Baby Grouch is still small but she isn’t really a baby anymore. She pretends she is a waitress and asks, “What would you like today?” and she says, “This is my coffee.” as she takes a swig of milk from her sippy cup. She “reads” her favorite books – We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Baby Giggles and Brown Bear, Brown Bear. She’s heard them so many times she’s memorized every word.
Currently, one of her favorite movies is Tarzan. Her favorite part is when Tarzan presses his hand against Jane’s and notices that their fingers align perfectly. She holds her own hand up, palm facing out and fingers pointing to the sky and says, “Go like this.” I press my hand into hers and I hold it there until she pulls away. It always surprises me how long this sustains her attention and how her tiny hand is able to push against mine with a firmness many adult-sized hands don’t possess. Tarzan leans his head into Jane’s chest and his eyes widen as he listens to her heartbeat. Baby Grouch puts her head against me and smiles when she hears mine. She pulls me close to her and I hear her rapid whumpa-whumpa-whumpa in return.
I get transported to the 12-week appointment where we waited anxiously to hear that sound. Just a week before, we stopped hearing the rapid beating from Baby A and Baby B so we were very nervous about whether or not we’d still hear Baby C. It took forever for the nurse to find that sound and when she finally did I pretty much lost it in the office.
She’s always been the fighter.
When she’s not playing Tarzan, she sings at the top of her lungs and she bangs loudly on her drum set. She presses so hard when she colors that waxy smears of crayon obliterate the image printed on the page. She deftly snips with tiny scissors and cuts a single sheet of paper into a million pieces that litter the art room floor. She screams when she’s happy. She screams when she’s not. She screams so loudly it hurts my eardrums. She demands that I pick her up and then put her down. She yells “Help!” and when I ask her to try again and “I can do it!” when I offer assistance. She tears off her shirts and her pants so they don’t encumber her as she leaps off of the sofa. She giggles when she lands on the floor with a thud.
She is tough.
When she takes off her shirt and tosses it aside, I can’t help but notice that the heart-shaped birthmark on her back – once blood-red – is almost imperceptible now. The doctors told me it would probably fade away but I wasn’t so sure. It was so bold before. For me, it’s always been a stark reminder that there were others with her for a brief time.
Sometimes I watch her with amazement and feel the odd sensation of deeply missing something I never really had in the first place. Sometimes I stare at her in awe and think that what I’m missing is what allows me to retain a small shred of sanity.
Lately, one of her favorite songs is a Phil Collins number from the Tarzan soundtrack. Like her favorite books and videos, she likes to hear it over and over and over again. I sing it with her, I sing it to her, I catch myself singing it even when I’m by myself.
“You’ll be in my heart. You’ll be in my heart….allllllwaaaaays.”
I know my husband loves me. We’re one of those couples that even though we drive each other crazy on a regular basis we know we’re both in it for the long haul. We argue over the little stuff like crumbs on the floor or lights left on in the living room but we support each other when it comes to the important things, like making time for each other’s physical and mental health, for giving each other attention when needed, for being there as a shoulder to cry on when things get tough. I never thought I’d have any reason to question whether or not we’d make it.
An unexpected reason to worry emerged.
We were ready to start a family about a year after we got married. At first, we weren’t concerned that I didn’t get pregnant right away. Starting a family is a big decision, so a couple of months bought us some extra time to settle into the idea. The idea quickly took root in our minds, but not in my body. The months passed. Then the years.
Over and over, I replayed a conversation in my head that I remember having with my husband years ago, early in our dating life.
“I want enough to field a soccer team”.
“You want eleven kids??”
“I want as many as I can have”.
Even as a nineteen-year-old college student, my husband talked about wanting a family. Other than making sure the light switches are off when no one was in the living room, having a family is the one things I knew meant the most to him. So, how could he be happy forever with a wife who couldn’t give him a child?
I started to have serious concerns about whether he could stay with me if we were unable to conceive, or if he did stay with me, that he would never be truly happy. He didn’t do anything to perpetuate either of these ideas, but the anxieties wouldn’t leave my mind, nonetheless. I’m an anxiety-riddled worrier, and this situation expounded that.
Each month that passed was a devastation. Each failed cycle was a punch in the gut. Each month that we couldn’t even attempt to conceive, due to med complications, recovering from miscarriage, or waiting for ovarian cysts to subside, felt like an eternity.
