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That time I gave birth

August 16, 2017

This time last year, I was due to give birth! I didn’t until two weeks later, but still! I figured that it’s as good a time as any  to post the birth story a few of you have wanted to read. It was a pretty typical labor, nothing crazy happened, and we were all okay in the end. If words like “dilation” make you uncomfortable, this isn’t the post for you.

I was 41 weeks and 3 days pregnant when I stood, shifting my weight from one leg to another, in the elevator of the City Target in Downtown Seattle when woman with silver hair asked me how far along I was. I told her, my discomfort audible, my face plastered with a grimace that became permanent three days earlier. She looked at me intently, scanning my massive belly, then finding my tired, angry eyes. She nodded knowingly and said the only thing that could really be said to a woman 10 days past her due date: “Well. Yeeeeah.”

By then, I was receiving daily infuriating text messages from friends and family, some that consisted only of question marks. My pelvic pain limited my ability to walk more than about a half a mile per hour, and the acts of getting up from the couch or turning over in bed were frustrating, laughable, and in some cases, impossible for me to accomplish without assistance. I was too swollen to wear my shoes, couldn’t keep down food, and had never-ending heartburn. Like a dementor, pregnancy had officially stolen every last ounce of happiness I had left in me. I was miserable, a typical woman 41 weeks pregnant.

My midwives spoke to me slowly, carefully, the way you might speak to someone pointing a gun at your head. “I’m sorry,” they’d say, “I know you’re uncomfortable.” They pitied me. I had been coming into the office for NSTs every couple of days where they’d confirm that the baby was okay, I was okay, and I still wasn’t in labor. Of course, it wasn’t for lack of trying. I had two membrane sweeps, one when I was just over 40 weeks pregnant, and one at 41+2, which my midwife called “reaming” because she did it so forcefully. I was desperate for my pregnancy to be over, and really, I was running out of time. The day of my “reaming” was also the day we made concrete plans to attempt to evacuate my child from my uterus. An induction was scheduled, and on September 1st at 9 p.m., I’d be put on Pitocin. I couldn’t tell if I was nervous, disappointed or some third thing, but I resigned myself to napping, watching Harry Potter movies, and moving as little as possible in anticipation of labor and the new life I was bringing into the world which would surely mean I would never nap, watch Harry Potter, and not move ever again.

On August 31, I woke up with contractions at 3:00 a.m., and they came every 5-10 minutes all day long until 8:00 p.m. when they just stopped. My frustration was only paralleled by my rage. Why was nothing happening?! Why was I seriously ending another day with a baby still inside of me with no intention of exiting?! I headed to bed at 9:00 p.m. and stayed awake thinking of what was coming the next day. Pitocin, pain, 3 hours of pushing (I didn’t have any hope), stitches, but…baby! I decided I was going to sleep in for as long as possible when I finally closed my eyes at 1 a.m. But my sleep was short-lived. I woke up at 3:00 a.m. on September 1st to contractions. Again. I was in no mood for more prodromal labor, no mood for contractions that would not result in me giving birth. I was going to the hospital in 16 hours, and I was desperate for more than the two hours of sleep I had gotten. I shut my eyes, begging my brain and body to sleep, yelling in my head about how I was going to be sucking on ice chips later that night and spending hours trying to expel an actual human being from body through an opening the size of a bagel.

Naturally, on a day where it was imperative to me that I was well rested, my body laughed in my face. Just like it had been doing for two weeks. My contractions were decently painful (like the ones I had when I was miscarrying my first pregnancy/menstrual cramps x 100), and I thought they were coming quickly, so I started timing them with an app on my phone to see the damage. I was having contractions every 5 minutes, lasting anywhere from 1-1.5 minutes. So much for going back to sleep. After about 4 contractions the app told me to go to the hospital. But I knew better — I had just spent the day prior in the very same situation, and it was all for naught. I actually laughed because it was too damn funny to think that I would ever actually be in the position where I needed to get to a hospital because birth was imminent. When the contractions started coming every 3 minutes, I figured I’d at least tell Alex.

“Alex,” I whispered, waking him up. “I’m having contractions again. They’re coming pretty close together, 3-5 minutes apart”
“Do you want to get up and go to the living room?,” he asked.
“Yeah, I guess.”

He encouraged me to sit on my exercise ball, which I did. I quickly found that it just made my pain worse, so I settled for kneeling on the floor, draping myself over the ball instead. That, too, was miserable. It seemed to be a pattern. I took a few contractions before I gave up and headed to the couch to lie in the fetal position. A few hours passed while my pain intensified before I decided to sit in the bathtub, hoping it would take the edge off. Alex called my midwife’s office to ask what my next step was, just as I lowered myself into the luke warm water.

The midwife instructed us to come to the office at 9:30 a.m. where I’d have another NST to check on the baby and talk about my options. Alex brought my hospital bag down to the car and lined the passengers seat with a trash bag with a towel placed over it in the (extremely unlikely) event that my water broke during the one mile drive. I grumbled the entire way from our apartment into the parking garage, grumbled some more leaving the parking garage, and started to become more agitated as we drove on the bumpy city streets. When we got to my midwife’s office, Alex parked the car in an area that was definitely not a parking space but was close to the elevators, and I said every swear word I have ever heard in my life as I walked to them.

