June 16th (to Livy)

Six weeks ago we ended up in the hospital in the middle of the night because I couldn’t feel you move – nothing I tried would stir you and I was terrified. We’d passed the pregnancy finish line. You were three days late and counting, but I still couldn’t believe you were really going to be okay.

History made me anxious.

We had no idea I was already in labor.

I woke up around 2:30 a.m. on the morning of June 16 to use the bathroom, because that had become my routine in late pregnancy. I couldn’t fall back asleep right away, so I started scrolling on my phone.

Eventually, I decided to move to the bed in the guest room, but I was only there a few minutes before I realized I hadn’t felt you move lately and became scared. I sat up and rubbed my belly, hoping to wake you.

Nothing.

I went to the kitchen, grabbed a cold water bottle and took several big sips. I was determined to try all the tricks I’d read in the books. I hadn’t had to use any of those through pregnancy. You made it easy on us – no big scares and you moved a lot.

I scarfed down a strawberry granola bar.

Still nothing.

I went back to the guest room and laid on my left side, hoping in a few minutes you’d react.

Again, nothing.

As I sat in bed doing mental gymnastics over whether I should be panicked, I realized I’d never forgive myself if something was wrong and I’d done nothing or if I didn’t at least tell your dad.

He says I busted into our bedroom loudly. I don’t remember it that way, but I’m betting he’s right. I dropped the pillows I’d carried to the guest room back on my side of our bed, sat down and quietly called his name.

“I haven’t felt her move in a while and I’m scared,” I told him, quickly running down the list of things I’d tried that hadn’t worked. My last idea was to take a hot shower “because she always moves for hot showers.”

It wasn’t thirty more seconds before I was under the hot water. I took what would, by anyone’s standards, not be a long enough shower to even apply shampoo, but I didn’t feel you move.

I got out and told him we had to go. In a frenzy, we grabbed our packed bags, threw on something not resembling pajamas and whatever shoes we could find, told Carter we’d be back soon and drove the mile or two to the hospital.

I was walking into the hospital when I felt you give one small kick.

Instant relief.

But I wasn’t leaving until we had a chance to listen to your heartbeat.

I never wanted to pick your birth date. It’s a silly thing, but it mattered to me. You were just stubborn enough to almost make me do it. I was scheduled for induction on the night of June 17th.

At 4 a.m. on June 16th, the nurse who greeted us was barely done strapping a monitor on my belly when we heard your heart beating. You were as healthy as you’d ever been. I cried. Listen, that detail will come as no surprise to you when you get to know me.

Moments later, the nurse asked me if I’d felt a contraction. It was mapped on the screen, but I had no idea it’d happened. From there it was a whirlwind – she checked a few things and realized I was already starting the labor process.

You were picking your own birth date like I’d hoped.

The nurse left the room for a quick conversation with the OB on call and returned to get us moved to the room where you’d be born.

There’s a lot about labor and delivery that nobody really needs or cares to know – frankly, a lot of the day was spent waiting around. I was in labor, but I wasn’t as far along as many women are when they get to the hospital.

A lot of the day really is a blur. I remember little things like it was unusually cold. In fact, Greenville set a record low high of 67 degrees that day. I remember our sweet nurse who left her hearing aids at home and couldn’t quite hear anything we said to her so she kept reminding us to speak up.

I remember the feeling of the contractions and the moment I realized I was ready for the epidural. Then there was the trouble of getting the epidural dose right. Apparently, they dose by height and they weren’t quite sure what to do with your tall mama. Half of my body was numb while the other half felt every bit of each new contraction for about an hour until they figured it out. The adjustments would later mean I didn’t regain feeling in that leg for an inordinately long time, but hey, I had nowhere to be.

Mostly, it was a lot of waiting. Your dad and I watched episodes of Parks & Rec, talked about how our life was going to change and played cards.

We were in the middle of a game of 45s when our nurse rushed in to check on your rapidly dropping heartbeat for the second time. We weren’t alarmed. It’d happened before and you stabilized as soon as I rolled over. But this time she was followed by so many other nurses your dad made a joke about not realizing that many people even worked at the hospital.

The doctor wasn’t far behind. They told me you were ready and asked if I was.

Livy, you only made me push for nine minutes. I’d made a six hour labor playlist and we didn’t get through two whole songs before we saw your sweet face.

By the way, you arrived in this world to the sound of Alicia Keys singing ‘A Woman’s Worth’. I made sure your dad listened to which song was playing so we’d be able to tell you that.

You came out with eyes wide open and you snuggled up to me instantly. I’ve never seen your dad cry so hard and I’ve never felt stronger.

It’s been six weeks and one day since that moment. You’re snoozing on my lap right now and I know I should’ve written this sooner, when I didn’t have six weeks of less than optimal sleep under my belt. I should’ve jotted down more details or carved out an afternoon to write before it became blurry, but I’ve been soaking up the moments with you; watching you grow and learn our faces; listening to you practice your little giggles and learning what calms you when you cry.

