Category Archives: Partnership

Another Mothers’ Day Rant


I like to complain about Mothers’ Day on this blog. Hey, it’s my mommy blog & I can whine if I want to…

Mostly, I think the holiday is bullshit. 

Also, I hate making decisions on what I’ll do to celebrate. Do I escape? Pretend I don’t have a family for the day? Do I force my husband to take me to an over-crowded, rushed, & mediocre brunch? Do I demand special treatment? Breakfast in bed & all that? What about my own mother?! In indulging in myself, am I neglecting her?! And I have work on Monday, so there can’t be too much booze or fun because I need to sleep & get ready for the work week. Ack! 

And all for what? So that we can pretend mothers are honored in this land of zero-paid-maternity leave? So we can pretend mothers are important, even in this culture that undervalues family & women & anything remotely domestic? 

WTF, I thought this was supposed to be special & fun! Where are my Instagram-able #mothersdaymoments?! 

So, it’s the Saturday before Mothers Day & it’s been busy as hell. I got to sleep in a bit (which was awesome!) but I woke up extremely groggy & baby was in need of nursing & a nap. Ok. She’s almost asleep when my phone rings. Bam, she’s awake. Also, where’s the coffee?! Husband makes me coffee (yay!) & leaves. Ok. So now martial arts for the big boy & a walking nap for the baby. Then dentist appointment. Fuck, they asked me to come early but now they’re running behind. I’m hangry ’cause it’s past lunchtime & baby needs more sleep. She’s yelling & I admit I encourage her because I’m so grumpy & want our presence to be known. But everyone’s so damned nice. Darn, I can’t be a total bitch… which is a good thing in the end because I love our dentist & it’s not like we won’t be back. No more cavities for the boy. Phew! And then we grab lunch & I get more caffeine & we’re ok. Groceries for dinner. Baby will sleep in the car right? No! She’ll scream bloody fucking murder!! But my amazing son calms her somehow. I’m gripping the steering wheel in random heavy traffic but I somehow remember to breathe. I notice the sky is beautiful. I’m still grumpy but slightly less so. Home. Finally. My husband has picked up the entire house & is halfway through our laundry. Wow! It’s warm enough to throw open the windows. I want to pass off the baby. Hide in a room & lock the door. But of course the baby needs to nurse. Fine! I’ll be a mom for, like, five more minutes!

My Butterball-turkey-sized 10-months-old falls asleep in my arms. My partner & son bring me a beer. I quietly thank my son for being so patient & lovely today. I quietly thank my husband for the beer & for taking care of the house. I’ve found gratitude & I’m no longer angry or even cranky. 
Now I’m sitting here, rocking with my napping baby, sipping a beer, enjoying a beautiful breeze. How could I possibly complain?! 

Three years ago, on Mothers’ Day I was pregnant & and about to miscarry. Two years ago, I was bitter after having suffered a second miscarriage some months earlier & I was also barely pregnant & about to lose a chemical pregnancy & picking up a bridesmaid’s dress that had to be altered because, well, miscarriage. Last year, I was eight months pregnant but still nervous. This year, I have the honor holding the most perfect, napping baby in my arms. 

In the blink of an eye, despite chaos & loss, I feel like the luckiest mom in the world. 

Happy Mothers’ Day. Seriously!

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Filed under Attachment Parenting, Breastfeeding, Feminism, Living, Miscarriage, Mothering, Partnership, Simplicity, Working

Focusing on the best

“Loving”—A reminder of my son

A mere 4 1/2 years ago (oh, where does the time go?!), I shared the parenting motivation that helps to keep me on my game. That motivation comes from Scott Noelle at The Daily Groove. Noelle’s format has changed a bit since then, but he still sends out nuggets of gold a couple-few times a week. Sometimes, I’m too lazy or busy to read the emails, but thankfully my partner (MFA Dad) will forward to me the ones that are resonating with our current parenting challenges. 

This morning he sent me one called “The Power of Attraction.” In it, Noelle suggested writing a reminder on your hand of one characteristic of your child that you “really, really adore and appreciate.” I chose “loving” because my son’s big heart is so endearing. At least, it is when I stop to allow him to fully express his loving nature, including both his capacity & need for love. 