When we finally made it to the office, I left Alex at the front desk to head to the waiting room where I found four other pregnant women and their companions. I sat on the edge of a chair across from a woman who looked like she must have been in her second trimester because she appeared to be happy. For a moment, I felt contempt for this person I didn’t even know. I was the quintessential seething woman in labor like you see in the movies, except I was in far too much pain to scream at Alex, and far too tired to break someone’s hand by squeezing it. The woman stared at me as I gripped the armrests, exhaling deeply as my stomach tightened and the pain of my contractions peaked. The room was quiet and everyone was looking at me. The faces of the males in the room were combinations of horror and sympathy. I can only imagine what those women — the people who actually had to birth their babies — were thinking. A nurse came to greet me, and I was led into a room with a big, soft, teal chair, and was hooked up to a fetal monitor. I’d have to wait 20 minutes to hear the results, and I spent those 20 minutes completely silent. When the 20 mins were up, a nurse came in, told me my contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes, and that I was in labor. With that, she led me to an exam room to see the midwife.

Robin, a midwife I had seen twice before, was a breath of fresh air. She was real, empathetic, didn’t look at me like I was crazy when I told her my fears, and was so kind and patient. I liked her immediately when I met her — weeks before — and Alex and I hoped more than anything that she’d be on call on the day I went into labor. I was so happy that I nearly smiled when she walked into the room that day, grinning, thrilled that I had gone into labor and wouldn’t need an induction after all. She was still grinning as she examined me and found I was 3-4 cm dilated. I spoke slowly, my muscles clenching with every contraction, and I told her that I hadn’t slept much, I was in pain and desperate for a break. I really needed to sleep, I said. Robin knew I was not entirely comfortable with the idea of an epidural (which would likely allow me to sleep), so she explained that she could offer me Fentanyl when I was admitted to the hospital, but there was a catch. The Fentanyl would make me feel drunk for certain, and might not actually relieve the pain and allow me to rest. Feeling drunk while having contractions was a hard pass for me, and I told her as much. I knew I would be giving birth running on fumes and unmedicated, but at least I’d actually be giving birth — a welcome relief after 42 weeks. Robin gave me two options: I could go home for 1.5 hours max and then head to the hospital, or I could just be admitted right then. It took a few minutes for me to decide, but I chose to go to the hospital. It was a short drive — just a couple of blocks — and I was in better spirits by the time we got to the parking garage. I texted close friends and family to say that it was going down for real, I was actually in labor, and I was buzzing with anticipation.

When we made it up to the birth center, it all felt surreal. For a moment I was actually excited. Alex filled out some papers while I labored on a bench near the reception area before a nurse came and led me into a room the size of an airplane hangar with huge windows and a view of downtown Seattle. I made a beeline for the bed to sit down, and was overcome with relief that I wasn’t in labor at home anymore or in a doctor’s office. I was where I needed to be to give birth.

I was hooked up to a monitor again, and the intermittent monitoring I was expecting from the very beginning just wasn’t my reality at the time. I wasn’t sure why, but I wasn’t in the mood to ask, so I rolled with it. Eventually, after nearly an hour, I was given wireless monitors so I could labor in the big, deep jetted tub in the bathroom. I couldn’t use the jets with these monitors on my belly, but I didn’t mind, especially because being in the water wasn’t providing me as much relief as I hoped it would. Eventually, when the water became cold, I got out of the tub. The monitors were finally taken off, and I was left to labor untethered. Alex and I made the decision to call my doula who began the drive down from Everett, and she made it to the hospital in record time.

Sindea came into the room smiling, and I was so relieved to see her. She had been a doula for 18 years, witnessed over 400 births, and was chock-full of knowledge, empathy, and most importantly to me at the time, pain relief techniques. We had a short conversation between my contractions before she took out her TENS machine. She placed the sensors on my back, and told me to activate the electrical pulses with the push of a button when my contractions were beginning to peak. The pulsing sensation was no match for the pain of my contractions, and they were actually uncomfortably distracting, but I kept it on for at least an hour — maybe more — hoping beyond all hope that it would help. Eventually, I gave up and attempted other methods. I labored in various positions, labored for another hour or so in the tub, took sips of water when I could, and listened to Sindea’s soothing voice. When my muscles instinctively tensed when a contraction began, she coached me in relaxing my body and reminded me to breathe until, finally, I was able to do these things without prompting. She helped me to stay focused and present — to not fight what I was feeling. Her support was instrumental to me, and with her help, I was crawling my way through labor millimeter by millimeter. When the rolling contractions (contractions that come one after another without a break in between) began, I closed my eyes, only to open them a handful of times until I finally gave birth.

A few hours had passed as I labored in complete silence on my hospital bed before Sindea got a phone call saying that there was an emergency she needed to attend to. She was going to need to leave the hospital, so she called her backup doula and bid us goodbye. Alex and I were alone now. When I had the capacity to think, I felt bad that my eyes were closed and that I wasn’t speaking. I could not do anything but stay silent when my contractions came, and even if I could have maintained my ability to speak, there was really nothing to talk about. Between thinking about how guilty I was feeling, I thought of my grandparents, and it was a comfort to me.

