Friday, December 26, 2014

Open for Miracles

There's something about the Christmas story -- the real one -- that is magic to me. I love Christmas Eve, that feeling that the chilly, bright night air holds possibility and promise. That big things are on the way. For children, the arrival of Santa and the hope that you'll get everything you wanted. For some grown-ups, the hope that even the impossible might actually be within reach. In spite of all the disillusionment of this year, I felt it again on Wednesday. No matter where you count yourself religiously or spiritually, who can resist the notion that with a little love, hope and a lot of faith, anything is possible?

I had moments of grief this holiday. Of a desperate, empty feeling knowing I should have been holding a baby while chasing after H. And yet. The best year yet with H. For anyone who might be feeling sad watching those longed-for baby moments slipping away, just know that the best is yet to come. Because a four-and-a-half-year-old taking in the Christmas season? It just doesn't get much better (or maybe, hopefully, it does).

And so there is bitter with the sweet, but that is life. Show me a person that doesn't taste a bit of bitter in her yuletide cocktail and I'll show you a unicorn that hands out complimentary Hermes bags.

Call me naive. Call me hard to teach with life lessons. Call me foolish. Tell me I don't know when to quit. But I just feel that there is still a baby. I don't know if s/he will come from my embryos or from another set of genes, but it seems possible and I still have the drive to make it happen. As I said to a family member who recently asked if I was still thinking about it (not clear if she was suggesting I'm crazy for doing so) -- wouldn't you if you had four babies in the freezer? (She admitted she wouldn't quit either.)

Here's what we're doing. We're waiting. Seeing how some financial things shake out. Researching the options. Making connections that we can call on as soon as we're ready to move forward.

Waiting is not my forte. Even after years waiting for pregnancy tests, betas, ultrasounds, 13 weeks on bedrest for my baby. We had a friend whose incredible offer to carry had to be turned down, which feels wrong in so many ways and somehow makes it even harder to wait. I want to be able to do something -- it's my nature. I've already gone out and gotten two huge work contracts. I'm doing everything I can to solve the financial barrier, the most daunting one before us. It may be foolish, but I just think that going broke for another baby won't bother me when I'm smelling that sweet newborn smell.

So as a new year dawns, I'm looking forward to leaving this one -- and all its heartache -- behind. I'm excited for all of the fun and new dimension ahead with the child I have. And I'm open to the possibility of a Hail Mary, eleventh hour, ninth inning, five-minutes-before-close, unexpected miracle.

To that end, much like when you're searching for a job or a new house, I'm putting this out there. We're looking for a gestational surrogate or a domestic adoption opportunity. If you have any information on either -- leads, agencies, contacts, experience to share -- please don't hesitate.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Like It Never Happened

Just survived a visit from the in-laws, they of the pretend-it-never-happened camp. My MIL thought that the parking space for mothers with infants at my local supermarket was appropriate conversation fodder. And while we waited with H for a visit with Santa, she wanted to make sure I saw the little baby Uggs the store had on display.

I do not have an explanation for this behavior. There seems to be a general avoidance of emotions in the family. Not like: Soldier on. More like: Brush it under whatever's nearby.

I do know that on a few occasions, I wanted to walk into the room of all of them sitting around talking about inside-baseball family goings-on and scream, Do you realize that a member of this family is sitting in a freezer right now?

I should have.

What they and basically everyone need to know about me, from this point forward is this: Wherever I go, whatever I do, there is someone missing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Please Ignore the Tragedy

Every once in a while I realize with a bit of a jolt that for three days I walked around knowing he was dead inside of me. I showed up at my best friend's house to wait for my D&E in my old hometown, because I couldn't find someone I trusted to do it here. We all sat around a table and had dinner together.

It seems like that can't be real.

I just think, how do we find the will to endure these things?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

They Sure Make It Hard to Move On

If you ever think that I just let myself wallow, please know that I try very hard, every day, to enjoy all the things in my life that I know make me a lucky girl. And I do.

But as a wise man once said, there's always something there to remind me.

Was just shopping online for ribbon to trim a Christmas wreath with, and was feeling rather lighthearted about it. And then the Pottery Barn Baby crib set I had been pondering when my baby died popped up for whatever illogical reason (thanks a lot universe and also stupid stupid google programmers), and now I'm going to have a glass of wine.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

This Christmas

I just received an invitation to a perinatal loss holiday remembrance service at the hospital where my peri is, where we got the devastating news. While I think it's lovely that they offer such a thing as a comfort to women in my shoes, I will not be going.

I just can't imagine anything more gut-wrenching or less satisfying than sitting with all of these other families with sad stories, mourning people we loved fiercely but never really knew. After all, there isn't really much to remember. I was robbed of that. So I'm sure there are people who would benefit from such a service, but to me no good can come of it.

But this Christmas, I just refuse to let it bring me down. It will not win. Instead of soaking in grief, I will be marinading in the pure joy that is Christmas through my four-year-old's eyes. This is prime time. And though there will be moments of sadness, of realization that there is a whole imaginary track of my life that isn't playing out as it should be, there is also so much to celebrate.

I put the invitation in the shredder. It felt kind of good.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Why I Can't Let Go

Some time ago, I realized the best thing to do when I'm making a decision is to step away from it a bit and see how it feels. Whether it's buying a new coat or assessing a career move, if I stop thinking about it after a couple of days, I know I wasn't very attached to it in the first place. Because if I truly want something, it lingers. Persists. Sometimes takes over all my waking moments.

You'd think after all the torture I've been through on my road to parenthood, I'd have an easier time walking away now, calling the game, settling into my happy life with my one, gorgeous child. The fact that I haven't let go yet tells me this is not some optional pursuit in the course of my life. This has to do with the very vision I've long held of my life itself. I want my son to have a sibling. I believe I should be a mother of two. It still feels like there's someone missing, and just because it's been a rough go doesn't make it easy to walk away from that.

There's this whole thing around infertility/recurrent loss where people are made to feel they're greedy for "pushing their luck" and trying for another after receiving the miracle of a first. And it sort of enrages me. You wouldn't walk up to some random fertile and ask them why they believe they're entitled to a second child, so why is that suggestion made when the path is less smooth? Others, whether they've had problems or not, are no more entitled to it than I -- they've just gotten lucky. But if getting rejected by a first-choice law school (even with the right LSAT scores) doesn't stop people from becoming lawyers, why should I give up on my dream of a family of four?