Livia, I want you to know, if you ever read some version of this, that June 16th, 2020 was truly the best day of my entire life so far. Every fear I’d had about giving birth during a pandemic washed away that day and what it left us was the chance to get to know each other in your first day of life, uninterrupted, as a family of three. It was an unconventional, but beautiful way to welcome you. Every big and little thing we went through in the years of trying to bring you into this world was worth it in the moment we saw your face for the first time at 2:01 p.m. on June 16th.

Due date

It’s June 13th – your due date.

We made it. 40 whole weeks of you and me growing together. Facebook memories shows me on this day last year I went for a run – a no doubt frustrating run during which I had to remind myself that I was slow because of all the medicines and shots I’d done and all the time I’d had to take off from my favorite hobby.

But it’s 2020 and on this June 13th I happily wait for you to decide it’s time to come into the world.

You’re squirming in my belly right now. And for every impatient thought I’ve had over the past week – because I really really want to hold you and see that you’re really here and healthy– right now in this moment, I am just grateful and proud.

I’m proud my body was able to bring you all the way to this point. I’m proud of you for being the strong little girl we suspected you could be.

I’m proud of your dad for how hard he’s prepared for your arrival and how much he loves our nightly ritual of reading you books from your little library.

One day, we’ll tell you about the one page in that Dr. Seuss book that makes you kick every single time – and how your dad likes to read it twice or even three times just to rile you up.

It feels so strange to know you yet not really know you. We’ve been calling you by your name for a long time now, but we don’t know what you’ll look like, whether you’ll be a relatively content baby or give us unexpected challenges, or even if that page in that Dr. Seuss book will matter to you when you’re on the outside.

I want to learn all those things. I’m impatient to learn all those things. I’m anxious to meet you. In the past week, I couldn’t imaging how I could possibly wait any longer for you – next week marks three years since we started trying to have a baby – but today, on your actual due date, I feel grateful knowing whatever day you get here is going to be the very best day.

Pregnancy, pandemics, loss and hope

I haven’t sat down to write this yet, because it feels like I shouldn’t. Not that I shouldn’t have the feelings I do, but that I shouldn’t admit that it’s not entirely easy – that my overwhelming joy of being six weeks from meeting our child is sometimes overshadowed by the grief of what we’ve been through and the fear of what we’re living through now.

But I’ve tried to share our story with sincerity, so here I am. I’d ask that you read this with the context that we are over the moon excited and in love with our baby girl. Know that we are so full of gratitude we can barely stand it. Know that we realize we could be like anyone else for whom this pandemic has delayed treatments to help them get pregnant and we’re deeply sad for them. Know that we read our daughter books at night and laugh at how she kicks when we do silly voices. Sometimes we cry happy tears sometimes when she’s kicking, because we really can’t believe where we are. The joy is always there, even when other emotions creep in.

***

It’s terrifying to be pregnant in a pandemic – to receive little or conflicting information about the specific threat to your and your baby’s health and to have to navigate the decisions at hand, trying to determine what is best for your child before you’ve even met her yet.

It’s a scary time and that’s an understatement.

Being pregnant in a pandemic after loss, years of failed attempts to get pregnant and long periods of thinking it would never happen is, at times, unbearable.

Grief doesn’t disappear. I’m not suddenly over the baby I’ll never meet because we have a new one we likely will.

The combination of emotions keeps me up at night. I tear up when I see the note to our first baby scrawled across the small white board in our closet – the note we can’t bring ourselves to erase – “we’ll love you always.” I bawl in the shower because I think of the tiny baby that we now lovingly say was here briefly to make a comfortable space for our little girl.

Loss is trauma.

It shows itself in many ways; in bouts of anger; in worries over things that aren’t a big deal but are more manageable to carry than those that are; in tearing up at little reminders around the house and on dates that should’ve been milestones.

In the midst of a pandemic, with little information about its effect on infants, grief manifests in fears that something will steal this new baby away before we really get to know her.

Any book on miscarriage will tell you it haunts future pregnancies. Even if you have healthy, happy children after a miscarriage, each new pregnancy has the nagging sense that something can steal the joy unexpectedly. It’s a natural part of the process.

And in 2020, there’s a concrete threat – a pandemic that could do a lot more damage than cancelling baby showers.

I’m long past being sad about a baby shower. I’m focused on the final goal of getting her here safely.

I would kill to know the first days and weeks of my baby’s life could be normal. I’d give anything for it to be like it would’ve been if we were able to get pregnant one, two, even three years ago when we first started trying.

I wish she could meet all four of her grandparents the day she’s born. I wish visitors could come to the hospital. I wish we could see a steady stream of our closest friends walk through our doorway to say hello to this girl we’ve waited years to meet.

