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.

From Left to Write: Fundamentally Flawed

A woman who cannot birth a son in a patrilineal environment is — in the eyes of society and often herself — fundamentally flawed.

Holy crap, that’s a lot of pressure.

In modern, fully developed countries like the United States, daughters are celebrated as much as sons are. Boys attach to their mamas (I would know, it happened to me!) and girls wrap their daddies around their chubby little fingers. Parents express as much pride in the accomplishments of their daughters as much as they do their sons, and for good reason. Everyone is human, and everyone is capable of great things with the right amount of encouragement and support.

If only those beliefs were held in Afghanistan, parents wouldn’t have to dress their daughters like boys to deflect societal shame…

Sure, the tradition is the same throughout the world. In order to carry on a family name to new generations, a son must be born. But unlike the developed countries, in Afghanistan it seems that females serve no purpose aside from birthing and raising babies. Once upon a time, that was the case all over the world, but while much of the world has evolved in its stance toward women, Afghanistan has not. Women there have always been considered sub-human, which is funny to me because you just can’t have men without women. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? If we’re getting Biblical, man was created first, but then biology took over and subsequent humans came into existence through the bodies of women. You can’t have eggs without chickens to create them, but those very chickens hatch from eggs (and last time I checked, males didn’t carry or lay eggs). Both genders are equally important and they play equally important roles in the conception, carriage, and delivery of both baby boys and girls. Believe what you want, Afghan men, but the science has been proven on that one.

That’s a bubble I’m all too happy to burst.

Now, about women being fundamentally flawed. Wow, the damage a statement like that can do! Women all over the world feel like second-class citizens to their male counterparts as it is; to be told that there’s something seriously wrong with them because they aren’t birthing male children is equal parts condescending and infuriating. Afghan men may live in a clueless past, but the truth remains that, if they’d only take the science seriously, the gender that truly carries the “fundamental flaw” is theirs.

This post was inspired by The Underground Girls of Kabul by journalist Jenny Nordberg, who discovers a secret Afghani practice where girls are dressed and raised as boys. Join From Left to Write on September 15 as we discuss The Underground Girls of Kabul. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

You can find Jenny Nordberg on Twitter — be sure to stop by and say hi, and tell her I sent you!

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.

Talking Fitness Thursday: Joining the Cysterhood

I know you probably looked at the post title and started making assumptions, so let’s back up for a minute, shall we?

As you can probably imagine, I woke up yesterday morning feeling pretty nervous about the big specialist’s appointment I’ve been going on about. I was wide awake at 6am and jumped out of bed at 6:15 to shower and shave; by 7am I was clean, dressed, and on the verge of a breakdown. More than anything else, I just wanted to be done with it — 8am couldn’t come quickly enough. (I suppose I have a serious fear of the unknown, but let’s save that conversation for another day.) By the time Hubs and I arrived at the office, my sense of impending doom had passed and I was feeling much calmer. The receptionist, who I’ve probably spoken to about 80 times in the last week, felt like a friend greeting me at the front desk, which relaxed me further. When Dr. K finally called us back, I was ready to get some answers.

Looking back, the whole appointment was a blur.

We first met with Dr. K in her office, where we discussed our medical histories and speculated about what my problem might be. She said that, based on everything I’d told her about myself and my history, that PCOS was the likeliest diagnosis (no surprise there). I also discovered some shocking — and frankly very disconcerting — information about my subseptate uterus, which I wrote about last September. As it turns out, the doctor who diagnosed me with the subseptate was seriously misinformed: to refresh your memory, she had told me that it looked like a small “finger” sticking out of my otherwise normal-looking uterus and that I could conceive and carry a child without issue, but that delivery could cause complications and that I should consider C-section delivery. This morning, Dr. K said that that information was completely incorrect.

Come again?

Apparently, the subseptate has nothing to do with conception and delivery; in fact, it’s related to infertility! So why is that such a big deal to me? It’s simple:

I could have delivered Joshua naturally.

Not only was the doctor who diagnosed this seriously misinformed, but then no fewer than two of the doctors in my OB’s practice failed to correct this information! When we were closing in on Joshua’s due date, I voiced my concerns about having a vaginal birth with the subseptate; instead of researching and discussing the facts with me, the two doctors I asked about it instead simply told me that the subseptate was mild and that the chances of delivery complications was pretty low. That did nothing to assuage my fears and I opted to schedule a C-section instead. It’s probably a safe bet that those doctors had no knowledge of a subseptate uterus actually is, either. Oh, well…it’s in the past now. There’s nothing I can do to change it. It is what it is, and life goes on.

