls. The thought to me was so sweet and magical, and so perfectly fitting as I am about as far from being a tomboy as one can get, that I became attached to it. I tried not to, because I knew the likelihood of one day having four girls (four being our ultimate goal), was not great, but we all know how the heart works. It does funny things. Sometimes, it falls in love with the wrong people or illogical ideas. Sometimes, it does it over and over again.

And yet, despite my heart making a wish, despite the vision I’ve had of our family for over a year now, we have a baby boy on the way.

KABOOM.

When we learned Poppy’s gender, it sort of felt like my heart exploded. Tears popped from my eyes. I knew they weren’t tears of joy, but in that moment, I couldn’t explain any of it. I was expecting this news, but hadn’t been particularly hoping for it, and I just felt sort of ambivalent. I couldn’t label what I was feeling as happy, sad, excited, disappointed, scared, or anything else. I just felt all of it and none of it all at once. That was the most unexpected part for me.

As the news sank in throughout the day, I came to realize that I was feeling much sadder than I had wanted to feel. When this time came, and I suspected it would come eventually, I had hoped to feel overwhelming excitement about the tiny little penis inside of me. I didn’t.

I felt SAD that I may never hold another baby girl of my own in my arms. Sad that the sparkly satin headbands and frilly cupcake leg warmers and pink pink pink would be going by the wayside. Sad that baby dolls and My Little Pony might start competing with trucks and superheroes in our home.

I felt MAD, mostly at myself, because I had gotten my hopes up about having another girl. If I hadn’t started hoping, I wouldn’t be feeling so crummy.

I felt SCARED that I don’t know how to be the mom to a little boy. I don’t know anything about cars and trucks, or sports, or superheroes. I hate the color blue. I am a girly-girl. I am just about as stereotypically “girly” as one can get. And my husband is no macho man. What the hell do we know about raising a boy?! And how was I going to afford buying a whole new wardrobe for our little guy? (Consignment and thrift shopping has helped, but I still have spent an obscene amount of money — already! — on this kid.) And my girls were both relatively easy and amazing sleepers…what if having a boy is different? This pregnancy has already been harder on me, what if raising a boy is too? And don’t even get me started about masturbation, uncontrollable boners, and drugs… (My husband and his brother are both recovering drug addicts. Addiction runs in the family. Especially for males.)

And I felt RESENTFUL towards just about everyone. Every person who made me feel like we “needed” a boy. Like our family wasn’t complete without a boy. Like somehow, if Baby #3 had turned out be female, we would be missing out on something big. And resentful towards everyone who sent text messages and posted on Facebook saying:

  • “Yay! You’re going to LOVE having a boy!”
  • “Congrats! I bet you’re SO happy!”
  • “Praise God! I was praying for this for you guys!”
  • “Oh my gosh! I bet [your husband] is so thrilled to finally have a boy!”

As though, of COURSE, I would be thrilled. I should be thrilled. And my husband, even more so. (News flash: Honey wanted another girl, too. Not every man feels the need to have a son.) And I even resented my mom, who asked, “Are you excited?” and when I didn’t respond positively, she finished with saying, “Well, I’m sorry your baby is a boy,” because that wasn’t what I needed to hear either.

And then, the common link between all these feelings, the undercurrent, the one that ran the deepest…I felt GUILTY. I felt like the worst person in the world, because who resents their loved ones when they only mean well? And I felt like the worst mother, because why couldn’t I just be happy? My friends and family were right, I SHOULD be happy! And even more, I felt like the worst infertile, because dammit, I had a BABY growing inside of me and that should be enough. There were people in this world who would kill to be in my position, carrying any baby — boy, girl, monkey or otherwise — and I had once been one of them. Who was I, suddenly thinking I had a right to have any baby I chose? I felt like a selfish, spoiled, ungrateful, entitled brat, and I hated myself for it. The guilt ate away at me for days.

I’m relieved to say most of these feelings didn’t last in such intensity for very long. I worked through them. I processed them. I searched for the silver lining. And I learned to have a little grace, mostly towards myself. I’m only human after all. Even in the best of circumstances, there can be mixed feelings. That’s normal. That’s OKAY. I don’t need to justify it. I don’t owe anyone an explanation. I’m allowed to grieve. As I wrote in a recent post, there is grief around every life corner. I don’t need anyone’s permission to feel what I feel. I can own it and feel it, really feel the huge weight of it, accept it and embrace it (maybe over and over again, as necessary), and then hopefully move on. And if I can’t move on, that’s okay too. There are some feelings and emotions that just never go away and, instead, you learn to live with them. It’s all part of being human, isn’t it? And there’s no shame in that.

Everything “bad” thing I felt immediately after learning about this baby boy has diminished, but they haven’t gone away entirely. I still feel sad sometimes, sad and scared and guilty, but the good feelings have moved in and made their home, too. I’m excited. I’m happy. I’m in love.