But that’s not our reality right now. Our reality is that there are restrictions in place and recommendations that force us to make tough decisions.

I won’t pretend it doesn’t suck.

It does. It breaks my heart.

The strangeness of this year is hard for so many of us.

And we face the challenge in different ways. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how lucky I am that this pregnancy has been easy on me, physically. Getting here was hard, but the actual pregnancy hasn’t presented any concerning symptoms or emergency appointments. I wasn’t extremely nauseous at any point and I haven’t had any spikes in blood pressure. I count each one of those things as blessings, especially when fears creep in.

I navigate the weirdness of being a social person stuck at home by preparing for her arrival – I’m nesting, washing clothes, ramping up FaceTime calls, taking more photos along the way than I probably would have otherwise, reading more chapters in baby books than I ever planned to, talking with friends who’ve just had children in the pandemic and listening to podcasts on motherhood.

I’m reminding myself daily that “quarantine” means Russ, the baby and I will have quality time as a family of three that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.

We’re still six weeks out (if all goes as planned) and we have no idea what things will look like when she arrives. Businesses are beginning to open back up around us and people are getting restless about being home. We hope it’s a sign that the world will start to get back to normal and that we’ll do so with a more controlled grip on the coronavirus.

Regardless, our days will stay the same as long as that’s the medical recommendation. We’ll soak in the extra time together and know that being here safe at home, however uncomfortable it can be to miss everyone around us, will be worth it if it means we can contribute to a healthier world for our baby girl.

 

 

WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE!

That phrase gets overused a lot, but it really applies right now.

This is such a strange time.

Some of us are facing terrible difficulties, others are sad about relatively minor inconveniences and none of us are wrong.

It’s okay to be upset that you had to cancel your birthday celebration, just as it’s okay to be terrified of giving birth during a deadly pandemic.

I say that as someone who is the latter.

I don’t mind hearing people worry about their mental state while being stuck in their homes. That’s a real issue and perspective matters.

I can’t fully understand a tragedy someone else has been through if I haven’t faced it myself. I don’t see this situation as any different.

My heart aches for the people who have lost their entire sources of income. I’ve only lost a few weeks of mine, so I can’t say I know how that feels, but I can feel empathy. I can wish none of you were facing what you’re facing.

I have a handful of friends who’ve lost loved ones in the weeks since this all began. Not one of them has been able to properly honor their loved ones life in the traditional sense. In fact, they’re navigating grief by themselves or away from most of the rest of their families and friends.

I haven’t lost anyone during this time, aside from our dog Sophie. And that was hell, but it was expected and I wasn’t deprived of the traditional grieving.

I held her and petted her and told her how much I loved her repeatedly as she went calmly to rest. And I’ve been able to talk about her and share that love for her with people right around me, the people who also knew and loved her.  That’s how that grief would’ve looked even in a normal time.

But that’s not how it usually looks for human loss.

I can’t imagine how it feels to not have those first few days when you’d normally gather with family and share stories and memories – laugh and cry. When I’ve lost loved ones in the past, those moments have been what pulled me through the initial onslaught of sadness.

Everywhere you look, people’s hearts are heavy.

They’re lonely.

They’re scared or anxious.

They’re wondering if they’re doing enough to protect themselves and the people they love.

They’re wondering how they can help their favorite small business that might not make it through the economic disaster that’s accompanying all of this.

They’re feeling things and they should be allowed to – whatever that looks like.

Sure, there’s a lot of good. And I suspect most of us spend a great deal of time watching for it – seeing who is helping and how we can make the best of the situation.

But we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves or others when we’re struck by the tougher feelings.

It’s okay.

It really is okay.

And hopefully one day not too long from now, everything will be okay.

An open letter to the best girl

Dear Sophie,

You can’t hear me when I tell you I love you anymore, so I try to show you in as many other ways as I can — by carrying you from room to room, because your legs don’t work well anymore and standing outside while you roam around the backyard in the dark, because I don’t want you to look back toward the house and think I’ve left you.

You’re 15 now and it’s been an incredible decade and a half.

I’ve learned so much, often from my own mistakes. I know there are times I could’ve paid you more attention. I could’ve gone out with friends a little less or taken you for longer walks. But you never quit on me.

Even when your legs barely worked, you’d still follow me from room to room like a shadow.

I’ve loved a lot of pets, but never one as much as you, Soph Bear.

You’re complicated, sassy and downright mean to just about everyone but me by then end, but you earned the right to be a little cranky.

You’ve been with me since high school – through that lonely first apartment in Mississippi – through all the long drives we took back to the Carolinas over those 19 months – through the move to Greenville – through bad dates and good – through marriage – through fertility treatments and loss and now through 2/3 of pregnancy.

I know you were in pain, frustrated and anxious. I know you were tired and confused.

I know you were still here in the end because I still needed you to be here while I prepared to say goodbye.

And I know I had to quit being selfish.