After that little surprise, the appointment seemed to pick up speed. Nurse J went ahead and took some blood (I only wish I could remember what she was actually testing for!), and then she checked my weight and temperature. (I lost a pound since last week, yay!) Dr. K did a physical exam and then an ultrasound, which even now sticks out as the most important part of the whole appointment. Dr. K actually showed me my ovaries on the monitor, which no one else has ever allowed me to see. She pointed out that my right ovary looked totally fine; the left, on the other hand, was kind of pushed behind the scar tissue from my C-section…and there were cysts all over it.

F*ck you, PCOS.

Once the ultrasound was complete, Hubs and I were sent back to the waiting room while Nurse J organized a welcome package and next-step directions for us. I don’t think Hubs was ready for this post-exam meeting with Nurse J; once she started talking about all the different tests Dr. K wanted us to undergo, I watched as he literally grew more and more uncomfortable and agitated. She went on and on, but Hubs only heard one thing.

Cha-ching! Cha-ching!

That’s where our financial counselor, Kim, came in. Nurse J put us on a conference call with her and we discussed everything. Let’s just say that our insurance is much better for fertility than I thought it would be. What a relief! As the ringing of the cash register in Hubby’s head died down, he asked one question after another until it seemed like there was nothing left to ask, and then we were ready to go home.

Looking back, I think I was right to be a bit panicked, if for no other reason but the potential financial burden. I am truly thankful that our insurance carrier was so helpful and willing to work with Kim, because they did a brilliant job of leaving me in the dark. The lightening of that burden, which would admittedly fall squarely upon poor Hubby’s shoulders, means a lot to us. We’re going to try medication like Clomid first and go from there; Clomid is something we’re familiar with and have tried in the past. It brought us Joshua, and we’re hoping that it will bring him a sibling.

So that’s where we’re at right now! We have a ton of testing to do between now and our next appointment with Dr. K, which is scheduled for the week after we return from vacation. My biggest test, however, is the one I’ve been harping on about for weeks now: Dr. K said it’s time to make the necessary changes to my diet and to exercise both more often and more intensely. It’s time to stop drinking juice and soda, resume taking my prenatals, and break a bigger sweat on a more regular basis. Hubs is on board and said all of us will make the dietary changes, and he’s going to support whatever fitness changes I choose to make. I want a second child badly enough that I’m ready for a fight.

The gloves are off, PCOS. You’re going down!

Oh, and by the way, it would appear that I was on the right track when I wore a teal tank top under my green-and-teal blouse. Apparently, teal is the color for PCOS awareness — I had no idea! It happens to be my favorite color as well. I wonder if my brain has been trying to tell me something all my life…

To read Becca’s post for this week, click here.
To read Katie’s post for this week, click here.

The Big Day

Today’s the day.

As this post goes live, I’m sitting in the RE’s office, waiting to be seen. To be heard. To (hopefully) get a diagnosis.

I haven’t been able to focus on anything else since yesterday. The last 24 hours have been anxiety-ridden, to say the least. I’ve tried to think about what I might ask this doctor, but nothing came to mind. I didn’t even know where to start. Last night, I kept starting to type out questions and ended up deleting them, either because I thought they were crap or because I figured the doctor would be answering them before I had a chance to ask.

I always imagine the worst-case scenario and then have trouble shifting my thought process to any other possible narrative. Maybe it’s a way of preparing myself for the worst possible news, but it doesn’t always mean that I find myself hoping for the best. I get to a place where hope is a foreign word and then I’m lost.

What if they tell me that my eggs — if I even have any left — aren’t viable? Well, at least I have one child, but I selfishly want one more. I know that probably makes me sound horrible, especially to all my friends who’ve had miscarriages or have otherwise been unable to have children of their own. I have a child, and I love my child, but I would love for him to have a sibling. That was the dream from the time I first pictured myself as a mother: happily married in a small-yet-comfortable house with a couple of dogs and two kids. When I was younger, knowing that I would only bring one child into the world presented me with an incomplete picture. Maybe it’s because I have a twin sister and we were brought up together, the two of us. But I’ve always wanted two kids of my own.

What if they tell me that our only chance of conceiving another child means agreeing to a procedure that we can’t afford? In that case, we’re just screwed. In-vitro fertilization is not cheap, and The Hubby and I don’t have oceans of money to begin with. If there is literally no chance of us conceiving without the help of IVF, we’ll have to accept the reality that there will be no more children in our future. I know Hubs is okay with that but it will require me to (very reluctantly) readjust that “complete family” image I was telling you about a minute ago. It won’t be painless to do, but if it has to be done I won’t have much of a choice.

These are just two worst-case scenario contenders. It’s been hard not to focus on them, or others, but I’ve forced myself to at least try. My family deserves that and so do I. Now it’s a waiting game: we’re in the office now, hopefully hearing something new from this doctor, and it’s a safe bet that I’ll be sharing my experience tomorrow as my Talking Fitness Thursday post.

Ready or not…