My Greatest Loss

You may have noticed that, prior to yesterday’s From Left to Write book club post, I haven’t published a word here since January 21. I promise there’s a good reason for that: On January 22, I discovered that I was pregnant! And almost immediately, the extreme nausea set in and I lost all desire to do anything. When you’re a stay-at-home parent who also babysits your nephew, stuck in bed is not a good place to be. My doctor scheduled an ultrasound for February 10, at which time we learned that little Bean was 7 weeks 3 days old, and that we could look forward to March 21 as the day that we’d announce our happy news to the world. We may or may not have gotten a little too excited about creating a new, small registry and starting to check Joshua’s baby gear to ensure it was ready for a new baby.

On March 3, we returned to the doctor for a routine ultrasound. As soon as the ultrasound camera focused on Bean, Hubs and I looked at each other and immediately knew something was horribly wrong. Where just a few weeks ago we saw a rapidly-beating heart and the beginnings of a healthy fetus, on this day we saw a lifeless figure floating around in its gestational sac.

Baby Bean’s little heart gave out at 8 weeks 6 days, on February 20 — just 10 days after we laid eyes upon them for the very first time.

Naturally, I kind of fell apart. There was not a book in the world that could take my mind off the questions kicking up a constant tornado in my brain, and I fell into the worst slump I’d ever experienced. All I thought I knew at that point was that it was all my fault, that I was guilty, that I had somehow unknowingly killed my baby. What had I done wrong? Did the nausea medication, which caused no problems for Joshua during that pregnancy, harm my Bean? Was it something I ate? Was I under too much stress? Was it because I sometimes woke up from a deep sleep to find myself lying facedown in bed? Was it my fault?

While I wrestled with that, I also had to make a decision: Would I rather choose to wait and attempt to complete the miscarriage at home, or would immediately signing up for a D&C (Dilation and Curettage, in which the patient is put to sleep in a hospital and the fetus is removed while their mother is under anesthesia) be a better option? I made the decision to wait it out for several reasons, among them a strong desire to avoid the hospital and general anesthesia (I’ve never been under before) and the fear of being completely unaware when Bean and I were truly and officially separated.

If I’d known on March 3 what I learned last Thursday, March 12, I may have jumped on the D&C. I started experiencing mild cramps that I later realized were contractions, and at one point I thought the baby had come out of me. I even went so far as to write a post on Facebook early on Thursday afternoon, letting my family and friends know that it was all over and that Bean was gone.

It wasn’t over…not by a long shot.

Right around 6pm, I started having contractions again, but this time the discomfort quickly escalated to an intense level of pain I’d never felt before. If you’d asked me to give you a rating between 1 and 10, I’d probably have screamed, “13!” and then punched you in the face. After a half hour of building pain, I started to feel as though I was having one extremely painful, ongoing contraction — one that made me so uncomfortable that I couldn’t stop moving. I had to walk, to rock, to shake uncontrollably; to stop moving just made the pain even worse. I came to the terrifying realization that I was in full-blown labor and that the pair of Advil I’d taken would do nothing to take the edge off of the pain. After several hours of begging God to please end this torture, I forced myself to lie down on my side, close my eyes, and count each inhale and exhale in an attempt to control the pain. I thought the effort would be futile, but at some point I passed out with Joshua falling asleep right behind me. My husband, who’d had to work late and was unable to help me, told me the following morning that I had been grimacing in my sleep when he finally made it home.

At 2am on Friday, March 13, I woke up in the same position in which I’d fallen asleep, but the pain was gone. I knew it was time. I walked into the bathroom and closed the door.

At 2am on Friday, March 13, I officially lost Baby Bean.

It’s been a rough week since then. I continue to ask myself what I could have done differently, or if Bean would still be alive had I asked for a different nausea medication. My days and nights have been full of “if only…” and “what if?” I’ll never have answers; if the answers were available, I’m not sure that I’d want them. All I know is that my Bean suffered and died, and that when I miscarried a small piece of me died as well. Though I never had a chance to get to know my Bean, to give them a name, to decorate their nursery, to hold them when they cried, to watch them sleep…they will always be my Bean. Their birthday — my due date — would have been September 27, 2015. I will think of Bean every year on that day, to take a moment to quietly wish them a happy birthday, wherever they are and whatever they’re doing. Living or not, Bean is my child and I will love them and keep them just as I do Joshua and any children that might be in my future.

And so, with that, I’d like to share the only picture I have of my little baby Bean and then let this matter go. If you or someone you know has suffered a pregnancy or infancy loss, please know that my heart is with you. If you have any stories or thoughts you’d like to share, comments are welcome.