The stress that comes along with infertility isn’t due to failure from an individual cycle, it’s the from the compound effect of repeated loss and the looming dread that it’s never going to happen. Not this month, not next month, not ever. With all the media attention that showcases women in their forties and fifties having babies, and all the technological advances making IVF more accessible, we sometimes forget that science isn’t magic. That not everyone ends up with that particular happy ending. That “it’s never going to happen” isn’t just how it feels, but is sometimes how it really is.
Some people can’t have children because of chance, because of genetics, because of and medical mysteries. For us, luck was on our side. I don’t believe we became parents because it was meant to be, and I don’t believe it happened when it was meant to happen, I think we ended up becoming parents because we were lucky. That, and the correct cocktail of ingested and injected meds, and the healthy dose of applied science that worked out in our favor.
The rational side of me knows that we would have figured out how to navigate a life without kids and that we surely would have been able to make it, despite plans working out differently than we had an anticipated. My rational self thinks hat maybe it could have made us even stronger in the end. The overly emotional side of me is beyond thankful that we have our two beautiful girls, not just because we get to watch them and learn from them and love them, but because we have two more reasons that make me wholly confident again that we will make it. Two fewer reasons to over-analyze and fill my mind with self-doubt.
It’s National Infertility Awareness Week. Does your insurance cover infertility treatments? Does your employer allow it’s employees to utilize infertility treatment without fear of termination? Does your state provide legal access to a multitude of family planning options? Do your friends and family support those who struggle with infertility? Do the candidates you are voting for? It’s time we all start asking these questions. Even if we have our own fertility resolved.
I am the luckiest lady in the world. I am healthy and happy and my biggest concerns are 100% of the first world variety. My problems are of the luxurious sort; my grief is the easy kind of grief.
But no matter how much I believe that my grief is silly or my grief is selfish or my grief is self-indulgent, my grief doesn’t care. I can squash it down for a while, or tuck it away in a corner, or rub it raw with my joys, or scrub it clean and sparkly, or run far away from it, but for some reason I can never seem to rid myself of it, not completely.
For even though I’m pretty sure we are done having children, and are more than content as a family of four, there is always a lingering tug. At the mention of a loss. During discussions of multiples. It makes me grieve for those other ones. The other three. Even though we did not hold them, did not see them, did not name them, it doesn’t mean they were not there. They were still there. I wondered what they would look like and who they would act like and I still do. I just know better than to dwell on it.
Maybe it’s because we have it so good. Two amazing little beings that we marvel at on a daily basis. Two perfect specimen, exactly the same in terms of being healthy, strong, smart, kind, brave, cautious, silly, lovable, beautiful – but so not the same in terms of how they present those strengths.
Maybe it’s because we have a visual reminder. Infant Grouch was going to be one of a triplet. She’s the fighter who showed her strength not only by bruising me internally with her repeated kicks in utero, but simply by making it when the other two didn’t. When she was born I gasped a bit when I saw the birthmark on her back. Two-thirds of a heart. Blood red. It’s like she carries the fraction of the old whole around as a commemorative patch.
I am not the same as I used to be, for a million, trillion reasons. One of which is that I am a mama of two. Another of which is that I am not a mama of five.
One of my all time favorite quotes from Regina Brett is, “If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back”. I believe that to be even more true than we can possibly imagine.
When I give both of my girls a bath, Toddler Grouch usually asks to see her sister’s heart. Sometimes she says, “Ooohhhh” because she isn’t sure what to make of it. I assure her, it’s okay.
That there is nothing wrong with having a heart out there for everyone to see.
I see you hiding behind your Facebook wall. Silent and purposefully not “liking” the photos of my babies.
I see you rolling your eyes and saying out loud how annoying it is that my profile picture is of my children and not of me. After all, you are friends with me, not my kids, you don’t want to know what’s new with them, you want to know what I’m up to. You might be blocking me from your feed. I do post a lot of photos of my babies. I can’t help it. And that profile pic IS what I’m up to. It is not me, but it kind of is me at the same time. But you already know that.
I see you liking the snarky memes about parents being assholes. Selfish, egotistical, ungrateful fucks.
I see you smiling that fake smile when we talk in the break room about our children.
I see you walking out the door when you think it’s safe to make your escape. I see you eating at your desk instead of joining us later in the week.
