Family “Planning”

Last week, I had a vague idea of what the next ten months to a year would look like. Shoot, I had a vague idea of what the next four years would look like.

After getting a positive beta on Thursday, I’d have gone in for an early ultrasound somewhere around June 23. It would be a weird time, because I have a business trip scheduled around then, and Kyle’s birthday is June 22, but we’d have worked in the ultrasound around then. We would’ve seen a heartbeat, and I probably would’ve cried like a total asshole, and then we’d have gone home to start planning an announcement.

We were going to announce to my family on the Fourth of July, at the cookout my uncle always hosts. I was going to put Sam in a shirt that said something about him being a big brother or a brother at all (sidenote: I’ve always thought it would be funny to dress Sam in a shirt that said, “I’m the Little Brother!” and watch people get confused) and wait for people to catch on. Then we’d have made a Facebook announcement. I’ve been brainstorming ideas, and I’m sure we would’ve come up with something fun and catchy. Everyone would’ve known anyway, because I’ve been writing about things so much in here, but still. Announcing is fun.

(I mean we can’t go with this, but it’s still one of my favorites)

Going with Sam’s belief that this embryo was a girl, we’d have learned that for certain either around 10 weeks (if I could convince my OB that a blood test was a good idea, considering our history of chromosomally-based miscarriages) or around 20 weeks. Gender is, of course, a social construct, but I still would’ve announced that I was going to be investing in a lot of frills and pink and purple with some silly song and dance type thing, like maybe some balloons or a cake. Cakes are good. Everyone should have cake always.

(adulthood really begins when you realize that “because” is a totally acceptable reason to eat cake)

Kyle and I were preemptively planning our investments over the course of the next year. We’d need to get a van of some sort, new car seats (because Sam can’t switch to a booster until next May, so we couldn’t just give the new baby hand-me-downs), and a new stroller because ours has turned the bend from “this is a fine piece of equipment” to “why do we still own this?” We’d have cleaned out the green room, which used to be Sam’s, and maybe painted in there (though the pale green on the walls is a nice color; still, I’d like a more neutral dove grey, because that’s more versatile). There’d be a new bassinet and our minifridge brought upstairs for late-night feedings. Maybe we’d have bought a TV for our bedroom and a second Roku, so that those late nights could involve binge-watching the shows we’ve been saving up on for that exact moment.

Her name was going to be Carolyn Jeanette.

And I saw the next couple of years in a vague sense. Sam would go to preschool, real preschool, a year from September, and I’d stay home with the baby to save on daycare expenses. I’d dive back into parenthood, like I never had the energy to when Sam was a baby (but this time would be different because antidepressants). I’d exercise. I’d do Things. In five years, we’d go back to Disney World like we did this past December, only this time, we’d have an eight-year-old and a five-year-old. Everything would be new and different.

But then the beta was negative and the next year was a blank slate again.

I think this may be the weirdest part about IVF and trying to conceive… you can’t plan more than a month or so in advance. You’d like to say, “Oh yeah, we’ll definitely go on a vacation in October” or something like that, but then things change and October is the month you’ll have to do your transfer or have a bunch of ultrasounds or something like that. Your boss asks you for a five year career plan and you make one up, but really, you’re shrugging internally because you don’t know if you’re going to vanish at some point in the next five years because there’s suddenly an infant.

You think, “You know, we should get a puppy,” but then you don’t know if you’re going to have a puppy and a baby at the same time, which just seems ill-advised.

(adorable, but ill-advised)

You decide you’re going to get your hair done, REALLY done, but you don’t know if you’ll be pregnant enough for the chemicals to make you feel sick when it’s happening (though the hydrogen peroxide gives me a headache anyway, baby or no).

You look at company holiday parties and you don’t know if you’ll need to buy something from the maternity section or if you’ll be able to wear something from your favorite store.

When your college buddies talk about planning a meet-up in a couple of months, you don’t know how to respond because you have no idea where you’ll be at that point. Will you be pregnant and glowing? Will you have to abstain from alcohol? Will you have to cancel a dinner because you have a last-minute appointment? WHO KNOWS?


I like planning. As much as I still believe things will work out as they’re supposed to, that I’ll adapt, that we’ll find ways to make life work, I like to be able to plan. I like to be able to look at my life calendar and say, “Okay, a week from now, this is happening. A month from now, this is happening. A year from now, this is happening.” I know that nobody can do that with certainty, that being able to look forward is often a privilege rather than a stated fact.

But man, does it get frustrating to think you’ve got the next year or so all figured out and then have the rug pulled out from under you, and to have that happen multiple times. Since we started this journey, I’ve had that rug pulled out half a dozen times, and it’s exhausting. It’s taken over my life, more than parenting by itself ever has, and I’m so tired of it.

I just want to reach a point where I know with complete certainty that hey, in 10 months, a new baby will be here. And after that new baby gets here, I’m not going through this again. My brain and emotions just cannot take it anymore.

How Money

Yesterday was a pretty bad day in terms of trying to conceive. Not the worst day–no miscarriages here–but my blood test came back negative for HCG, the pregnancy hormone. That’s the one that makes a second line or a plus sign appear on pregnancy tests after you pee on them. A negative blood test means that you’re not pregnant.

In other words, the latest transfer failed completely. That blastocyst, with a little heart on it, just got out of dodge, didn’t even stop to say hi and implant even a little. We’ll have no way of ever knowing why it didn’t implant, what went wrong on the chromosomal level (because everything else was textbook). It’s just gone, and we’re back to square one.

(side note: this show was awesome)

Well. Not really square one, because we know certain things now. We know how much IVF medication is enough for me and how much is too much. We know that I need to have a 38 hour trigger instead of 36 for optimal results. We know that I can easily become overstimulated, and that I would prefer not to do that because it’s not fun or healthy or good.

And we know that if we want to succeed now, we’re going to have to do preimplantation genetic screening, or PGS.

That’s not entirely true. We don’t have to do that. There’s still a chance that we’ll get lucky with the odd blastocyst that’s somehow magically good. But I’m tired of wasting my time and wrecking my body with no results. When Kyle and I were in Texas this weekend, I told him that my biggest fear in this process is that we’ll exhaust all our options and come up empty handed. That I’ll have wrecked my body–because the IVF process has definitely wreaked havoc on my health–for nothing. I don’t mind if I’m a mess but we’ve got a kid at the end; it’ll be worth it.

But to be a physical disaster and have no kid as a result?


So PGS. We’ve talked about it with our doctor before but always deferred because it’s not covered by our insurance. PGS costs about $2500-3500 at our office; in some offices, that number skyrockets to the $8000 range (at which point, I’d just say, “You know, we’ll just keep taking our chances or maybe rob a bank.”). And, well. We’re financially comfortable–we don’t have to choose between mortgage payments and food or electricity payments and daycare–but we’re not that financially comfortable. We don’t generally have that much money lying around for a rainy day. This isn’t because of poor spending habits on our part (on the contrary, we’re all pretty content to not spend money unless it’s necessary, like a $600 car repair or something), just because we’re not rich. Having $2500-3500 to throw at something is a tax bracket or two above us.

And even now, when PGS is our primary hope, I’ve been pretty sure that we didn’t have $2500-3500 to throw at it. I knew we had some extra money in our account–Kyle got a nice bonus this year, and our tax return was higher than it’s ever been–but I figured it was more in the $1000 range of “we don’t know how to spend money, so we’re not” rather than the $3500 range of “we’re rich.”

(if we were rich, we could do this. We wouldn’t, because that isn’t how physics works, but we could)

I mean. $1000 that we can throw at anything is a much better place than we were in five years ago. It’s a much better place than most folks we know, but it’s still a far cry from $2500-3500, especially when you consider that by the time we’re done buying groceries and paying bills, we’re also desperately trying to lay track to get to payday. That money would take a while to save up, even with a nice starting base of $1000. I figured that if we really pinched our pennies, we could do it in about ten months, or by next February-March.