Robin came to check on me as Mariah, Sindea’s backup doula, came into the room and introduced herself. She immediately sat down by my side and offered suggestions to help me cope with the increasing pain of my contractions. I labored in various positions and changed positions frequently before I laid down, semi-reclined, on my left side with some pillows behind my back, some supporting my belly, and a few pillows between my knees. Eventually I ended up on my back with my knees bent, Mariah and Alex taking turns to forcefully push my legs inward toward my body. This helped immensely in relieving the pain I felt in my back and hips, and really did make me feel quite a bit better.

It wasn’t long before the pain intensified further. Mariah coached me in low-moaning as I worked hard to consciously relax my muscles with every contraction. After a few hours of laboring like this, I said the most I had said all day: “I can’t do this anymore.” But really, I knew that I could. I had the will to continue, and even if I didn’t, it’s not like I had the choice in the matter, so I quickly added, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Eventually, Robin came in and asked how I was doing, to which I replied, “Honestly, this entire day has been a complete shit show.” Unsurprisingly, I was miserable and exhausted. She empathized with the struggle and asked if I wanted her to check my dilation. I was curious to know how I was progressing, so I said yes. I wasn’t feeling overly confident, but I hoped I was at least 5 cm to make me feel a little better about the pain I was feeling. She said I was 7-8 cm, and I was so happy I probably would have cried if I had any energy. Mariah spoke immediately and said, “The hard part (transition) is not coming. It’s not something you are going to have to do, you are already doing it.” I labored some more with two nurses, Robin, Mariah and Alex telling me that I was doing a great job.

Less than an hour passed before Robin encouraged me to use the bathroom and labor on the toilet for a few contractions. I shuffled slowly to the bathroom and took a few contractions on the toilet before the pain was just too much for me to bear, and I stood up. I noticed that I was leaking fluid, and when I opened the door, I said in the weakest voice I have ever heard emerge from myself, “I think my water broke.” Robin said, “Okay! It’s okay!,” as I walked back into the room and got back in bed. Robin wanted to check my dilation once more and found that I was 9 cm, and although I was leaking water, it had not yet broken. She asked if I wanted her to break my water for me, explaining that it may help to ease the pain I was feeling. Before I could respond, it broke spontaneously (and audibly — it was pretty loud), and Robin and the nurses suited up for the delivery. I was 10 cm dilated almost immediately.

The foot of my bed was dropped down, and the back was raised straight up so that I was in the “throne” position (sitting). Gravity was going to assist me as the baby gently slid out of my body, though neither gravity nor the baby understood that “gently” was the keyword. Somehow, miraculously, I had a minute or two of relief before my contractions really ramped up. The pain, of course, followed suit. I only had one last run-of-the-mill contraction before my body started to involuntarily bear down with each one. The pressure was overwhelming, and it was far and away the worst part of labor. About 35 minutes later, Robin said that I could push along with my body if I wanted to, and because I was desperate to get the baby out, I did. I was mindful to keep the muscles in my face relaxed, and use all of my energy to bear down. About 10 minutes later, the baby was crowning, and Robin asked if I wanted a mirror so I could see what was happening. I yelled my response, “Fuck no!” Robin told me to stop pushing. A minute later, she said, “Deena, open your eyes. Look down, look at your baby.” Kaia entered the world at 10:02 pm after 45 minutes of (voluntary and involuntary) pushing — pink and crying — and was quickly placed on my chest. She was tiny, warm, and beautiful, with eyes like the ocean. “Hi,” I said. “Hi, baby. You’re here.”

The world melted away. I didn’t notice that she pooped all over me as soon as I put my arms around her, I didn’t notice when I delivered the placenta, I barely noticed getting stitched up. All I could focus on was the child in my arms. A real human, my own flesh and blood. I held her for almost two hours, staring at her.  I felt like I knew her long before we met. I thought of all of the hard days during my pregnancy, and the struggles, sadness, and heartbreak I experienced over the course of my life, and suddenly, it all had deeper meaning. Everything I had ever done, every moment I had ever experienced, led me right into that hospital bed with my husband’s hand on my head, and the person for whom it was all for laying on my chest.

For all of my life she was always with me, but now she was really here.

Life as I knew it ended in that delivery room.

When it was time to start heading to my postpartum room, Alex took Kaia over the scale to be weighed. Robin held Kaia in her arms for a few seconds and predicted, accurately, that she would weigh 8 lbs 3 oz. Afterward, Alex took her and held her as I did things like attempt to move (it was very hard) and pee (I physically couldn’t, so a catheter was used to help me out). Eventually, I sat in a wheelchair, had Kaia handed to me, and I was wheeled out. We went upstairs, passing smiling doctors, and into the very postpartum room we toured when I was 30 weeks pregnant. I smiled at the memory of myself, the terrified pregnant woman who had no idea that in just twelve weeks she would be in that same room holding the meaning of her life in her arms. The first of the rest of my days began right there in that thimble-sized room on the fourth floor of a gigantic hospital.

Now I smile at the memory of myself, the euphoric new mother, who had no idea that boundless love, pride, and happiness were waiting for her.


The 5 stages of the 4 month sleep regression (according to new parents and their well-meaning friends/family)

January 27, 2017

DENIAL (new parent): During this stage of the four month sleep regression, you chalk your cumulative two hours of sleep up to a bad night. Later on, a bad week. You’ll cling desperately to the words written in The Wonder Weeks (which you previously thought to be complete BS) which tell you that your child waking every 20-45 minutes is completely normal. It’ll get better soon.