I see you crying in your car after going to a baby shower, or meeting your friend’s new bundle of joy or hearing another pregnancy announcement from someone who didn’t even try to get pregnant. Maybe I don’t catch you every time. But I know you do it.
I see you at the doctor, staring at the photos of the babies on the wall, wondering if that will ever happen to you. Thinking that maybe it won’t. But going back anyway.
I see you staring at me in the waiting room, a mother, wondering what the fuck I’m doing in there and wishing me out of your sight.
I see you watching in horror as you bleed, much more than you should be bleeding, as you feel yourself losing it. Him. Her. Maybe even Them. Knowing you will not ever be the same after this.
I see you out shopping, trying to avoid looking at the cute baby things. I see you, very rarely, pick up something from the rack. You always put it back. Except that one time. That special thing you saw and couldn’t help but buy. No one sees it because it is hidden in the back of a closet right now, but you think of it often.
I see you watching a mother hug and cuddle her child as she waits to checkout. I see you watching another scream at her kid in the backseat while the child cowers. I see the rage in your eyes as you witness both encounters.
I hear you screaming. Even if you’re only doing it on the inside.
I see you struggling, even though you are trying not to show it.
Don’t worry. You’re hiding it well.
It’s just that since I’ve been there too, I know you’re there. I want you to know that I see you, that you’re not alone, and even though it feels like it will -and even though it feels like it will – the anxiety, anger and despair really won’t last forever, even if there is no guarantee of a biological child as an end result of all the turmoil.
This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. RESOLVE, a National Infertility Association, chose the expression Resolve To Know More as their campaign theme for 2014.
Jesse and Lauren, at Our Crazy Ever After, are doing their part to raise awareness by pairing up bloggers, having the ones with experience dealing with infertility guest post on the ones without. They’ve compiled all of the posts in a link up here. Below is a post I wrote for Kelsey’s page, Randomly Randts about why you need to know about my infertility (and everybody else’s, all around you).
It wasn’t until three years after we initially started trying to conceive, and I was already pregnant past my first trimester, that I was brave enough to share any of our struggles, even with most of my family and friends. Looking back, it was crazy for me to keep silent, to try to rein in all of the emotions that surrounded my infertility. But, I felt alone, a little embarrassed, a lot depressed, and didn’t realize the abundance of support that existed, if only I was willing to put myself out there and seek it.
So, now I’m pretty outspoken about my infertility, making sure that if someone else is going through similar circumstances (and they’re out there, I know that), they know they aren’t alone and that I am someone they can reach out to, if and when they’re ready.
Here’s Why You Need to Know About My Infertility
To someone who hasn’t dealt with infertility firsthand, the question, Why do we need Infertility Awareness? may come to mind. The answer is pretty simple. It is easy for all of us to get wrapped up in our own existence, our own experiences, as we are all egocentric at the core. Even so, most of us want connections with other people, need them, really, for our own well-being, and find that nothing is more important in life than our network of friends and family.
The good thing is that most of us can be wakened, relatively easily, from our narcissistic slumber by learning about the experiences of others, and connecting something within ourselves to something within them. The more we understand others, the more we understand the world around us, and when we assimilate information from others into our mental repertoire, if we allow it, we end up learning more about ourselves. Convenient for the egomaniac part of us that it all comes full circle and we get to think about ourselves again, right? Ultimately, integrating the accounts from others with our own experiences is how we grow into better people, and that’s pretty damn important.
The problem is that when it comes to infertility, most people remain silent about the issue, one that has taken over their private lives, is eating them from the inside out, causing them to turn into bitter, crumbling, empty shells of themselves who feel like they might not make it through the day. They hide it. Put on a brave face. Say, Great!when someone asks how they are doing, even though they are NOT great. They are fragile vases, full of water but devoid of flowers, who could easily shatter and collapse into a puddle of tears the moment they reach their car and shut the door behind them, after leaving one of the many doctor’s appointments, after leaving a baby shower, a family gathering, or even after leaving an afternoon coffee with a friend, who just happened to say the wrong thing.
There are SO MANY people going through their own personal conception-seeking hell. SO MANY! There are currently over 7 million individuals in the U.S. alone who have a medical condition making it difficult, or impossible, to conceive, or carry a child to term. That’s 1 in 8! They surround you. At your workplace, at your gym, at your knitting club, in your classes, in your own family. Usually, you aren’t even aware of this, yet it’s impacting you. It is impossible to make those true connections we all seek with others when such an all-consuming piece of oneself is ensconced in fear, shame, anxiety, and ignorance.