Just to be perfectly clear, I am grateful beyond words, every day, for my H. I look at him and know now, more than ever, that he is a gift -- and we celebrate that every day. But he had something taken away from him in March, too. A whole world disappeared in that horrible moment when they told us there was no heartbeat. An entire trajectory of our lives has ceased to exist.

I still want him to have a sibling. I still believe in it as one believes in a vision of her life. And call me crazy, but I want to experience all the highs and lows of early childhood all over again, with the added dimension of H taking part. And so the options toward that are expanding; I am trying to think of possible paths toward surrogacy, along with adoption (which has always been a possibility, but doesn't solve the problem of our unused embryos, so I'm trying to sort through that). I still believe this is possible, and I stand ready, my heart and arms open.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Collateral Damage

If you think that the only shit to clean up after a miscarriage is of the psychological nature, you are wrong.

Here's what else there is:

-A baby bump to get rid of, without a baby to make it worth it. I've been thin my whole life, and I'm not going to lie, I've liked it that way. I was just -- just -- recovered physically from H's birth to the point where I recognized myself last fall. Then IVF, 1.5 trimesters of pregnancy and all the wine and ice cream sundaes I drowned my sorrows in afterward...and I'm not thin. I feel horrible, and I know I don't look like a thin person, and the worst part of that is there is no apparent explanation for it. I sort of want to have a t-shirt made that says "I'm fat because I had a miscarriage." I know this all sounds very vain, but there it is.

-As a result, wardrobe issues to contend with. As soon as the procedures were over, I wanted back in normal clothes. I would literally burn my maternity clothes if I didn't think there was a modicum of chance that we may still use a surrogate, and it might cut costs to ask her if she can wear some of the clothes we have. But I'm definitely not back in my normal clothes, either -- at least not the sizes I was wearing last fall. So I've had to buy fat clothes, and let me tell you, it is physically painful to do this.

-Bills to pay. There's a whole big billing mess with my fertility clinic that I might make you suffer through at some point; the short story is that they wouldn't actually take the insurance plan they said they took when I signed up for it, so we ended up owing $1,300 to them this year for the pregnancy monitoring. And other bills keep trickling in. I just received one from the perinatologist's office for $400+ for two ultrasounds; it's incorrect, so I am now in a super fun phone war with them to correct it. Oh, and my insurance company is still dragging their heels on paying out for the laminaria procedure pre-D&E, because apparently they think just for fun I went to the hospital one evening to have seaweed sticks shoved in my cha cha so they could safely remove my dead baby. I can't tell you what it does to my soul to have these arguments with these people. What I really want to do is tell them to pound sand.

-Stuff still in the attic. There are bins upon bins of stuff up there that I would love to sell, but still can't, because if we do make one of these embryos into a person it will be a boy, and the thought of buying that stuff all over again makes me want to go to sleep right now. So we remain in limbo, not using those things but not free to sell them, either.

-Just the general shitiness of living in a super fertile town where everyone has lots of kids and many people seem to take that for granted. I am reminded everywhere I go that we are different, and not in an electively cool alternative/hip/indie way. Different in a mother-nature-shit-on-us way.

To counter all of this suckage, I am in the process of getting a puppy. Which isn't going to make it go away, but is going to make things a little bit cuter.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


I haven't written, because I'm not sure what to say.

The clinic won't do it. They won't let us take my friend's other-worldly offer to carry our baby.

I can't get into the particulars -- this is a real person who has been through enough scrutiny and discussion around her reproductive system. We knew all along that she wasn't the "ideal" candidate on paper that you'd get by going through an agency. She was ideal in every other way -- every way that matters in someone you're considering putting your embryo in -- but something in her pregnancy past gave the doctors pause. And ultimately, after a lengthy review, the risks spooked the docs too much to give us the green light.

What can I say about another heartbreak? About all this torture with nothing to show? About having to say no to someone offering to make you a baby when you can't do it yourself? About the fact that we're left with four frozen embryos, and all I can think about is the fact that one of them might look like his brother H -- but we'll probably never know?

I get up every day and give it my all. I haven't missed a beat with work. I laugh and eat and read and exercise and even enjoy myself a lot of the time. My life is good. But someone is missing.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mother Nature Doesn't Read Her Memos

I've had all the physical signs that ovulation happened this week.

Yeah, that seems useful.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Highs and Lows, on an iPhone

I went for a nice long walk/run today. One of my favorite parts of walking, other than zoning out and often clearing out enough fog from my brain to elicit new ideas, is listening to music. I recently discovered the wonders of Pandora radio -- I love choosing an artist based on my mood and listening to the mix of similar music on "their" station.

There's a commercial around here for a fertility clinic that Pandora plays (for those of us who don't cough up the fee for their service) from time to time. It begins, "Are you having trouble getting pregnant?" and I swear to you, every time I hear it, I come this close to throwing my iPhone into the Long Island Sound.

It came on today and almost killed my good mood. Almost.

But then Earth, Wind & Fire's "September" started playing and, just as it does every time I hear it, it gave me the feeling that more good things are coming, right around the corner.

Friday, August 29, 2014

One Good Folder

I'm organizing my office, finally. And part of that is finally, finally addressing the monstrous file folder of tests, procedures and sad outcomes that make up my infertility/miscarriage medical records. The folder was brimming over, and every time I used the drawer I would have to curse, because the papers would hang out and create problems when I tried to close it. So I'm sitting here organizing everything into categories of misery.

But for one. There's one new folder, now exclusively devoted to H's pregnancy, and even though that pregnancy had its own baggage, it makes me happy. In it, there's this photo. One of the embryos here is my H, the most hard-fought win I've ever achieved. My best work. We can all take an educated guess at which one he is, which one looks classically as if it would have stuck. But then again, we all know that in this game, surprises are everywhere.