DENIAL (friend/relative of new parent): During this stage of the four month sleep regression you will meet your struggling new parent friend/family member with an emphatic “I never heard of that” and proclamations that your precious spawn slept 12 hours a night from month one. You forget that your baby did, in fact, wake to be fed. You forget that on at least one occasion, your baby woke frequently, too. Basically, you forget what it’s like to have a baby.


ANGER (new parent): You may experience a strong urge to punch someone in the face when they tell you that you’re the second person in history whose baby doesn’t sleep through the night or that you’ve clearly screwed up as a parent and have no idea what you’re doing (as evidenced by your baby’s lack of sleep) during this stage of the four month sleep regression. Feeling hatred for the people giving you unsolicited advice that include putting rice cereal in your baby’s bottle is common.

ANGER (friend/relative of new parent): You may experience indigence when your new parent friend or relative refuses to heed your advice. Feeling a strong urge to roll your eyes when your friend or relative also rejects the advice given by a doctor to your best friend, the first person in history to have a child that didn’t sleep through the night, to let the baby just cry it out, FFS, is common.


BARGAINING (new parent): It’s not uncommon during this stage of the four month sleep regression to lie down in bed at night and pray to everyone’s god and the universe itself for more than one hour of sleep. You’ll swear that you will do anything for your child to sleep at least two hours. It’s common to say things like “if you please let us sleep tonight, I promise I will never ask for another favor — I won’t even ask for my second born to sleep!”

BARGAINING (friend/relative of new parent): It’s not uncommon during this stage of the four month sleep regression to say things like “if only you could get her to take a bottle” or “if only you’d offered a pacifier.” You know that if your friend/family member did everything in a completely different manner, and likely the way you did it, their child would definitely be “good” and never wake at night.


DEPRESSION (new parent): This stage of the four month sleep regression sets in when your child begins to roll leading to the dropping of the swaddle (sending the promise of sleep ever again straight to hell) and/or you realize that it has been nearly a month, and things are getting worse. You may find yourself sobbing during this stage. A lot.

DEPRESSION (friend/relative of new parent): This stage of the four month sleep regression sets in when you notice you’re feigning sadness because, let’s be real: you’re not that sad. You may find yourself saying “awww” a lot, and not offering any sympathy, empathy, or understanding in any form.


ACCEPTANCE (new parent): You’re exhausted, you’ve been getting 3 hours of total sleep a night, you’re broken, weary, and hopped up on enough caffeine to render an entire preschool class sleepless for a week. You accept that this is a part of babyhood and a part of parenting. You accept that this is often called the “worst” of the sleep regressions you’ll face for good reason. You accept that your baby is going through so many developmental changes and mastering so many new skills that even expecting two hours of sleep in a row may very well be too much to ask. You accept that like all phases your baby has gone through, this is temporary, and will get better in time. You accept that when your baby is capable of sleeping longer stretches again, they will. Until then, this is your life. Welcome to parenthood!

ACCEPTANCE (friend/relative of new parent): You’re tired of hearing lamentations of terrible night sleep, and you’ve been offering advice to no avail. You accept that your friend or relative would ask you for your advice if they wanted it. You accept that the answer to sleep issues isn’t always formula feeding, thickened feeds, or sleep training. You accept that your friend or relative is just doing what feels best to them. You accept that every baby is different, and just because your little Johnny slept like a log from the very first night, it doesn’t mean that your friend or relative is somehow getting parenting wrong where you got it right. You accept the fact that everyone is doing what works, and what may have worked for some might not fit for others. Everyone is faking it ’til they make it.

*This process is unique to each individual and is not linear. You may navigate each if these stages out of order, all at once, or not at all. You may even find yourself encountering stages not listed.  This is a tool to help you identify what you may be feeling — it’a not a timeline! Good luck and godspeed.


28-36 Weeks of Pregnancy in GIFs

July 26, 2016

Once upon a time, I wasn’t pregnant, actually did stuff, and had the motivation to write. These days, I’m super pregnant, have lost most of my physical capability and ability to do much, have little desire to expend what little energy I possess on typing, and spend a lot of time thinking about what is coming around the corner (giving birth to a human). I’m at a loss for what to talk about other than how this whole thing is going, mostly because my options are severely limited. It is difficult, uncomfortable, and painful (for me) to be 9 months pregnant — I can barely do anything but just exist. 

My pregnancy has been uneventful, so not much has changed around here except for the way my body looks and feels, the number of things in our house covered in aluminum foil to keep the cat off, the frequency of my midwife and therapy appointments, and the amount of damage control needed to keep my acid reflux at bay. A lot of how I feel about this whole pregnancy and the various circumstances I’ve been in and encountered since I was last here at 28 weeks can be summed up quite well without a whole lot of words. Plus, using GIFs for communication helps me cope. Here is the shorthand, more entertaining account of the goings on, and various thoughts/feelings associated with being in this stage of pregnancy.