(if we gave up food and gas for the cars, we could manage in five months, but while we’re all trying to exercise and eat healthier, that particular plan didn’t seem prudent)

And, well. That’s a wait. Next March would mark three years on this particular venture, and I’d be approaching the dreaded 35. Medically speaking, 35 is the age when your egg health swan dives off a cliff, leaving you with just wrinkly dusty things that may or may not be healthy. Your risk of chromosomal abnormalities–not just survivable ones like Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome), but the ones that destroy viability like Trisomy 16 and other aneuploidies–skyrockets.

That’s not to say that it’s impossible to conceive a healthy child after 35, just that it gets a lot rarer and more difficult.

(here’s a graph)

So I was brainstorming ideas to come up with the extra money quickly. I thought about doing a GoFundMe, but that felt icky to me. I’ve helped a lot of friends through GoFundMe, but it’s been for situations that really warranted help, like “our house burnt down” or “this person has cancer” or “someone has died” or sometimes all three at once (I gave a lot of money on that one because holy hell, universe, calm down). Crowdsourcing something that I could save myself over time seemed… wrong. Petty. Like taking money away from people who really need it.

I thought about selling a kidney or other body part through the black market, but that seemed counterintuitive to my attempts at a healthy pregnancy (I thought about selling Kyle’s kidney without him knowing, but our bathtub just isn’t big enough for the amount of ice we’d need).

(Kyle doesn’t believe in Candy Mountain anyway)

I thought about robbing a bank, but that’s just impractical. You generally can’t get more than a cool thousand robbing a bank, and anyway, I’m not very stealthy. I’d probably get caught, and that would ruin the whole thing (though it would make for hilarious novel fodder and would maybe get me a Netflix series–maybe a knockoff of Orange is the New Black. I’d call it Dumb Baby Jail, because I would be dumb and would have gone to jail trying to get money to have a baby).

I thought about taking out a loan, but we have a lot of those already–student loans (ell oh ell), car loans, mortgage, credit cards. Our credit scores are kind of ugly right now, thanks to a nasty combination of all of the above plus Kyle’s identity being stolen a couple of years ago around tax time (it’s a lot harder to use your tax information to fix your finances when your finances are consistently monitored, not because you did a Bad, but because the powers that be worry that you’re an impostor you). I don’t know that we’d even get approved for a loan, even if taking one out was a good idea (it’s not).

So waiting, obnoxious waiting. I whined about it to Kyle when we went to bed last night, how I know we’re really lucky to even be having this conversation, but that I’m so tired of waiting. I’m having baby fever something fierce; I want another kid. I love our kid, our beautiful Sam (who is such a miracle I can’t even tell you), but I want another kid. And then, once everyone’s a little older, I want to adopt, maybe from foster care, and that will complete our family.

But anyway. I whined about money, and Kyle asked how we were doing in that regard, because we have a couple of bills due this week (specifically the ones he takes care of, which are two: his car payments and daycare. I take care of the rest). I looked at our bank account, expecting us to have enough for the car payment and daycare, plus that extra thousand, but not much else.

Instead, my bank account reminded me that oh, by the way, you never spent your tax return because you never thought to, so you actually have an extra more than $2000 sitting around, which is ridiculous considering that we were completely broke not five years ago.

(for context: five years ago, Kyle and I moved up to Massachusetts from Texas to keep from completely depleting our savings after I lost my job, which was our sole source of income at the time. My parents offered us their in-law apartment, rent-free, so we were able to just keep paying minimal bills while we looked for work. Kyle managed to get a great job in web UI development around August of that year, and now we’re here)

So. The point of this long story, in which I sound ridiculously privileged (don’t get me wrong–I have gallons of privilege, and I’m hyper aware of that fact) is that we don’t have to save up as much as I thought we would in order to accomplish the simple task of getting pregnant, which most people can do for free, uterus, I don’t know what your damage is. And that makes me feel better, even though I’m not currently pregnant.

(that and moscato)

Six Years

Yesterday was my anniversary. I usually would’ve written something long and sentimental on Facebook about that, something about Kyle being my life partner and best friend and favorite teammate and all, but we had other matters to attend to, namely returning home from a vacation to see his family in Texas.

It was a great vacation, really. We had a lot of fun, despite plentiful mud and rain (or, in some cases, because of it). Sam got to see and fall in love with his Nana’s puppies, and he got to spend a lot of good time with his Nana and Poppy and Uncle Grant, none of whom he sees as often as any of us would like. We stayed in a gorgeous hotel and just had a nice, relaxing time together as a family. I think it was one of the more relaxing vacations we’ve had in a while.

(not quite this relaxing,  but close)

But getting home. Oy.

We were flying out of DFW, which is no small task. When Kyle and I first started dating, he started bragging to me about the size of his airport (that isn’t a euphemism) and how it had five ZIP codes (that isn’t an exaggeration). Plenty of airports are big, but DFW is scary big, intimidating and confusing and hot.

We got to the airport around 3:45 p.m. for our 5:51 flight–plenty of time to get through security, get some snackish dinner items, and relax a little before boarding. Kyle and I were feeling good as we reached the check-in counter for jetBlue and asked them to print off our boarding passes and luggage tag. As those items printed, the lady behind the counter gently informed us that the flight had a new departure time of 8:30 p.m. but that we should stick by the gate in case that changed.

I had to ask her to repeat herself three or four times because, for those not willing to do the math, that’s a three hour delay.


I can handle three hour delays when traveling on my own. I don’t like them–nobody does, of course–but just give me a place to plug in and a phone or Kindle full of books, and I’m set. Kyle’s the same way, and we can both handle them together, just between the two of us.

Sam, though.

Sam is three. He’s a very clever three-year-old with a massive vocabulary, a stunning imagination, and an almost cult-like following in his junior preschool classroom. What he does not possess, however, is patience. At all. He’s a devotee of the idea that instant gratification takes too long; if he has to wait for anything, he will protest and he will make sure the entire world knows it.

An hour and a half wait before boarding would’ve been doable, but three hours, and not only that, three hours at bedtime?


But we tried to make the best of it. We stopped at TGIFriday’s for some dinner (Sam munched on soft pretzel sticks because his usual choice of noodles and broccoli was unavailable). We picked up snacks and magazines and souvenirs at the news stand. We managed to placate Sam for a while, with space to run and his Kindle to play on and snacks from his Nana to keep him sated.

Around 7:30, our resources were exhausted and the inevitable meltdown began. Sam sobbed that he wanted to eat a WHOLE bag of M&Ms, not just a FEW M&Ms, and he didn’t WANT water, he just WANTED WATER, and WHY WAS EVERYTHING HARD. The other passengers gave us stank eye, knowing full well that this shrieking child was going to be on their massively delayed flight; Kyle and I tried very hard to melt into the floor.


But finally, FINALLY, we boarded the plane (passing large families and a Bernese Mountain puppy named Bo as we did), and despite a few rough patches, it was a smooth flight. Sam slept from about an hour in; I dozed, and I don’t know what Kyle did. Once we landed, we made our way to the bathrooms so that Kyle and I could relieve ourselves and so that Sam could get his diaper changed.

There was only one problem: Sam did not WANT to get his diaper changed.

Kyle took one for the team and changed him. I don’t know exactly what went on in there, but based on the screaming and Kyle’s haggard appearance afterwards, I can only assume it was an exorcism.

(The Exorcist teaches you more about parenting a toddler than any book ever will)

As they approached and I opened my mouth to offer to take Sam from him, Kyle interrupted me. “If you have to use the bathroom, do it now.”

So I went. When I came out, Sam was once again crying and out of his stroller, looking down at his pajama pants. Kyle looked about five seconds from crying and was also looking at Sam’s pajama pants. “Can you go get some paper towels?” he asked, and I hurried off to do just that, no questions asked. Kyle explained the situation when I returned: Sam had been throwing such a tantrum when Kyle changed his diaper that the diaper got put on wrong. Sam had then peed and, well. The results were predictable, to say the least.

