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.

 

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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:

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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

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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

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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

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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:

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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.

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.

 

Next steps

When we decided to be open about our fertility issues and share our story publicly, we did it for several reasons and we gave it a lot of consideration before pulling the trigger on that first post.

I am incredibly glad we did decide to share, for a number of reasons, but mostly because we both felt that there is value in sharing stories and showing people that these kinds of things can affect anyone.

Unsurprisingly, the toughest thing about sharing this process is having to share bad news.

It’s been about two months since we lost our baby.

Two months is a milestone I’ve looked forward to because two months was the time we were told me might be able to try again.

We love Speck. We will always love Speck. It is difficult to describe to anyone who hasn’t experienced pregnancy loss how it feels to love a baby that is growing in your (or your partner’s) body and to never actually meet that baby and see it grow into the dreams you have for him or her.

It’s not something that can really be understood by anyone who hasn’t been through it, I think, and that’s nobody’s fault. It’s just reality.

Still, I have countless friends and family who’ve shown up to support us in person, through the mail, through phone calls and messages. It’s been incredible the way we’ve been wrapped in love through this process.

If I’d have known the first try would end the way it did, maybe I would’ve hesitated to share this process. But knowing that hesitation, I’m glad I didn’t have a heads up.

I’m grateful that our instinct was to share, because I’m not sure I could’ve made it through this quietly. I know a lot of women do and I admit those women are stronger than I am, because I honestly feel like I needed every ounce of support we’ve been given and I am forever grateful to our loved ones who recognized that.

But I really didn’t start writing this with the intention of being reflective.

Because it’s been two months and, while we will forever love the baby we had for just a few weeks, we’ve reached the point where we’re able to move forward and try again.

My test results came back negative for the things our doctor thought might’ve caused the previous miscarriage. Our doctor seemed a little disappointed because he wanted more. He wanted a clinical answer. We didn’t really get that.

What we know is that Speck was genetically normal and I don’t seem to have any underlying issues that might make pregnancy difficult to maintain.

A science mind would prefer to have something to fix. I’m just grateful to hear I’m relatively normal.

Now we have to assume the miscarriage was just something we’ll never explain, but also something we can set behind us as an independent issue that likely doesn’t foreshadow a repeat issue.

I feel good about that. I feel good about our chances. I feel less anxious than I was last time because I know the whole process that is ahead of me. I just feel good.

And as weird as it feels to say that, because my heart still aches for the baby we won’t meet, I’m grateful that I can say it.

So here’s where we are:

I’ve quit drinking alcohol (yep, no alcohol this holiday season, send me your best festive cocoa recipes!) and am cutting back on caffeine again (easy, because I really drink coffee for the ritual of drinking from a warm cup in my hand and I honestly don’t hate decaf). I’ve already started the medicines that are necessary before the transfer, though the shots won’t begin for a couple of weeks. On top of that, I’m also continuing to go to therapy and it is extremely helpful as I try to find ways to calm any anxiety that this round will go like the last. I can’t recommend therapy enough – for anyone going through anything or nothing at all.

In a few more weeks we will have an embryo transfer and then we just wait and hope and pray. I’m really looking forward to doing this during the holidays, because I am at peak joyful in November and December and holiday decorating and baking and family time are the perfect distractions for me.

Happy Thanksgiving, Merry [early] Christmas (don’t roll you eyes at me) and [non-alcoholic] cheers to good things ahead!

 

 

 

 

What’s next?

I’ve had a lot of people checking in and asking what’s next in this whole trying to have a baby process.

Thank you, by the way, to everyone who’s sent messages, mail, cards, care packages, texts, phone calls — we truly feel so loved and supported.

So here’s what’s up. Fertility doctors don’t like to rush you back into trying after you’ve had a d&c. While I’m naturally not a patient person, I’ve been really grateful for this break.

Since the d&c we’ve learned that Speck (the poor baby never grew past his or her ridiculous embryo nickname) didn’t have any genetic abnormalities, or at least not any of those they typically test for.

About 75% of miscarriages that happen in the time frame ours did are caused by a genetic abnormality. The other 25% tend to be caused by an issue with the mother or they just didn’t work out for a reason that will never be known.

Because our miscarriage followed a round of IVF, a lot of the things they would test me for have already been tested. That’s a good thing. We know my thyroid is normal and a lot of other big things that can cause pregnancy issues. The doctor is also extremely confident I’m not diabetic, so that’s good, but they did run a test for it as a precaution.