It’s important for us to know about the infertility struggles that exist, so that we can better understand the reality around us, the people around us, and are able to reflect, respond and react in the best way possible. In other words, so we can grow ourselves.
It’s important for us to know about the infertility struggles that exist, so that we can be informed, and aware, to know how to support our siblings, friends and coworkers when we find out they are dealing with something we haven’t dealt with firsthand.
It’s important for us to know about the infertility struggles that exist, so that if it turns out that we are suddenly one of those people who is fighting this exact same battle (that we never before thought could be possible) we are better prepared, and don’t feel so alone.
The barriers that get in the way of making authentic connections with others can be combated with information, with awareness.
All of us infertiles who have “came out” have had friends and acquaintances emerge out of the woodwork, contacting us publicly or privately, sharing their own experiences, sometimes to let us know that we are not alone, sometimes to talk so they can continue healing and processing their own grief, sometimes to thank us because up until we spoke out, they felt isolated, solitarily suffering, with no support in sight.
Those of us that are recovering infertiles, who now have children of our own, need to let those still stuck in the trenches know that hope exists. Real living and breathing hope, not the grasping-at-straws-hoping-yet-hopeless feeling that we get from the doctor’s office alone.
Those of us who are recovering infertiles, who were never able to have children (we don’t hear too much about these people, but they’re out there, too) need to let others know that modern medicine doesn’t equate to miracles.
It is so important for those of us who have struggled, to speak up.
For the naysayers who use the excuse that people are overly sensitive or that everyone gets offended by something, let’s be clear about this one thing: This is not about being exceedingly politically correct. This is just about not being an insensitive jerk.Resolving to Know More doesn’t have to apply solely to infertility. We could easily replace all of the “infertilitys” within this post with Sexual Orientation, Depression, Grief, Eating Disorder or Addiction. By resolving to know more about OTHERS, and their experiences, we are resolving to better understand the people all around us, and to become better individuals for having done so.
Infertility sucks. But, while it depresses you, drains your bank account and almost kills you in the short-term, in the long run it can be good preparation for parenthood. Some might say it even makes you a better parent than you would have become otherwise, if you let it. Here’s how getting the short straw before becoming a parent can be a benefit, once you finally are one:
Infertility prepares you for:
1. All of the doctors appointments you’ll have once you’re pregnant, and for your new baby. In fact, while other women are complaining about how many appointments they have, you’ll be rejoicing at the reduction of the number of times you have to go, and at the pleasure of going for such an awesome reason.
2. The discomforts of pregnancy. You’re guaranteed to not complain about the fact that you can’t ride rollercoasters or jump on trampolines and you’re less likely to dwell on the aches and pains you will experience as you morph into a whaleish host. You may already have experienced nausea, vomiting, bloating, surgeries, and/or severe pain from all of the medications, self-injections, ovarian cysts and medical procedures you’ve went through. Infertility removes any feelings of entitlement and you will be less likely to take things for granted. Even things like peeing through your pants when you sneeze.
3. Unsolicited questions and advice. You’re used to dealing with questions about when you’re planning to have children, comments about how you better not wait too long, and advice about how “just relaxing” will cause you to conceive within the month, so you’ll be well prepared for strangers asking you when you’ll “pop” (looks like any day now!), and telling you that formula feeding is basically the equivalent to poisoning your child. Idiocy abounds.
4. Random stranger’s hands on your belly. Just remember: SO much better than the dildo camera.
5. Dealing with any doubts or qualms about becoming “tied down” with a child. Infertility gives you time to realize how badly you want to become a parent, so you don’t waste any precious time with your baby wishing you were still childless and “free”.
6. How difficult parenthood is. Infertility is hard. Parenting is even harder. The struggles you experience beforehand will help ease you into the time-consumption, expenses and exhaustion you’ll be graced with later.
7. Working through with challenges and hard times with your spouse. Think of this as a litmus test for your relationship.
8. The unknown. Infertility reminds you that nothing is a guaranteed and any luck or happiness that happens to fall into your lap is a gift.
9. All of the worrying. When you’re faced with horrible or scary scenario involving your child, instead of thinking that this is the worst thing that could ever happen to you, you know that the most horrific thing would really be not being in this situation in the first place. You’ll still panic (EVERY DAY), but at least there’s some sort of cosmic retribution for all of the anxiety you experienced before you had kids.