A Letter to My Baby Boy on His Third Birthday

My sweetest Joshua,

Just like that — as though I merely snapped my fingers — you, my tiny miracle, sprouted from this…

…to this.

I keep asking myself where the time went. I keep asking myself what I could ever have done to deserve the gift that you are. I keep asking myself how one tiny human being could possibly bring so much light, laughter, and love to so many people. I keep asking myself how you went from a completely helpless newborn, needing mommy and daddy to do everything for you, to getting mad at us for trying to help you cook scrambled eggs. And I ask myself every single day if there is anything, anything at all, that I could have done to slow down time and keep you this small for a little while longer.

And then I tell myself that you, my beautiful, sweet, funny, rambunctious, messy, increasingly independent little boy, are still the same you, only better. Once upon a time, you loved taking baths (and I have the pictures to prove it!) and now you scream when water touches your hair; you’re still wearing diapers 24/7 because you just aren’t ready to potty-train yet; and your temper tantrums could give coddled, spoiled celebrities or politicians in Washington a run for their money…but these things won’t last forever. One day you’ll figure out that, if you just close your eyes and tilt your head back, water and shampoo will avoid your eyes. You’ll eventually realize that you don’t like feeling wet and you’ll shun diapers like you do vegetables, and then going potty will become as routine as asking for your “min and milk” in the mornings.

As for the temper tantrums? Well…I hope you outgrow them eventually. (Fingers crossed nice and tight on that one.)

Right now — literally, the very minute this letter publishes — three years ago, I was lying on an operating table, scared and excited and anticipating your first cry, and desperately trying to hold myself together when that beautiful sound made its grand debut. Today, that’s been replaced with joyous shrieking and giggling, lots of quiet singing, and discussion about when you’ll get to ride a school bus. (For the record, I am not looking forward to that day.) You have filled my days with the world’s most beautiful music, prettier even than the greatest symphony, and I would have it no other way. I’m so thankful to your daddy for finding a way to let me stay home with you; I think we’ve learned a great deal from each other already, and that will only continue as we draw closer to kindergarten.

But today isn’t about learning. It’s about celebrating you! You’ll get to pick what we have for lunch, and we’ll get you a cupcake at your favorite bookstore. Daddy and I know you’ve loved playing with the new toys you got at your birthday party over the weekend, and today’s about picking out some more things you love and bringing them home. That yellow dump truck you’ve been asking Daddy to get for you? Today, it’s yours. And the red Tonka monster truck you wanted? We’ll buy it today. Maybe I’ll even be able to talk Daddy into letting you get the fire truck that matches the police car and ambulance that you got from Grandma at your party! And that’s just the “red store” — the big goal for the toy store is to pick up all the Cars vehicles you don’t have yet (because I know that the six you already have just aren’t enough and that you need the whole set from Radiator Springs)! And of course, as boring as it probably is for you, we’ll buy you some new clothes, because you just can’t seem to stop growing! You’re going to come home today with lots of new stuff and I can’t wait to see you smile as all the toys you’ve coveted for so long will finally make it out to the car with us!

We love you so very much and we couldn’t be even the tiniest bit prouder of the boy you’re becoming. We know you’re three now, and that means you’re a big boy. We know you’re not going to want to hold our hands forever, so we’re taking full advantage now while we still can…but remember, if you ever need a hand to squeeze, Mommy’s and Daddy’s are always available for you.

Happy third birthday, Baby Bear!

Mommy, Daddy, and “Frankie Face”

Talking Fitness Thursday: Overtired, Overworked, Overwhelmed

So much has happened over the last week! It’s crazy — I think I’ve been through more over the last seven or eight days than I have in the last year. Between traveling to and from New York City alone for the first time ever, having to learn to network with strangers, and carrying my weight in books with no help, BEA was a long couple of days. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it; I had the time of my life, made some new friends, and discovered books, authors,and publishers I may not have if I hadn’t come to the Expo. The only real bummer was that my brand-new Fitbit was stolen right off my wrist when I was trying to walk through the crush of commuters in Penn Station on Thursday! It’s embarrassing and a shame that it happened, but I’ll just save up for a new one so it’s not that big of a deal. (By the way, you can read about my experience at the Bloggers Conference here, and about BEA itself here and here.)