Beginning week 30, my response to questions about how far along I am

When someone asks how pregnancy is going

When I check the calendar for visual confirmation of how much time I’ve got until my due date

Lately, when I’m trying to get up off the floor

Life, after I had just spent the last several weeks successfully avoiding stories about horrible delivery complications

When my therapist, midwives, and doula speak positively about my birth plan (which, seriously, is only to not die)

When someone tells me I am close to my due date but immediately points out that I’m still carrying high, and thus, no where close to being done with my pregnancy

When someone who can still walk without excruciating pelvic pain or can get up from a chair with relative ease tells me about their discomfort

Looking around at all the pregnant women on our birth center tour

When I noticed tons of oxygen tanks in the hallway just as our tour guide pointed out the OR I’d be wheeled into in the event I needed a C-Section

What I heard when I was told I’d be restricted to consuming water, popsicles, and gummy bears during my labor

Learning about yet another thing that can go horribly wrong and kill you in childbirth

When a friend told me she was feeling fat at 10 weeks pregnant

When someone tries to start the medicated vs non-medicated birth conversation for the millionth time

Talking to my therapist about why I dwell on my thoughts about the worst case scenario of childbirth

When I’m leaving therapy

When I’m sitting on the couch watching a movie and it hits me — again — that this birth thing is going down for real

When the soft structured carrier and swing we were going to buy for the baby were discounted on Prime Day

When someone asks me, the person who is heavily pregnant and uncomfortable, if Alex and I intend to have a second kid

When they tell me we “have to” because she “needs” a sibling and “don’t want her to be lonely”

Becoming violently ill at 33 weeks

How I feel about letting our daughter eat any solid food ever after infant CPR class

When I am trying to make an excuse for why, despite my severe pelvic pain, I insist on walking to run errands.

How I felt when I got my sicknsss mostly under control with Zofran

How I’ve adapted as a pregnant woman in her third trimester

Whenever my midwife checks my blood pressure or gets ready to listen to the baby’s heartbeat on the doppler

Meeting with our doula, and talking about pain management techniques for labor

When someone asks me if I’m “ready to pop” or if I’m leaving the house to go have the baby right that second

My main interest these days

When a random person calls me “mama”

Attempting to make adjustments to the car seat

What I tell myself every morning at 2:55 AM

When a friend tells me that I’m going to “rock the hell” out of this childbirth thing

My life’s philosophy now that I’m 9 months along

When another car is parked too close to mine, and I can’t open my door far enough to squeeze my belly out

Trying to comfortably wear my engagement ring now that my hands are swelling

Looking at my pre-pregnancy clothes desperately looking to find something seasonally appropriate that I might be able to squeeze into, saving myself from having to wade through the pitiful selection at the maternity clothing store

How I feel about the next 4-6 weeks:


Oh, and hi:


22 to 28 weeks of pregnancy in GIFs

June 3, 2016

Hi. I’m still gestating.

Baby is doing well, Alex is doing well, and so am I. Today I am 29 weeks pregnant, and feeling more confident each day about the journey that lies ahead. I really appreciate all of the love sent our way after the last post, and feel lucky to have such wonderful friends and family members who  take time to check in with us. These past few weeks have been sometimes fun, sometimes stressful, sometimes amusing, and sometimes annoying, but we’re having a good time at this point. Here are some GIFs to help explain what it has been like. 

When the synthyroid I was prescribed for my subclinical hypothyroidism and feelings of depression started to kick in

Going hiking with a friend

When I am walking at my normal pace for the first time in forever because I don’t have pelvic pain, but every person in Seattle is slower than Internet Explorer running on a 90s dial up connection

Packing for a move well into the second trimester

When I lie awake at night with reflux

Walking out of my 2 hour gestational diabetes test

Finding out that I passed

When someone gives me their unsolicited opinions on breast and formula feeding

When we hired an amazing doula for the birth

What I hear when someone asks me if I am going to breastfeed or formula feed

Buying furniture for the baby’s nursery

When the Teavana salesperson at Pacific Place tries to hand Alex and me a sample cup of red raspberry leaf tea

Getting my blood drawn at the GP when I got sick

When I got sent to the hospital because I actually did pass out

How I currently approach dealing with all medical professionals

Every night after I get into bed

The baby at 4 AM

Me at 4 AM

Lately, when I am getting ready to open the pizza box

When the midwife asks me to tell her my plans for birth, and for the baby after she is born

Getting in or out of a restaurant booth when the space between my belly and the table is becoming increasingly small

When someone asks for the millionth time what we are naming the baby, and I’m still not saying a word

Placing an order for a breast pump

When someone tells me that I only think I am tired (after having just four hours of total sleep in two days), and only when the baby comes will l know for sure what tired really is

When someone asks me what it’s like to know that I’m going to give birth, and that I’ll have a daughter

How I feel about the next 11ish weeks

Everyday Life, Hard Stuff, Pregnancy

An ache that ages but never fades

May 13, 2016

*This blog post is a jumbled, and possibly unintelligible spilling of raw thoughts and emotions. In other words: this is “real talk.” It feels a little awkward to write about this — again — publicly, but it’s equally awkward to pass this milestone without giving it any acknowledgement. As with almost everything, I’ve decided to say “to hell with it,” and just proceed, even if I do so in such a way that would make my high school English teacher cringe. We’ll see how it goes…*

It has been six months since I last heard myself wail with grief, six months since I collapsed on my living room floor, crawled to the front door like it was somehow an exit from my reality, and sobbed until I couldn’t produce another tear. It has been 6 months since I got the news: I was miscarrying my first pregnancy.