One of those embryos is my H. I've had a rough week, been feeling emotional about the loss, feeling uncharacteristically whiny. And you know, no matter what people say about infertiles just needing to appreciate what we have, it's really ok to whine when you've lost a baby. Whether it's your first or fourth. Whether it was easy to conceive or not. But in the end, no matter what happens, this photo, this result, this family I have -- it's all that matters. Don't let me forget that, okay?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New World Order

The thing of it is, I think I've done pretty damn well. I haven't missed a beat with work. I've been very present with H and enjoyed so much of the summer. I have moments when I feel carefree, when I almost forget. I really do.

But it's still like a dark shadow. The...angst, I guess. The pain. The fear. I am so afraid of what happened, of what it means. And, maybe more than anything, I'm really fucking angry.

Every time I pay yet another medical bill ($500 for the second surgery paid yesterday...a drop in the bucket), I seethe. We'll finally be free of all these bills, we'd thought. Finally just have a normal year where we're not paying our copay for another D&C or our fee for someone to put our egg and sperm together and make a ball of cells that maybe, just maybe, might be more than wasted.

Every time I see someone with a baby I just want to demand to know why it was all too much to ask that I get my sibling too. That I be done. That I never have to spend another minute wondering about whether H will be an only child. That I close the book and return it to the Library of Sad Stories, satisfied with my hard-earned happy ending. Why.

And then I self-loathe over the sense that I shouldn't be upset about others' babies, that it shouldn't bother me. That I should be more graceful and less envious. But then I feel like I've spent so much time being happy for others, too, genuinely happy, and why can't I just add another baby to our family without having to feel guilty or greedy. I've been a good sport. And around and around it goes.

Today I was going through receipts and found one from a few days before The Bad Ultrasound and I had this odd urge to jump into the story and rescue the heroine from all the doom. Don't look now, but after you pay for those groceries you're about to walk into a total shit storm. Brace yourself accordingly.

And sometimes moments flash before me, like scenes from the battlefield. The moment I stood in the bathroom outside the OR before I went in, my round abdomen propping up the hospital gown like a circus tent, the last time I'd see myself pregnant. How I told him goodbye. And that I was sorry.

These are the things that keep me feeling different. That keep me clenching my teeth so tightly the pain travels up the side of my head and makes my jaw sound like gritty sand when I move it.

Our surrogacy plan is in question. It's not over yet, but there are some hurdles to climb. The future still feels so uncertain, and it's so painful to know I had the answer in me but we just couldn't get to the finish line.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Over the Hump

Would-be delivery day came and went, thank God. I spent it with old friends, wrapped in the comfort of familiarity. I didn't know what I'd feel like doing to commemorate where I should have been, and in the end, what I wanted to do was enjoy the day like any other.

I don't know if that's a betrayal or not.

I do know that I'm glad the phantom pregnancy is over. Now when I see a pregnant woman I don't have to compare where I would have been in mine with hers.

Only thing is, now there's a phantom baby. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sadness still lurks.

Most of the time, I'm okay now.

But I miss him.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hope's Summer Home

My due date approaches. I should be a month out from that baby's arrival. I should be huge, complaining about the heat, going for extra pedicures for my swollen feet.

I'm not. Everywhere I look, I see women who are. And there's always an initial feeling of dread when I see them. There was a woman the other day who embodied a catalog-fantasy version of pregnancy. Her bump was perfect, her skin was glowing, her maternity style impeccable. And I hated her for a second. And then, I just thought, the negative feelings are only hurting me. I'm not good at pregnancy. End of story. No -- correction. I was good at it once, good enough. One out of seven of them had the most amazing outcome. And so I'm coming to a place where it's okay -- all of it. This, for whatever reason, has been my hard thing. And it's over now, or at least almost over. Over for my body. We're good, pregnancy and I. We're good.

The other day, my husband and I had the psychological evaluation required to go forward with our surrogacy plan. The therapist asked me about conflicted feelings I might have about missing out on the pregnancy part -- whether I'd be jealous. There was really no way I could have driven home this point hard enough: I. Am done. With pregnancy. Done. The idea that someone I trust is willing to take this on for me? Is amazing. If by some stroke of Grace it all works out, I can't imagine a lovelier idea. It's sort of like starting a home renovation project yourself, realizing you're in over your head, and having a professional come and finish it for you. Do you really care, in the end, that your hands were not the ones to complete it? I think you're too busy enjoying your fabulous new space to care. Too grateful that there are those out there who know what they're doing.

Sometimes I do worry that someone out there was trying to tell me something -- five consecutive failed pregnancies, one of them a truly traumatic loss. But it's hard for me to reconcile that with the existence of four frozen, screened embryos and a friend generous enough to try to grow one for us. Why would those things not be the "sign?" I don't think I even believe in signs anymore, either way. Nothing amazing would ever be done if people followed signs. Every big thing that's been achieved had some obstacle before it. Otherwise it wouldn't be a big thing.

I have hope. At this stage of the game, it's all I can possibly ask for.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Grief Makes Room for Gratitude

"I am paying attention to small beauties, whatever I have--as if it were our duty to find things to love, to bind ourselves to this world." -Sharon Olds

Don't take what I'm about to say the wrong way. I haven't had some Oprah epiphany; I'm not about to tell you that losing a baby in the second trimester is some sort of gift that makes you a better person. The truth is, I think that in one way it may -- that ultimately the deep suffering of this loss I will grieve forever will help me to better relish the gifts of the present and future. But I'm pretty sure that if I'd been consulted, I still would have chosen door number two, which involved a delicious smelling newborn sleeping on my chest in two months.

Caveats aside, here's where I am. There are still moments of raw, relentless grief. It lives in the background more often now, like radio static, with some snippet of the song amplifying in full volume from time to time. When this happens, what I do -- and I am not necessarily recommending this, as for sure some might say I'm only delaying the inevitable -- is, I stuff it back down. I change the station. Right after the loss I let it move right in, unpack, stay a while. But I just can't live with it anymore. There is no good that can come of it. I have already felt the lowest lows, tried to see it in all its forms, as if bringing the grief itself to life, yielding to its physical presence, could somehow give me something more tangible to mourn than a shadowy ultrasound photo. I've cried the tears until the well ran dry. 

