Birthday perfection

  

T’s seventh birthday just happened & the celebrations included a small party for his cousins & friends. 

The party was on a Saturday afternoon & the Friday before (while still at the office), I found myself wondering… Why do working parents plan Saturday parties… Stupid, stupid, stupid… (Palm meeting forehead.)

But on the train ride after work (going to meet MFA Dad & T at the grocery store for party supplies) I tried to give myself some grace…

“Perfection is not the goal here.”

I repeated my new, impromptu (& very necessary) mantra to myself while making the grocery list & listening to Beach House. Zone out time. 

We picked up frozen pizzas, I found a flour mix to make nut- & gluten-free guests happy (& safe), some healthy-ish snack for the goodie bag & voila, shopping was done & we all headed home. Already exhausted! 

T helped me make the cupcakes & we tidied the house. 

“Perfection is not the goal here.” 

That meant cleaning only one bathroom & not sweeping. It meant minimal decorations, including last year’s slightly torn plastic Star Wars table “cloth.” (Also, technically, there are two Star Wars stickers on the front door from last year’s party that we haven’t bothered to remove…) It meant trying to just get to bed instead of staying up all night readying the house & food. 

After all, this was a small party. Kind of impromptu & definitely planned a bit more last minute than I had intended. I didn’t once look to Pinterest for inspiration. 

Because fuck Pinterest. 

I mean, is there any worse place on the Internet for a working mom? If you can’t get enough of crafting & you truly enjoy planning children’s parties, more power to you! Rock on! But for us mere mortals, really, Pinterest is the worst. 

I’ve been there… I just want to find a few simple ideas. Guess what? There are no simple ideas on Pinterest. Two years ago I found myself drawing mini-fig faces on bright yellow paper cups as guests started arriving for a Lego-themed party. Even that taxed my crafting capabilities! Yeah, I learned my lesson. As a working lawyer, I’d have to start crafting next year’s party now to be done in time.

Even with these concessions, I still imagined piping the frosting onto the cupcakes. But that dream was short-lived… As the clock creeped toward party time, the thought of taking out my unopened, untouched cake decorating kit made my stomach turn a little. That I had made the frosting at all was a miracle. It was delicious (seriously! … every kid licked off all the frosting, even if they didn’t all finish their cupcakes) & that’s what mattered. (FYI, awesome frosting recipe is here & it uses honey instead of powdered sugar… Yes, sugar is sugar, but I prefer the less processed kind when I can & there was plenty of the granulated kind in the cupcakes themselves anyway… I am not a purist.)

Ok, so I slathered on the frosting & called it a day! Phew! (See Exhibit A above: sloppy but yummy cupcakes. Plus my “sample.”)

In truth, I love simple birthday parties at home. Even though they’re chaotic & kind of tortuous. But really, why do children need anything more? 

“Perfection is not the goal here” … A bit of fun & celebration, that’s the goal. And a kid’s birthday party is such a whirlwind anyways, that no one will notice the tear in the recycled table cloth or the messy cupcakes or the used Star Wars figures in the goodie bags. 

Our birthday boy felt honored & celebrated & that’s all he needed for his special day. I, on the other hand, need another weekend to recover from even this simple birthday party!

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Filed under Food, Living, Mothering, Parenting, Simplicity, Working

Mother Birthday(s)… Blah, blah, blah…

   
Since starting this blog, I have written yearly on the anniversary of T’s due date, which happened to be exactly 2 weeks before he arrived into my arms. Well, I missed not only his due date this year but his actual birthday, too. (On this blog anyway … I missed writing about his birthday because we were busy planning & celebrating his birthday, so no time to write about it!)

To be honest, I didn’t even notice his due date anniversary this year (which I’ve treated as my own mother anniversary here & here & here & etc.). Partly because I was traveling for work & expending all of my mental energy on that. But I also think I missed it for a couple of other reasons, the first & biggest being the passage of time.

T turned 7 this year. S-E-V-E-N! 