I will love you forever, Soph and I’ll miss you in this home. I’ll miss our quiet mornings together before the boys wake up and I’ll miss getting out of the shower and finding you waiting for me on the bath mat. I’ll miss sharing popcorn with you and watching you roll your white fluffy body all around in any dirt you can find.

Thank you for the unconditional love and for teaching us how to provide around the clock care for a tiny, helpless creature – even changing diapers – right before we welcome our daughter into the family. I promise we’ll tell her about you and show her photos. One day, maybe she’ll ask for her own dog – just like you were mine. I can’t think of a better gift.

I love you Soph. Always.

 

 

24 weeks + 5 days

We’re almost 25 weeks into this pregnancy and I’m feeling incredibly lucky and grateful.

I went to the doctor this morning — the very first appointment I’ve gone to alone. If that sounds crazy, just know that Russ has tagged along at every appointment because a) he wants to see and hear that she’s growing as much as I do and b) my anxiety was through the roof for a long time.

But today, I was only mildly nervous before the appointment. By the time I was stepping on the scale, those nerves melted away.

Our baby girl is growing exactly as she should. My belly, which I’ve heard from a lot of people looks small (it doesn’t to me!), is exactly where it needs to be and her heart continues its strong beat.

It’s hard to believe we are approaching the third trimester together. I can’t wait to meet our baby girl. I hope it’s evident to her, on a daily basis, just how much we wished and hoped and prayed for her healthy arrival.

It’s a…

I’ve never loved a rib cage before, but dammit, I saw the cutest rib cage on an ultrasound today and it belongs to our baby.

I cry easily. I cry when I’m sad, of course, but I also cry when I’m angry or when Publix makes a particularly poignant Christmas commercial.

It’s sort of my trademark.

Yet, in pregnancy, I’ve found I’m crying less than ever. There’s a lot less sadness in my heart these days, but even sappy songs aren’t getting to me. It’s the opposite of what I thought I was supposed to expect, but it’s a welcome break from what can only be described as a trait I’d love to be able to reel in on a regular basis.

I’ve been so filled with joy in these past few months that tears of all kinds seem much fewer and farther between.

I wrote and shared many ups and even more downs when we were trying to get to this place where we are now, but I haven’t written publicly in months. When things finally started to work out, I was still scared to share.

I’m almost 20 weeks pregnant and for about 18 I feel like I’ve been thrilled, while still holding my breath, waiting for a shoe to drop.

I’m almost halfway through the pregnancy and it still hasn’t dropped.

We’ve had several great milestones, but none that felt as good and real as today’s.

Today we saw tiny hands and feet, a precious face, leg and arm bones, a stomach, kidneys, a brain, a heart with a strong beat, even the cutest little spine and rib cage I’ve ever seen.

Today we cried more than we’ve cried in a while.

And it felt so good.

We can’t wait to meet her.

IMG_0874IMG_5884

 

Garden update

It’s been a strange garden year. Like a lot of you, we had a heat wave in late May that blasted the plants and slowed some growth.

Struggles

The tomatoes took the hardest hit. They’re still growing, but I’ve yet to have one get red on the vine. They were growing to full size and turning just slightly lighter green then stopping all forward motion. I decided to start bringing them inside when they reached that point and every one of them has turned red, so at least they’re not wasted.

I don’t use pesticides on our plants, for obvious reasons, but our heavier leafy plants have struggled a bit this year because of it. The collards and brussel sprouts both had leaves that looked like swiss cheese, thanks to bugs. I was able to salvage both by blasting the bugs off with a high powered hose stream and then cutting some of the leaves that were closest to the ground. The word on the street (internet) is that the bugs that were on them likely couldn’t get back on the leaves once knocked off. I don’t know how true that is, but I do know my plants look 100x better now.

Successes

The heat cut the lettuce season short, but we ate very well off of our romaine plants for 6 weeks or so before that happened, so I can’t complain too much. I’m still trying to figure out the sweet spot for when to plant lettuce, because our last frost is pretty unpredictable down here.

Our herbs did very well, but herbs tend to be one of the easiest things to grow in our yard. This year we had a ton of dill and cilantro. When they were about to flower, I cut everything off and froze what we hadn’t yet used. I wasn’t sure how that would work out, but I’ve already used some of the frozen herbs and they’re all good.

Much like the herbs, cucumbers are always strong.

We’ve had several big fat cucumbers and there are a lot more on the way. I have three cucumber plants in the garden and one container variety on the deck. Basically, we love pickles, so I want to make sure we have plenty for both fresh eating and for stored pickles.

A bonus this year is Russ announced that he thinks they taste much better when they come straight from a garden than from the grocery store. He’s obviously correct and I think its changed his opinion on cucumbers overall.

Our peppers slowed down for a little bit after the heat wave, but they are right back in their stride now and definitely producing. These are definitely Russ’s favorite thing we grow. So far, we’ve gotten a lot of little sweet peppers, which is great because we snack on those like crazy, but we’re both looking forward to the hot peppers.