The final day of the Expo, called BookCon, took place this past Saturday. When I came home, The Hubby was kind enough to take care of Joshua for the rest of the night, allowing me to relax and decompress. Little did we know then how important it would become that I had that time! The following morning, I woke up and immediately decided against food shopping, which I typically do first thing on Sunday mornings (because I hate waiting in long lines, especially the grocery store’s checkout ones), instead choosing to chill out at home with my family. We’d made plans before BEA to watch my godson that afternoon, and we were expected at his house around 2pm. Because Hubs had forgotten and told his parents that he would bring Joshua over that afternoon, he would have to call and cancel. Once we opted to go out for lunch as a family before heading over to babysit, Hubs placed a call to his parents and was greeted with shocking news: His youngest brother (my brother-in-law), who works on one of the roller coasters at our local Six Flags park, had suffered head trauma and was being rushed to the hospital!

In a panic, I called Diana (my godson’s mother, who also happens to be Joshua’s godmother) and informed her of the situation. We agreed to reschedule for another day and then Hubs rushed to the hospital. Shortly after arriving, we learned that Zach had a severe concussion and no feeling in his left side. We visited with him for a while, and he was understandably much more subdued than usual. We had to explain to Joshua that he had a boo-boo inside his head and that he needed to be treated quietly and gently…because how else do you explain a concussion to a two-year-old? Once we knew that Zach was going to be all right, we left and went to get something to eat. I should have known that that was just the beginning of what would shape up to be a really rough week.

Since then, I’ve been babysitting daily. My sister has needed care for my nephew, Landon, nearly every day this week; the only day he wasn’t here was Tuesday, and I babysat my friend’s daughter that day (as I do every Tuesday). This past Tuesday, poor Bella got sick! I was so grateful that Joshua was on his best behavior. It really seemed to me that he understood that the baby was sick and needed my attention, and he was willing to concede (if only for the day). I did my best to take care of her and I’m happy that she’s doing much better now. I don’t know what was going on with her, but I hadn’t seen that much vomit since Joshua was her age. I had to use a bath towel to clean it all up! Thank goodness for washing machines, because yuck!

So tomorrow my other brother-in-law, my sister’s husband Shawn, is planning to come over. Thankfully, he’s offered to watch the boys and buy me lunch for the tough week I’ve had. All I know is that I’m in desperate need of a massage, a pair of Advil, and a nap.

And a new Fitbit.

How’s your week going? Shout it out in the comments!

Becca’s post, by the way, can be found here!

Talking Fitness Thursday: The Grass is Always Greener…?

OK, so before I get into the meat of this week’s post, I should probably tell you what this is all about. On Mother’s Day, my best friend Becca posted an article on Facebook about a woman’s reaction to mothers being singled out on Mother’s Day for recognition from the congregation. What about the mothers who’ve lost their babies via miscarriage or stillbirth? What about mothers whose children ran away from home or no longer have contact with them? What about mothers whose children have died? Do they still count as mothers? Do they deserve to be recognized? That, however, wasn’t what really caught my attention. This is what did:

On my immediate right, my mother stood and on my immediate left, a dear friend stood. I, a woman in her late 30s, sat. I don’t know how others saw me, but I felt dehumanized, gutted as a woman. Real women stood, empty shells sat. I do not normally feel this way. I do not like feeling this way.

Real women stood, empty shells sat.

I was a bit confused, and sad for the author of the original letter. I hated that she felt as though you had to be a mother to a living, breathing baby boy or girl to be considered a “real woman”. I hated that, in her mind, the fact that she was childless made her an “empty shell”. I knew this woman, whom I’d never heard of prior to reading this letter, was hardly an empty shell of a woman regardless of whether she was a mom; surely she must have a career she loves, family, pets, hobbies….something that filled her “shell”. Becca and I got into a conversation about this and an idea was born. Becca and I, though obviously very different individuals, are in many ways very much the same. So in what ways do we think the other has it better? In what ways do we think each of us has it better than the other? And how exactly are we the same?

Is the grass truly always greener on the other side? In order to explore this idea, Becca wrote a letter to me, which you can read here. I have read it prior to writing this letter, but it shouldn’t be considered a reply; I didn’t go through her letter, line-by-line, offering an argument for every point she made. What I did do, however, was to read, to reflect, and to feel myself fill with warmth, love, and gratitude to God and to our husbands for guiding us to each other. I moved away from the letter with the reminder that Becca is my best friend for a reason.

Hi, Becca.

I’ve spent the last several days thinking about how to go about writing this letter to you. Aside from all the thinking, I did some writing, but I didn’t feel that my original letter did any justice to my thoughts and feelings regarding our lives and our relationship…so I deleted the whole thing and started over. I’m so much happier with this version of my letter, and I hope you’ll find as much reflection in it as I have.