Back into the bathroom they both went to change, and after that, we were finally done with our bathroom adventure, 45 minutes after getting off the plane.

I should mention, too, that this was at 2:00 a.m.


The airport was empty by then, or mostly, and had taken on that liminal space quality, where it felt like reality blurred. Kyle and I got lost on our way to baggage claim, since the security guard at the closest door was gone for the night, and finally reached our carousel at around 2:15. It took a while to find our bag, but once we had it, we headed out to retrieve our car, only to have our parking stub not register in any of Logan’s automatic pay machines.

Because of course.


We gave up and just brought it with us. Thankfully, we’d taken a picture of the row we parked in, so we didn’t have to worry about hunting that down. We shoved everything into the Prius, paid our stub at the gate, and exited the airport…

…right into a traffic jam.

Kyle initially blamed it on “some idiot doing something stupid” but it was just construction lane closures that ended more quickly than we expected. The roads were clear the whole way home, and Sam was wide awake, asking both of us question after question, mostly about reflections in his window (“what’s that planet, Mommy?” “that’s not a planet, sweetheart, that’s a street light”).

Finally. FINALLY. We got home around 3:30. The neighborhood was quiet and eerily dark–no streetlamps, no cars, not even our porch light. We shuffled inside… and then Sam refused to go to sleep. This continued for about half an hour, until Kyle finally delivered him a “way past midnight” snack, and we all crapped out, officially at 4 a.m.

So I’m exhausted and haven’t got a romantic bone in my body, just some weary ones. But I will say this: our marriage works. It works because of nights like last night, when the world throws curveball after curveball at us, and we just link arms and laugh at it. It works because we don’t snap at each other when we’re mad at something else, because we bear the load together.

There was a great article on about six years ago (exactly four months after Kyle and I got married, so I was in a sappy mood when I read it). The author writes about “5 Ways You Know It’s Time To Get Married” and ended by proposing to his girlfriend, which was sweet enough. My favorite part, though, was the second-to-last point, about neither of you being in debt to each other, neither of you resenting pulling more weight when the other can’t:

Don’t picture your relationship as two people pulling a wagon. It’s like two legs carrying a person.

If you break a toe, your legs don’t have an argument about the fact that one of them is forcing you to limp. You just automatically change your stride and keep going.

I take it even further. When your legs are both tired, your right leg doesn’t just give up because it’s tired and leave your left to do all the work. They slow down and work together to get where they need to be, so that they can both rest.

Marriage–building your own family–is a team effort. You’re not pulling for yourself anymore; you’re pulling for the team, the whole team. Your successes and failures are shared, and so are the burdens you carry. Marriage doesn’t make the bad things in life go away; instead, it makes them easier to manage, because instead of being one person panicking and trying to carry it all by yourself…


…you have two people sharing the load, even when things get tough.

And, well. All that to say: sugar, I’m glad to be on your team. I love you.

A Clump of Cells

We all began as a clump of cells.

Or, really, just one cell, made from two. A sperm cell and an egg cell, each giving 50% of themselves to create a cell with a unique makeup… maybe not unique in all of history and prehistory, but unique in the here and now. The cell splits into two, then four, then eight, and so on. After five days, the cells with their own unique DNA number in the hundreds, divided into an inner cell mass and an outer layer. The inner cell mass will, assuming everything goes right, eventually become a human being with fingers and toes and lungs and a heart and a brain, and in the brain, a personality and memories and the ability to learn and think and grow.

And all just from a clump of cells.

FullSizeRender (11)

This is my clump of cells. We’re calling it Peanut.

Back in October, I did a round of IVF that went somewhat horribly awry. My RE decided, for reasons that I still haven’t figured out, to put me on really high doses of medication. It overstimulated my ovaries to the point that they were swollen to the size of apples rather than their usual almond size. I was in amazing pain; my organs had moved and shifted to make room for my giant ovaries, and in moving, they pressed up against my diaphragm and made it hard for me to take a deep breath. I looked like I was six months pregnant, when really, I hadn’t even conceived.

FullSizeRender (13)(I’m fat, but not like this; this is me right before I got the period that made this ridiculous bloat go away)

At the end of that cycle, I was supposed to take a final shot, a trigger shot, to push the eggs that had been developing in my ridiculous ovaries into maturity so that they could be harvested and fertilized to create embryos.

The trouble was that in the days leading up to that trigger, I had to take another medication to prevent my ovaries from releasing the eggs too early and making the whole month a waste. That medication did its job too well, and when I took the trigger shot, it did nothing. I went under general anesthesia and woke up just a few minutes later to my doctor apologizing and saying we’d try again the next day, after I took a stronger trigger. That trigger worked, but we only retrieved a handful of eggs out of the 40+ follicles my ovaries had created. And of that handful, only two fertilized.

Two clumps of cells, that’s all. Transferring one at that point would’ve put me in a bad place, physically, so we froze them to transfer later. My family and I went to Disney World, we celebrated Christmas and the New Year. And then, in January, I started the process for a transfer cycle.

Comparatively, it was an easy process. Instead of taking shots every day, I took pills–just seven tiny pills daily, plus a pessary (that’s a suppository in the front!). The side effects were negligible: sore boobs, wonky emotions, minor cramping. After 20 days, I went to the clinic and sat around with my pants off for a while before going into a procedure room. They transferred one of the embryos, one with a perfect score of 4AA. Everything was “perfect.”

But then it wasn’t. The embryo stuck, but then one Thursday morning, I went to the bathroom and saw blood gushing out. A lot of blood. I called into work, called the doctor, and then went to lie down for a couple of hours. When I got up, I sat down on the toilet and heard a splash as a clot of blood and flesh the size of a lemon fell out of me. Tests the next day showed what I already knew: I’d miscarried my perfect embryo.

Ultimately, it was nothing I did or didn’t do. My doctor assured me of that much. My hormone levels were fine, and everything looked good. That particular clump of cells, that hope for a person, had something irreparably damaged about it. It wasn’t viable. And it was gone.

But we decided to try again, and that’s what happened today. Kyle and I left the house around 7 to get to our appointment at 8:45 (we had to drive through awful I-95 traffic, which anyone in Massachusetts can tell you is pure hell). I had a bunch of talismans for luck:


Lucky nails with Carrie Fisher-style “fuck you” fingers (see how they sparkle).

FullSizeRender (9)

Lucky socks with Princess Leia on them.

FullSizeRender (10)

A lucky bottle of ranch dressing, an inside joke with some friends also on TTC journeys.

They didn’t make me sit around with my pants off this time; I just changed in a little bathroom and scooted out, awkwardly trying to maintain some dignity while wrapping an oversized paper towel around my midsection. I sat down on the edge of the bed and put my legs up in a pair of stirrups. The nurse squirted some jelly on my lower abdomen and pressed down, showing me and Kyle where my bladder and uterus were. The doctor cranked open the speculum and inserted a catheter to guide the thawed embryo (technically, a blastocyst) up into my uterine lining to implant.

Kyle was excited because he could actually pick out the catheter and embryo on the ultrasound this time, a white line and a bright flash, traveling along the line and into the uterus. Less than a minute later, it was done. I cleaned myself off and tried to exit the room with dignity, but managed to crash into a cart full of instruments on my way. And then we went home, and I took it easy, on doctor’s orders. I slept a lot, then quietly entertained myself until Kyle and Kat and Sam took me out for a belated Mother’s Day dinner.

I don’t know what the clump of cells is doing right now; with any luck, it’s hatching out of its protective casing and burrowing into the uterine lining. With any more luck, I’ll find out that I’m pregnant ten days from now (probably sooner; I’ll definitely be peeing on a stick before then). With the best luck of all, this pregnancy will actually stick, and I’ll be able to write about that journey here, too.

For now, though, I’m PUPO–pregnant until proven otherwise, and all thanks to a clump of cells.