It has always been his birthday, but in the past I’ve also felt like his birthing was a moment of becoming for me, too. Being a mother has changed me in so many ways, and I’ve wanted an outlet for celebrating that. The anniversary of his due date has been that outlet for me. A moment to reflect on how far I’ve come as a parent & a woman. A time to nod at my entrée into motherhood, and wonder at how much has happened in & to my inner life. 

But now T is an honest to goodness individual. With interests & friendships & struggles & triumphs all his own. His independence is growing exponentially. As is his personality & inner life.

This season is so much less about me than it is about him. That pregnancy, labor & birth are starting to fade in my mind’s ever-shifting landscape.

He will still hold my hand across the seats in the car. He will still (sometimes) fall asleep in my arms. 

But the seeds of separation are there. He doesn’t always want me as his playmate. He sometimes asks to be left alone. He is more interested in trying out activities outside the house. 

In short, he’s dipping his toes in the world of independence. 

In my heart, we will always be intertwined, but I know that I have to get used to the idea that our paths will slowly part in the future. I just hope that he will always know how to find his way back to me when he needs to. (Great… there I go making myself cry as I write this on the train…)

So as my parenting goals shift, so do my feelings around T’s birthday. I’m just grateful for every new year I get to spend with him, physically & in spirit. It’s still nice to be able to reflect on the journey of motherhood, but sometimes it’s more delicious to simply step back & reflect on the young life taking shape before me. 

I mentioned there’s at least one more reason I missed T’s due date anniversary this year & that’s because I have another due date on my mind. Another small person will (hopefully) be joining our family this summer. That’s right! Mom, JD & MFA Dad have finally hit the “sperm meets egg” jackpot & the tiny one seems to be aiming to stick around this time. I still have my doubts, but there will always be doubts. For now, I’m looking forward to this new due date! Of course, even this pregnancyhasn’t been easy, but that’s a post for another day. 

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Choosing peace (finally!)

  

It’s my birthday! And it’s a beautiful fall day. So, I thought I’d post something uplifting, if not entirely light. 

I have a number of light posts I’m working on, but there aren’t enough hours in the day & there definitely isn’t enough horsepower in my brain to get them all out. I’m trying though! And with that, here’s what I hope is my last miscarriage post for a while…

***

Is it possible to occupy two mental states at one time, even though they seem to be in complete opposition with each other?

Trying but not striving. Sadness & joy. Disappointment & gratitude. Hope but not desire. 

I don’t know, but I hope the answer is “yes.” I believe it is. At least, I’m  trying!

I’ve been walking the road of trying to conceive & miscarriage & heartbreak for almost two years now. All of this has taken its toll on me, my relationships, my family. 

I’ve decided I’ve had enough. 

We are not going to give up. In fact, we are about to ratchet up our efforts. 

But I’m choosing peace. 

Finally. I am choosing peace. I don’t quite know how, but I know that I can be at peace with the now. I can stop the maddening up & down emotional roller coaster. 

After all, “now” isn’t so bad. I am healthy (even if something isn’t quite working right). I have a beautiful little family & an awesome partner. My family & friends are supportive & loving. We have a comfortable home & abundant food. We even manage to have some fun, even if it does sometimes feel like there is less joy lately. 

Do I wish we could have a second child? Yes! Do I wonder what’s wrong, what’s preventing us from carrying a baby to term? Hell, yes!

But I have been lucky in love & in life. As my dad often says, even when things are difficult, “life is good.”

Because even when life isn’t good, maybe it is. 

And there’s the proof that I can feel, & be, two conflicting things at once. It’s so clear when I pause to observe my life right now. In this very moment…

Life is good, even when it isn’t. There is nothing lacking, even though my heart has room for more. 

It has taken me a long time (& a lot of emotional & spiritual work) to get to this point. A point where I can choose peace & joy over sadness & anger. 

It has been well over a year since my first miscarriage & in that time I have lived an existence where every time I got my period felt like a miscarriage of sorts. That is the emotional pain I have been living with just about every month. A bitter disappointment & an emptiness. Yet another denial of what I so desired with a feeling in my gut more powerful than anything I have felt before.