A few days ago, we started throwing around that lovely cliche, “the grass is greener on the other side.” But is it really? I guess it depends on what you want your grass to look like, what materials and tools you use to grow it, and how much time, effort, and love you put into growing it. I could argue — and successfully so — that my grass has quite a few patches of crabgrass in it, while yours is much more green and lush. You have freedom. You can do pretty much whatever you want, whenever you want. If you and your husband wanted to, you could pack a bag and fly to some exotic location, falling asleep on the beach or engaging in any number of very physical activities (from G-rated hiking to X-rated…well, you know.) You can enjoy quiet, romantic candlelit dinners without having to worry about a child running rampant through the restaurant or trying to knock over the lit candles. You can decide to run errands at 4:00 in the afternoon without throwing off your child’s carefully planned and managed schedule. You can spend the entire day working on your health and beauty blogs in peace, uninterrupted by the sounds of Matchbox cars being thrown across the room or the frustration brought on by the sudden silence that can only mean one thing: your child is definitely doing something they’re not supposed to be doing. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that a toddler who’s been quiet for more than a minute or two, and you know they’re awake, is a sure sign of trouble. (Yay for kids who empty entire containers of wipes all over their bedroom floors! Yay for kids who climb into the top drawers of your dresser, sit down and get comfortable, and proceed to apply your lipsticks to their cheeks and your mascaras to their hair!)

Not only is your life free of child-related concerns, you also don’t have nearly as much of a strain on your finances as Hubs and I do. I surrendered all of my credit cards and only use them with Hubs’ permission; the reason for this isn’t so much because he’s a penny-pincher or a cheap bastard. It’s because I have a history, and a habit, of spending too much money, especially now that we have Joshua. With the speed at which he’s growing, I feel like I’m constantly buying him new clothes and shoes. Recently, we stopped buying toys altogether, because frankly he really doesn’t need them. Between our living room, his bedroom, and the basement, he has enough toys to run a daycare. Being a classic toddler, he sees us trying to get rid of old toys he hasn’t touched in months and all of a sudden he’s interested in them again. (And by the way, it is absolutely true what they say about the intense pain that comes from stepping on Legos or Thomas trains or Matchbox cars in the dark. HOLY CRAP IT HURTS!!) Aside from that fun stuff, Joshua isn’t potty-trained yet, so we’re still buying diapers and wipes. Those things cost a small fortune, and between them and all the other things we need for our house — plus the costs of the renovations our house is about to undergo — there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of me being able to afford a professional-grade camera, or a new mattress, or a new wardrobe. And books? Thank God for NetGalley. Book blogging is that much easier for me to do because of NetGalley: not only are the books on the site ARCs (Advance Reader Copies), but they’re free. I can feed my habit without sinking us further into debt. That’s not to say I don’t buy books at all, though. I have purchased books after reading them via NetGalley, or because people recommended them to me, or just because they jumped out at me in the store and I really wanted to read them. Our financial situation also contributes to how we eat; while I’ve definitely made an effort to purchase whole foods and to eat cleaner, some of those healthier products do cost more…which means I’ve had to learn to do more with less.

That being said, my grass isn’t all dead. There are patches of crabgrass here and there, but much of it is thick and emerald. The number-one cause of my greenest grass is the holy grail of PCOS and infertility sufferers everywhere: Joshua Noah. Somehow — by the grace of God, sheer luck, a fluke, who knows — Hubs and I managed to conceive the baby boy that, to this day, we still call our little miracle. We don’t know how he happened. Given the way my body had been working in the months leading to his conception, he shouldn’t have happened. But he did, and I will be forever grateful for his little life. He is the Earth around which Hubs’ and my moons orbit. Though I find myself yelling at him with more frequency than I’d like (such is the way of the terrible two, I guess), he also brings immeasurable joy to my life. I don’t know where I’d be without him. I told you on Mother’s Day that having him cost me part of my individual identity, and I stand by that. That holds true for every parent on Earth. When you have a baby, you don’t get “me” time anymore. In many cases, you barely get dates or intimacy with your spouse. Before Joshua was conceived, Hubs and I used to go out to dinner, or to the movies, or to the beach, all the time. I used to sit and read whenever I wanted to; I could take a nap at two in the afternoon if I felt like it; I would settle in at my desk and write poetry or stories for hours at a time. I can’t do those things anymore, at least not in as carefree a manner. I definitely can’t even consider napping unless someone else is watching Joshua, and even then Joshua himself won’t let me sleep. But that’s okay. I don’t get to do whatever I want during the day anymore, so instead I squeeze in a bit of “me” time after Joshua’s gone to bed at night. That’s when I read. It’s when I blog. It’s when I relax and watch TV. It’s when Hubs and I have quiet-yet-uninterrupted conversations, cuddle, have sex. We lost our youthful, pre-baby identities, but we’ve both managed to recreate new ones post-baby and to carve out some kind of time for ourselves and for each other.