The other two big things they test for sound scary, but they’re actually not a big deal in normal life, only in pregnancy and they’re treatable — one is a clotting disorder and the other is an autoimmune issue that basically causes the body to kill off fetus cells because they’re viewed as an invasive species. Listen, if you’re a doctor reading this, just know this is how I’m remembering the descriptions as I heard them in an emotional state and my terminology may be off.

The bottom line here is both of those things can be treated. At least one of them would require daily shots in my stomach for the entirety of a pregnancy, but that honestly sounds so much easier now than it would have a few months ago.

I’ll find out in a few weeks whether I have either of those things. The doctor is leaning toward hoping that I do, because then he has answers. I’m sort of still hoping I don’t and the whole thing was just a fluke — I’m told it’s possible and I’d rather hear there’s nothing wrong with me.

Once we know those results, we’ll know if we should try the same route again or start thinking about other options. We’re 100% open to adoption and the other options on the table, but the fact is they all cost a lot of money, so we want to know everything we can about the entire processes before we make a decision.

Overall, it’s been up and down emotionally, but truly more up than down. Russ bounced back pretty quickly, but his challenge is dealing with my emotions. About six days a week I’m feeling good and positive, but there seems to be one day a week when I’m just devastated.

I’ve never dealt with grief and uncertainty like this and I’ve found myself angrier than I expected. I’ve noticed anger when I normally might be sad or just having a down day. Anger is not a very natural go-to emotion for me and not one I have a lot of experience in managing. The best thing we could think to do was look for outside help. So I’ve gotten hooked up with a therapist who I’ll start seeing next week and I’m honestly thrilled.

It will be great to find some tools for handling the down days and even better to not always lean on Russ to be the ultra-positive, supportive force that he will always try to be. He is so good at that, but this is his grief too and he shouldn’t have to carry it all.

Anyway, that’s a lot of rambling just to sort of get folks who’ve been following us up to speed.

We still very much want a family and we’re extremely hopeful for what’s ahead. Some days suck, for lack of a better description, but most days we do a lot of the usual laughing at each other’s cheesy jokes and going for runs together and just generally enjoying the great things we have in this life.

It’s okay for now. It’ll be even better someday.

Thanks for the love, really.

A week later

Last week when I said I was in the depths of darkness, I wasn’t being dramatic.

I didn’t see a way out of what I was feeling. I wanted to burn my life to the ground and disappear.

One of the things that scared me the most over the past several weeks was my mental health.

I’m not someone who struggles with mental health issues on a regular basis and I would never seek to minimize the experiences of do. I don’t pretend to know what that’s like and frankly I’m nowhere near as strong as my friends who fight this battle daily.

What I know is this was not my normal and it scared me.

There’s no correct way to handle grief, but I have to imagine a lot of how I was feeling in the days immediately following our baby’s death had to do with my massive hormonal changes and the medicine I was pumping into my body.

Over the past two months I was legitimately concerned about how I would react if this didn’t work out. Of course we wanted to be positive. Of course I had days when I truly believed my body, which has a long history of not letting me down, would again not let me down.

But then there were days when I thought a failed IVF cycle would lead me to do something unsafe or ill-advised – to run away or worse.

I did the only thing I knew to do when I felt this – I warned people around me. I told them I was afraid of what might happen or what I might do. And, to be totally honest, only two of those people seemed to really take me seriously.

Thankfully, one of them was Russ. Russ who gently reminded me I could run away, but I’d need to tell him where I was going so he could meet me.

When I said in my last post that I was in the depths of darkness after we lost Speck, I meant it. I was legitimately scared and lost and unsure how to handle it.

But I’m here a week later and a lot of the extra hormones have already worked their way out of my body – and I’m feeling more rational.

I no longer feel the need to burn my life to the ground or disappear.

I hurt.

My heart aches.

I’m afraid of the uncertainty of our chances going forward.

But I feel like I can face the grief.

This is not something I’d wish on anyone. More than that, this is not something I’d wish for anyone to go through alone.

We’ve chosen to share this experience for a number of reasons. Right now, it feels most important to me to be raw and honest in sharing our story because we won’t be the last people to go through this.

This may not even be the last time we go through it.

But it’s okay to not be okay. It’s normal to not be okay. And it’s important to let someone know you’re not okay.

We’ll always love our first baby.

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Since the beginning of this process, I’ve committed to sharing the ups and downs right here. This is raw, real and may be tough to read.

There are two other drafts of blog posts I wish I was sharing with you. One about the day we found out I was pregnant. One of a miscarriage scare at about 6 weeks that ended well.

