A Year of Miracles

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My miracle baby is no longer a baby. She turned one on Friday.

I haven’t been sure how or when to post on here anymore. I don’t feel a calling to be a straight-up mom blogger. And, more importantly, a lot the people who read this blog are still going through infertility and loss, and I want to be sensitive to that. But I feel like this milestone is too big to pass by, so here I am.

Hi.

One year, holy smokes. One year of looking into the face of a baby I never thought I’d meet. Some days I still ask myself if this is really a dream. I’m not exaggerating when I say that every day with Winnie in our lives feels like magic. I am up to my eyeballs in gratitude. This life, this family–it is all I’ve ever wanted.

Grief still lingers, of course, and probably will for a long time. On a recent road trip to South Carolina, it hit me hard that Winnie’s twin should be traveling with us. I miss my mom, I miss my brother, I miss all three of those babies that I’ll never get to meet–at least not in this lifetime. But so it goes, right? There can’t be light without darkness. The last few years were very dark and very long, but how can I begrudge them when they brought me here, to this place right now?

I quit my job after Winnie was born. I had been unhappy there for a long time, and I just couldn’t fathom leaving this hard-earned baby every day to go to work. I’ve been doing a bit of freelance writing here and there, but mostly I’m just spending time with my girls. Lettie is in pre-school three days of the week, but I have her home with me the other two days. Winnie is with me every day, all day. I never thought of myself as the stay-at-home mom type, but so far I’m loving it. There is nowhere else I’d rather be. I have no plans to return to work at the moment, but who knows what will happen in the future. I’m considering going back to school at some point to be an infertility nurse. I eventually want a career that allows me to help others who are going through what I went through, but I’m not sure what that will look like.

Other than than hanging with Tim and the girls, I’ve mostly been doing things that feel good to me. I started writing creatively again, which I haven’t done for years (aside from this blog). I even took a memoir class to get some ideas going. I’d like to turn my experience with infertility into a book, but alas I am slow and lack focus, so we’ll see when or if that happens. I’m trying not to pressure myself. I made a mosaic the other week out of an old recycling bin. I’m planning on painting my front door an eggplant purple soon. Every morning during Winnie’s nap, I take a nap, too. Slowly, I am healing. I am returning to the person I used to be before infertility took over my life–or, maybe more accurately, I am learning who I want to be right now.

If you can believe it, Winnie is still breastfeeding. She had the same exact issues as Lettie (tongue tie), but for whatever reason she just fought for it harder than Lettie did, and we were able to exclusively breastfeed pretty much from day one. To have that nursing time with her was and is one of the greatest gifts of my life. Personality-wise, Winnie is happy and very laid back (like her dad–she did not get that from me; I have zero chill). She’s shy, but she likes to smile at people and say “hi” from a distance. She eats everything, and I mean everything–pate, tapenade, filet mignon, you name it. She was a terrible sleeper, but thankfully we seem to have finally worked that out through sleep training. Today, she dropped a big, wet open-mouthed kiss on me and said, “Ah-la-la-la.” I’m telling myself she said “I love you.” You never know.

I have so much more I could say, but this seems like a good place to stop for now. I’ll leave you with some pictures of Winnie’s first birthday party. I’m not the crafty type, but I ended up making all of the decorations (along with tons of help from my mother-in-law and her friend). I had so many conflicting feelings about my baby turning one that I had to channel it into something…sooooooo crafts it was!

Even though I’ve been silent on here for so long, I think of you all often. I am grateful to you, and will always be grateful to you, for being there for me during the hardest time of my life. I’m not sure how much I’ll post on here going forward. Maybe I’ll pick it back up again at some point, who knows. Regardless, if you need an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on, or if you have any questions about immunology treatments or anything else, hit me up at theskyandbackblog@gmail.com. I am here.

she asked
‘you are in love
what does love look like’
to which I replied
‘like everything I’ve ever lost
come back to me’
–Nayyirah Waheed

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The Things She Carried

[inspired by Tim O’Brien’s novel, The Things They Carried]

She carried 758 needles, 170 suppositories of the vaginal variety, and hundreds of blood draws—she was told she had good veins, like that was some kind of prize to win. She was weirdly proud of her awesome veins, because in this game of carrying and dropping, losing and winning, there’s not much else to be proud of.

She carried 63 ultrasounds, some of them a routine check for follicles, some looking in vain for beating hearts, some checking to make sure “the products of conception” no longer existed inside of her.

She carried names of drugs she could barely pronounce—Menopur, Follistim, Ovidrel, Ganirelix, Intralipids, Lovenox, Prednisone.

She carried four IUIs, three IVFs, 66 follicles, 33 eggs and 20 embryos. Some of these embryos were placed back inside of her, and some never grew beyond a handful of cells. All were loved.

She carried lesions on her ovaries, cervix, uterus and bladder. She carried a blood clotting disorder called antiphospholipid antibody syndrome. She carried overactive natural killer cells, which weren’t really killing much except teeny-tiny embryos too little to fight for themselves.

She carried one laparoscopy attempt. One actual laparoscopy. Three egg retrievals. Two transfers. Two D & Cs.

She carried 1,938 miles of travel—from the house to the fertility clinic; from the clinic to work; from Philadelphia to Manhattan for surgery; from Philadelphia to Woodbury to visit what she hoped would be a miracle doctor; from Philadelphia to Woodstock to spend the day with a fertility visionary. She carried $726 in parking garage fees, and even one parking garage accident.

She carried Please Gods and plea bargains. She carried what-ifs and what-will-I-do-nows.

She carried special diets—no gluten, no dairy, no sugar, no air.

She carried the love of a good man, but she carried it clumsily and sometimes carelessly. She lashed out. She yelled. “Why can’t you carry any of this for me?” she wanted to know. There was no good answer to that question—he knew it and she knew it, and at the end of the day she was lucky to still be holding his heart.

She carried the memory of lost babies—three at last count. First was Gabriel. She lost him on the bathroom floor at work, and by the time she got to the hospital she was so bloody it looked like she was starring in a Carrie remake. Then there was Anna, who was confirmed genetically normal and therefore should have lived, but didn’t. Anna, who said au revoir to the world on Christmas day, but who would never open a single present. Finally, there was Baby B, a loss too new to even get a name.

She carried a persistence that even she admitted was insane. She carried advice from relatives, friends, acquaintances, the checkout lady at Target, wondering why she was doing this to herself, why she didn’t just give up. Stop this nonsense. Be happy for what you have. Halt. Cease and desist before you ruin yourself, your job, your marriage. And she did want to stop, she did. But she needed to try one last time. One more needle, one more blood draw, one more doctor. One more.

And now.

Now she carries a baby inside of her, a little girl, no bigger than a winter squash. She feels her kicks, taps and nudges, and they feel like hope. She still carries the what-ifs—so many what-ifs—but now she carries something else as well—trust. Trust that this is the soul she is meant to meet. She sings to her baby every night, hands on her belly, heart wide open as a summer sky: ‘twas grace that brought you safe thus far, and grace will lead you home.

As The Ovaries Turn: IVF #2 On The Horizon

Things are moving along here in baby-making land. I had my hysteroscopy a couple of weeks ago and that went well. My doctor said that she did see a slight curve in my uterus, but neither she nor the other doctor she discussed it with felt that it was an issue. So no additional surgery needed, hooray!

I’m currently estrogen priming, which entails taking estrogen pills twice a day. This is to ensure that the follicles grow at the same rate during the stimulation phase of IVF–a greedy, over-acheiving follicle is a very bad thing indeed. Once my next cycle starts, I’ll have a day two ultrasound, and if that looks good (fingers crossed no cysts!), I’ll start injections that night. Of course, the pharmacy is being dumb (long and boring story), so I’m not altogether sure that we’ll get our medications in time, but hopefully we can borrow from our clinic if needed.

I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to blog during this next IVF. I really want to keep my head on straight, and I wonder if the blogging play-by-play last time increased my anxiety. Or maybe I would’ve been an Anxious Annie no matter what (let’s be honest). I might even take a full-on blogging break for a bit to make sure I’m feeling centered. Who knows, dudes. I’m saying all of this, but I might be back posting again tomorrow, all like “Did you guys miss me?!” I guess I just want to let you know that if I do drop off a bit, it’s not because something is wrong.

One of my teachers on this baby-making endeavor, Julia Indichova, often talks about how this journey does not need to feel like a prison sentence. It is only our perspective, she says, that makes it feel like a punishment. I think this is very wise. Some days I do feel trapped in a jail of my own making–like either I’m stuck waiting indefinitely or I have to give up completely. Some days are really, really hard. But other days, I am able to shift my thinking and see this all for what I, deep down, truly believe it to be: a great adventure. An opportunity to become more compassionate towards others, and also towards myself. A chance to get well acquainted with hope and faith.

Thankfully, today is one of those days. I’m feeling pretty good. I don’t know what will happen with the next IVF, and right this minute I don’t really care. Because right this minute I am feeling grateful. I’m thinking about the two pairs of blue eyes–one big and one little–that I get to look into each day. I’m thinking about the cold rain on my face as I left work this evening. Normally, that rain would have pissed me off, but today I was like, yes!

Because, really: how lucky I am to feel that rain. How lucky I am to hear and see. To have good, plentiful food to eat. To know deep love. How lucky I am to feel each breath–a constant rhythm, a reassurance that I am here, right now, exactly where I’m meant to be.