What else makes my grass green? I’m a stay-at-home parent, which many moms don’t have the luxury of being. Of course, I had to fight Hubs hard for that, but I wasn’t going down without a bloodbath of a fight and I’m so happy I won. Daycare — especially if I chose to work elsewhere — would put an even deeper strain on our finances, and Joshua would probably be sick much more often. Being a stay-at-home parent affords me the ability to spend my days playing with and teaching Joshua, taking him on trips and out to run errands, preparing him for life and for school. It provides me with the opportunity to cook a hot, healthy meal for my family on a daily basis. It allows me to handle my housework during the weekdays, instead of having to take care of all of it at night or on the weekends. It offers me a level of freedom on the weekends, when Hubs is home and we can spend some time as a family.

Aside from Joshua and being a stay-at-home mom, the main thing that keeps my grass green is my blog, and for that I owe a million thanks to you. You were the one who hooked me on blogging in the first place, all the way back in 2010; I saw Beauty Gala and while I knew I could never write about hair, nails, and makeup, I wanted to do what you did. I wanted to emulate you, but to change what you were doing to fit who I was. That was where my first blog stemmed from, and then after a while I was working too much to focus on reading and reviewing…and then we had that really stupid falling-out. That may have been the dumbest fight I’ve ever engaged in, and I’m sure you’d say the same, but it turned out to be great for us. We were basically able to use that fight as a way to hit the reset button on our friendship and start over with each other. I feel closer to you now than ever, even though we live so many miles apart. It was that closeness, and the still-intact admiration for your hard work on your blog, that brought me back to the blogosphere. You supported me from the beginning and you still do now, just as I’ve supported you for as long as I’ve known you. You’ve become my sounding board and my mentor. I probably wouldn’t be blogging without you…so thank you, so much, for being my greatest supporter.

Just like that, I’ve connected my green grass to my relationship with you. Not only has blogging made my grass greener, but it has also become part of who we are as friends. It’s one of the ways in which we’re the same. I may not be as far along as you are — because you’ve been at it, consistently, for much longer than I have — but we’re both very serious about it. I hope to make a career out of my blog as you’ve done with yours. As I’ve somehow managed to have a child, I know you hope to successfully conceive, carry, and deliver one as well. That’s a road I think it would be wonderful to travel together, and to bring our husbands along on, too. That’s another thing you and I have in common: we’re both in strong marriages. Sure, both of the guys have their, shall we say, “quirks”…but they’re our hubbies and we love them. I’d rather imagine a crazy life with my husband than a quiet but lonely one without him, and I’m sure you feel the same way. We also feel the same way about our dogs, and judging by our last visit our furbabies clearly like each other. I think the one thing that ties us together most of all, though, is PCOS. You’ve had your diagnosis for years, and you were there to support me when I got mine. You’ve been there to answer every question with more patience than I deserve, and you’ve led me onto the path of better health. We’re coping with PCOS together; I’m not sure how many sets of best friends can say they match on that deep a level. We’re fighting this disease together, which brings us closer together.

We’re fighting a disease together. We’re growing our blogs, and careers, together. We’re loving our families and our lives together. We do everything together. I’m strong; you’re strong. You’re smart; I’m smart. We may be different, but we’re the same.

And I don’t believe for a second that either of us is an empty shell of a woman. Hell, no.

Becca, you are the realest woman I know…and our grass looks exactly the same to me.

I love you!


You can read Katie’s post for this week here.

Happy Birthday, Dear Hubby!

Image via Hotel Berna

Of course he’s at work today, but that doesn’t mean that Joshua and I can’t make him his favorite things! He’ll have a batch of lasagna rolls from Budget Bytes

…and some red velvet fudge bars (recipe courtesy Life is Better in Pink!):

…waiting for him when he gets home tonight. I’m hoping to be able to make something with Joshua to give to Hubs, and I’d love to create a card or a letter for him from me. I just want to make my husband’s birthday a happy one.

Happy birthday, honey! We love you!