It still feels like this was weeks ago, not half a year. Even now, I still can’t believe it really happened. But nothing can undo these truths: I’m not having a full-term baby in July, I’m 26 weeks pregnant with a completely different human that is due in August, and there are pieces of paper I have to read at every doctor appointment reminding me of the fact that I have now been pregnant twice. My life has been changed enormously, so many dreams and hopes for the future have been lost, and I am not the person I was in November.

One week I am excited about this pregnancy and the new future I have ahead. The next, I am crying angry tears because someone who I imagined would be with me now, someone I wanted to meet, is not a tangible part of my life anymore. I still don’t know how my heart is feeling. I’m fine on the outside, but on the inside, I’m a kaleidoscope of emotion — not all of which are particularly pleasant, and color me anything but “fine.” I miss the baby we lost in November. I often wonder if they were male or female, what they would have been like. I think about them all the time. But I feel a deep sense of love for the baby girl I am carrying, and this pregnancy — despite its hard times — is very meaningful to me. I didn’t realize until the loss just how delicate this process is, and just how much it means to be able to carry a child until the second trimester, or until viability, or until delivery — given the astonishing odds that we may not be able to do so (~1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage).  I am part of both the lucky and unlucky groups of people, living in a purgatory I never truly imagined I would experience, even when I knew it was a distinct possibility.

Over the past 6 months I have climbed to the highest summits, and drowned in the deepest seas. I do it just about every day, actually. Every time I feel a tightening in my stomach or a non-specific cramp in my belly, I have to dislodge my heart from my throat and tuck it back into my chest. I can’t feel a single thing out of the ordinary and not immediately jump to horrible conclusions. Every time I feel the baby kick me so hard that the hand resting on my stomach jumps upward — the relief I feel is monumental — like taking that first breath after spending two minutes under water. It is that constant tension between the highs and the lows, and the panic and the joy, that makes my heart grow weary. It is knowing that my body has both betrayed and cooperated with me that has robbed me of trust. Even when things were going horribly wrong (I was miscarrying), things still felt like they were going right (I had morning sickness and was not bleeding). There is nothing steady to hold on to in the tsunami of a pregnancy after loss, and treading its churning water is exhausting.

Guilt blankets everything I feel. When I am happy, it eats at me. Am I allowed to be happy when the future is always uncertain? Does happiness mean I am “moving on” when I’m just not ready to do that? Does moving on mean saying goodbye, or even worse, forgetting? The loss colors the happiness of this new pregnancy a shade darker. I don’t want to forget it or pretend that it didn’t happen. That doesn’t feel right. But it also doesn’t feel right to let all of yesterday’s clouds to cover today’s clear skies. I don’t want this pregnancy and this baby to be somehow, always, about what we lost. That doesn’t feel like honoring or doing justice to any of these children or any of these experiences.

Grief is mysterious and complicated. Sadness doesn’t mean the absence of joy. Acknowledging the bad doesn’t mean dismissing the good. I’m still trying to figure it all out.

In hindsight, I didn’t let myself grieve for anywhere near long enough (for my own health) before embarking on a new journey. I saw two new pink lines on a pregnancy test just four weeks after our loss. I tried desperately to substitute one pregnancy with another, to bury the loss in the depths of my heart, to hide it and speak of it only in certain company. But no amount of substituting, burying, or hiding, would stop the memory of the miscarriage from screaming at me, or ringing in my ears like a heartbeat under the floorboards until it drives me mad. I have lost something I cannot replace. My heart is still broken.

Even then, I have gained something so unfathomably wonderful that my heart soars. I could have never predicted the cheer of anticipating a daughter, or of seeing her tiny features in black and white. I don’t sit for hours everyday with my head in my hands. I don’t walk the streets with tears pouring down my face. I appreciate the baby and the pregnancy I have — I really do — but no matter how much I appreciate this pregnancy, and no matter how happy I am, I cannot help but to be reminded of the one that ended. I don’t do it consciously. I’m not trying to be miserable. It’s a confusing space. Why my brain does this is just another mystery. It’s something that cannot be fully articulated or summed up in a blog post — it’s one of those things that needs to be felt to be truly understood.

I wish this had never happened. It is one of the hardest experiences I have ever had to endure.

But I like to think that this will allow me to be a better therapist. The more I know of depression, or grief, or a whole host of experiences, the more I can empathize. There has to be something good to come of this. But maybe that’s not true at all. Maybe not all bad things have to teach us something good. Maybe saying that is a way to ignore or even invalidate one’s painful experiences. Maybe this didn’t happen for any particular reason. Maybe the why is unimportant. Maybe not every story has a happy ending. Maybe the positive meaning, if any can be drawn from this, will always remain a mystery.