Instead it’s this one.

I was almost 10 weeks pregnant and things looked hopeful. Somehow this complicated and draining process was working out for us on the first try, and thank god, because I don’t know how on earth we could try again anytime soon.

But those weeks were all we got.

We’ve spent the last seven days in “cautious optimism” with me playing the role of cautious and Russ playing the role of optimism.

We were told not to panic and to be cautiously optimistic last week because the sac and baby were measuring four days behind, but there was a strong heartbeat.

I’d been feeling so good. Symptoms were minimal outside of the pain from my daily shots.

It all ended today.

I knew the moment we saw the first glimpse of our baby on the grainy black and white screen that the heartbeat we’d seen was gone.

A baby we’d affectionately called speck (no idea why) since the day we got its first photo.

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We’ve fallen in love with this baby. I knew not to get too excited, but at almost 9 weeks and multiple ultrasounds showing heartbeats, I’d broken my own rule. I was starting to think about how we’d decorate a nursery and starting to argue about names (not Tom Brady). Speck was due on April 11.

Now I’m deciding when to schedule a procedure to have Speck, whom we’ve talked to and told we loved, removed from my body.

There is nothing anyone around us can say or do to make us feel better and I feel for those who have to try.

This is not a fixable situation.

My emotions are a wreck. Russ is devastated. People who’ve known about my pregnancy are lovingly checking in on me and I want to throw my phone at a wall and disappear – which is entirely unfair to the people who are reaching out because they love me, but dammit, that’s all I feel like I can handle right now.

Still, I can’t disappear. I have to go about my normal life and act like everything’s okay. I have to pretend like I’m not spending every second wondering why this is so damn hard for us – why we don’t get to live out the one thing we’ve both always dreamt of – and how we’re going to manage to do this again.

It’s a wildly expensive process, but it’s not about the money. We’ll move some funds around and make it work. I know there is a way we can make it happen.

Beyond the monetary costs, I don’t know how my body and mind can handle all of this again right now. I was supposed to do 67 intramuscular shots of progesterone. They’re painful – not every day. Sometimes they’re okay, but there are days when I can feel the pain radiating all the way down through my calf and I feel like I can’t use my entire leg because of it. I’ve taken unexpected days off from work because I simply couldn’t sit or stand for long periods of time.

I haven’t been able to run, despite being allowed to during pregnancy, because my body is too sore.

I was supposed to do 67 of those daily shots. I made it to 65 and then we learned the baby died.

My body isn’t ready to do it again.

My mind most certainly isn’t ready. I am in the depths of darkness. I can’t see anything positive around me except Russ and I want so badly to disappear. My biggest dream is to be a mom. My next biggest dream is to see Russ as a dad.

I need space. I need to know what I’ve done in life to not be able to have something that comes so easily to others.

I need to know why we only had a few weeks to live our dream.

We loved Speck. We will always love Speck. We’re just heartbroken.

And we love you all for walking with us through this and sending us love.

Real men

I recently saw a Facebook post that got me all kinds of riled up.

It shouldn’t have, because… well, it’s Facebook, but it did and I’m going to blame the meds and my emotionally charged state.

The post initially was about someone being annoyed when they see a woman pumping her gas while a man sits in the car.

I could’ve waved it right off as one of those “some people might be better off just staying in their own lane” type of posts, but I read the comments.

One of the sacred (I’m mostly kidding) rules of journalism is to never read the comments.

People were going off about men who do that not being real men. One person went so far as to say her dad walks over to men when he sees them doing that and preaches to them about it.

Y’all.

I have to admit something.

Russ doesn’t always pump my gas for me.

I also have to admit that I’ve been guilty in the past of wishing he would always offer.

But he doesn’t.

And really why does he have to? He always pumps gas when he drives. I never offer to do it for him. Like him, I’m a perfectly capable adult. Heck, thanks to South Carolina’s extremely lax license rules, we probably got our driver’s license in the same year, so I’m betting we’ve been pumping our own gas for the same amount of time.

He doesn’t always pump my gas for me and it really is fine, but those “not a real man” comments had me some kind of fired up.

For over six months we’ve been going through the toughest thing we’ve ever faced and that’s just since we enlisted the help of fertility specialists. In that time, well, I honestly can’t even tell you all of the awful stuff Russ has held my hand through. It’s just too personal.

He’s seen and learned things about a woman’s body that I would’ve expected to make him, at the very least, cringe. And even if he has internally cringed, he’s never once shown it to me.