This baby was loved before I knew he was a “he” and that hasn’t changed at all. And now that he has an identity, and I think maybe even a name, and I feel him move at all hours of the day and night, I love him even more.

Everything that I have loved about having a baby girl isn’t going to go away because he’s a boy. Each moment will be unique to him, but I will still have chubby thighs to squeeze and fine baby hair to smell and one day he will learn to say “mama” in that sweet toddler voice I love to hear. That won’t change.

Most of all, I believe this little human was chosen for us. Just for us. He is our intended one. Meant to be. Meant to be ours. Two X chromosomes, or an X and a Y, it doesn’t matter.

He is ours.

He is loved.

And we’ll figure the rest out along the way.

Just for Fun

Thank you so much for all of the comments on my last post! I used nearly every suggestion offered, both here and on Facebook, and they really helped me to get through a miserable few days. I’m happy to say I turned a corner early in the weekend and am now feeling almost good as new. Oh my gosh, I’m SO glad I can say that. It was feeling like it would never happen there for a while. So thank you! I appreciate all of you.

It’s a busy few weeks here for us. Between our anatomy scan earlier in the month, my mom’s visit over this past holiday weekend, Cupcake’s upcoming preschool “graduation” (quotes used because she’s actually not done with preschool…there’s still one more year to go), trying to get a few things accomplished for baby’s autumn arrival (like making freezer meals and doing a little — ahem, a LOT of — shopping), and taking boudoir photos for my dear friend Leigh, I don’t have much time for anything else. Certainly not enough time to write a coherent blog post!

So instead, I’m stealing an idea from MissConception and putting together a little “getting to know me” post. If you’re a blogger, I encourage you to do the same. I’d love to learn more about you, friends!

Four jobs I’ve had:

1. Child Support employee for the state of Idaho

2. Cashier at a pharmacy/gift shop

3. Pet sitter (I started my own business when I was 8 years old and had lots of neighbors who were brave enough to allow me to watch their pets while they were out of town.)

4. Data entry and secretary for an abrasives manufacturer

Four movies I’ve watched more than once:

1. Titanic

2. P.S. I Love You

3. Notting Hill

4. Harry Potter (all of them)

Four books I’d recommend:

1. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

2. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

3. Room by Emma Donoghue

4. Good Grief by Lolly Winston

For cities I’ve lived in:

1. Rathdrum, ID

2. Lewiston, ID

3. Tampa, FL

4. Federal Way, WA

Four places I’ve visited:

1. Sydney, Australia

2. Cancun, Mexico

3. Nice, France

4. The Grand Canyon

Four Places I Could Visit Over and Over:

1. London, England

2. Kangaroo Island, Australia

3. Disney World

4. Any of the Hawaiian islands

Four things I just won’t eat:

1. Sushi

2. Red meat

3. Chocolate pudding

4. Clam chowder

Four things I could eat every day:

1. Milkshakes

2. Stuffed jalapeno-mozzarella pizza rolls from Pizza Pizzazz

3. Grapes

4. Fluffernuts

Four TV shows I used to watch and miss (and watch in reruns as much as I can):

1. Friends

2. Gilmore Girls

3. Parenthood

4. Brothers & Sisters

Four things I’m looking forward to this year:

1. Taking boudoir photos of my friend Leigh

2. Our annual road trip to Idaho

3. The sunny summer weather

4. Giving birth and meeting our baby boy

Four things I need right now:

1. A massage

2. Coffee

3. Another vacation

4. A nap!

Four dreams I have for our future:

1. Have four children

2. Buy a bigger home

3. Celebrate our 10th anniversary (three more years!) on Maui

4. Travel the world

Have a great week! xoxo

Seeking Help!

I’m at a breaking point and, in an effort to reach the masses, am going to post exactly what I posted on Facebook just moments ago:

Seeking advice and tips! For over three days now, I have been VERY congested. Thought it was my seasonal allergies, but now I suspect a cold. I can’t breathe AT ALL, have had two nights of almost zero sleep, and am feeling pretty miserable. Hoping the symptoms will let up soon, but in the meantime am looking for anything that might help to relieve the horrible congestion, plugged ears, and sinus pressure. What hasn’t worked: saline nasal spray, sitting in a steamy hot shower, BreatheRight nasal strips, Vicks, steam from a boiling pot of water, Sudafed, and Benadryl. The ONLY thing that provides relief is a medicated, fast-acting nasal spray, but it only lasts an hour or so and I can only use it every four hours for three days max and I’m trying soooooo hard to not even do that. Any other ideas out there? Anything I haven’t tried? Give me all you’ve got, people! I’m feeling desperate and, as long as it’s safe for the baby, will try just about anything!

If you have any new ideas for me, please don’t hesitate to suggest them. I am really, really, really getting desperate. Like, really. :p

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.