Though I might not be able to see the positivity of experiencing such a tremendous loss, I have regained the ability to see the positivity in what I have gained only because I have gone through that loss. I have recently started to feel truly connected to this pregnancy, because I have finally developed the capacity to see this having a positive outcome. It began when I had a dream about my grandpa, my first since he passed. In this dream, my grandpa and I had a very short conversation. I said that I missed him, that I was so glad to see him, and that I was so happy he was here. He smiled at me, and told me that he was happy to see me too, then added, still smiling, “but you know I’m not really here” (which I interpreted to mean physically). He winked at me, and I let just a moment pass before I reached out and hugged him. That hug felt so real. I woke up afterward feeling oddly comforted, and with a clarity and a hope I haven’t had in so long. Some people interpret a dream with these themes to mean that great changes are ahead, and someone is coming along in the future to help you process the loss. It was after this dream and learning about this particular interpretation that things started to fall into place for me. My mindset about the future began to change. August will undoubtedly bring great change, and I am going to meet someone new: our daughter. I know her presence will serve as the light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel. All it took was that dream and I could suddenly imagine a successful outcome of pregnancy and childbirth, I could imagine holding my child for the first time, I could imagine going home and starting our lives as a family. While the past and that what-could-have-beens were taken, never to come to fruition, none of it can diminish the bright future that lies ahead. That future might not be certain, but it exists in some capacity. The path that leads to it might be fraught with grief, but the destination could well be worth the hard travel to get there.

I wanted to tell you that I — we — are okay, but that we haven’t forgotten. I wanted to tell you that this is a complicated journey filled with excitement and sorrow. I wanted to say that we love our daughter, and know we are so lucky. I wanted to say that I miss and love our little “blue zebra” (they probably take after their dad…), our daughter’s brother or sister, so very much that my heart physically aches. But even then, I have hope. I have hope that one day, all that I feel will make more sense. I have hope that this pain isn’t the end of our story. I have hope that the grey skies and rain will clear to reveal the rainbow we long for. I have hope, period.


“Mysteries, Yes”

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity,
while we ourselves dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

-Mary Oliver


My 21st week of Pregnancy In GIFs

April 13, 2016

On my way to the anatomy scan.

Finding out that baby Fort is still doing well, and there is no evidence of scary stuff like placenta previa.

When an employee at Whole Foods comes up to me and asks “ma’am, are you trying to shoplift a basketball?”

When someone who is also due in August  tells me that they are working on their birth plan.

When my family members ask me how I’m doing.

When my friends ask how I’m really doing.

When I read about what it’s like to have a C-Section.

When someone says that a C-Section isn’t “real delivery.”

When someone randomly starts telling me their birth story.

When that birth story happens to contain bragging about an unmedicated vaginal delivery, and how they felt no pain.

When my midwife asks me about my exact plans about raising a child who will not be born for another four months.

When someone tells me that eating one grilled cheese sandwich/whatever else I crave isn’t good for me or the baby.

When I think about the gestational diabetes diagnostic test I scheduled for next month.

When I meet a new mom who shares my views on pregnancy and birth.

When I try to walk with pelvic pain.

When I think about the next 19 weeks.


What I Didn’t Expect While Expecting

March 18, 2016

I had been crying nonstop for about seven weeks when I sat in my midwife’s office with a clipboard in my hand, filling out the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. On it, were questions asking if I was able to see the funny side in things, if I was so unhappy that I was crying, or if I had been feeling scared or panicky “for no very good reason.” I was taken aback by the phrasing of that last question, and didn’t know how to respond. Was fearing for my life for the past seven weeks, and feeling like I was walking a plank “no very good reason?” Don’t other people feel depressed, anxious, and fearful when they are pregnant? I answered “yes, quite a lot” anyway, and checked off some variation of “yes” for all of the other questions, as my tears fell on the paper. My midwife asked me why I was so unhappy, and I sobbed as I told her: I was afraid I was going to die, I didn’t trust my body, I didn’t trust anyone to help me. Her facial expression fell somewhere between shock and confusion, and she gazed at me for a moment before averting her eyes without another word. Alex told me later that when I left the room, she asked him if she thought my previous miscarriage had anything to do with my feelings. I still wish she would have asked me herself. I left the appointment feeling helpless, and so alone. Was there anyone who had felt or was feeling anything like me?

Since then, things have both changed and stayed the same. I still cry, I still feel fearful, anxious, and depressed, but with the help of therapy, a few select friends, and the Perinatal Support Washington warm line , I do feel a bit better. While I felt confused, alone, and like a bad mother before I sought explicit help for this problem I am facing, at least I know now what the problem is. Major Depression, my old friend, has come to visit me again. Depressive episodes that occur within the context of childbearing begin during pregnancy in 50% of cases, which is why the DSM-5 recognizes this type of depression as Major Depressive Disorder with the specifier of “peripartum onset” for new moms and pregnant women alike. What we know as “postpartum depression” in our society isn’t a diagnosis at all, partly because it doesn’t account for women like me, the women who begin suffering long before they have their babies in the arms, even though they often still struggle when they do. It’s the depression you are probably familiar with — like the kind I developed as a teenager — just occurring in a different circumstance. The context, no matter what anyone says, doesn’t make it more or less difficult. In my experience, as a person who has suffered from major depression with and without peripartum onset, there is no discernible difference. Depression is depression no matter what stage of life you are in, and it is awful during each of them.

It’s stigmatized to talk about mental illness as it is, though less so than it once was. The same goes for experiencing depression after giving birth. But talking about it during pregnancy? The conversation has only just barely begun, and it is the most underreported and perhaps the most stigmatized of all. You’re supposed to be happy during pregnancy, you’re supposed to “enjoy every minute,” you’re supposed to grin and bear any hardship and avoid anything that can be perceived as negativity if for no other reason than thinking of the children. It’s like carrying a child has taken away my own humanity. It has taken the support of many of the people that once cared for and were concerned about me, and turned their focus solely to the baby — someone they haven’t even seen, or felt, or met — instead. Words cannot explain the loneliness.