This year, I planted poblano, jalapeño and habanero peppers. The first two are really starting to come in. The habanero plant is still relatively small, but it’s showing slow growth, so I’m hopeful.

Surprises

One of my favorite things in the garden this year is the tomatillo plant. We love tomatillos, though they’re relatively new to us. I planted them because I saw them in the Greenville County seed library, so I figured they would do well here.

If you don’t know about the seed library, it’s a cool partnership between our local library system and the soil and water conservation district. Anyone who is a member of the library (free to all Greenville County residents, FYI), can go to the seed library and pick up up to 10 packets of seeds to plant in their home garden.

I picked up several little things from them, but the tomatillos are my favorite. They are tasty, but they also grow in these neat little almost papery leaves. You harvest them when the fruit bursts the leaves open, but the leaves will stay mostly on the fruit until you are ready to use the fruit. In the slideshow below, they’re the ones that look like little green balloons. When they’re ready, we’ll be making some salsa verde, for sure.

Another favorite this year is the brussel sprouts I mentioned earlier. They’ve struggled a bit, but they’re going pretty strong now and they’re just very cute. We love brussel sprouts, but didn’t know much about how they grow before this year. You can see a photo in the slideshow below. They basically just grow like little balls on the side of the stalk. They have a pretty long growing season, so we probably won’t harvest until early fall, but I’m fairly confident they’ll be worth the wait.

Last but not least, I don’t grow a lot of flowers, but I’ve always wanted a rose bush. Earlier this year, I went for it and bought an almost-dead looking knockout rose bush from the Lowe’s clearance rack. It was $2. For weeks, I figured I’d wasted the two dollars. Nothing was growing and no amount of fertilizer or water seemed to help. When I finally decided to just sit back and be patient, sure enough it came back to life. There are two beautiful flowers on it right now and lots of purple new growth. This thing is going to be even better next year and I can’t wait.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Book club!

This isn’t really a book club, but I thought I’d share a few things I’ve enjoyed reading lately and what I’m currently reading. Are you reading anything good? Let me know in the comments – or in person next time I see you!

Recent reads:

91Au7EK97fL.jpg

Set not too far from here – near Cashiers, NC, this is a heartbreaking and, at times, violent story of a young man coming of age in a community where he’s destined to fall into the unhealthy cycles of his family before him. The story involves drugs, violence, love and hope. It’s beautifully written and will knock you on your butt multiple times as you read it. It was also David Joy’s first novel, which I think you’ll find hard to believe – I know I did.

Rungs once painted white were chipped and rusted and slumped in the middle from years of being climbed by wide-eyed kids looking to paint their names on the town. Those things that seemed as if they’d last forever never did. I didn’t even make it out of tenth grade, and maybe that’s why I hadn’t felt the need to scale that tower with britches weighed down by spray-paint cans. There was no need to cement my name. A name like Jacob McNeely raised eyebrows and questions. In a town this small, all eyes were prying eyes. I couldn’t show my face, didn’t want the problems and rumors that being down there would bring, but I had to see her leave.

It’s fiction, but it’s a story that is probably more true that we’d like to believe. I couldn’t help wanting to rescue Jacob McNeely myself.

Link: https://www.david-joy.com/where-all-light-tends-to-go

download.png

John Hart was recommended to me by an old friend from Middle School. Actually, I think she posted something on Instagram about a book she was reading and I asked about it. She swore by Hart’s work and told me where to start.

This is Hart’s first novel and it’s a mystery-packed adventure. I flew through it. It has murder, old love, a stale marriage and an overarching theme of how little people can know about each other even when they are extremely close.

It’s also set in North Carolina, so bonus points for that.

Honestly, if no one is working on making this into a movie yet, they should be.

For some time, I’d been bathed in that jailhouse perfume, sitting knee-to-knee with a client who’d just gotten life without parole. The trial had damned him, as I’d told him it would. The state’s evidence was overwhelming, and the jury had zero sympathy for a three-time loser who had shot his brother during an argument about who’d get control of the remote. Twelve of his supposed peers, and not one cared that he’d been drinking, that he was cracked to the gills, or that he didn’t mean to do it. No one cared that his brother was an ass and a felon in his own right, not the jury and least of all me. All I wanted was to explain his appeal rights, answer any legal questions, and get the hell out. My fee application to the state of North Carolina would wait until the morning.

Link: http://www.johnhartfiction.com/the-king-of-lies

Everything+I+Never+Told+You+-+Celeste+Ng.jpg

I’m actually kicking myself for not having read Celeste Ng’s second novel [Little Fires Everywhere] yet. Everything I Never Told You is very well done.

Set in the 70s, this book follows a Chinese-American family as it navigates the untimely death of one of the middle daughter.