What I see, as close as I can come to the Oprah epiphany, is that gratitude is the yin to the yang of grief. When the loss happens, what you do is, you take stock. What do I have that will keep me breathing until it feels like there's more to wake up for than just getting through. In her truly lovely memoir Survival Lessons (which I will from this point forward gift to anyone going through any kind of hell in life), Alice Hoffman writes that when crisis strikes, you strip down to the bare essentials, you take only what you need for the journey. It rings perfectly true for me, and what I've found in doing that is, I see what I have more clearly than before. The simple joys aren't so simple; more than ways to pass time, they're exactly everything you have. And what follows, what you start to recognize bubbling up, consuming more and more of the grief, is gratitude. 

Losing this baby has brought into even sharper relief the true miracle -- not a cliche, a real miracle in the intended sense of the word -- that the one successful pregnancy out of my seven actually was and is. If you've ever felt in reading a post on this blog that maybe I was missing that point, maybe I didn't get that I should be happy with what I have, please know it was never lost on me. But if the memo was signed and sealed before, it's been delivered. I can no longer sacrifice quality of life, the ability to be present, to relish the family we clawed our way to, for a possible second child. Can no longer teeter on the brink of sanity, obsessed over lining thickness, fetal heart rates, placentas, AFPs. I always wondered if I'd know when I'd finally had enough, and now there's no doubt: When you know, you know. Emotionally and scientifically -- I'd say seven tortured, abnormal pregnancies (even if one was ultimately successful) is a pretty decent sample size -- it no longer makes sense to continue this quest with my own womb. And so please join me in wishing my uterus -- my poor, tortured, tested, poked, prodded, medicated, scarred, restored, instrumented uterus -- a very happy retirement, which it will no doubt spend playing shuffleboard and starting happy hour promptly at 3 p.m. each day.

That my own uterus must be released from duty has been as clear to us as anything possibly could be, from the moment the ultrasonographer ran the probe across my very pregnant abdomen and shook her head when I asked if there was a heartbeat. But in that same moment, I flashed to our frozen embryos, and I knew right away that the thing that could break me may not be the loss itself, or the realization that I can never carry another. It may be letting go of those embryos that took so much of our time, money and emotional investment to create, without giving them the potential to become the baby we still long for. We can try to look at the black and white of our finances a hundred different ways, and in no way is there somehow $100,000+ for surrogacy in the end. Not even close.

From time to time, I've seen stories of friends and family altruistically carrying for couples who'd been through some horrible hell trying to make babies. I always felt a tug of envy, not necessarily about pursuing surrogacy, because only with this loss has the idea of someone else carrying for us become the greatest relief, the best idea I can imagine. I think the envy was more that these parents had people in their lives willing to do something so big for them. I didn't have anyone in my family that would fit the bill, and I adore my friends -- they are there for me with exactly the kind of support I need when I need it -- but I just wasn't sure I could ever ask something so significant from any one of them (nor did I feel anyone was obligated in any way to save me from my reproductive plight), or that they'd be in a position to offer. Until one of them did. 

Talk about gratitude. When it comes to this offer, which feels so much bigger than us and makes it possible that this story may wrap up happily, with this huge act of generosity that sets us permanently free from the years of heartache, no words feel adequate. But hopefully -- and yes, I am filled right to the very top with renewed and relentless hope -- I will spend the next year or so trying to come up with the right ones. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

More Sweet Than Bitter

I don't trust anyone like I trust a mama. There are exceptions, sure -- turn on the evening news and you'll find at least one -- but for the most part, having a child, whether it comes from your body or not, awakens something in you. For me, I feel more in touch with both the most enthusiastic joys and deepest sorrows of life. My heart is bigger, more encompassing, than before.

At a carnival today, I watched my little H walk up the stairs of this huge tower-height slide by himself, and I thought my heart would beat from my chest. I knew I had to let him do it, but every muscle in me was poised to run up those stairs and carry him back down. I felt sort of panicked, until I saw another mom go up with her younger child. Having a mama up there, even if it wasn't H's own, just helped me know he'd be ok. Because as moms, we look out for other kids. It's not even like an unspoken pact -- it's instinctive.

At the same carnival, I saw a mom I've gotten to know casually in my new town. She's lovely -- the friendliest girl you'd want to meet. I know she just had a baby, her third -- I remember her telling me she was pregnant last summer. I remember because of the way she told me, casually, confidently, yet with an excited sparkle in her eye. I remember feeling envious of her way about it, knowing I would never feel anything but anxiety at telling someone I hardly knew that I was pregnant. And I felt envious today, seeing her already looking so thin, back to normal, feeling light and happy after adding yet another child to her family. And it felt awful, because I hated having any kind of negative feeling toward her, because she is so lovely, and because I loathe the feeling of wanting something someone else has when I know I am so blessed, I know I have so very much.

Tomorrow, I'll celebrate another Mother's Day, and it will be bittersweet just like last year's, when I was recovering from my last loss. Tomorrow I'll be yearning for my missing baby, still feeling beaten up and tossed around. But I'll also be so grateful, because in a way I feel even more authentically a mother this year. It's as if losing another baby has somehow brought into relief my solid, card-carrying membership in this amazing club of women who wipe noses, dry tears and can't afford to let life bring us down for long, because our little people depend on us to carry on.

To all the moms, I am in awe of you, and so grateful for the wisdom I steal from you every day. To those who are fighting to bring home babies, I'm fighting for and with you. I promise you -- it is worth it.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


The bleeding after this second procedure stopped quickly (I should have known when it didn't after the first). But it started again on Tuesday afternoon, since I'd been on an estrogen-progesterone overlap since the first D&E, for the Asherman's. Because even if you don't want another pregnancy, you don't want Asherman's filling up your uterus, either. I need to talk more about the medical aftermath of the bad ultrasound -- I've been wanting to get it out so I can start talking about the future.

But back to Tuesday: I obviously stopped the hormones after the craziness of the other night. So then I had the inevitable withdrawal bleed. And even though this one seemed totally within the realm of normal and not like it might kill me, it scared me anyway. So I couldn't sleep on Tuesday night -- I maybe got three hours -- because I was afraid that if I fell asleep, it could start getting crazy again, and what if I didn't wake up this time? 