There are things about womanhood that are pretty easy to keep to yourself when you’re going through the normal patterns of life. But when stuff hits the fan in the fertility department, a whole lot of that privacy goes away pretty quickly and embarrassment becomes a bit of a lost cause.

Still, he’s never made me feel like this whole process was anything less that worth it.

The man even let doctors open up his most delicate part of his body so we could find out if he would even be able to have kids.

On top of all of that, he’s picked up even more than his usual share of cleaning around the house and he’s started cooking more dinners.

He got over his own fear of needles and blood so he could give me the daily shots that I can’t easily give myself.

He constantly checks on me to see how I’m feeling and if I just need a break.

And he’s reminded me time and time again that we don’t have to do this if it’s too hard, that he’d be okay with using a donor if I want to go through the physically easier process of insemination rather than IVF.

If that’s not a real man, then I’m not even sure I want one.

And a fair warning to the preaching type: The first person who walks up to our car to preach to Russ for not pumping my gas is likely to be the first person I’ve ever punched.

Hormones, people. Ugh.

When I started the medications for the retrieval part of the IVF process my brother joked that I was going to be a bit of an emotional challenge.

It’s not an off-the-wall prediction to say that pumping extra hormones into your body might make your brain react in weird ways.

I actually braced myself for this in those first few weeks. I fully expected to be kind of an emotional handful for those around me. I was pleasantly surprised. Aside from what I believe to be very reasonable fears that the process might not work out, I actually felt pretty mentally stable. It was nice.

Of course, my brother didn’t necessarily believe me when I told him that I never really felt out of my norm. I believe his exact words were “I’ll see what Russ says about it”. That’s fair and it’s also not an unexpected response from a sarcastic brother.

As it turns out, this process I’m in now is ripe for the mental meltdown. I’m taking what feels like a boatload of estrogen – granted, I have no real concept of how much estrogen is normal and how what I’m adding compares – but this feels like a lot.

I’ve been on it for a few days now. It started with two pills a day. I’m now up to seven pills a day.

And I’m noticing.

This week has already been extremely emotional. We have some big changes coming over the next few days as our best buds move away followed by more great friends moving away a few days after that.

I’m not handling any of it well.

To put it lightly: I’m a wreck. I cried when I saw the U-Haul in our friends driveway three days before their actual move. I’ve cried because my body looks and feels different to me right now. I almost cried while Russ and I were running yesterday. I’m tearing up while writing this.

I said when I started sharing this stuff that I would be as honest as possible about the ups and downs. There’ve been a lot of ups. I have to believe that our experience so far has been about as good as it possibly could be. It’s funny how quickly we went from feeling this whole situation is wildly unfair to celebrating the little victories – perspective matters and ours has shifted like crazy over the past few months.

We’ve had a trend of getting better than expected news from each step of the process. It’s been great – kind of like winning the slowest heat in the 100m great –  but still, pretty great.

There are downs. This week is quite clearly one of the low points. I feel physically great, but I’m overly emotional about everything and that’s hard on me and even tougher on Russ.

I’m currently trying to reel it in because the last thing an embryo needs is to try to make a home in a stressed out body. Running helps. Little things like Russ cleaning the kitchen and turning on Jeopardy without my prompting help. Messing around in our garden helps. The new baby birds who just hatched in our yard help. Unexpected text messages from friends who are just checking in help.

We’re getting really close to the end of the first attempt at this whole process. I felt like a superhero during the first part. Giving myself shots without much hesitation really boosted the ol’ ego.

Of course, if you know me well, you know the fact that my emotions are the biggest challenge of this journey makes absolutely perfect sense.

If you’re the praying type, prayers help. Prayers for staying calm and positive and, if it feels appropriate to you, prayers that this whole thing works out. We’re so ready to love on a baby.

July is here

I haven’t had much to share in a few weeks because June has been a much-needed and much-appreciated break from all things IVF.

IVF is hyper-personalized. For a lot of couples one IVF cycle happens a lot faster than ours has. It is most common to do a fresh transfer. A fresh transfer means embryos are transferred into the uterus within just a few days of the egg retrieval.

For an impatient person, that sounded like the best option, but according to our doctors who know the ins and outs of this process and have much more educated insight into what we actually need, that just wasn’t the right fit for us.

I’m becoming more convinced every day that this whole process is a way of kicking my butt so that I finally learn how to be at least a little patient. I am notoriously impatient. It’s one of my worst qualities.

In our particular situation, it was recommended that we do a frozen transfer. We have chosen to trust the doctor recommendations throughout this process, despite some of our friends and family’s best efforts to convince us there might be a better way (hey, we know it comes from a place of love).