I really appreciated how Ng explored the cultural and generational differences in the ways people deal with grief, particularly sudden and wildly unexpected grief.

Marilyn closes her eyes. Maybe, when she opens them, Lydia will be there, covers pulled over her head as usual, wisps of hair trailing from beneath. A grumpy lump bundled under the bedspread that she’d somehow missed before. I was in the bathroom, Mom. I went downstairs for some water. I was lying right here all the time. Of course, when she looks, nothing has changed. The closed curtains glow like a blank television screen.

Link: https://www.celesteng.com/everything-i-never-told-you

51Ix-oAS0zL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_

I think I might’ve been the last woman my age to read an Ann Patchett novel. She’s been recommended to me over and over through the years. This book did not disappoint. It’s centered around a family that is broken apart and patched back together through divorce and remarriage – but the real story is in the siblings and how they navigate their relationships with and loyalty to each other.

The story spans five decades, following them through childhood and adulthood and many of the most natural and familiar tragedies in life.

As a sibling in a hybrid family, I really appreciated Patchett’s exploration of those relationships.

The children were seated across the aisle from one another, the boys on the left and the girls on the right, and each was given a set of junior airman wings, which only Cal refused to wear. They were glad to be on the plane, glad to be free of direct supervision for six hours. As much as they hated to leave their mother—they were unquestionably loyal to their mother—the four Cousins children thought of themselves as Virginians, even the youngest two, who had been born after the family’s move west. All of the Cousins children hated California.

Link: http://www.annpatchett.com/commonwealth

What I’m reading:

515JIn5SM3L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

I’m an absolute sucker for historical nonfiction. I picked this book up at the library after hearing about it on NPR. It piqued my interest, because the conversation surrounding inequality endures today and I feel a responsibility to continue studying the roots of why we are the way we are.

It’s written by three journalists from the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant. They wrote the book after doing a story that opened their eyes to a side of slavery they never really knew existed – the role their home in the north played in keeping the institution alive and the overall dependency the entire country’s economy had on unpaid labor.

I’ve only read the prologue, introduction and a few dozen pages so far, but it’s turned my understanding of the slavery operation upside down. This book is proof that we should never let ourselves stop learning.

Slavery has long been identified in the national consciousness as a Southern institution. The time to bury that myth is overdue. Slavery is a story about America, all of America. The nation’s wealth, from the very beginning, depended on the exploitation of black people on three continents. Together, over the lives of millions of enslaved men and women, Northerners and Southerners shook hands and made a country.

Link : https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/48242/complicity-by-anne-farrow-joel-lang-and-jenifer-frank/9780345467836/

 

 

I keep trying to sit down to write an update on this experience, but it’s hard to know how to write about it without sounding terribly sad. That’s been my excuse for not writing, but not writing isn’t helping me to feel any better and even if no one on earth sees this but me, it’s good to get it out.

It’s been two years this month since we started trying and more than a year since we began the fertility treatment process and we obviously don’t yet have a baby nor do we have an ongoing pregnancy or answers as to whether we will be able to.

Right now we’re taking another hopefully brief break after our second failed IVF.

If you’re keeping count, the first one worked and then I had a miscarriage. The second and third failed.

Now we’re faced with a decision – run more tests to try to get some answers, proceed with our last embryo and hope for the best or move on to another method.

I would say right now most of my energy is spent on trying to stay positive and I probably fail at that at least 50% of the time. Russ might say I fail at it more than that. Luckily, he almost always makes up the difference.

At my best, I am fully aware that Russ and I are very lucky to have each other and we still have time to figure this all out – I’m reminded often by my doctor that 31 is not old in the world of fertility treatments and certainly not in the world of adoption.

At my worst, I’m incredibly lonely, I can’t make myself care about anything I should care about and I feel like nobody understands what I’m going through emotionally and physically.

And I worry.

I worry that it won’t work out and that we won’t ever have a family. I worry that no one would choose us to be the adoptive parents of their child. I worry that all of our friends with children will move deeper into that stage of life and we’ll be left behind. And I worry that all of these worries will eventually be too much for Russ to help me juggle, though that one feels silly to even write.

I’d love to say that I’m moving through all of this gracefully and feeling confident that it will work out, but, in the interest of honesty, I’m often not.

I’d love to tie this up in a neat little upbeat bow, but I’m going to just leave it right here in all its honest glory and hope tomorrow feels a bit more positive.

 

April 11

April 11.

Four years ago today, Russ tied a dozen or so notes we’d written each other and strings of lights to the trees by the creek at my mom and dad’s farm and got down on one knee and asked me, in the sweetest way, to marry him. As obnoxious as it sounds, I’d say yes to that again every day.

Today, I’m leaning on that memory. Because today, April 11, four years after that night, was supposed to be the day we got to meet our first baby – a baby we affectionately call “speck”. If I’d known it was the only name our baby would have, I would’ve chosen better.