Paging Dr. Freud: Sound like PTSD to you? Elemental, my dear.

So then yesterday I took H. to the dentist and while I was standing there listening to this dentist talk about how we need to somehow get floss to go in for a nightly jam with my four-year-old's back teeth, I started feeling dizzy and nauseous, not unlike the feeling I felt every day for 14 weeks when I thought I might be getting a baby out of it. And then when I got home, I felt hot and got a 99.4 reading on my thermometer.

Quick quiz: If anyone is going to get a post-D&C infection despite prophylactic antibiotics, who would it be? Yeah, that's what I thought too, so back we went to the hospital, this time to the OB's office. The last time I was there, I was 16 weeks 6 days. I asked the OB at that appointment whether I was over the hump, really in the safe zone, could I finally relax. And she told me absolutely, no need to worry about miscarriage anymore. And then they cut the scene and cued the sad music. 

Another ultrasound, and it looks like this time I'm ok. My lining is thinner than after a period, she said. Nothing else in there to cause trouble. And my temperature was still 99.6, but she doesn't consider that a fever. She said I'm probably just run down from the trauma and lack of sleep. It still seemed ominous, but there was nothing I could do but force her to run a CBC to ease my troubled mind, if only a bit.

I'm feeling better today. Temperature is normal, and so was the CBC. But how can I stop myself from watching for danger in every corner? How can I keep from mentally fast-forwarding to the ICU every time I have a symptom? It's so hard to know now when to pay attention to something, or when it's garden-variety neurosis -- the doctors, I have learned, do not always provide an accurate barometer on this.

I'm shaken. I can still see the plot, but it's about two paces ahead of me. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pretend There's a Happy Ending

It's a fight to keep above the current.

Progress is being made. Honestly the other night I was so terrified I'm finding more gratitude in small moments.

But there are traps everywhere. Let me look for a fun beach hat for the summer, I thought tonight in a sudden burst of optimism. A search on Pinterest for "beach hats" yielded a woman sitting cross-legged on the sand, adorable beach hat on her head, huge baby bump in her middle. That should have been me. How can I not be sad about that?

The whole thing is starting to feel more abstract. At first it seemed like a dream that he was lost, and now it almost seems possible the pregnancy itself was the dream.

Early on, there was a pregnancy fair at my local hospital. It felt a little bit like tempting fate, but we went mainly for the maternity floor tour. When we arrived, they handed H. a "big brother" sticker, and my first thought was that if something happened, that would be a moment that made me cry. That is true.

Upstairs, during the L&D tour, as I asked the nurse questions, I felt like an actress in a play about someone expecting a baby. It felt like I was asking for someone else. I thought it seemed silly, like make believe.

Turns out, I was right about that too.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Boston Strong

I've been thinking about my beloved city, the toughest town I know. About how a million people came out for the marathon today, to show fear and evil a thing or two, even the people who had to relive moments that will haunt them forever.

I love that dirty water. They're my people. Boston stands for no whiners. It's about picking yourself up by your bootstraps, putting your running shoes right back on. And if you don't win it all, even if you lose in heartbreak during the last inning of the very last game, well damn it, you come back again next season and try something else. And the people who matter, the ones who sat with you through all the losses -- they'll be there to watch you win it all.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Horror Show

It's hard to say what my favorite part of Friday night/Saturday morning was.

Was it the actual hemorrhage part, where I somehow (according to my husband who had to clean up the crime scene bathroom situation at 4:30 a.m.) got blood on the walls, all over the sink, in the heating vent and on the door?

The part where my husband fainted after jumping out of bed, and I wasn't sure what would happen to H. if both of us had to ride in an ambulance?

The ambulance ride itself (just me), looking up at a teenage boy, a member of the high school paramedics program, who now, I'm fairly certain, can never unsee the sight of my bloody lady bits?

Maybe it was the number of times I was asked how many pads I was soaking an hour, when the bleeding so obviously could not be contained by any man-made pad.

Or how about laying in an ER room by myself, terrified, door closed and inexplicably no call button available, wondering what would happen if I started bleeding out and no one knew?

The part where they found clumps of retained tissue in my uterus and told me, unsurprisingly, that I was going to the OR?

Perhaps when I started crying on my way to said OR and my orderly told me a story of how she couldn't stop crying while she was pregnant?

I think maybe it was being brought to the maternity floor for recovery, where I was offered an ice pack wrapped in a tiny, artificially baby-scented newborn diaper. Hearing those newborn cries through the walls, and having my H. with me in a room where I'd pictured him meeting his brother.

Yeah. It's hard to say.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

No Answer

I got the call I dreaded today. From the surgeon who did the procedure.

Pathology is complete. There is no answer. No clues were found. 

On top of this, they screwed up my testing so a karyotype could not be obtained. Since this was a PGD cycle, I'm told there's "only" a 2-3 percent chance the cause was genetic, within the margin of error of the original microarray. When you've previously been in the 1 percent for something, a 2-3 percent chance is not a comfort.

So maybe the answer was there and we'll never know. Or maybe there is no answer. Maybe it was just one of those things. Horrible things happen and sometimes we just cannot know why. 

We can't have this baby, we've known that for a month. The one thing that could have granted us a small solace, a way to wrap our heads around the loss too big to fit in a form we can manage, was an answer. And now we can't have that either. It feels so cruel. It feels like calling out for help and getting nothing in return. It feels like being left alone, for the rest of my life, with a pain I'll never understand.

It feels like losing him all over again.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


I am told to plant a tree or get a bench outside and dedicate it to the one who was lost.

I'm sorry, but screw that.

I wanted to show him the snow, the stars, love.

I'm broken. I can't even breathe. What can a bench possibly do?

I am an unsatisfied customer. I want my money back. What was the point of that? He grew for 16.6 weeks. Never breathed air. Never knew joy. Did he know joy? I don't know. Did he know pain? Did he suffer? I can't stand the thought.

It's so abstract, so unsatisfying to grieve an unborn baby. There are no memories. Who was he? What did he look like? I'll never know. A pathologist knows. I can only guess.

When I think of the joy we almost had, how close we were to happily ending this seven-year odyssey I want to throw things, beat my chest, scream primally. All signs point to permanent damage.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Random Thoughts from the Bell Jar

Have you ever felt a sadness so visceral, so cutting, so arresting, it actually makes you anxious? I hope you never do. Because I now have, and it's hell.

Today I have the unpleasant task of changing my closet back from the maternity wonderland I'd just recently created in it, to -- what? A mishmash of patchwork outfits that will somehow fit this sad, confused body that's too small for maternity and too large for the skinny clothes I'd finally, finally made it back into 3.5 years post-H. So thank you, universe, for adding fashion emergency to the long list of total suckage I must face in the wake of fetal death.

There should be a service that swoops in and takes away maternity clothes, replacing them with loose but adorable items that tide you over until you can at least get your old body back, even if you'll never have your baby. If I suddenly come into money I may start one of those, along with a spa-like center for late D&Es, where you put on a plush white robe, have your procedure and then move into the massage/pedicure/facial treatment room with a glass of orange-infused water and a stack of glossy magazines. Much unlike the real D&E situation, which I am gearing up to finally talk about.

Grief brings so much material. There are so many things swirling around in my head, so much to get out.

This week I began to feel like I ruined my life with this IVF cycle. Because what it most likely left us with is embryos in the freezer, nowhere to put them (since my uterus is clearly the incubator of doom) and a loss I will probably never stop grieving. The last leg of our journey may be a completely unfulfilled longing and potential babies I may have to let go. I can barely type the words.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ask Me How I'm Grieving

People ask me how I'm doing and I'm genuinely unsure of how to answer them. Do you want the real answer, or the cocktail party answer? The real answer is: I'm alone in a deep sea of grief. Numb. It's your worst nightmare, a physical and emotional trauma with a beginning that replays relentlessly but no end in sight.

When I start opening up with those who don't need me to censor, I start to get the feeling they're sorry they asked. It's nothing they say, it's not that they're not supportive. But what is there to say? It's sort of like asking a lonely old person how they are, and wanting to flee as soon as they start rattling off their laundry list of ailments. I know as soon as I stop talking or texting with them, they'll go back to whatever they were doing, grateful for the relative monotony of their day, of folding towels, writing an email, cooking stew.

It's my nightmare, mine alone. I'm surrounded in every way, physically and virtually, by people who love me. But I'm the one in the thick, the only one who can wade to the other shore.

I'm afraid of who I may become. I feel like Miss Havisham, some Dickensian specter lurking in cobwebbed shadows, avoiding sunlight. I ventured out yesterday and couldn't outrun it: I cried at the smoothie shop, overcome in an instant with a crushing grief by one of the thousand thoughts of loss that lurk like mental divots.

When I'm not consumed by deep mourning, I'm filled with a blind rage. I mean, seriously, what the fuck. That maternity dress, the one I was going to live in this summer, bump out, adorable. Was it too much to ask? All the people expecting within months of me. I guess I dared to dream too much, that I could have the simple joy of sharing those moments with them. Someone asked me today if H. is my only. For me, at this moment, a lethal question. To most of the population, benign, innocent. Why wouldn't you assume I could just have more if I want them?

But here and there, a break. Pockets of joy. Just like I remember with the other losses, much harder work this time, but popping up. This morning I woke up to plans of an Easter egg hunt. It was so tempting to roll over and fall back into the alternative reality of dreams, where existence may or may not include intrauterine fetal demise. But no. I need to be a mommy, I thought. And somehow I summoned the will to get in the shower.

At the event, a dixie band played "On the Sunny Side of the Street," and it felt like encouragement in spite of all the families flocking around me with two, three, four kids, making it look so easy. "Grab your coat and get your hat, leave your worries on the doorstep; just direct your feet to the sunny side of the street...."

I'm trying.

So if you're wondering how I'm doing, there it is.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Stop All the Clocks

Around every corner is a new grief. A fresh loss, a new way to feel the tragedy. When he left, a whole world went with him. Scenes from what might have been keep playing in my mind's eye, like an outtakes reel, the alternative ending. A baby boy's coat cuts my breath. The realization that they will do an autopsy sickens.

What is it that keeps us going when our hearts and minds wish the world would stop turning around us? Even as I question whether I can keep taking in air, imprisoned by incomprehensible pain, there is a distant voice that whispers, "hold on." 

I think it must be Grace. I just wish I didn't need it right now. Wish I didn't have to prove I am strong enough to get to the other side of this.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What Came Before

The ultrasound -- the anatomy scan -- was last Tuesday. It was supposed to be today. We moved it up a week because a scary test result told us to. I guess this was our clue.

At my 16-week OB visit, just two short weeks ago, I waited an hour for a five-minute visit with the doctor. She told me to stop worrying about miscarriage. We scheduled a c-section. She listened to the galloping heartbeat. It was the last time we'd hear it.

She asked me if my MFM was doing an AFP (alpha feto-protein) test. Since this was a PGD embryo, we'd decided not to do the chromosomal testing. But the AFP was for neural tube defects. So I agreed to it, and although I always welcome something new to google, I didn't think a single thing of it. Until I got a call, late Friday afternoon, from my MFM.

The call was odd because the OB had run the test, but it turned out my OB had called my MFM about the result -- which didn't seem like a good sign. She told me my AFP was high. How high, I said. She launched into some explanation about medians and multiples, that mine was 3.6 and they want to see below 2.5, and I wanted to scream that I am an English major and I do not speak Math. By then, I was shivering like a small dog, which is my body's natural response to hearing possibly scary news about my baby at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, when there is nothing to do but google and worry all weekend.

I was told it could be a neural tube defect, like Spina Bifida, or another anatomical defect. Or a placenta issue. Or absolutely nothing. I researched the heck out of it. Learned about Multiples of Median. Read medical journal articles and MFM texts. I found out that early bleeding from a subchorionic hematoma or placental lakes, both of which I had, could contribute to a high AFP. That felt hopeful, but also a little too easy. I chose to ignore the part about high AFP pointing to fetal demise.