Of course, that desire is at the heart of the problem. My initial error was in mistaking an openness for desire. I see that now (thanks to much introspection & meditation & discussions with MFA Dad & my therapist).  

I cannot go back in time (in fact, I think I needed to walk that path to get to today), but I can correct my error. I am open to more children, but I am committed to the child I have. I am committed to my partner. I am committed to my family, my friends, my community. I am committed to myself. Right now.

Because, truly, there is nothing lacking. 

In fact, there is abundance. And even on this often painful journey, I have discovered more. More love, more thoughtfulness, more spirit, more empathy, more compassion, more gratitude. Maybe even more joy.  

Once I decided to get off the rollercoaster (& really, not only is a roller coaster full of unexpected ups & downs… it is also a loop that takes you exactly nowhere), I was able to pause. Take a deep breath. Get my bearings. 

Making a plan has helped enormously. As has taking a break from the whole baby project. 

Just living life, with all that entails. Being happy. Losing my temper. Yard work. Hugs. Rainy days. Sunny mornings. Meditating. Doing yoga. Skipping the yoga. Cooking. Kisses. Being tired. Watching Louis (C.K.). 

I am alive today. The sun is shining. My son gave me a booklet of division problems for my birthday. I have treats for my coworkers in my backpack. 

Life is good. 

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I am angry, hear me roar! (Or, yet another emotional reaction to miscarriage & infertility)

  

NB: I wrote most of this about a month ago & am in a very different place today. Still, I want to share this post because it’s the truth of my journey in dealing with recurrent miscarriages & secondary infertility. … Also, I promise I have other posts in the works on parenting & mothering & the other things I used to write about!

***

When I was pregnant just before the second miscarriage, I found a maternity t-shirt on clearance at Target. I had already seen & heard my fetus’s glorious heartbeat. I was approaching the end of the first trimester. My clothes were fighting to hide my slowly expanding waistline. 

So I bought it. 

I picked it up & put it back on the rack several times. It was still too early to buy up a maternity wardrobe. I knew that. I wasn’t naïve, having already lost one pregnancy at 11 weeks, so tantalizing close to that first milestone (a milestone marking the end of the early, highly-uncertain weeks of pregnancy).

But it was just one little t-shirt. And only a few bucks. 

Just a few days later, we painfully learned there was no more heartbeat. Another pregnancy lost. 

Since the time I bought & washed it, that t-shirt has sat unused in a drawer, along with some other miscellaneous clothing, between socks & cloth pads. 

Every time I opened that drawer (which is a lot) I would think of that damned t-shirt. It came to represent what I had so wanted but lost. I would bury it a little deeper into the drawer, under more clothing until I had pushed it to the back. I couldn’t see it, yet I felt it’s presence. Hanging onto it was both an act of hope & a form of self-torture. 

Recently, after yet another failed cycle (following close on the heels of what I suspect but cannot confirm was another chemical pregnancy followed by swift miscarriage) I snapped. And I took it out on the t-shirt. 

I dug it out of the drawer & I tore it to shreds. With my bare hands. Not literally shreds, but I destroyed it in a fit of primal rage. 

I didn’t know what else to do. 

I am not proud of that moment, but I am coming to accept that I am (or have been & might be again) angry. I had not yet admitted to my anger because I frankly don’t feel I should be angry or have a right to my anger—life isn’t fair & I know I can lay no more claim to wish fulfillment than any other poor soul alive. 

Plus, I don’t want to be angry. I am afraid of anger. Sadness, disappointment, grief, fear—these emotions feel acceptable, even familiar. But not anger. Anger is scary. 

Plus, what to do about it?! I can’t punch walls (for a number of reasons, not least of which is “ouch!”) & I don’t have any more maternity clothes to destroy. 

But there is no denying it. When I realized that I was not pregnant after yet another month of doing everything “right,” I fell into a tailspin of anger. 