Honestly, outside of my impatient self not wanting to wait several extra weeks to see if this all worked, we never really doubted that frozen was the best option for us.

A month ago we didn’t know if we would have a shot at having Russ’s kids. That alone was a good reason to wait a few extra weeks. Otherwise, if his operation had gone differently, we might’ve found out on a Wednesday that we needed to use donor sperm and by Monday or Tuesday that baby could already be cooking.

That didn’t turn out to be an issue, but looking back on this month of just relaxing and living like normal, I am grateful that our doctors suggested we wait.

June has been a gift. I started running again a few weeks ago and I’ve been able to enjoy some beer and wine. We took a little trip to Raleigh with some of our best friends. We had a great visit with Russ’s Aunt Sharon. We finished our bedroom floors! We started using our pool membership. I celebrated a bachelorette weekend with some of my favorite family members. Did I mention running? It’s amazing what it does for my mood.

Honestly, if you never opened up our fridge in June to see the half empty tubes of Gonal-F and bottles of hormones shoved in the door next to our milk, you might never know what we were up to in May.

If you didn’t look in the box full of the half dozen meds and accompanying syringes necessary for the next part of the process, you might never know that our July is going to be the total opposite of June.

I start taking meds again on the 5th and I’ll start injections later in the month. This time around Russ is going to have to learn how to administer them, so that should be an adventure of its own.

On top of that, several of our good friends are moving away in July – SEVERAL. We’ve spent most of June pretending all of this wasn’t really happening, but it is and it’s going to be tough.

A few years ago I watched a movie called ‘Conception’. I don’t remember much about it, but I keep thinking about Connie Britton’s character and her husband who had to give her some sort of fertility shots in her booty. At the time, it was funny because it was an awkward situation.Now it’s funny in a dark humor, this is too real, try not to hate Russ every time he sticks me with a needle kind of way.

July is going to be emotional, to say the least, but I think June was exactly the break we needed to collect ourselves and get ready to move forward with the process. Plus there are so many things to get worked up about this month that I don’t know where to start. I think that’s going to work in my favor.

Here’s to July and to hoping it works out the way everything else has so far.

Annapolis

I don’t know what to say about what happened in an Annapolis newsroom yesterday.

We don’t know full details about a motive, but reliable sources report he had history with the paper after a story was written about him years ago.

We don’t know his exact motive for acting on that anger yesterday — we don’t know what fueled the violence years after his run-in with the paper.

But we do know there are people actively cheering on social media over journalists being killed. We know there are tweets saying journalists aren’t humans and this is what they deserve.

I know what it’s like to huddle in the smallest room in a news building because a threat has been phoned in and I know what it’s like to walk past posters taped to walls and doorways showing the face of a man who should not be let into the building.

“Call police if you see this man on the premises.”

Threats and vitriol are delivered to newsrooms daily by mail, email, Facebook, Twitter and phone call.

That’s been the case for decades, but I’ve watched it get worse over the past couple of years.

So many people have told me when people in power speak badly about journalists, they mean the big guys — the CNNs or the NYTimes. They don’t mean local journalists serving the communities in which they live.

I was told I was taking it too personally when I was upset with the words our President used to describe journalists.

I was made to believe this couldn’t happen to a journalist like me; someone who covers feature stories and things that, by and large, make people happy.

That was wrong.

This wasn’t the big guys, not that they deserve to die any more than the rest of us — they don’t.

This was a newsroom at a newspaper of a similar size to the one I work for in a city that is comparable to my own.

These were people working at their desks just trying to meet their deadline on a normal Thursday.

Earlier this week I listened as our President came to South Carolina and pointed at my friends and colleagues working a long day to cover his visit and called them “the enemy of the people” in a room of thousands. And it hurt me. I can’t lie about that. It bothered me. But it comes with the territory these days and I’m often told I need a thicker skin.

That is, in some ways, a fair critique.

But if a gunman comes into my newsroom with the intent to kill indiscriminately, it won’t matter that I generally write stories about good things happening in our community like development or the graduation ceremony of a young woman with a severe handicap whose parents thought they wouldn’t get to see her grow past age three or four, and it sure as hell won’t matter how thick my skin is.

It will only matter that 12 years ago I decided on a career path that would make people hate me enough — without ever speaking to me in person– to end my life.

My heart is with everyone in the capital-gazette newsroom who not only lost people they care for, but had to watch the violence happen and with the families who won’t get to speak with their loved ones again.