I couldn't sleep Monday night. By the time I walked into the ultrasound on Tuesday, I thought we'd hear some kind of news. Maybe some correctable stomach issue, or a minor form of Spina Bifida (which seemed incredibly unlikely given my religious folic acid consumption). Maybe, and this seemed much more likely given my history, a placental issue that could be scary but somehow manageable. Here's the paradox: Although I always, always expected, every time I walked into any appointment, that they might tell me the worst had happened, the truth is that last Tuesday, no heartbeat was the last thing I thought we'd hear.

The doctors seemed surprised that I was so anxious about the high AFP. It was confusing, because they told me it was probably nothing, even as they felt the need to alert me before the weekend, when we couldn't verify anything until the following week. Maybe they didn't get it because these doctors are new to me and my story -- they haven't previously been along for the tough slog, when too many times I have fallen squarely on the wrong side of the odds in my favor.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

F You, Universe

My milk is coming in.

I am told to bind with two sports bras, use frozen peas or ice in my bra, and take Motrin. Apparently the drug they used to give women to turn off the milk made for no one ended up giving some of those women strokes.

I don't know if I can ever trust anyone or anything again -- can ever accept that there is real beauty, or pleasure, without pain -- knowing that such a betrayal can be allowed to exist in this world.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Fetal Demise

I wanted her to stop scanning. I almost stood up and had her start over. It seemed like if she did, maybe something would change and she wouldn't say the words I knew were about to come out. Maybe we'd stop hurtling toward the cliff we were all about to fall off, together. It didn't look right. The screen was still. She looked too long.

I said, "Is there a heartbeat?"

She said, she gasped, "No."

And even though I expected her to say it, the room turned, slowed. It was a dream, a reel of film. It couldn't be real life.

I said, "Take H. out of here." I begged her to look again. Even though I knew she wouldn't see anything different. She ran and got the doctor. I measured 16 weeks 6 days. It should have been 17 weeks 5 days. It happened sometime late last week, she said. She couldn't tell me why.

I let them scan my poor baby some more. I let them look for clues. And even though my most searing pain was for my boys, the one that was lost and the ones in the waiting room, I knew we were in it together, he and I. Because when he died, a part of me went with him.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Eating for Two

This is what it's like to be pregnant: You are governed by the whims of your body, every minute of every day. You might be sitting there, minding your own business like a normal person, and then you are gripped with the sudden, visceral understanding that you must have a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup right this very minute, or someone is going to pay. Never mind that you just ate your first lunch an hour ago. You will literally knock over loved ones who innocently stand in the path between you and that grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. But then you decide that the husband you almost knocked down on your way to the kitchen makes better grilled cheese sandwiches than you do, so you threaten to cry if he won't make you one. And can I get an amen on this: No husband wants to deal with a crying wife.

So he makes you the sandwich and you inhale your "second lunch" in two seconds flat. And you feel better, but you know that is short lived. Soon enough, you'll be hungry again and you'll have to think really hard about what you want to eat, because there are only approximately five things on the planet that you like to eat right now. Right now, these things for me are: the aforementioned grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup combination, egg salad, chicken salad, Chipotle burrito bowls and the kind of salad you get from a pizza place, with the mix of iceberg and dark lettuces and the light Italian dressing you can somehow only procure from Italian restaurants and pizza joints. I could drink that dressing right now. Oh and, because I love to be a cliche, pickles. Little gherkin pickles mostly, especially the little gherkins called cornichons, whose name makes me feel fancy and French, and slightly less disgusting when I eat the entire jar in one sitting. Okay, that is an exaggeration. Most of the jar.

The other day, I ate two entire boxes of Annie's shells and cheese. I wish I were kidding. I had one box and then I realized it hadn't even made a dent, so I made another. I told myself I would just have a few more bites, but that was a farce: I inhaled the entire box faster than I had the first, I think because it seemed like if I ate the whole box quickly, it would be like it didn't happen. Believe it or not, that actually made sense to me at the time. Anyway I ate these two boxes and I felt exactly as you'd imagine I would feel after inhaling two boxes of pasta with rehydrated cheese. With respect to Annie's, I cannot recommend this on a regular basis.

The good news is, I also crave fruits and vegetables. This is a statement that, were it coming out of the mouth of someone like, say, pregnant Gisele, would fill me with irrational rage. But it's really, truly true. Sometimes the cravings I have are for kale chips or roasted broccoli, or an orange or mango. So at least there's that along with the kid food (I also crave bagel pizzas).

And although I am stuffing my food folder on Pinterest with sinful looking dessert pins with the full and real intention of going on a dessert bender after delivery, for right now I am using every iota of willpower I can muster in my Advanced Maternal Age bones to avoid processed sugar. Literally the only "treats" I have had since we did the transfer are bowls of Honey Bunches of Oats (the only cereal I've ever eaten in quantity without growing tired of it) and banana bread I make with less than half the called-for sugar (Have you ever made banana bread with this recipe? If not, please do it soon.). That's it. No chocolate. No nougat. No fun. I am trying to avoid the carb/hormone cycle of PCOS by cutting down sugar, just as I did with H., which is possibly mostly unnecessary, but I'm doing it anyway, for the same reason that I also switched to natural bath products (another post for another day). It's called taking things to the extreme, and I was born to do it.

So all in all, I'm eating when I'm hungry, and eating some good, some not so good, but I think the sum total of all of this (particularly reducing refined sugar) is that so far, all the weight I've gained in my 16 weeks of pregnancy is right in my little bump. I'm hoping I can keep this up -- I mean in the scheme of things, who cares, but bouncing back more quickly this time might be a nice little bonus.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Second Tri.

Somehow, I made it to the second trimester with my sanity (mostly) intact.

I mean, there were some close calls. Stopping the progesterone at 12 weeks (which, mind you, is two weeks after my clinic's standard protocol, per my insistence) nearly put me over the edge. Multiple friends and doctors had to listen to the word "progesterone" come out of my mouth too many times to recall. I was and am a one-hit wonder when it comes to getting through this pregnancy.