It doesn’t matter that I recognize all the good & beauty & happiness in my life. It doesn’t matter that I know how lucky I am in so many ways. Heck, it doesn’t matter that I have come so far in reconciling with my lot (& I think I have come a far way!) or that I now have numerous tools to help me.

Sometimes, none of that matters. Because I’m still angry. Angry over the losses. At the missed years of fertility taken for granted. Angry over the fact that my life has been a blur for over 1 1/2 years, most of it clouded by thoughts & emotions related to trying & failing to have another child. 

I don’t know how to handle my anger when it rises. I’m working on that (though I can thankfully report that hugs from MFA Dad + sleep seem to help!) but I’m still freaked out by it all.

What did I do in the moment? I did everything one is not supposed to do to try to push those feeling of anger down: I went shopping & bought things I really don’t need (including a 5-pack of scissors!), I (quickly) drank a pint of beer, & I almost ate a pint of ice cream (thankfully MFA Dad saved me from myself before I finished). Plus, the aforementioned t-shirt raging. 

I can thankfully (& honestly) say that I have never done those things before, at least not as a purely emotional coping mechanism. 

Ironically, I’m supposedly in the middle of a Whole30, that obnoxious, self-righteous (but popular) paleo-reset diet where you eat no dairy, sugar, grains, legumes, or artificial additives & consume no alcohol for 30 days. I was doing so well on it, too, just getting to a point where I wasn’t missing the sugar (with my normal brain, at least) & feeling that it was going to help me “prepare my body for pregnancy” (yep, been “preparing” my apparently very unprepared body for over 2 years now… but I’m continually convinced that I can need to do more…).

So much for that Whole30! (Though after giving myself some time & grace, I actually found my way back on the wagon & completed it. I’m too darn stubborn to not finish what I start.) 

So aside from binge consumption of all the things, I am quietly contemplating what anger is & means to me & for me. With some distance & objectivity, I am no longer recoiling from the fact that I’m angry. I may not like it, but I am entitled (doomed?) to experience the whole range of human emotions, especially when it comes to recurrent miscarriage & failed fertility. 

It helps that my core tribe did not look at me like I had three heads when I told them about the episode. They didn’t even turn away from me. 

I honestly don’t know what I will do the next time I feel that surge of anger rising within me. I wish I could say with confidence that I’ll breathe & return to a calmer state. I’m not there yet. 

Maybe I’ll punch my pillow. Maybe I’ll rip up the weeds & dead plants in the garden. For me, for now, it’s all so physical & I have to make peace with that. I don’t think it will always be that way—it’s not easy but I’m on the right path. 

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If the dress fits: Or, learning to love my post-miscarriage body

As if the grief of miscarriage hasn’t been enough to tackle, I’ve also had to face some fierce body-image goblins on this journey.

Failure.

That has been my over-arching view of my own body over the past year. It’s been an unfortunate theme that has proven a powerful adjunct to grief.

Oh, body, how have you failed me? Let me count the ways…

Failure to grow a small human. (Isn’t that what my body is built for?! … At least in part…) Failure to recognize a non-viable pregnancy & evict. (Twice!) Failure stop pretending I’m pregnant. (Waking to pee in the middle of the night isn’t fun… It’s even less fun when you’re not pregnant & end up an anxious insomniac…) Failure to return to normal. (I swear those jeans fit me last month!)

For me, the grief over my first pregnancy loss morphed into a strange & painful hatred of my own body. My body felt empty & yet it loomed large in my psyche. Every day my body reminded me that I wasn’t pregnant. Mostly, because I didn’t fit in my regular clothes anymore.

My belly popped right before my loss, which was fine when I was pregnant. But it didn’t seem to want to pop back in when that pregnancy was over.

Also, I had simply gained weight. When I’m pregnant, I get the brand of morning sickness that demands regular snacks. (Counterintuitively, when I’m hungry, I feel nauseous.) And, of course, I can’t forget all the comfort food & drink I consumed in my post-miscarriage depression.

And voilà, none of my pre-pregnancy/pre-miscarriage clothes fit. Every time I attempted to squeeze into a pair of jeans I was reminded of the multiple ways my body was disappointing me.