Made of Love, Part 3: Dear Sammy

Dear Sammy,

Well, here we are. It’s the day before your third birthday, and here I am, writing you a letter on a computer. This is objectively ridiculous because you’re turning three yet, and you can’t read (I think. I’m still baffling at how you learned to recognize the word “STORM” of all things), but maybe someday, you’ll come back to this and read it and know that I was thinking about you today.

I think about you a lot, really. You always tell me at the end of the day how much you missed me, usually while snuggling up against my shoulder and right before demanding that I play a video for you, like the little dictator you are. I miss you during the day, too. My entire office is full of pictures of you, and my computer background cycles different pictures from the last couple of years–little five-month-old you looking all dapper in October; you holding an umbrella as it pours down rain in Disney World; you with blue gel in your hair, grinning like a Cheshire Cat. I miss you; seeing you is the best part of my day. I find myself sometimes at odds with myself, not wanting to go and do anything outside of the house, just wanting to come home and hang out with you.

You and I are so alike and so different. I’m sure you’ll change as you get older, but right now, you’re SO energetic. My god, you never stop moving, and it’s amazing to me. I have low energy naturally, some of the lowest energy of anyone I know. I’m happiest when I’ve entered stasis and can just sit and observe the world around me. Not you, my speedy little boy. The only time you wholly stop moving is when you’re asleep, and even then, I imagine you’re running in your dreams. You don’t love to get dirty, but you love to be outside, digging in the dirt, having adventures, climbing on everything, jumping off everything. Me, I’d rather look at the outside from behind our enormous window and not have to worry about bugs. Or ticks. I hate ticks.


But for every way that we differ, we’re the same, too. You inherited my language, my love of music, my creativity. Nothing in the world could make me happier than that. You love stories, and you’re so good at words. I don’t think I’ve ever met a three-year-old who speaks like you do, talking to your Uncle Grant about your “weaponry,” and then sighing contentedly and saying, “Oh, that was wonderful!” You communicate so well, and maybe that’s a weird thing to be proud about, but I’m incredibly proud of you. Words aren’t easy. My life is words, and I know that words aren’t easy, but they come so naturally to you.

You love listening to music, probably more than anything else, including Star Wars. Whatever movie we watch, you insist on silence during the closing credits so that you can hear whatever song plays as words scroll up on the screen. Your very worst tantrums are silenced with the simple application of well-placed Tchaikovsky or Williams. You flutter your hands in the air like you’ve actually taken a class in conducting (I have a lot of friends who took classes in conducting; they look like you). You love music so much that you’ve taught your friends, who’ve never seen Star Wars before, to sing the “Imperial March” and the main theme. How crazy is that?


Your teachers tell me that you have the best imagination of any kid they’re working with, and I believe them. You’re our son, after all. Part of me thinks that you realized you could play pretend with your toys the first time you saw Toy Story and just went from there. I love watching you play, watching you make your stories with all of your toys. You are a joy, my little baby boy.

(this is an inside joke with your dad, your Auntie, and me. It is hilarious. You don’t get it, but it’s hilarious)

There aren’t enough numbers in the cosmos to enumerate how many times a day I’m thankful for you. I love the things we share together–watching Chopped, baking and cooking, playing lightsabers, reading books, recreating baking videos with Play-Doh, dancing while we wait for Daddy to bring your water cup at bedtime, playing the “faces” game (during which you always say, “I have no planets, just a moon,” which I STILL DO NOT UNDERSTAND but that is okay).

Part of me wants to tell you that you’re not my baby anymore, and that’s partly true. You’re 0% baby; you’re tall and lanky, and you understand the world as a little boy, not a baby. And, of course, you’ll only get bigger and understand the world in bigger ways. I’m in a weird state where I both want that and don’t want it; I can’t wait to see what kind of man you become, but I wish that I could preserve your innocence forever. I wish I could protect you from the truth of the world and let you think that things will always be good, but part of growing up is knowing that sometimes, things will be bad.

So I suppose the best thing to do, then, is to tell you this: if and when things get bad, your job is to do good. Treat people kindly. Help people who need it. Look for beauty yourself and show it to others. Create beauty if you can’t find any. Remember the spark of goodness inside of you and help others to see theirs as well.

You may be a little boy, not a baby anymore, but you’ll always be my baby, my very first. I can’t remember the specifics of the moment you were born, what people were saying or what they were doing, but that’s because I was wholly engrossed in you, finally meeting you, finally holding you in my arms, kissing your slimy head (babies are really slimy when they’re first born, it’s okay, I kissed you anyway), knowing that no matter what else happens in life, it’s gonna be you and me.

Daddy can come too 😉

(we rather like him, after all)

I love you, baby. Happy, happy, happy birthday.

Love always,

Made of Love, Part 2

WARNING: This entry is about childbirth. If that squicks you in any way, shape, or form, don’t read it. You have been warned.

(don’t complain to me if you read on and get grossed out)

When I gave birth to Sam, I hadn’t slept in close to 48 hours.


Two nights before I gave birth to him, I didn’t sleep. I was contracting, on and off, and he was settled squarely between my hip bones, sending waves of pain through my body whenever I moved, no matter the position I was in. I was finally tired enough to ignore the pain by morning, but I couldn’t catch up on the lost sleep. Instead, I had to go to the hospital for a non-stress test, to make sure Sam was still alright and kicking, since I’d gone past my due date and since I’d noticed his activity had slowed in the last several days.

I drank a Dr. Pepper on the way in, and my mother drove me because I was exhausted and in pain.

(you really do make the world taste better)

The non-stress test is kind of a silly thing. You get hooked up to a monitor that measures whenever the baby moves, and when you feel the baby move, you press a little button like you’re on a gameshow. They suggest you drink orange juice or some other sugary beverage beforehand to make sure that the baby is awake and kicking; I went with a Dr. Pepper and was about two seconds short of begging for a coffee (and I’m not usually a coffee drinker). That’s how tired I was.

After that, I staggered bleary-eyed to be weighed by a nurse who compared my weight on the scale with my weight the previous week. “Oh my,” she said, and I agreed.

In the doctor’s office, I sat patiently on the exam table with a paper sheet across my lap. My mother and I waited and waited and waited, and finally, almost an hour after we’d arrived, a harried doctor rushed in. She was the third or fourth I’d seen in the practice, and her name was Dr. Nabizdeh.

She was all apologies for her lateness and for not being Dr. Solano. “He’s in an emergency C-section right now,” she explained. Alright.

She looked over my numbers: my ridiculous ballooning of weight, my elevated blood pressure, my wonky liver enzyme levels. “Honestly…” she said, frowning. “…if you were my patient, I’d induce you today. You’re not in a bad place yet, but there are enough markers suggesting that you could be if we let you go much longer. And you’re already past your due date, so… let me give this information to Dr. Solano and see what he says, but my guess is that you’ll deliver today or tomorrow, one way or another.”

So I had to wait, but I called Kyle on the way home and told him the results. “So I should plan to leave work early?” he asked, his voice alight with hope.

“Maybe,” I answered.

I figured I’d get the evening, at least, and maybe be induced the following morning. With that in mind, I made plans for the rest of the day: I’d take a nap, have a hearty meal, try to sleep at night, and then go have a baby. It sounded so simple, and I smiled as I laid my head down on my tempurpedic pillow, relieved to finally be sleeping.


Five minutes later, my phone rang. It was Dr. Solano, apologizing for not being at my appointment that day and giving me a new plan. “I don’t see a point in waiting anymore,” he said. “Come on in tonight, and we’ll induce you.”

“Any time or…?” I started to ask, trying desperately to hold onto the promise of a nap.

“The sooner the better,” was his response, and after he hung up, I let out a tired sob and called my mother.