The idea of Noelle’s experiment is to think about this particular attribute often throughout the day & observe how it affects your interactions. Noelle writes:

“Psychologically, attraction means you can focus on certain things, and your mind will ‘pull’ matching thoughts and conditions into your awareness and experience. …

“Can you see how, through your intentional focus, you created (attracted) that experience?”

I enjoyed thinking about T’s loving nature throughout the day, especially as we were apart for most of it. These days I have to admit that I am often rushed with him, as the baby’s needs are so urgent & ever-present. This experiment has forced me to (re-)create some space for him, which he deserves. 

And guess what? It worked! We had a delightful & playful evening. 

I find myself wanting to do this for MFA Dad, too! And even baby M. 

Try it!

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Filed under Attachment Parenting, Gentle Discipline, Living, Mothering, Parenting, Partnership, Read, Simplicity, Working

“Imitation Mother” & Sour Milk


Baby M is 3 months old & we are starting to plan for my eventual return to work. For me, this has meant building up a stash of frozen breast milk & convincing Baby to take milk from a bottle. 

With T, there was nothing I hated more than pumping. In the beginning, I couldn’t pump more than a half ounce or so at home with my crappy little pump. Things were slightly better when I went back to clinic & school because my law school had just purchased a hospital-grade pump for us lactating cows moms. It was far more efficient, but the process was still painful & stressful for me. The pump was efficient & I had a clean private space, but I was simultaneously trying to relax, conjure up images of my sweet baby, & study Constitutioal Law. I never had a proper back-up stash of milk & could barely meet T’s daytime demands. 

This time around, when I was leaking milk everywhere during Baby M’s earliest days, I decided to take advantage of the apparent abundance & pump away. The technology had changed over the past 7 years & my small, affordable pump was more efficient & comfortable than even the hospital-grade one I had used for T. I dutifully pumped (stress free!) between feedings or when Baby M took a surprise long nap. I packaged the milk away & froze it. I watched with amazement as my frozen milk started taking over two shelves in the freezer. Woo-hoo!

Unfortunately, two problems have now popped up…

#1. Baby M will not drink from a bottle. 

After some fussing, MFA Dad got her to take a bottle when she was about 6 or 8 weeks old. Then I got a little lazy with the pumping as my milk supply settled down a bit & we didn’t make a habit of giving her a bottle. (When T was a baby, the bottle was never a problem—He loved both bottle & breast & never had a problem switching from one to the other.) Fast forward a month & my mother-in-law is upstairs right now with Baby M, unsuccessfully (from the sounds of it) attempting to convince Baby M to take an ounce of mama milk. MFA Dad has been similarly unsuccessful in recent days as well.

Naturally, I’ve turned to Google for help on convincing Baby M that the bottle isn’t so bad. Of course, there are advertisements for bottles & silicone nipples, each promising to be closer to the breast than the others. And there are myriad blog posts with advice like “try the bottle while walking” or “give baby the bottle while she sleeps” or stories about quitting jobs or babies crying ad infunitum.

On one breastfeeding advocacy website, one father described his daughter’s rejection of the bottle as a refusal “to settle for an imitation mother.”

Y’all know how I dislike language that fuels guilt & this is one I can’t let slide by. I don’t think that this dad (who was obviously working super hard to meet his daughter’s needs) meant to make his wife or other working mothers feel guilty. He simply shared his experience & struggles & problem-solving strategy. But this is the type of language that sometimes appears in breastfeeding advocacy literature that alienates working moms & bottle-feeding moms. 

To be clear, a bottle is not an “imitation mother.” It’s an imitation boob. Babies are little primates who need to eat & their physiology requires any feeding device be designed around babies’ sucking capabilities. Mothers who breastfeed are fulfilling this biological requirement in one particular way & it happens to be the way that requires the least amount of equipment. Breastfeeding also has known benefits for mother & baby, but really, it’s simply an mammalian process & just one aspect of mothering. Human “mothering” (or, just parenting) is so much more than feeding, even if some of that mothering takes place while breastfeeding. 

A mother cradling her son in one hand & feeding him with a bottle of formula in the other hand is also mothering. She is certainly not “imitation mothering.” That dad who couldn’t get his daughter to take the bottle was “mothering” when he was caring for his daughter & when he ultimately found he was able to feed her with a sippy cup.  The babysitter or nanny giving baby a bottle of pumped breast milk is also “mothering.”

And mothering by many is okay

As long as your child & your family is happy with whatever baby raising configuration you have, your baby will be happy, attached & well adjusted!

Not that it’s easy… Currently, I need to keep repeating that Baby M will be okay when I go back to work to convince myself that we will all adjust. But I have experience on my side this time around… My awesome seven-year-old has thrived despite the fact that I was studying or working from his early days. No imitation mother needed, thank you very much! Just lots of love & lots of bottles & lots of nursing. 

As for imitation boobs… I’m on the search for the perfect one that will trick my wee one to drink while I’m away from her. And I’m finding there’s a fine line in terms of advertising for silicone nipples that might fit the bill. In my online searching, I find breastfeeding advocates who criticize bottle makers who make claims that their bottle nipples are close to the real deal. I can understand these criticisms, the idea being that by advertising a bottle as a replacement for the breast, these companies are undermining breastfeeding. I will say, I still see a lot more bottle feeding than breastfeeding out in the everyday world. So, there may be something to this criticism.

But to make breastfeeding work long-term, many of us need to find that breast-like silicone nipple. So on another level, I appreciate the fact that bottle manufacturers have been making bottles & nipples that are more likely to trick my reluctant bottle drinker. 

If M falls for the bottle, what she’ll be drinking from it is less certain, though, because…

#2. Most of that milk I froze tastes like crap.

So here I’m going to do a 360.

I recently defrosted some breast milk from my abundant freezer stash to make up a practice bottle. I dropped a bit of the milk onto my hand to test for temperature & taste…

Yuck! 

It was a bit sour & I suddenly remembered that my milk tasted a bit off after freezing when T was an infant. Not that he cared. So I didn’t care. At the time, I learned that there is an enzyme called lipase in breast milk that can cause it to taste soapy or off, even if it’s been stored properly. The milk itself is perfectly fine.

But here it was again! Lipase appears to be affecting the taste of my milk & now Baby M does seem to care!

So I googled the sh@! out of that too… And I started to worry. Did I have too much lipase in my milk? Why? It’s been associated with nutritional deficiencies… 

I could neutralize the enzyme by scalding my milk before freezing it, but lipase seems to be important for baby in terms of digesting the milk. And what other nutrients would be lost? And can you imagine a more maddening task than pumping and then scalding a couple ounces of milk at a time?!

The truth is (and here’s the 360 degree turn from what I said above), breast milk was not designed to be expressed & then stored for long periods of time. It’s supposed to go from mom’s nipple to baby’s mouth, directly & in short order. 

You’d think this might make me feel guilty, but it actually makes me feel better. There is nothing wrong with me or my milk! Baby is thriving on it, so it’s purely a storage issue. I’ve stopped googling nutritional deficiencies as it’s likely not a problem with me. 

While modern technology is amazing (and the pumps available today are truly technological miracles!), I find myself stymied by basic biology (or is it physiology?). I am a modern mother, with a family & a career & a freezer full of lipase-happy sour milk. But baby & my body are still engaged in a process that has not evolved much during the past 3 million years or so. 

So I have to work with those biological limits. Of course, I’ll try to keep up with a supply of fresh milk by pumping every day at work. Maybe she’ll go for the lipase-full milk if I mix it with fresh milk or formula. It’s a modern world after all, and I thankfully have options that are perfectly healthy, even if less perfect than fresh breast milk. 

As long as we can find a solution that respects baby M’s needs & doesn’t involve copious amounts of tears or stress, we’ll all be okay. Just because I respect human biology (especially when it comes to babies) doesn’t mean I have to feel guilty about living a modern life. 

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Filed under Attachment Parenting, Breastfeeding, Feminism, Mothering, Parenting, Partnership, Working

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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Filed under Living, Miscarriage, Parenting, Partnership, Simplicity

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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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