I felt I didn’t fit my body, both mentally & physically. My brain said my body should be doing one thing (building a small person) but it refused & rebelled, to boot.

In fact, I think I’ve experienced all five stages of grief, but directed at my body: denial, anger, bargaining, depression & acceptance.

How to get to acceptance? That’s been my struggle. The denial, anger, bargaining & depression? … I’ve got those covered.

No matter what my body does or does not do, I’m stuck with it. This body that is repeatedly fucking up the whole baby-making thing. This body that has made me angry. This body that has seemed so inadequate lately.

So how do I return to homeostasis in terms of body acceptance after multiple miscarriages?

To be honest, I didn’t learn to love my body after my first miscarriage. And it’s still a work in progress, though I am getting there.

Once we were going to try again to get pregnant after that first miscarriage, I went through the motions. I took my prenatal vitamin & other “healthy” supplements. I ate a healthful diet. I exercised, though not often, and definitely not fast or hard enough to make a difference. I cut back on alcohol, caffeine & chocolate, all of which I indulged in heavily after miscarriage #1.

But I hated my body. We were not on speaking terms.

It had betrayed me & the only way it could make things right was to sustain a healthy pregnancy.

Then came the next pregnancy. I tried to be cautious but I was gleeful. Still, I didn’t feel I could completely trust my body. I kept my distance.

Heartbeat. No heartbeat. That was the end of that.

More frustration. More weight. More. That miscarriage was just more.

It was a serious physical recovery, that one. I felt helpless & weak & defeated.

But I was also more aware of my grief & what I needed. And I realized I needed to get my body & my mind back together.

I was meditating often. MFA Dad slowly encouraged me to return to yoga, which I was practicing regularly when I was pregnant but dropped like a hot potato when I miscarried.

The local yoga studio does not run a yoga for miscarriage class. (Though they totally should & I think I will suggest it. It would be amazing & beautiful!) So, naturally, I turned to the Internet. I found a lot of “yoga for fertility,” which was not what I needed at the moment, though I wanted nothing more. I needed to heal first. Me. Just me.

Then I discovered Erin McDonald. And she basically changed my life. Seriously, if you’re reading this & you’ve recently miscarried & you’re at all inclined to yoga, check out this woman’s sweet yoga sequence & loving voice.

With Erin’s help (I feel like I’m on a first-name basis with her because she helped me so much when I was recovering from miscarriage #2…) I sat quietly with my body for some weeks. It wasn’t a fast or magical cure-all, but I slowly reconnected with my body.

And I didn’t hate it nearly as much.

After all, my body had miscarried naturally twice, at home. I needed no interventions. I knew that was no small thing. My body carried on its grievous task with dignity. It knew what to do.

There’s also the fact that, if I’m brutally honest, my body saved me & my family future heartache. Something was wrong with those pregnancies & instead of sustaining a non-viable pregnancy, my body hit the eject button (albeit too slowly).

I was finally able to thank my body for all that.

Even if I had needed some intervention, the fact that our bodies recover at all is gratitude-worthy.

And the rest? Well, there’s something to be said for learning to live with our bodies no matter what they decide to do or not do.

They’re not really us after all. In the human body, microorganisms outnumber human cells by 10 to 1. Though microorganisms are smaller than most human cells, this means that the overwhelming majority of cells in our bodies are not us. Plus, all those cells are stardust.

I am more than just my body. Or maybe I am more with my body. Whatever it is, apparently we’re stuck together for this lifetime. Whether or not my body ever produces another human, it is a miracle …  I’ve got to learn to live with it … it is a miracle!

Besides, it’s not as if I sincerely believe that having babies is my bodies sole function. (Hello! I have a career. I have a full life. Heck! I was really happy with just one child for several years!) So, even if having another baby has been my sole obsession for almost two years, I have to try to remember all the other cool stuff my body is up to.

After miscarriage #2, I let my mom take me shopping. I resisted at first. I dislike shopping on a good day & these were not good days. But it was actually really important for my healing.