About an hour later, we were back on our way to the hospital. Somehow, eight hours had passed, and it was rush hour. The roads between our apartment and the hospital were clogged, and though I was incredibly hungry, we didn’t want to risk even going through a drive through and finding ourselves stuck in worse traffic. It was only once I reached the hospital–my mom and Kat with me (the former drove, the latter was emotional support until Kyle managed to get through traffic)–that I realized how hungry I was and remembered that you’re not supposed to eat when you’re in labor.

(note: guidelines on not being allowed to eat have changed somewhat since Sam was born, and more hospitals and doctors now realize that maybe if you’re going to be pushing a human out of a hole the size of a kiwi, you should be allowed to eat something)

We broke a cardinal rule of D&D and split the party: Kat stayed with me as I filled out paperwork while my mom went to wait in line at the hospital’s Dunkin Donuts, praying that we could get me a quick meal before the induction officially began. No sooner had my mom left than Kyle arrived, breathless and harried, less than 45 minutes after I’d told him to leave work and come to the hospital.

He works an hour and a half away, and he had to fight I-95 traffic to get there. To this day, I don’t know how he managed it, and I don’t want to know.


Anyway. A nurse brought a wheelchair in for me, and even though I didn’t technically need it, the idea of getting off my feet was too good to pass up. Kyle and Kat wheeled me down to my room, and my mom rushed in a few minutes before the nurse came in to give me my instructions. My mom carried with her a bacon, egg, and cheese wrap, and I ate that thing so fast I almost choked, trying to get it all down before the nurse came in, as if she would have scolded me for packing on the protein before an induction.

When Dr. Solano came in later, he explained how the induction would go. They’d get my labor started in earnest with something called a Foley catheter, a little balloon that they’d insert into my cervix and inflate to increase pressure and, hopefully, encourage me to start dilating. I’d keep the catheter in overnight and start pitocin in the morning, just to keep the labor moving along. With any luck, I’d deliver within 24 hours and not need to go in for a C-section.

He also explained my pain relief options to me. Now, I have nothing but respect for moms who do labor and delivery without meds, but as for me? Give me drugs. Now. That night, after I had the Foley catheter put in, I got narcotic pain relief to help me sleep, as an epidural at that point might have slowed down labor. Kyle and my mom stayed in the hospital with me, and both reported that the narcotics had the unexpected side effect of making it so that I “just would not shut up.”

(Kyle and my mom to me at some point, probably)

I did not get any sleep that night. I don’t remember that night because I was on pain meds, but I did not sleep. Instead, I watched late night television while Kyle and my mom slept, occasionally waking them to tell them “something really important,” but I have no idea what that something ever was, if there was even something to begin with.

Morning came, and Dr. Solano came in to check me. I was now 4 cm dilated, up from the 1 cm I’d been when I came in. Progress! We’d start the pitocin around 8 or 9, he said, but that was also when his shift ended. Dr. Nabizdeh, whom I’d seen the day before, would be with me throughout the day and would likely be the one to deliver Sam. When she came in, I noticed she was wearing a Dr. Who pin, and everyone in the room had a cheerful chat about Dr. Who, Star Wars, and how we were all a bunch of nerds.

The crowd filed out for a bit, and I suddenly realized how hungry I was after making a bathroom trip. My nurse noticed my forlorn expression and asked what was the matter, and when I explained that I was hungry, she looked around furtively and dashed from the room. Moments later, she returned with toast and grape jelly, and I promise you, nothing has ever tasted better than that toast and grape jelly did; even as quickly as I ate, it was the nectar of the gods themselves.


The toast came not a minute too soon; I’d just shoved the last bite in my mouth and swallowed when nurses and doctors all came in to check all my levels of everything and start me on a pitocin drip through the heparin lock I’d had since the night before. Pitocin, the synthetic form of oxytocin, would theoretically encourage my uterus to contract even more and progress my labor. My IV also delivered me a steady stream of saline and antibiotics, the latter to combat Group B strep, which I’d tested positive for a few weeks prior.

I wouldn’t say that I “held out” on getting an epidural for the next several hours; more accurately, even though I was definitely contracting, I didn’t really notice the contractions as they happened. They were twingey and uncomfortable, but I didn’t feel the all-encompassing pain that people claimed I’d feel while I was in labor. It’s the one thing in my life that’s made me the least bit grateful for the agonizing periods I’ve had since I was twelve: labor felt more “uncomfortable” than painful to me.

Still, I knew the bad stuff was coming, so around noon, I asked for an epidural. I figured I must be around 5 cm dilated by that point (I was 6), and my hospital suggests waiting until that point before getting an epidural put in. The anesthesiologist came down to my room pretty quickly, and my motley crew of baby watchers (my mom, my dad, and Kyle) were ushered out into the hall so that I could get my epidural in peace. The only non anesthesiologist in the room with me was the nurse, the same wonderful nurse who brought me toast with jelly earlier. She held my shoulders and let me put my head on hers while the anesthesiologist did the epidural.

If you’ve never had an epidural, here’s how it goes. First, you sit up, which is a fun adventure if you’re in a lot of pain and haven’t slept in what was now well over 36 hours. You sign some papers that you’re supposed to read, but let’s be real, at this point you’re not reading anything. Then you lean forward as much as you can with an eight pound baby still squashed up inside of you. And then you’re not allowed to move. You are still able to move, but if you do move, you run the risk of Bad Things like paralysis or a migraine.


Which is why the nurse was there. I could hardly keep my head up, but she understood that and gave me a place to lean while the epidural was placed.

Anyway, once you’re stone still and curled up while sitting, the anesthesiologist paints your back with iodine, which is cold. Then they give you a numbing agent so that you don’t feel the enormous needle they’re about to stick into your back. The numbing agent doesn’t numb at first; it burns like they’ve just injected you with angry bees. You make a noise like “nnmgh!” but you don’t move because you don’t want to be paralyzed or get a migraine. When the bees have dispersed, they use a very long needle to create a portal to your spinal column, through your vertebrae. They put a tube through that portal, remove the needle, and start coating your spinal column with some magic potion that makes it feel like your legs don’t exist anymore. And then the whole portal area is covered with tape and life is good.

So I had my epidural. About an hour after that, my nurse came in and said, “we should probably give you a catheter.” I couldn’t feel anything below my waist, so I said, “Sure!” This experience was a lot less difficult than the epidural, but a lot more unnerving. After all, not many people are used to catheters by the time they’re 30, and having a tube full of warm pee taped to the inside of your leg is an interesting experience, to say the least.

Around this time, too, Dr. Nabizdeh decided that I should have my water broken. In came another nurse with what looked like a crochet hook in a plastic baggie. I didn’t feel it when she pierced the amniotic sac where Sam had lived for the past ten months, but I certainly felt the sudden splash of warm fluid all over the bed.

Sam seemed to feel it, too, because my water breaking was apparently just what my body needed to move into transition, when your body transitions from opening your cervix to pushing the baby down. My right side was perfectly fine with transition; my left side was not. Somehow, I’d gotten a lopsided epidural, and most of the happy funtimes magic formula was numbing my right side from the waist down, not my left side at all. For the first time, I felt labor pain, and with my nurse’s help, I turned on my side to try and encourage some of the epidural to cover that half of my body, too. Eventually, the nurse called the anesthesiologist again to get me topped off.

He came and topped me off not a moment too soon. Someone–I don’t know who it was, the transition pain was too all-consuming–remarked, “You know, I think she may just need to push.” My parents and Kyle had returned to the room by that point, but my parents had to leave again to await further news in the family area a few doors down. Kyle, meanwhile, was in charge of my push playlist and queued it up to the first song: the theme from Pacific Rim.

(some people want peace and serenity while they deliver. I want to pretend I’m in a jaeger. DANANANA DA DA DA DA DA)

Here’s what I remember about pushing.

Kyle was on my right side, and an adorable young nurse resident was on my left. The resident looked like she was 16, and she was very well put together, but she also had spectacular bedside manner. She was as encouraging as Kyle and my other nurse (who looked to be in her 60s) were.