We’ve been open about this whole process since the early stages and will continue to do so, because there are a lot of people with stories similar to ours and we don’t think anyone should have to feel alone in this. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but many people don’t feel they can speak about this kind of loss.

I’m frankly unwilling to be quiet about it. Today I don’t get to meet my baby, but that doesn’t change the feeling that I knew my baby and I love my baby. I know I always will. That may not make sense to some people, but if you’ve carried a baby or watched as your biggest dream shifted on a sonogram and heard its heart beating like nothing in the world could be wrong, you know.

Today, I’m sad. Most days I’m at least a little sad, but today it’s bigger. I’m sad because I remember the week we saw that heartbeat wasn’t as strong and speck didn’t seem to be growing. I’m sad because it’s been more than six months since that day and we haven’t seen another heartbeat on a sonogram since. I’m sad because being a mom is my greatest dream in life and something I took for granted as something I would just get to do.

I have been fundamentally changed by this process, as anyone is by grief.

I’m not at work today. I took the day off to just let myself feel whatever needs to be felt. This is a process and I don’t know what the right way to handle it is, but this is mine.

If you got this far, I’m asking you for a favor, hopefully a simple one – be patient with people. Be kind. Honor the fact that so many people, maybe even you, are fighting really challenging battles while still facing whatever daily routine is required of them. Just spread some love for me today.

garden 2019

I have trouble nailing down my true earliest memory. I know there are people who can easily recite them, but I’m not sure I know exactly which memories came first.

I remember standing on my tip toes next to a table that was moved out onto Mamaw and Papaw’s driveway with my mouth open wide so my “Uncle Bear” could drop a steamed oyster on my tongue – my first taste of a lifelong love of oyster roasts.

I remember when I realized I’d learned to read well enough to finish an entire book and how proud my parents made me feel. I wasn’t in school yet, but I was word-obsessed and I was very aware, probably because of the way my parents encouraged me, that books could open new worlds for me.

I don’t know which of those things came first and I don’t know if those moments are older than my first memories of helping my mom in her garden.

We had a backyard that was notorious for flooding. It rose to street level on one side of the house and dropped several feet as you crossed the grass. When it rained really hard, it’d fill up like a pool.

The first garden I remember was tucked in a corner formed by the beams that held the deck and the staircase that led to it. I can’t remember now if it was a raised bed, but I know it had some sort of fence boundary, probably to keep Molly, our bouncy sheepdog-springer spaniel mix out.

My mom would let me help before I had any idea what helping looked like. She’d let me follow her around the garden pointing at plants and asking what they were.

I was, unsurprising to anyone who knows me now, a curious kid.

She’d teach me about why we planted tomatoes when we did and when to know that something was ready to pick.

She introduced me to my longtime favorite flower – the snapdragon – it’s not particularly beautiful in shape or even color, but I was drawn to the name.

Snapdragons are a cool season plant. Each long stalk has several buds that open creating a kind of bouquet on a single stalk. They come in a variety of colors, but I’ve always been partial to the pinks.

I carried snapdragons in my wedding bouquet, because I love them, but more-so as a nod to my mom and our moments in her garden – the garden I consider my first.

I don’t say these things aloud to her as much as I should, but so much of what I do is a nod to who she is and our relationship.

My love of gardening wasn’t my own at first, it was a love of spending time learning from her.

Now it’s my own and one of my favorite passions.

This year will be my second year planting a garden in my own yard. We bought a house in the late summer of 2017 and planted our first vegetable garden in early 2018. It went very well – we ate a lot of food grown in our own yard and it was incredibly refreshing. We also watched  roughly a dozen watermelons grow to a decent, but not-yet-pickable size and then rot before they crossed the goal line. It happens. Gardening isn’t perfect. Nature isn’t fully predictable, but every experience is a teacher, right?

This year, we tripled the size and I plan to add flowers to the mix.

I’ve decided to document the process this year and I’ll share what works and what doesn’t right here. So stick around if you love pretty decent photos of plants and helpful tips so you can avoid whatever mistakes I’ll inevitably make.

To you

This one is to you –

you who sent us flowers and gifts right after our procedures last summer

you who’ve made us warm meals on down days

you who brought over pizza and beer when we just needed time with friends

you who mailed us books about coping after miscarriage

you who didn’t ask because you knew we’d talk when we were ready

you who’ve sent us random text messages just checking in

you who emailed me at work to ask a question but also dropped in a reminder that you’re praying for us

you who hugged me this week and quietly said you just keep hoping for this to work out for us

you who sent me several sweet cards and shared that you have a phone alert set to remind you to say a prayer for us every afternoon

you four incredible women whom I haven’t seen in years who pitched in to send us a totally unexpected sweet card and the gift of a night out together

you who’s going through something similar at the same time with the same doctors

you who’ve reminded me we’re not alone

you who’ve sent me messages saying you wish you could be more open about going through something like this without realizing how brave you are for even sharing that wish with me

you, the ones who know us better than anyone else, who let us cry when we need to and change the subject when we don’t want to talk about any of this

you who visit

you who can’t visit but still make it known that we’re on your minds

every last one of you who’s made this past year bearable and reminded us there are many good reasons to keep hoping and trying for a family. thank you.