10. Being a more empathetic person. People who have been through battles of their own tend to be kinder, more compassionate, more helpful to others. All traits any good parent wants to possess and model for their child. Of course, this is only true if you don’t remain so bitter that you’re unable to see that others with different problems have had different battles to fight.
We struggled to become pregnant with baby number 1. We tried on our own for two years before seeking help from a reproductive endocrinologist (RE), who informed us that I very likely was not ovulating on my own at all (makes it a little harder to conceive) due to my PCOS. After a year of ingestible, injectable, and suppository meds, a combination worked and after a relatively delightful pregnancy and birth, Baby Grouch was born. Huzzah! The whole process made me naively believe that, for me, conception was close to impossible, but pregnancy would be relatively easy. Pregnancy Viking!
We knew we wanted another child, so started trying on our own very soon after her birth. Naturally, the whole no ovulation thing meant nothing actually resulted from those attempts. Who did we think we were? Normal people? Hah. So, we went back to the RE, who put us on the same combination of meds that resulted in the first pregnancy. And WHAMMO. Pregnant the first medicated cycle! Crazytown. Unfortunately, that ended in an early miscarriage. A few months later we started our next medicated cycle. And can you believe it? WHAMMO AGAIN! The power of (correctly balanced) hormones is astounding.
In infertility terms, three pregnancies in a row (okay, in a medicated row, over a course of 21 months) is almost unheard of. It’s like winning the lottery. No. That’s not quite right. It’s more like winning The Conception Toilet Bowl, since you’re comparing yourself only to the group of people who really suck at baby-making. Whatever, you still get a prize in the end.
Immediately I could tell that this pregnancy was different. It was so much MORE than the last one(s). First, there was the uterus. The uterus that I swear felt – POOF, and expand exponentially, instantaneously. I seriously felt poochy 3 days after conception. A week later I KNEW I was pregnant. My body was heavy with the pregnancy already. I alternated between feeling nauseous and ravenously hungry. I only wanted to eat Crunchwrap Supremes from Taco Bell, a food item I had previously disliked. But, what did I know? I had only experienced the glimmer of a second pregnancy before, so maybe this is what it always felt like when you already had one child.
Then the data started rolling in. My beta numbers were through the roof. Whereas my beta over the summer was 70 (very much in the average range), my beta in the fall was 1270. Honestly, still in the realm of possibility of a singleton, since HCG levels can vary widely, but the number was noticeably high.
I was sure there were TWO. I sent my husband texts that said things like, “The babieS are hungry today!”. I had a dream that we had twin boys.
Working with the RE, we got to have our first ultrasound at 7 weeks (how on Earth do you normal people wait so freaking long to see your baby?!).
The following stages are what we went through from the day of that first appointment, until now.
1. Fear – What if there isn’t a heartbeat? What if I am just feeling so pregnant because I WANT to be so pregnant? Water poured out of my eyes, as we waited for the ultrasound tech to get ready to give us a peek at my insides. I was just hoping I could blame the tears on surging hormone levels.
2. Elation – There’s a baby! With a heartbeat! OMG there are two babies!!!! Whumpa. Whumpa. Whumpa. Whumpa. Whumpa. I turned to Mr. Grouch and said, “I told you!” because no wife misses an opportunity to tell their husband they told them so. Um. Three heartbeats!?! Yes. Three. Holy Eff. But, no matter how freaking crazy it might seem, once you hear your baby’s Whumpa Whumpa, you’re elated. In this case, triple time.
3 Shock – The car ride home was mostly filled with silence. Mr. Grouch broke it at one point to say, “We have to buy two new cars. We won’t be able to fit our entire family in either of our cars“. This was followed up with more silence.
4. Denial/Disbelief – It’s so early in the pregnancy. Anything could happen. There might not even BE three heartbeats anymore by the time we go back. There was one little runt that was much smaller than the other two.
5. Guilt – OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD please don’t let anything happen to my babies. Please let them be alright! Whumpa whumpa whumpa echoed in our heads. A primitive, instinctual beat.
6. Trepidation – How will all three babies get enough touch? We can’t hold them all at once. What will the psychological damage from this be? How will Baby Grouch handle suddenly being the sister of The Triplets? Will she feel left out? Holy hell, we can’t afford daycare for four children under the age of 2. At least not without giving up groceries, heat, water and garbage removal. We will never, ever retire. How are we going to do this? Oh, yea, don’t forget we need new cars.
7. Acceptance – We’ll figure it out. We have a good support system. We’ll beg and borrow for baby things. We’ll be alright.
8. Elation – We’re going to have a loud, obnoxious, messy house, plastered with Cheerios and dirty handprints and SO. MUCH. LOVE. And drama. There will be a lot of drama. Still cool.
At around 10 weeks we went in for our last appointment with the RE. We stared at the screen as the ultrasound tech adjusted the wand until all three of our babies were visible on the screen. There they were! Except they weren’t really all there anymore. Not all of them. We immediately noticed that Baby A was still little. Too little.
9. Relief – So there are only two.
10. Grief – So there are only two.
11. Shock – When the ultrasound says, matter-of-factly, “I see one heartbeat“. I inhaled sharply, and Mr. Grouch instinctively reached out to touch the only part of me he could reach – my foot. Since the very beginning there had always been more than one. We had never imagined one. And now she said “one“. It was incomprehensible. It was shockingly sad.
12. Anguish – After losing three of our babies in a matter of months, it was hard to concentrate on the fact that there was still one beautifully healthy looking 10-week-old fetus intact. We both left the office in tears, trying to stay positive and appreciate the good news we had been given. But, we could hardly look at on another other because our own grief was reflected on each other’s faces.
13. Guilt – How dare I be upset about not getting THREE when so many do not even have ONE? I should not feel sad, I should not be so greedy. We’re getting one, which was what we set out for in the first place. But, no matter how many times I reprimanded myself, I was still heartbroken.
13. Anxiety – We graduated from the RE to the regular OB. The wait between appointments was brutal. We had lost Baby A and Baby B, without warning. What made us think that Baby C would be okay? The thought of losing yet another was too hard to imagine, yet impossible to push from my mind.
At our OB appointment, we explained our first trimester history to the nurse. She saw the anxiety on my face, and she measured it with the blood pressure cuff. She told me she’d try to find the heartbeat as soon as she could. She moved the doppler around, “That’s your intestines. That’s your heartbeat“. She kept moving the instrument around my abdomen. Tears started to leak out. Where was the heartbeat, where was it?
14. Gratitude – “There’s the heartbeat! There it is!” Her relief was almost as obvious as mine. Except my elation was exposed in the form of uncontrollable sobbing, right there in the office, in front of the nurse. After our appointment, I played with Baby Grouch, and when she was in bed, I snuck into her room and just watched her sleep. Mr. Grouch and I turned in, and Mr. Grouch wrapped his arm around me, caressing my belly, simultaneously saying goodbye to A and B, while sending love to C. Gratitude wrapped in a thin veil of grief is still gratitude.
15. Elation. We’re having a baby! The happiest words ever uttered.
So, that’s the news. We’ll be keeping the cars we have, and Baby Grouch will be a Big Sister in June.
The woman got the call and listened to the numbers being given to her. Her eyes widened, her heart sped up. She couldn’t believe her good fortune. Only a few months into the process, when last time took three years. So soon?! She was by herself, in the bathroom, away from the crowd. She hung up the phone, elated. She looked in the mirror at herself, in her pink puffy dress, her dark hair swept up into a voluminous bun, her lipsticked mouth hanging open. She went into a stall and clicked the lock. She smiled. Then she second guessed. Did the lab tech say 70? Or was it only 7? So she called back, standing inside the stall. And the lab tech giggled as she recited the joyous news for a second time. And then a third. Her husband, on his way to meet her, called the same lab tech, who got a kick out of telling the numbers for yet a fourth time.
When the couple saw each other at the party, they gave each other a knowing smile, and a hug. I love you, they each said. The I love you, while true, was a private code that meant I’m so excited to start this journey with you, again. And the couple celebrated, with mocktails, two parties at once. One public, one private.
A few days later, another call, from another lab tech. Not as happy, not laughing. The lab tech had a shaky voice and said things very slowly. She took forever to spit out the numbers. Hurry up! the woman wanted to say. Just say it! But instead she said, Okay. Okay. Okay. And a few days after that, another lab tech said I’m sorry. And she gave the woman the Tragic Numbers. Numbers that left her like the word looked. Sliced apart. Numb.
The good news is that the woman came home to a nursery that was already full. Full of her One. She cracked the door and crept into the nursery while the One slept, so beautifully curled up, on her side. She settled into the rocking chair, with her cocktail in hand, and stared and stared and stared, filling her heart with her One’s scent, her One’s contentedness. She breathed in her One’s perfume and tried to breathe in her One’s serenity. And it worked as well as it could.
He came in and saw her rocking and staring and knew she had been sitting there for a long while. He opened his mouth to ask her what she was doing, but he stopped himself. He knew. After looking at her for a bit, he turned and looked down at their One, and he bent over and rubbed his One’s back and after only a second, she awoke. She sat up, instantly covered in smiles, even though she had been disturbed from her slumber.
The woman realized that deep down she’d been hoping her One would wake, and she greedily scooped her up into her arms and hugged and hugged and hugged her. Her One sleepily squeezed her right back, and their bodies encircled each other. And it felt good. Her One warmed her and relaxed her and alleviated her pain.
But, her One’s great comfort also profoundly saddened her, because for while she sat in the chair enjoying her One, she knew she losing her Two. She pretended that she was rocking her One to sleep, when both he and she knew that her One was really rocking her.
I have been practicing yoga for almost 5 years now – I began on the recommendation of my family doctor, when I was struggling with anxiety. From the moment I started, I was surrounded by teachers I connected with and have missed very few weeks without attending a session ever since. It has changed my life; it has made a tremendous difference in improving my anxiety and mental health. It has also tightened and toned me up a bit, which is not my purpose for practicing but is a nice added bonus.
I practiced yoga throughout our struggle to conceive, and was lucky enough to be able to continue throughout the entire duration of my pregnancy with Baby Grouch. For as much as I practice, I oddly only have one yoga shirt, which I love. It is long and fits perfectly, so I never have to think about it, adjust it or mess with it. Or rather, it used to be that way. I stretched out the belly from practicing while carrying the baby, but haven’t yet found a suitable replacement so I’m still wearing the same coral shirt I’ve had for years.
The only problem with this, is that now, when I’m in shoulder stand, my shirt, that used to stay snugly on my hips, now slides up to my boobs and exposes my belly. And there’s not much I can do about it, once I’m in shoulder stand, other than stare right up at my stomach, since my hands are pinned to the floor and turning your head in this posture can damage your neck. So, at least once a week for the past year, I’ve had a few minutes to stare at my post-baby saggy pooch. The fat underneath my belly button has been stretched out, so when I’m upside down, the skin sort of crookedly hangs a bit over my belly button. It’s not very pretty.
I think everyone’s heard the cliché about mothers who are “proud” of their stretch marks, their flabby underbellies. They’ve “earned their stripes” yada yada yada. It used to annoy me, and still does, a little. I can understand being proud of your children, or proud of who you are as a mother, or the choices you have made. But, what’s the deal about being proud of your inability to get back into pre-baby shape? I didn’t get it.
And now I sort of do. Except, I still don’t think PRIDE is the correct term. You can’t really be proud of something you have so little control over. The timing of your conception, how easy or hard your pregnancy was, and how long you were in labor are not anything to be proud of, in my opinion, since our bodies, for the most part, are going to just do what they do. For the most part we did not earn anything, other than being able to truly appreciate a cold salami sandwich and a stiff drink after 9 months of abstaining.
Pride isn’t the right term, at all. But, honor is. What an honor it is, to have the privilege of becoming pregnant, to carry around your baby as he or she grows inside you. What an honor to feel every kick, every hiccup, every movement. What an honor it is to give birth to a child, no matter how laborious or exhausting the process. And a stretched out pooch is my mark that resulted from me being able to experience all of those positive things.
It’s an honor to have a child, to be exposed to her freedom, to experience her joy and to witness her little personality emerging before me. To be humbled and honored by the process and the person does not mean that conception, pregnancy, or labor are not difficult. And we all know that parenting is hard…..really hard. So, it’s okay as a mother to take a moment to honor myself, and my mental sanity, even if that means exacerbating the paunch by indulging in Doritos and wine on a semi-regular basis. There’s something to be said about making sure to honor the part of you that demands to be happy and satisfied.
So today at yoga, I was reminded not to dwell on the pooch or be disgusted by the saggy skin. But, to embrace it and remember that I am honored and lucky to have stretched out my favorite shirt, as well as my abdomen.