But ah, stopping the progesterone. Now that I'm 14 weeks and that's behind me (so to speak), my own behind and I are so happy not to have that nightly rendez-vous with an intramuscular injection. Should we talk about the horror of having two regular people, totally untrained in any sort of medicine, doing an injection in their bathroom every night? I really do not know for whom this was a bigger ordeal. My poor husband, manly in every way except when it comes to needles, was aghast when I first told him we'd have to do it for at least 10 weeks. But I have to give him credit -- he really stepped up. There were a few times it almost went south. Like the time there actually was blood in there when he pulled back the plunger (which means, dear reader, that he'd stuck it in a vein). And also: the two times when he pulled the needle out and blood literally squirted across the bathroom. When we recovered from the horror show, we almost laughed about it. Almost.

So anyway, here I am. I've had my NT scan with my peri, another positive proof point, after PGD, that this baby is likely healthy. Had my 12 week OB visit too -- a charmingly routine affair during which I peed in their little cup and talked to my OB about birth, of all things.

But before you conclude I've become all breezy rainbows and unicorns about this, think again. I am me, after all. I'm going to worry until I hear that gorgeous cry, hopefully this August. Despite being 14 weeks and  sporting a true bump, I'm not sure I'm ready to talk about it with a broad audience. I'm still trying to figure out how to go about that.

But at 14 weeks, I am, for the second time, in the second tri. And it really feels like a second try for a miracle I've been praying for.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Size of a Grape

Greetings from 9 weeks. Never thought I'd arrive, but the weather is fine!

Seriously, people. How is it that other people's pregnancies are over in a flash? Friends and celebrities seem to have mastered some sort of supersonic gestation technique. But your own pregnancy, when you've worked for it and just really need the first trimester to take about five minutes -- it crawls by at a snail's pace.

Still. Obviously I am grateful to be at this point. I don't want to say it out loud but I have not been here often.

The spotting continues -- all brown, which makes health care providers absolutely yawn in your face, because they are not the one who has to take a deep breath while pulling down their pants. I think it would really help me if someone would come over here with an ultrasound machine, like every single day. Why is this not offered? Luckily, I am still seeing the RE to monitor hormones as I'm weaned off the medications, and have also gotten in with an OB and a perinatologist, who will do my scans. So if a slightly illogical but urgent question pops up, say, what will happen if my son's friend pushes me in the stomach or will I bake the baby with my heated car seats, I can spread the crazy evenly over three medical professionals' offices.

Meanwhile: pedestrian complaints I am not supposed to complain about because I'm an infertile. Like oh, Lord, the nausea. Hungry every. Single. Minute. And yet everything, to me, is exactly like Oliver Twist's porridge: an unappealing, colorless pile of slop. Please, sir, I do not want any more. And yet I must eat or I will throw up, and everyone who knows me understands that throwing up signals the coming end of the world. So I eat exactly five things: pizza, bagels and cream cheese, apples and cheddar cheese, and yogurt with granola. Do not ask me why these things are okay and chicken makes me gag -- all I know is that keeping up with the hunger when you don't want to eat anything is making me so tired.

Finally, a slight obsession with progesterone. My clinic has already weaned me from the estradiol this week, which felt a little early -- but their medical degrees really gave them a leg up in that debate. They typically wean off the progesterone at 10 weeks, and looking back, that's exactly when I stopped it for H. On this they're a little more willing to work with my neurosis. They say no problem if I want to go longer, to 11 or even 12 weeks. Advice welcome.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sweet Relief

It was a long time, the seconds between the probe going in and the words coming out of her mouth. And you can trust that this is true, because my husband, who had the objectivity of not having a probe swimming around in his own nether region, later told me he thought it seemed like a while too.

And I don't know for sure what she said, even though I'd imagined it in moments of optimism, I don't know what she actually said, because I don't think I was actually in my own body, able to hear things. I was floating somewhere, waiting for someone to say something that made me think it was okay to be in that room.

Whatever she said, it registered that there was a beating heart on the screen, that pulse of light I'd prayed to see. And this time, when everyone in the room sighed their sigh of relief and said things like Congratulations and I'm so happy for you, it felt like they were talking to me and that it was really, truly true.

The heart rate measured at 164. I saw it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Nail Biter

So of course this couldn't have been straightforward, 40 weeks of blissful nesting and pickle flavored ice cream eating. No. I'm going to have to work for this, whether it goes the distance or not.

I started bleeding on Christmas. I'd had a perfect scan two days before -- at 5w3d they saw an appropriately sized gestational sac as well as a yolk sac, which I was told was a bonus for that GA. They warned me I may have spotting from the scan, but I typically do not so I was surprised when later that afternoon I did have some light spotting. They told me not to worry so I didn't. Much. Until Christmas, when it started again, this time red and with some momentum behind it. I thought we were probably looking at bad news. Which really put me in the holiday spirit.

By the evening, though, it really had lightened. The doctor was reassuring when I reached her. The nurse the next morning suggested that I try to wait for my next scheduled scan, since another scan would just create a vicious circle of probing and bleeding. I agreed to try. I put myself on self-imposed bed rest.

Things were going swimmingly with that plan until Saturday, when I stood up after surfing online for info about stopping progesterone supplementation and felt an enormous gush. I went to the bathroom and felt what I was certain was the sac fall out of me. And a lot of blood. There you have it, I thought. That's it. I called the doctor again. My only options were to go to the ER and deal with the drunk Saturday night crowd or wait until Monday morning for a scan with her. Somehow, she did not think this was the end of the road, while I would have bet the house on it.

I made it to Monday -- schlepping H to the ER and sitting there for hours only to hear bad news sounded almost worse than the thing itself. I felt exactly as I did four years ago, waiting for bad news after H's pregnancy bleeding: bracing myself for impact as the truck hurtled toward me. 

Instead, she turned the screen toward me and pointed out the sac and the fetus, measuring 6w4d (I was 6w3d). I don't know how to drive this point home strongly enough: I could not believe it was true. Not like: Wow, that's unbelievable! More like: Literally, I do not believe you.

Questions remained. What came out of me (blood clots from laying down)? What is making me bleed (she saw what is possibly a small subchorionic hematoma, just as with H)? Why was there no heartbeat when I swear we saw one at that point with H (she swore up and down before even doing the scan that it was too early to see one)? Why must everything I do in the reproductive department be such a sh*& show (she could not answer this)?

The big scan is early next week. Until then, you'll find me at home, on the couch, being of no real value to anyone, willing the hours to go by and trying very hard not to freak out.

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