How Did They Keep Going?

We’ve all heard the stories about that one couple who went through four rounds of IVF or had five miscarriages, and then finally gave birth to a healthy baby. I used to love those stories. They used to fill me with hope. But right now all I can think is, How did they keep going?

After almost two years, four IUIs, 1 IVF and two miscarriages, I am tired.

Like, bone tired.

My heart is broken. My body feels like someone else’s. I don’t remember what it’s like to have my body belong just to me, without internal ultrasounds, pills, injections or surgical procedures. Without timed intercourse, supplements, acupuncture or special diets.

How did those other people, the ones that triumphed after so many years or so many tries, keep going?

I suppose the simple answer is faith. They had faith that their baby was waiting for them, faith that what they longed for would come to be. That faith must have given them energy, that extra push to keep going.

But me? My faith is seriously depleted. I am pretty much held together by some kind of figurative masking tape right now and if someone shook me hard enough I’d fall apart.

Despite my intense exhaustion, though, I’m somehow still going. With eyelids drooping, I’m plotting out my next step. Because to stop would mean giving up the dream — the deepest, widest, sweetest dream that I have. And I can’t do that. Not yet.

And maybe that’s how those people kept going: they lived from one Not Yet to the next. Not yet today, but maybe tomorrow. Not yet this minute, but maybe the next.

Not yet.

Not yet.

Not yet.

I Will Love You

Dear Embryo,

In your first hours of life, as your cells divided in silent mystery, I thought of you. I wondered if you were ok. After all, it’s not often that babies are away from their mothers in that moment of creation. Except for the other embryos around you, you were all alone, in a strange dish, in a strange lab, in an entirely new world. Yet on you went, growing like you didn’t have a single care.

I want to tell you that I think this makes you very brave.

Now that you’re finally here with me, I wonder if you will stay. From that deep place of knowing that goes beyond all anxiety and uncertainty, I believe that you will. But there are no guarantees. All we ever have, with anyone, is this minute. And this minute you are here with me, and I am here with you.

So I will love you. I will shout it from the rooftops, even if two seconds later I fall off the roof. Because that’s just it. To love someone or something without being guaranteed a certain future is brave. It’s maybe the bravest thing a person can do. And I want to be brave for you, just like you were brave for me.

Love,
Mom

Mug Exchange!

Mugs
My bounty.

About a month ago, Chelsea from Starbucks, Peace & the Pursuit of a Baby organized a mug exchange across the blogiverse and Instagram. How on earth she coordinated this massive effort is beyond me, but she did an amazing job. I am happy to report that I received my package in the mail today from the lovely blogess behind Life’s Journey. She picked a Tigger mug “for the times when you feel like Eeyore in over-the-knee-boots.” How freaking thoughtful is that? Also, she must be psychic because she somehow knew that tea is, like, the only thing that gets me through the winter. I’m pretty much a chain tea drinker at my freezing-ass desk at work.

When I started this blog three-and-a-half years ago, it was a place for me to keep my friends and family updated on our babymaking journey. It still functions as that today (thanks for sticking with me, family and friends!), but I also met some awesome women along the way. Many of the bloggers from my first go ’round in Babymaking Land don’t blog much these days, but I still think about them often and even consider one a great friend. This time around, I was excited to discover a new crop of awesome blogs and awesome women. There are some seriously kick-ass ladies out there. Thank you to all of you for supporting me when you don’t know me from Adam, and for making me feel like I don’t have to walk this road alone. I am incredibly grateful. You guys rock!

More Than Enough

There have been some dark days lately. Sleep deprivation and grieving is not a recipe for awesomeness. And then of course there was the unspeakable event in Newtown, which brought about dark days for our entire nation. Tim and I both cried this weekend. Every time I closed my eyes I pictured those kids. I thought of their parents. I thought of my own daughter.

I’m still thinking of these things.

But today, I want to talk about goodness. I want to talk about gratitude. I want to talk about enough.

I had a good day yesterday. Despite not getting a ton of sleep the night before, I woke up feeling well rested. I went to work, used my brain and felt productive. When I picked up Lettie at daycare she laughed, for maybe the fourth time ever. Instead of going to bed at my usual 8 pm (no, I’m not exaggerating here), I stayed up and ate dinner with Tim: salmon, Brussels sprouts and instant rice.

These are all small things. Ordinary things. But on that day, they were more than enough. I went to bed last night feeling incredibly blessed and—for no real reason at all—strangely hopeful.

And to me, that is the best way I can honor the memory of my mother, and the memory of those twenty innocent children: by counting my blessings. By cherishing each precious, mundane day. By finding hope in unexpected places.

Because living in a world without hope is not an option.