Dr. Nabizdeh came in early on and stayed throughout. She did not encourage in gentle terms. She encouraged in empowering terms. “You’re a TIGER!” she told me. “You are STRONG! You can DO THIS!”

I didn’t hear any of the music, but I know it affected me, because I was pumped.


At some point, the “hold your breath and push for 10 seconds” routine made my lungs ask, “Why are you doing this to us?” When they did, I rasped, “I can’t–” towards anyone who would listen, trying to convey, “I can’t breathe, may I please have some oxygen or water or maybe take a two minute break?” Instead, rasping, “I can’t–” only resulted in more inspiring and empowering cheers from the nurses, doctor, and husband. “You can do this! You were made for this!” My lungs disagreed, but clearly I survived.

You’re only supposed to push on contractions, but that’s hilarious. The pressure Sam’s head put on the lower half of my body was ridiculous, like feeling the biggest shit of my life trying to come out (he’s just a little shit, after all). Whenever they told me to stop pushing, I was like, “Are you crazy? Do you feel this giant head in me? It needs to come out. It needs to come out right now.”

“Stronger” by Kanye West and Daft Punk was playing when Sam was actually born. We had high hopes for the “Imperial March” or just the main Star Wars theme, but “Stronger” it was.

And then I finally held him. My Sam. He was slimy and squirmy and crying and disgusting, but he was mine, and he calmed down as I helped the nurses rub his back to warm him up. These first moments with him are also a blur, but they’re a much less intense and happier blur. I felt so high, better than I’ve ever felt in my life. I’d ascribe some metaphysical meaning to this, but I know it was just my body releasing all of its feel-good chemicals, like oxytocin and serotonin and so on, in a celebration of this accomplishment. I grew a human, a whole human, with ten fingers and ten toes, a face so like his father’s, blue eyes that squinted at me, enormous hands and feet that didn’t stop moving for anything. I did that.


I basked in the bliss. And then suddenly, Dr. Nabizdeh remarked from between my legs, “This is going to feel really weird, and I’m sorry,” and before I could respond, there was an adult human hand fumbling around inside my uterus. Apparently, my placenta had come out in chunks instead of one whole piece, and Dr. Nabizdeh wanted to make sure that the entire thing came out, that nothing was left behind to cause me to bleed out or have issues. And then it was over and done with, and it was just me, Sam, and Kyle, at long last.

Made of Love, Part 1

I am more than just the two of them. Everything they care about is what I am. I am their fury. I am their patience. I am a conversation. I am made of love.

This is the story of Sammy.


I went to see my primary care doctor in March of 2013, at which point Kyle and I had been trying to get pregnant for roughly a year with no success. She’s a fantastic woman, round and soft and more like an aunt than a doctor. If you ever raise a concern, she’ll look into it; if she doesn’t know the answer, she’ll search until she finds it. She looks under unturned stones and around unexplored corners to make sure that she gives you the best possible treatment. As doctors go, she’s one in a million.

(she’s not quite Four, but she’s pretty fantastic. Four for you, Dr. Dilley, you go, Dr. Dilley)

When she found out that I’d been trying to get pregnant without any luck, she immediately set up a referral to another doctor, a doctor whom I later found out was more interested in urology than in obstetrics. This doctor was not very good. She forgot things that I’d told her in the past and snapped at me when I corrected her. Under her guidance, the lab lost Kyle’s test results. She took one look at me, and without even testing me for anything, without having Kyle’s test results, she told me, “You need to lose weight or else you’ll never get pregnant. Lose 30 pounds and you’ll see results.”

The joke was on her, really. I’d just lost 30 pounds. I was primed to lose 30 more, but her words were a slap in the face. Without ever considering anything else about my health, she just decided that I couldn’t get pregnant because I had 30 extra pounds. It remained a constant thread throughout the next several months. No matter the test result, no matter the regularity of my ovulation, I couldn’t get pregnant because I was fat. That’s all there was to it.

(I didn’t like her)

Eventually, her nurse stepped in. I call her Giselle the Fantastic, because she is. I was near tears when I called her to try and schedule another appointment, and she looked over my charts. I could almost hear her frowning. “Let me see if I can get her to write you a prescription for clomid. That’s the first step we always take, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll get her to give you a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist.”

I was still near tears, but now they were tears of relief. Giselle went over the possible side effects of clomid (mostly “you may have twins”), and I started my first month after my next period. I was monitored, and I ovulated that month, but no dice. I geared up for another month, prepared myself to be wracked with wild mood swings and acne and bloating and so many other symptoms. I tracked my ovulation as religiously as I had been for months, tackled Kyle when things seemed to be hopping, and prayed for the best.

A week after it seemed I’d ovulated, I noticed I was spotting. My heart sank, but then Giselle the Fantastic called again. “Why don’t we schedule that consult with a reproductive endocrinologist?” she said and mailed me an envelope of information. I received it a day later and enjoyed poring through it. I didn’t know what the future had in store for us, but even though I was sure I was about to get my period, I felt hopeful. Maybe we could finally have answers, finally have a child.

The next day, I bought a bottle of moscato, my favorite wine. Drinks had become a tradition over the last year, my primary solace in the roller coaster of trying to conceive. I’d get my period, feel sad, but then Kyle would take me out for dinner, and I’d get a drink of my choice. The blood orange martini at Uno’s was a favorite, as was the pink punk cosmopolitan at Friday’s. Failing all of those, or if we were in a tight spot, I’d buy a bottle of moscato and enjoy it until it ran dry. I’d placed this month’s bottle in the fridge, ready to crack into it as soon as my period started in earnest.


The next day was Sunday, and Kyle and I were going to meet my parents for lunch, as we always did. I rolled out of bed around 9, early for me in those days of not having kids and not working, and staggered to the bathroom. It was nine days after I’d ovulated. I saw, as I went to sit down, a pregnancy test still sitting around from a month before. On a whim, I opened it, used it, barely expected anything.

And then promptly lost my shit when I saw two pink lines.


From Kyle’s perspective, it was a slow, sleepy Sunday morning. He was making coffee. He heard me get up, heard some crinkling, and then heard a scream and what sounded like a dozen elephants as I charged towards where he stood in the kitchen, pee stick held aloft like the One Ring of Sauron. “I’m pregnant,” I said breathlessly.

The chemical pregnancy I’d had early in our journey had me wary. I spent the week peeing on more tests. The test line got progressively darker; by the end of the week, the tests were disgusting but the lines were beautifully dark pink. Kyle made me throw them away after the first ultrasound. He understood my need for reassurance, but his tolerance for things that have been peed on has limits.

The first ultrasound came after my first appointment with my obstetrician, Dr. Solano (whom I highly recommend for anyone in the central Massachusetts area). He was smiling and friendly, but he also was straightforward. He didn’t beat around the bush or sugarcoat anything, but at the same time, he was very reassuring. Over the next sevenish months, he kept me from losing my mind with terror over every little twinge and shiver.

And he scheduled the first ultrasound when I was nine weeks along. We’d been disappointed so many times that I half expected to see nothing there, not even an empty gestational sac, but delightfully, the opposite was true. Bouncing on the monitor was a definite fetus, with little limbs we could recognize and a big ol’ head. We thought it looked like the chickenhawk from Looney Tunes. It bounced and bounced, alive and with a heartbeat of 179 bpm. It was healthy, a healthy baby, one that we wouldn’t lose.


As pregnancies go, mine was mostly uneventful. My tests all came back fine, and the only thing that went wrong happened at the very end of the pregnancy, when everything connected to my liver decided that it was time to rebel. I had a total of three ultrasounds–the initial, dating ultrasound; a nuchal translucency scan at 12 weeks; and the complete anatomy scan at 21 weeks. I relished in feeling Sam moving inside of me, even when I felt like an alien.

(if you’ve never experienced this before, let me assure you that it feels exactly as weird as it looks like it feels)

He stayed put for a good long while, though, and showed no signs of wanting to leave by his due date of May 9. On May 12, I went in for a nonstress test to make sure he was still moving around healthily, along with a routine exam. Dr. Solano was performing an emergency C-section, so I spoke with another doctor, Dr. Nabizdeh (who was also wonderful, but has since moved away). She told me that between my elevated liver enzyme levels, my elevated blood pressure, and my concerns about Sam’s movement, they’d induce me either that day or the next. A couple of hours later, Dr. Solano made the final call and asked me to come in that night for an induction. It was finally time to meet my Sam.


Today is Star Wars Day, celebrated in the tradition of the date: May the Fourth, as in May the Fourth (Force) be with you. I’ve been telling Sam about this for roughly a week, and he’s not a fan of the pun, mostly because he’s not quite at a point where he understands that it’s funny when one word sounds like another. Still, he’s come around somewhat–this morning, he did say “May the Fourth be with you and may the Force be with you!” so he’s not a total lost cause when it comes to our great family tradition of punning.

This Star Wars Day is special, in that a lot of people are wearing glitter today, in memory of Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia. Carrie spent most of her life struggling with mental illness, specifically with bipolar disorder. There’s a great video of her explaining what that entails here; it basically boils down to her brain chemistry either pushing her into “really fast and impulsive” or “really sad and slow.” (“Or both. Those are fun days.”) Outside of Star Wars, her most enduring and fantastic legacy has been as an advocate for mental health. She did so much to normalize mental illness, to remove the stigma and say hey, just because your brain is a little off kilter doesn’t mean that you’re broken as a person or a bad person in any sense of the word. I only really became aware of her advocacy in the last couple of years, and I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t spend more time loving her for it.


Anyway, glitter. In one of her memoirs, Carrie talked about how her therapist always knew if she was having a bad day because she’d be wearing copious amounts of glitter. Glitter was her way of adding brightness to the world when she found it to be dark and difficult. She was notorious for glitter bombing people at conventions, and it was her way of trying to cheer people up if they seemed to be having a bad day (and I will tell you, having Carrie glitter bomb me would absolutely make any day 6000% better). You can find all sorts of pictures and anecdotes about this across the internet.


SO. Today I am wearing glitter for Carrie, to memorialize her and to bring awareness to mental illness. In particular, I’m going to talk today about postpartum depression and anxiety, my own two personal shoulder demons.


Depression and anxiety have been companions of mine for a long time. When I was really young, seven or eight or nine years old, I’d spend sleepless nights praying for God to forgive me of anything I couldn’t think of because I was terrified that I’d done something bad and would end up possessed by demons or sent to hell. When I was eleven, just as puberty was starting to hit, I entered one of the more hellish years of my life, overfull with bullying, bad grades, and lost friends. In any given week, I’d spend nights curled up on the bathroom floor because I felt like I was going to throw up from all of it together. One time, riding in the backseat of our family minivan, I heard a woman on the radio talk about how she’d been sick for so long that she couldn’t remember what it felt like not to be sick; I could relate.

I don’t think I had my first bout with depression until college, and that particular downswing was a long one. It started in bits and pieces during my freshman year; I started sequestering myself in my room, not eating meals with my friends but instead microwaving whatever I could find. Sophomore year it got worse, and then, the summer after sophomore year, I was in an emotionally manipulative relationship with a guy I met at work. He used to keep me on the phone late at night–on our house line, mind–trying to get me to talk him out of killing himself. It was exhausting. It dragged me down.

In a desperate bid to come back to myself, I spent a semester abroad in England (after, thankfully, dumping the boyfriend), and that helped, but when I came home, I was still in that place.

The imagery we use when we talk about depression is so dark, and that’s not what depression is like for me at all. Really, it’s more like a foggy day where you can’t see more than a couple of feet around you. You know there’s something on the other side of the fog, but you can’t see it and you can’t get there. If you’re stuck there long enough, you just want everything to stop because what’s the point? There’s no tomorrow that you can see. There’s nothing but the monotony of right now, and tomorrow will be like it, and the next day, and so on. You don’t want to die, not necessarily, but you want to stop, and what way is there to stop but to die?

(this is a kitten and a deer and they’re friends)

I don’t remember how I pulled out of that particular downswing, but I did. I finished school, I graduated, I flailed around looking for work for a while, lowkey depressed all the while. I wasn’t quite in the same place I’d been, but I was low. I didn’t really have anything to look forward to, and I always felt like I was on that precipice, like I was verging on another downswing.

Something that helped was Kyle; he gave me something out of the ordinary to look forward to. Traveling to see him, having him travel to see me–they broke up the monotony. I had someone telling me that, hey, on the other side of the fog is someone who loves you, and you get to see him.

(coming later: me analyzing this entire movie and the amazing way these two played this scene)

It helped. It helped a lot. And for a long time, I was out of that downswing. I finished my master’s degree, I started working, I got married, I started trying to get pregnant.

I don’t know if infertility increases the risk of postpartum depression, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it does, particularly because you’re afraid of losing what you’ve got, and that quickly turns into anxiety.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. My pregnancy with Sam was great, up until about the last four weeks. My body was SO done with being pregnant. My liver was the most frustrated with the situation and just sort of lost its fool mind. I ballooned up with excess fluid; my calves were so swollen that Kat and I spent many afternoons drawing pictures in my legs by just pressing down on the skin. I was physically miserable, and when I finally gave birth, I was relieved. So relieved. Within a day, I lost 30 pounds of water weight. Boom, gone.

(late pregnancy in a nutshell)

Early motherhood didn’t come particularly easy for me. Some parts of it did; Sam was a delightful baby overall, a unicorn, really. He only fussed or cried if he was hungry or needed a diaper. He slept easily. He loved being held and was so curious about the world. He learned to smile at six weeks on the dot, and he learned to laugh about two weeks after that.

But other things were more difficult. Breastfeeding was hard. For the uninitiated, it involves so many more moving parts than you realize, and if your kid is not interested in latching, you’re up the crick without a padoodle, as my history teacher used to say when warning us to study for tests. And Sam? Sam did not want to latch. He didn’t want to breastfeed. He had no interest. He wanted to eat, that much was true, but he didn’t want to breastfeed at all. We ended up switching over to formula when he was two months old, and thank God we did.

And even with an easy unicorn baby, the transition from no baby to baby is difficult. You go from having moments to breathe, think, be yourself to having none. You go from understanding your body to inhabiting a monstrous form. Hell, you go from knowing when you need to use the toilet to peeing your pants because you didn’t know that you needed to use the toilet.


And all the while, your body is having this enormous hormone crash. Everything that went into sustaining a human life for the last 40 weeks suddenly drops off, and your body flails in confusion, like what am I doing with myself anymore?

Your entire identity changes. You promise yourself beforehand that you won’t be one of those people who’s wholly consumed by motherhood and loses yourself, but in the first couple of months, you can’t do otherwise–unless you want to pass your baby off to a nanny or wetnurse and have done with it. The person you were before is gone, and if she does come back, it won’t be for a while.

So with all of that going on, it’s no wonder that postpartum depression and anxiety are huge things. It’s no wonder that, when you have a prior history of depression and anxiety, your doctor gives you pamphlets of things to look out for. The real wonder is that PPD/PPA numbers aren’t higher, and sometimes, I wonder if people just underreport.

The tipping point for me, the point where I decided to get help and end the fog and nausea, came about a week after my gallbladder surgery. I was at about 80%, health-wise, but I was still off-kilter and very high key anxious about everything. I was having panic attacks every night, lying in our queen-size bed by myself while Kyle slept in the living room with the baby so that I could rest and heal. My usual coping mechanisms weren’t working at all, and I didn’t know what to do.