It was nothing special or exciting. Just a chain discount store. Just a few pieces.

Except these clothes fit. They were made of happy colors. I looked good.

And when I got home, I started clearing my closet & drawers, purging the clothes that no longer fit. I’m not the same person, so why pretend?

Well, I’m still me… Just not quite me!

P.S. What helped you reconnect with your body following miscarriage(s)? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or at momjdblog at gmail. And if you’ve been down this unfortunate road or are going through it right now, I’m so very sorry. I would like to hear more about how my posts on miscarriage can be supportive!

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Take time to be a … today!

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I’m not going to be a total Negative Nelly here because (a) the picture is cute & (b) the truth is some men still struggle with their roles as fathers.

But so do some women.

Yet, can you imagine the backlash if the government posted an ad with a woman playing catch (or engaged in any stereotypically male gendered activity) with her son with the slogan “Take time to be a mom today”?!

Some of us would react by charging that’s what we do most days already! Some (most?) would cry that we are stretched so thin & do what we can when we can. Some would throw up their hands because life can be hard.

Still… As hard as I work as a mother I can use this sort of message every now & again. And seeing a non-gendered version of this ad would be welcome, especially as I wait for my train home after work & prepare to shift into family mode.

Because what is really important to my son is that I engage in his activities every so often. Not my idea of how we should spend our time together. And I know it doesn’t take much. Even just a few minutes, a few times a week to build or play actively together is really important to him. It’s also really hard for me, especially right after work.

As much as our society thinks women (specifically mothers) are nature’s caregivers, even we need a reminder now & then.

At least I do!

“Mom, let’s build Legos.” “Mom, let’s play Star Wars.” “Mom, let’s play soccer.” Etc. 

I wish I could say it always sounds fun, but that shit is hard after commuting-working-commuting. It’s hard without a long commute or long hours, as MFA Dad can attest.

Which brings me to the more troubling gendered aspect of this ad. 

I’ve been projecting my own positive spin on this up until now… To me the image tells me to take time to play with my child today.

But really, the words say to be a dad. Period. No one reminds women to be moms, even in the most basic sense.

Yet here we are in 2015, reminding dads to be dads

I think the ad is aimed at a different demographic (this guy is a WWF fighter/actor/performer…) & unfortunately there are plenty of dads (& moms) who need to be prompted to be parents & to not harm their children by abusing, abandoning, neglecting, or otherwise shirking their parental duties.
But even in my own cohort (where dads tend to be more present in their children’s lives) I often encounter the idea that dads are foolish oafs & that mother knows best. The subtext to this thinking & the ad is that a father parenting is the exception rather than the rule. 

Not only is it not true, it sets us back about 60 years. Language matters, folks, & we should know better.

I see posts about “daddy daycare” on Facebook. I hear comments about fathers “babysitting.” Moms joke that dad almost got it right but just doesn’t have that motherly je ne sais quoi.

Guess what? That thing some call “daycare” or “babysitting” is actually just parenting when performed by a father. Daycare professionals, nannies & babysitters are awesome, important people, but those terms refer to people who provide care to children for money. They do not refer to parents, who are legally obligated to care for their children & who we generally like to think have bonds closer than money or the law can create.

And dads are awesome at this whole parenting thing when given the opportunity. When we moms don’t denigrate their efforts. When we give them space to develop their skills. When we support them when they fear they’re messing it up.

Sure, one person in a co-parenting couple may do more of the hands-on parenting work over time, but that doesn’t change the fact that both co-parents parent. It’s not a full-time or a part-time thing. It’s not a creeper or a hobby. When mom or dad is at work, they’re still parenting. When mom or dad is engaged in childcare duties, it’s just parenting.

By designating dad as “the babysitter,” we undersell the role & reinforce gender stereotypes. We manipulate & limit expectations. And I believe this has real consequences for our families, our relationships & our communities.

When dads don’t have to be parents, moms continue to take on an unfair share of parenting duties. When dads are occasional babysitters, moms drop out of the workforce.  When daddy daycare is all we expect, women (& men) are deprived of real choices regarding family life.

It sounds cute, but these descriptors of fatherhood stifle the conversations around more equal parenting & work-life balance. They end up shaping our realities whether we mean them to or not.

Not to mention the fact that all this gendered talk is particularly obnoxious to families with less conventional configurations. For families where mom is the primary breadwinner, for families with two dads, for single dads, this is cringe-worthy talk that keeps dads awkwardly on the sidelines at the playground or at parent-school associations.

When dads are just parents, they don’t need to be reminded to be dads (even if, just like moms, they might need to be reminded to engage in imaginative play every once in a while). And moms don’t need to make excuses for them or belittle them. 

If we can change the conversation, we might just be able to change attitudes toward parenthood. This requires not judging our co-parenting partners (if we have them). And it requires changing the way we talk about parenting.

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Third time’s a charm… until it’s not…

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Small impromptu family shrine featuring Jizo Bodhisattva, guardian of children & travellers.


(Warning: This post contains swearing. It’s also depressing. And maybe there’s some inappropriate humor. Or irreverent dealing with grief. Oh, and you might be grossed out. Did I mention it’s sad & depressing? Ok, you’ve been warned.)

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to write about the challenges we’ve faced in the last year & I just can’t figure out the perfect “angle”… But it’s pretty much occupied my mind & I need to write about it… So I’ll just out with it…

As of this this May, I have been pregnant three times in the past 365 days. As of this May, I have miscarried just as many times.

When I started writing this post, I was newly pregnant again… But now I’m not.

So… MFA Dad & I appear to be on some maddening, never-ending quest… or in a horror movie where the idiot poor victims-to-be get themselves cornered in a house they could have fled from earlier but now can’t escape.

Unlike the never-ending quest, I know that one day this chapter in our lives will end. Unlike the bad horror movie, I don’t know how it will end. I can, however, narrow the possibilities. Our story will most likely end in one of three ways: (1) with another child (yippee!), (2) without another child we decide to quit this game of heartache roulette (gee, I really hope not!), or (3) I hit menopause (kind of joking…).

Which is to say that this is not a post where I wax poetic about my difficult path with one hand while cradling my miracle baby in the other. Of course, there is reason to be (guardedly) hopeful: At least one study has shown that around 70% of women who have had between 3 & 13 miscarriages eventually carry to term, even with no interventions. (Taken from page 48 of the amazing book, Coming to Term: Uncovering the Truth About Miscarriage, by Jon Cohen.)

But for now, percentages are meaningless the more I seem to defy the majority & I don’t know into which camp I will ultimately fall (the 30% or the 70%). So, just as the first signs of a possible miscarriage (a bit of blood, an absence of those annoying yet reassuring symptoms of pregnancy) ushered in a time of uncertainty (will I miscarry or won’t I?), the actual miscarriages have simply ushered in a new set of questions (will I get pregnant again or is this my new fate?). That second uncertainty typically isn’t so quickly resolved as the first.

And so in some sense the only logical response: What the fuck?!

Seriously! Why is this shit happening to me?! Why does it happen to anyone?!

Honestly, it feels weird to be writing this… But I feel miscarriage is an important topic still shrouded in taboo. Plus, this is a blog about parenting & the honest truth is that despite our best efforts & our deepest (if irrational) desires, not every positive pregnancy test means that we will be parenting a new little person nine months later.

Having been through the pain of miscarriage thrice now, I feel I have some perspective on the experience of pregnancy loss (though through my own journey I have encountered women who have endured many more losses or losses at times during pregnancy that are much more heartbreaking or losses that are life threatening… I’m weirdly lucky that my losses were all in the first trimester & none of them needed medical intervention).

And yet, despite the Groundhog Day-like disappointments I’ve been living this past year, I don’t have any answers or advice. Miscarriage is, at its core, a deeply unsettling & confusing experience. So many women experience it. And we endure it quietly. Oftentimes, we endure it alone.

The funny thing is that we are not alone. There are so many of us. We can connect if we are only willing to be a little bit brave. Brave enough to tell the truth. Every time I go to one of my appointments at a recurrent loss clinic (yes, these places exist!), the waiting room is busy. When I’m there, I want to hug every woman in the waiting room… I don’t know what prevents me from doing it. We are all there for the same thing: answers to an intractable problem that is as old as humankind & that typically does not give up answers easily.

And when I’m brave enough to tell mere acquaintances & perfect strangers that I’ve suffered through multiple miscarriages (often times in response to an inappropriately personal question) I feel as if I have performed a public service. If we don’t talk about it, no one will.

And, mostly, my bravery has been rewarded. Friends bring me soup & chocolate. A good friend texts me randomly to remind me of my strength. Loved ones stop by to fill my house with love & tears. Stories, long buried, rise up in empathetic echoes of past pain. My sister-in-law & I commiserate over our sick & twisted race to see who can have the most miscarriages.

And having had plenty of time to sit with my sadness in the past year, I’ve also realized what so many realize at times of grief or distress–the world keeps going. It doesn’t stop for my loss. The work keeps coming in. The deadlines draw closer. The laundry piles up. My child’s birthday approaches. Everyone seems to move on; everyone seems to forget… except me.

Yet, even I move on in my own way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still damned confused as to why this is happening & how I can process it all.

But I’ve also put on my big girl pants & learned a ton of shit about myself, some of which I didn’t want to know. Like how patient I can be after finding out a fetus has died but refuses to eject itself. Like how I can still smile (though not often) during the weeks of waiting with that stubborn dead fetus before miscarrying. Like how even my partner can seem to forget what my body won’t let me forget: “Hello! Still walking around with a dead baby, remember?!” Like how miscarrying after that long wait can bring a fleeting but meaningful peace to my mind & body.

Like my need for physical closure. Like how long I can live with a dead fetus in my freezer until I figure out the whole physical closure thing (burials are meaningful for a reason!). Like how I never imagined in moving to our new house (with space for that child that wouldn’t be) that we’d be picking a spot for our miniature family plot in the yard.

Like how calmly I can calculate & gauge my own blood loss. Like how satisfying it is to catch & touch that minute life form whose heart beat, even if only fleetingly, in my uterus. Like how my son’s soft, downy cheeks are something I can never take for granted.

Like how I can ask my partner for support, even when words are impossible. Like how reassuring my partner’s arms are, when they’re wrapped around my sobbing & heaving body. Like how his hands mingled with mine can be so calming.

Like how grief somehow has taught me that presence in this moment can make the rest tolerable. Like how laughing reminds me of joy, even when I’m deeply sad. Like how love & all the good stuff goes on & I just have to be open to it.

Which isn’t to say I’m happy or present in every moment. I was so disengaged from my last pregnancy it seemed hardly a blip on my radar. And yet the grief is there. Grief that biology & time may no longer be on my side. Grief that I didn’t enjoy that pregnancy at all.

Yet, right along side that grief, I feel lucky. Lucky to have gotten pregnant at all. Lucky that my body is actually (in its own painful & inconvenient way) working. Lucky that I was able to experience unbridled & naïve happiness of expectant new life at least once, during my pregnancy with my son.

I now know that that sweet, pregnant happiness is something that, though not rare, is far from universal. And while I don’t wish miscarriage on anyone, I have to admit that I am a more compassionate person because of my own losses. I like to think that I’m generally a kind person, but perspective is everything. And, boy, has my perspective shifted in the past year.

Right now I’m still fucking confused & want the miscarriages to end. It’s damned hard to write about this (not to mention press the “publish” button, which I’ve been avoiding for days now…). But I feel it’s important work, too (personally & publicly). I’ve come to a new appreciation for the fact that life is unfair & even our own bodies treat us unfairly. And with that appreciation comes a new smallness & a new sort of peace.

Life is delicate. We are all miracles.

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Filed under Living, Miscarriage, Partnership