 

 

To 2019

I don’t have much positive to say about 2018, but my hope is that in the years ahead, we’ll look back and see the lessons we learned and they’ll be valuable.

One lesson I’m already learning is how important it is to take care of yourself. I’m not sure I fully understood self-care as a real concept instead of just a buzzword before this year.

February and March were tough. I thought the news we got then was the toughest we’d face. I realize now it was just preparing us for even tougher days ahead — rather than a triumphant and quick recovery.

As the year got worse, I learned the real value of taking care of myself and the one other person who truly understands what’s happening in my heart and home.

I can’t really offer advice on how to handle tough stuff. I’m not an expert — in part because my life has been really pretty easy prior to 2018.

I am just taking everything day by day and some of those days are, admittedly, better than others.

I don’t know what everyone else should do. I only know what is working for me right now and what has worked over the past 12ish months.

Therapy — I’ve only been a few times so far, but I understood the value from the first appointment. I walked out feeling lighter, if for no other reason than just being able to say everything I needed to say to a total stranger. If you find a therapist that is a decent fit for your situation, there is much to be learned about what you’re going through and how it is affecting you. If the first therapist you try doesn’t make you feel comfortable enough to share where you really are, keep looking. Find one who does. Therapy is not something to be afraid or ashamed of. Therapy is good.

Embracing anger — This year I’ve discovered anger as a dominant emotion. That doesn’t sound good, but I’ve always been someone who didn’t use anger to its full potential and there can be value in anger. I don’t mean there’s value in hurting others with your anger, of course, but understanding the need to express it and finding healthy ways to do so is very important. Sometimes anger looks like me screaming at the top of my lungs in my car by myself and that’s cool, because damn, it feels good.

That said, learning how to express anger in a healthy way is an ongoing effort and sometimes I find myself getting uncontrollably angry over tiny things. I assume this isn’t all that unusual. Usually, in these moments, I try to say aloud what I’m angry about. If it’s truly ridiculous, I’ve learned I can laugh about it and re-evaluate.

Anger isn’t bad, if you know how to manage it.

Backing off of social media — This is a new one for me — very new. Just this week I deactivated Instagram and Facebook. It might seem like an obvious move to some people, but social media is a huge part of my job, so it took some finagling. I have a work Facebook account that isn’t friends with much of anyone. I kept it activated so I can manage my work pages. Other than that, I’m done on Facebook for a bit.

Instagram was more of a challenge, not because of work, but because I love Instagram. It’s aesthetically pleasing and it’s the one social outlet where I feel like people aren’t always fighting. For most of this year, I’ve made a habit of watching everyone’s Instagram stories at least once a day.

But Instagram isn’t a happy place for me anymore. It is a window into the best side of everyone’s life and when you don’t feel like you can handle the best of everyone else’s life, it can be brutal.

The thing is, it’s not everyone else’s responsibility to temper what they share because of what I’m going through. It’s not anyone else’s responsibility to make adjustments to accommodate me. It’s my responsibility to protect myself. So I’ve stepped away.

I’ve done it on social media and I’m going to start doing it in person when it’s necessary.

I’ve never lived in a space where I need to protect myself like this. It’s not natural for me and I don’t like it, but I recognize it’s necessary and good.

I’d love to look ahead to 2019 and think everything will be different and better. It’d be incredible everything was suddenly better at 12 a.m. Tuesday, but I don’t expect that and I have no reason to.

So my wish for 2019 is that we keep finding ways to learn and grow through this process and that we continue to forgive ourselves when the growing pains are just too much.

We tried again and it didn’t work

When we bought our house, it came with a swing set. We didn’t expect the previous owners to leave it, but I found it kind of charming when I got to the house on closing day. We were, after all, already trying to start a family.

I could picture our kids swinging and sliding a few dozen feet from our back deck.

Now it hurts when I look in our backyard. I want to take a sledgehammer to it and turn it into firewood after what we’ve been through since that day 16 months ago.

We quietly tried another round of IVF in late November/early December and we found out Monday that it didn’t work.

We don’t know why and probably won’t ever know why. It just didn’t take.

We’re heartbroken, though grateful that we didn’t get to the point of seeing another heartbeat. The grief this time is for our dwindling chances, not for a baby we were already getting to know.

I can’t explain how it feels to want so badly to have children and not be able to do so.

For every person telling me it will work out one day, I have at least 15 thoughts of “what if it doesn’t?” and “why should I believe that?”

I used to be an optimist. Maybe I still am somewhere under there, just not right now.

 

%d bloggers like this: