Bird’s Birth Story

This post talks about miscarriage, problems conceiving, and pregnancy difficulties. If that’s not your cup of tea, you should skip this one.

My beautiful boy, your beginning begins with an end.

In early March, 2015, I miscarried when I was eleven weeks pregnant. The very first thing I thought was, “it’s ok. You’ll be ok. You’ll survive this and somehow be better for it. You’ll start exercising, lose weight, start writing again. You’ll be better.” And my second thought was, “what kind of horrible person thinks about exercising at a time like this? It’s no fucking wonder this is happening to you. You don’t deserve another baby. You are worthless. You are nothing.”

And I was broken. For a really long time. I took a few days off work, because I could, I binge watched happy shows about strong women, I mourned. And then I moved on. But I was still broken, still stuck with this empty feeling. My belly should be growing, little feet kicking. But I’m empty. I focused on things I couldn’t do if I was pregnant. I dyed my hair pink. I drank. A lot. I ate rare steaks and drank unpasteurized juice. I got hermit crabs because I really wanted them when I was eight years old so goddamn it I was going to have hermit crabs. It was a strange time.

And after some time passed, we started trying to get pregnant again. And after six months of trying, I was convinced that something was wrong. A woman can only pee on so many sticks. So I called my doctor for a referral.

In January I went to see the woman my doctor had referred me too. I felt good. Proactive. This doctor would tell me what was wrong and help me fix it. I show up early and get signed in. I fill out the paperwork, there’s a problem with my insurance. The doctor I have the appointment with doesn’t take my insurance. In fact, there was only one doctor in the building who took my insurance, a man, would that be alright? Well, it’s not my first choice, but I’m a big girl, I can deal. I just want to get pregnant. The receptionist leaves to see if the doctor can see me at the time of my original appointment.

While she’s gone a pregnant woman comes in and sits opposite me. Tears start to fall, I can’t stop them. When the receptionist comes back, I’m sobbing uncontrollably. I can see in her face that she thinks it’s because of the mix up with doctors. I tell her about my miscarriage, about having trouble getting pregnant. She hands me tissue. Tells me her sister miscarried last year. She’s still not over it.

And then she tells me the doctor can’t see me then, but he could see me later. Could I come back in five hours? Sure, whatever, I just want to get pregnant. She tells me what a good doctor he is, how everyone loves him. She tells me his name. It sounds German. My maiden name is also German. In fact, his name, and my maiden name are only two letters away from being the same name. And, his first name is my dad’s name. Which means that five hours later than my original appointment with the female doctor I would be seeing a male doctor whose name was only two letters different than my estranged father’s. At this point I’m convinced that not only is there something wrong with me, but also that the cosmos are fucking with me.

I wanted a doctor to tell me what was wrong, and boy, is that what I got with Dr Almost-Dad. He told me it was probably because they didn’t do a D and C after my miscarriage (darn those midwives), he’d schedule an ultrasound. I mentioned having trouble nailing down when I was ovulating, he told me I probably wasn’t ovulating, as soon as I was done with him I needed to have blood drawn to be sure. And, while they’re drawing blood, they’ll take a look at my testosterone. Because I have hair above my lip…….. Dude. Cheap shot Dr Almost-Dad. And for the record, I’ve never needed to wax or bleach my upper lip like millions of women, so it really felt like he was grasping at straws, and furthermore, he’s a big stupid butthead and I don’t like him. He did a Pap smear, ordered the blood work and ultrasound and sent me on my way. Now feeling broken AND self conscious.

The blood work came back first. Dr Almost-Dad, who I shall now call Dr Downer, called with the results. One of my hormone levels was lower than it should be, it would appear that I wasn’t ovulating. (My testosterone level was fine, by the way.) Than my Pap smear results came back. Dr Downer called again. I have decided that Pap smears are the medical equivalent of a Magic 8 Ball. Dr Downer let me know that my Pap was abnormal. But he couldn’t say if there was anything to worry about. I’d have to have another test done to be sure. It was the medical equivalent of “Ask Again Later”.

In the midst of all of this, all this bad news, it happened. You happened. I came home after a brutal day at work (and more bad test results from Dr Downer) and all I wanted to do was take a scalding hot bath and drink a bottle of wine. Two things that are definitely not recommended while pregnant. My period was supposed to start that day, and I had one extra pregnancy test, so I figured what the hell. I’ll pee on this stick while I draw the bath. And I was pregnant. While I felt so lost, so completely unsure of myself, you came to be. I called for your dad. I looked at that stick, and I laughed. And I cried. And I released a breath I had been holding in for almost a year.

The next day I called Dr. Downer, naturally he had more bad news. With where my hormone levels were he didn’t think I would keep the pregnancy. I needed to see a doctor yesterday he said. He was writing me a prescription for progesterone to hopefully get my hormones where they should be, and I needed to find another doctor because Dr. Downer didn’t handle pregnancies anymore. So, some good news, I’d never have to talk to Dr. Downer again. I left work early and started making some calls. I found a doctor who could see me the next day.

Now, granted it has been awhile since all of this happened, my memory probably isn’t 100% accurate, but the new doctor looked exactly like Putin. He had a firm handshake, a tacky gold watch, and while performing my pelvic exam, he told me my cervix was funny. I should keep taking the progesterone, set up an ultrasound for when I was at seven weeks to see if there’s a heartbeat (and my heart stopped, IF there’s a heartbeat?), and leave the paperwork I needed signed for work with his nurse.

The next few days I called his nurse’s line probably about ten times. First I called because the progesterone (or one of the other two medications he prescribed me) had made me break out in a hideous and very itchy rash. The first nurse I talked to told me to cut back to only one dose a day. The rash went away. A different nurse called back and told me to go back to two doses a day. I explained that it gave me a rash. She said it shouldn’t, I said, but it did. There was a lot of back and forth, never once did Dr. Putin call me himself. I also called several times to see when I could get my paperwork for my work signed. It basically said that I was pregnant, and might need to miss work occasionally for pregnancy related issues. Pretty straight forward. After a week of run around your dad went down to his office and was told by Dr. Putin that he doesn’t sign paperwork like that.

So I once again started looking for another doctor. This time I knew just where to go. I asked an old coworker of mine who her doctor was. That way I knew he’d take my insurance and sign my forms and at this point that was all I cared about. The very first thing he did was sign my forms. Then he told me that I seemed very healthy and he was sure it would be a fine, healthy pregnancy which after Dr. Downer and rashes and medications, I really, really needed to hear. He made terrible dad jokes, and while I was googling him I found out that he had “left” his previous job after finding a gun and throwing it in a trashcan instead of telling the police, but at that point I was like, good enough. Nobody is perfect.

And I was pregnant. And I was happy. And throwing up all the time. And scared. My “Ask Again Later” pap smear results came back with bad news. There were abnormal cells present. Dr. Dad Jokes referred me to a specialist. I didn’t realize it was a cancer specialist until I was filling out the forms. So that was scary. But everyone seemed to agree that there was nothing to suggest that I couldn’t wait to treat it until after having you, so that’s what I did. Your test results were also problematic. Everything was always “on the cusp of normal”. My hormones remained “on the cusp”, your development was always “on the cusp”. So there were extra visits with Dr. Dad Jokes and extra tests. But there were also extra ultrasounds so that was nice. We got to see you almost once a week. That was one thing where you weren’t “on the cusp”, you were growing so big. 99th percentile big. You just kept getting bigger and bigger.

You were due October 3rd, a year and ten days later than my previous pregnancy’s due date of September 23rd. At my last visit with Dr. Dad Jokes, in the middle of September, he didn’t bother having me make another appointment, he knew you were coming soon.

On September 22nd there was a thunderstorm. I was in bed reading and listening to the rain.  Your dad came to bed late, around 11:45. I said I had to pee one more time and then we could turn out the light. I went to the bathroom and my water broke.

We woke up your sister, dropped her off with your grandparents, and headed to the hospital. The nurse on duty asked if there was a storm. Apparently the change in barometric pressure that accompanies a thunderstorm can cause labor and I was the seventh woman who had come in that night. They were a little short staffed that night.

Dr. Dad Jokes popped in around 4am, ordered pitocin, and said he wouldn’t be delivering, as he had just finished a twelve hour shift. The doctor who delivered you was a woman, sweet and supportive. I was glad to see her. I was done with male doctors. Also wonderful was our nurse, who not only helped me through labor, but also chased off visitors, mainly your grandparents. With your sister I had let people in the delivery room and it had been very stressful, so with you, I wanted it to be just me and your dad. And the doctor and nurse of course.

And then, at one in the afternoon, on September the 23rd, thirteen hours after my water broke, you were here. Big, beautiful, and healthy.

You’re two years old now. You love those around you so easily. You give the sweetest hugs. It’s funny to look back on it now. To remember just how hard, and scary the whole thing was. To think about all of those “almost bad” test results and scares. To remember just how desperately we wanted you and how hard we fought for you. I love you with my whole heart, my little bird.


A Mother’s Diet: Guilt, Shame and Brussel Sprouts

A few months ago I was getting dressed and my pants were tighter than normal. I looked down at my belly, my rolls, and thought, “Oh my God, I’m a f**king Before picture.” I wanted to scream. That morning I decided to lose weight. But it wasn’t that simple, nothing ever is. I almost immediately started to argue with myself.

“Why do you want to lose weight?” the voice in my head asked, “Are you insecure? You shouldn’t be insecure, everyone is beautiful.”

“Don’t focus on your weight, that’s one small aspect of who you are. You’re being vain.”

I started to spiral, worried that people would judge me for wanting to lose weight, worried people already judged me for not losing weight, but my biggest concern was my daughter. How could I consciously try to lose weight without setting a bad example for her? I remember growing up around women who focused on their weight, I remember thinking how silly they sounded, but what if my daughter didn’t think it was silly? At almost nine years old I know that she is already receiving those messages that weight is important, despite our best efforts to avoid them. How could I, her biggest influencer, in good conscience add to the narrative that thinner is better?

I remember her mentioning her stomach one time after coming home from school and my heart broke. Always, always with her we talk about health and what her body needs and wants. When she mentioned her stomach I told her it was exactly the right size for her. We talk about food we talk about eating lots of different kinds of food because that’s what her body needs to be healthy and grow big. When she gets an upset stomach from too much sugar, we tell her that it is her body’s way of telling her it doesn’t like having all that sugar.

I have been so careful about how ( and how much) we talk about health and diet, not only so that she grows up healthy, but also so that she has a strong sense of ownership that it is HER body, and no one else’s….. Why wasn’t I doing the same thing for myself? After years of breastfeeding, being pregnant, trying to get pregnant, my body finally feels like mine and mine alone again. So why did I feel my wanting to lose weight was up to anyone other than me?

So, I started to exercise and I started to diet. I’ve lost twelve pounds so far and I feel great. But honestly, that great feeling has so little to do with losing weight. I feel great because I’ve put myself first. For just a few hours a week, I am no one’s mom, daughter, friend, I’m just me. Focused on myself and getting stronger, and faster. And doing that for myself, caring for myself first, has made me that much more present for the people I love.

Today I walked farther and faster than I ever have before. I started to tear up. I realize, I’m not a Before picture. I will always be an After picture. After becoming a mom, after becoming a wife, after losing a pregnancy, after dealing with depression, after, after, after. It’s not Day One, or Day Twenty, it’s just another day. I won’t discredit where and who I’ve been before, because they’ve gotten me where I am today. Happier, stronger, and healthier.

The “Perfect” Week and Writer’s Block

Last week I challenged myself to accomplish two goal this week. The first being closing all my activity rings on my Apple Watch, and the second being blogging every day this week. They were relatively small goal, but I’m still proud to have accomplished both of them. But it got me thinking about writing and my relationship with writing.

I started writing when I was in third grade. I wrote and illustrated a series of books about a kingdom of mice, and while the books have been lost to time, I feel confident in saying they were epic. When I hit puberty I started using writing as an outlet for working through all of my normal adolescent frustrations. By the time I was in college my two main ways of coping were writing and killing off facsimiles of people on The Sims. Hey, it’s better than drugs.

The thing is, I’m not subtle. So to use writing as a coping mechanism meant that I had to give zero fucks about what people thought. I once wrote a play about things ending badly with a guy and named the villain after the guy. I had an acting teacher I didn’t get along with so one of my characters cut out the tongue of her acting teacher. A stranger once called me a bitch in a supermarket so I murdered him with a shopping cart…. in a play that I wrote.

I was really good at not giving a shit. It was fun, liberating, and made me feel like a badass. But all of that changed when I became a mom. Kids are usually a package deal. When I became a mom I also became a partner to my (now) husband, a daughter in law to my in laws, so many different things to different people. And quite suddenly I went from giving zero fucks to giving allllll the fucks.

I bit my tongue, I tried not to curse (which I really enjoy doing and believe I’m pretty good at), I tried to be so many things to so many people, that a part of me got lost in the shuffle. I worried about what people would think of me and how they would judge me. And I couldn’t write anymore.

I kept getting into my head and shutting myself down. I was worried. Worried that the people around me, who cared about me, would judge me. I mean, the idea of telling my Christian in laws that I was writing a feminist, vampire erotica sounds awful.

Even worse somehow, is that all those fucks I suddenly gave were for people I love, but who also annoy the shit out of me occasionally. My husband and I are incredibly lucky to have built an amazing support system for our family. But what do I do when that support system pisses me off? I can’t write about mowing them down with shopping carts, they are an amazing support system, they read everything I write.

The whole thing has made writing incredibly hard for the last eight years.

Which is why, tonight, I’m patting myself on the back for reaching my goal of a perfect week. I wanted to end the week with a post that’s a little more personal, a little more raw. Try to get back some of that catharsis writing used to provide. Honestly, it just feels good to write. About anything.

A Love Story

Since it was Father’s Day yesterday, and my five year wedding anniversary on Friday, I wanted to write a love story about my husband. The problem is, which love story should I write? With five years of marriage, two kids, ten years together, and over twenty years of friendship, there are a lot of stories to choose from.

I could write about the first time we kissed. In college, at a party. There was alcohol involved and he cut our makeout session short. He had to get up early the next morning to sing in the choir at church.

Or I could talk about the time early in our relationship when I went to Disney World with my family. I missed him so much I called him while I was riding Maelstrom (RIP Maelstrom) and provided him with colorful commentary for the entire ride. There might have been alcohol involved with that one as well.

Or the time on New Year’s Eve, where he pulled me off the couch to dance to “I Only Have Eyes For You”. He whispered the lyrics into my ear while we slow danced. No small feat given the thirteen inch height difference between us.

Then there are the obvious stories I could tell, our wedding day, driving through McDonald’s after the ceremony because we had both been too busy and nervous to eat anything beforehand. The births of our children, when our daughter came out covered in meconium (her own poop, pregnancy is so gross) my husband exclaimed, “She’s beautiful!” and I thought he was crazy because she was literally covered in s**t.

And then there are countless other stories I could tell. Stories of him patiently cleaning our daughter’s toe after she’s picked the nail down to nothing. Of him spending hours reading the same five books to our son, because those are his favorites. So many stories of his selflessness, as a husband, son, and father. Stories of his passion as an artist and a friend.

There are thousands of love stories this man has given me. A new one every day.