It was a Sunday, and Kyle wanted to go to my parents’ house to do laundry, like we always did. I wasn’t going to join, because I still wasn’t feeling well, and Kyle wanted to leave the baby with me so that he could have some alone time for the first time that week (my parents were out of town). The idea of being left alone with the baby sent me into a panic. I didn’t know what to do. What would happen if a sudden complication from surgery came up and I got sick? What if I panicked and hurt the baby? What if I couldn’t do it? What if I took one of the vicodin they’d given me and it made me too tired to take care of the baby? What if? What if? What if?

I was shaking and crying, and Kyle said to me, “Look. I’ll take Sam with me, but you have to promise me that first thing tomorrow morning, you’ll call your doctor and use the words, ‘I think I have postpartum depression.’ Do you promise that you’ll do that?”

He had me backed into a corner in more ways than one. I promised.

And I got help. My doctor took one look at me and put me on one of the stronger antidepressants out there, venlafaxine (or Effexor). When the first dosage didn’t seem enough, she bumped me up and referred me to a therapist. I found things to look forward to, like moving into a new house, celebrating Sam’s birthday. I got a job so that the daily monotony could be broken up. I started to feel better.

I’m not out of the woods, honestly speaking. I still have days where I feel that fog coming back, and there are still things I need to work through. Lately, though, if I have one of those days, I’ve been drowning myself in Wet N’ Wild glitter and taking moments to think of what I have to look forward to: Sam’s birthday, trips to Texas, the hypothetical next child, etc. It’s a short term solution (and I do need to find myself a new therapist, though blogging helps a lot), but it works to break up the fog on all but the very worst days.

So here are my takeaways.

First, if you’re feeling that fog or that nausea, if you don’t think you have anything to look forward to or if you’re constantly afraid, you don’t have to feel that way. Talk to someone–call a doctor, find an online resource if you can’t speak with a doctor, talk to a friend or family member. Ask them to help you find something that shines through the fog so that you can keep going. Ask them to help you find your center again. Douse yourselves in glitter, and remember that depression and anxiety lie. Good things will happen again. Not everything in your future is bad, and you’re strong enough to withstand any bad that does come.

And second, if you know and love someone who’s dealing with that fog or nausea, help them. Talk to them. Give them something to look forward to. Sit with them when they panic. Help them find the strength to keep going. Step in and help them. Be the glitter for them.


Sick Days

Sam was sick this weekend, one of those vague childhood illnesses that isn’t really anything definable but that still had him whining and sleeping a lot during the day both Saturday and Sunday. He didn’t eat a lot either day (we couldn’t even entice him to eat by giving him cookies for breakfast, which shows both [a] how crappy a mom I can be when I’m desperate to get my son to eat and [b] how desperate I was to get my son to eat), and on Sunday morning, he slept until 8:30, as opposed to his usual 6:30. He was fine after his nap on Sunday, but we still spent most of the weekend working our way around an almost!three-year-old who wasn’t quite sick enough to merit being called “sick” but was still too sick to act like his normal self.

He almost never got sick during his first year of life, or at least nothing that I would call “sick.” He spit up a lot, just a little bit after every feeding, and we were concerned about that until his pediatrician pointed out that he was still in the 65-70th percentile in terms of weight for his age and size, so he must be getting some nutrition. He was something of a unicorn baby in that and other regards–he slept through the night at three months (by which I mean, he slept from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m., which totally counts) and was an excellent eater. He was healthy, and it was great.

He got his first cold about a month before his first birthday, the same weekend that we had the funeral for my beloved grandmother AND the same weekend we celebrated Easter. The pictures I took of Sam from that weekend are the saddest thing ever: there he is, in an adorable Easter outfit (featuring Thumper from Bambi because what’s the point of being a mom if you can’t dress your kid in adorable Disney clothes?) with bright red eyes and nose and cheeks, looking stoned out of his mind.


Colds quickly became routine for us, as Sam started daycare about two months later. I forget when he brought home his first cold, but it was quickly accompanied by his first ear infection, which quickly spread to me and resulted in me missing a total of four days of work during my first month. Understandably, my bosses weren’t exactly fans of this and told me that I needed to make sure I was available or else. I don’t blame them for this; I worked remotely as a call center representative back then, and a lack of presence on my part would result in a more difficult time answering call volumes, especially since it was the busy season.

(call center work is a special type of hell)

Busy season or not, Sam kept bringing home colds and ear infections at predictable three week intervals. He’d get a cold, it would turn into an ear infection, he’d suffer miserably, get better, and then have a week of being healthy before another cold turned up. As I understand, this is par for the course during the first year of daycare, but it was exhausting. We saw our pediatrician so many times during the first year that she now actually gets excited if it’s been more than a month since she saw us last.

Eventually, we had to face the fact that Sam had inherited his dad’s eustacean tubes (those are the tubes that go from your ears to your throat and drain excess mucus). They clogged easily and would have to be held open by ear tubes, which he got the December before he turned two. The procedure was quick and painless, and Sam hasn’t had an ear infection since–and we’re to the point now where he may have to get surgery to get one of the tubes removed, since it’s still firmly in place a year and a half after the fact.

I’d happily keep it in there forever, though, because it’s just that nice to have gone so long without having to go and get a bottle of the pink stuff or having to negotiate whose deadline was less important and therefore who’d stay home with Sam because the daycare won’t take him if he has a fever or is contagious. That’s not to say that he hasn’t been sick at all since getting the tubes, but his illnesses have been… well, let’s just say both rarer and more dramatic.

(if a three-year-old could express this sentiment, he would)

For example. About a year ago (a year ago today, how ‘bout that?), I started a new job at as a marketing assistant at a construction firm. Not a week after I started, Sam had a nasty bug that acted very much like the flu, even though he’d gotten his flu shot that year. The flu stuff went on for about a day, and then he started to get spots around his mouth, on his hands and feet. He’d contracted the dreaded hand, foot, and mouth disease, and guess who had to take a week off within the first month of her new job because she also contracted hand, foot, and mouth disease?


Things went back to normal for a while after the spots all went away (they are TERRIBLE, they feel like someone is pricking your fingers and feet with needles if you put even the slightest pressure on them), and they remained normal until this winter, when Kyle and I noticed that Sam, after a few days of a minor cold, had a spotty rash on his torso. Sam’s fully vaccinated, so we didn’t expect measles or anything of that ilk, but we did rush him to the doctor, just in case it was something very serious that we’d never heard of.

As it turned out, we had heard of it, just not in a modern context. The spotty rash on Sam’s torso turned out to be a sign of scarlet fever, as if our son had decided it was actually 1917 rather than 2017. Fortunately, a case of scarlet fever in 2017 is very different from a case of scarlet fever in 1917–Sam just got a bottle of the pink stuff and was declared fit to return to daycare the next day. Go figure.

(meanwhile, in Little Women, scarlet fever eventually leads to Beth dying, so I’m glad it’s 2017)

All-in-all, he’s a healthy kid, and that makes me exceptionally grateful for vaccines. They have a vaccine for rotavirus now–that’s a stomach bug, the one that causes really bad diarrhea in babies. Sam got that vaccine right on schedule, and even though he’s had some pukey bugs, he’s never had a proper stomach bug, which blows my mind. I’d always heard tell of stomach bugs so bad that a kid would be confined to a tarp for the duration because it was just that hard to keep them from puking everywhere. That’s never happened to us, and it’s amazing.

And then I think of the stuff I had when I was a kid that Sam won’t have to deal with because he’s been vaccinated. There’s a chickenpox vaccine now; isn’t that wild? I missed my sixth birthday because of the chickenpox, and I remember that chunk of time as miserable, itchy, and boring. Sam won’t have to deal with that. He also won’t have to worry about coming down with certain types of pneumonia, which stole a good month of my life away when I was seven and has left me with bad lungs, like I’m the protagonist’s sister in a Tennessee Williams play.

I just really love that there’s technology now that prevents these illnesses and that keeps Sam from having to suffer the way that people suffered in the past–or worse. I hate him being even whiny sick like he was this weekend; that I’m able to prevent him from dealing with more severe illness is legitimately so awesome to me. Science is amazing.