“Don’t be stressed, you’re going to hurt the baby.”
“Do you know what anxiety does to the baby?”
“Stress isn’t good for the baby.”

These are only a few of the things I have heard from a few individuals when I dared to reveal my unhappiness. While I’m sure these people are more concerned about mine and Alex’s baby than I am or Alex is (insert eye roll here), don’t they know that stressing further about how I could be negatively contributing to my baby’s health isn’t good for me? Trust me, I’ve read the articles in the academic journals, and all of that information is decidedly not helpful. Don’t these people know that depression isn’t good for any human being who would rather be happy? Don’t they know that pregnant women make up a part of the population of people who die by suicide every year? Don’t they know I need their love, and support, and encouragement to help myself get by?

I would be hard pressed to answer the questions “Who is being harmed more?” and “Who is more at risk?”
There is no good answer, and “more” is hard to quantify. I feel bad for the baby (obviously), but I do feel bad that I have to be on this road. Depression is extremely hard.

For weeks I silently apologized to the baby for being conceived by someone like me, for having me as their mother. I chastised myself for my “ungratefulness,” and sneered at myself about how I deserved to have miscarried in November because of that “ungratefulness.” Sometimes I still do, but I am trying to have compassion for myself. Pregnancy is the scariest thing I have ever willingly put myself through.

It has been a rollercoaster for me since I was 7 weeks along. Some days I am propelled above the fog, and some days, I am plummeting fast. I spend a lot of time thinking about all the things that ever made me feel happy and secure, so I can find some relief. I go on google maps to find the park I lived on as a child, and take a virtual walks. Other times, I imagine hugging my grandparents, or standing at their front door, or laying in the middle of the big backyard they had when they lived in New Jersey. Sometimes I even imagine myself on an actual rollercoaster at Six Flags Great Adventure, sandwiched between my brother and my dad as we slowly climb up the lift hill, preparing for the inevitable drop. When I do this, I manage to convince myself that I can handle the journey I’m on, and I will be okay. I was always okay in Radburn Park, or when I was with my grandparents, my dad, and my brother. I felt so assured that nothing bad would ever happen to me.

Being okay is what I hope for every day, and I pray all the time that nothing bad will happen to me now. But just like a rollercoaster, the only way off this track is to go through the ride. I guess I’ll see what is in store for me when I get to the end, and I know there is one. At least this time, during this depression, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. I’m so glad to have the resources available to me, a great therapist, and a wonderful husband who help me to see it.

For all the days I feel like a bad mother for feeling this way, there are days where I feel like a brave one. I’m treading in the rising water of depression and anxiety, I’m battling and facing my fears at every turn, and I’m fighting through exceptional pain so that, come August, I can (hopefully) say hello to the person who required me to.


(I hope that as time goes on, I have better feelings to report. But just in case future posts don’t mention my pregnancy, or aren’t filled with excitement and gushing when they do: you know why. While this was hard to write after the pregnancy announcement post, I just wouldn’t be myself (or a good counselor!) if I stayed silent. The most uncomfortable things to say are often the most important.)


Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
-Mary Oliver


The One with the Pregnancy Announcement

March 4, 2016

If you saw me, you’d think that I have eaten one too many slices of pizza or that I am 16 weeks pregnant. It could go either way.

It is true. I am pregnant! Due in August!

We found out in December that we were expecting again, and were completely shocked. We were saturated in privilege and good fortune to conceive again so quickly after the miscarriage, and that our newest zygote was viable enough to become a blastocyst, and then an embryo which developed into a perfectly healthy fetus who is still going strong. We are very lucky. The first few weeks were filled with fear, and I convinced myself that the terrible would happen again at any moment. Though we saw a nice strong heartbeat at our 6 week ultrasound, I was never convinced that it would actually stay that way. I was surprised to learn that nothing bad had happened by 9 weeks, and that our cell-free DNA testing done at 11 weeks determined that the baby was a very low risk (for trisomies 21, 18, and 13) girl. Still, I was certain that it was too good to be true. I was genuinely shocked at our 14 week ultrasound to see a squirming, wiggling, flipping baby — still alive, still thriving. It was incredible. My feelings of fear surrounding the possible impermanence of this pregnancy diminished considerably that day. It seems like she is likely in this for the long haul, and it’s really one of the best feelings in the world.

It’s a tremendous relief to be in the second trimester, not in just having the assuredness of the likelihood that things will go well, but also because I physically feel so much better than I did earlier in the pregnancy.

It looks like everything’s coming up Milhouse.

Alex has been my life ring over the past few months (and really the past 8 years and 11 months), and has gone out of his way to ensure that I am comfortable, heard, and taken care of. He has been my beacon of hope, and has always believed that things would go well this time around. I don’t know what I would have done without his immense confidence. It’s the only thing that allowed me to feel any sense of stability. He has taken on sole cat-duty, attends to Em’s need for overly-rambunctious play, and comes home every evening bearing various snacks and foods that are most appealing on any given day. He has been to every midwife appointment, every ultrasound, and held my hand through it all. I’m so lucky to be married to him.

Now that I feel well again, we’re excited to resume some of our usual activities, and hope we can get in some camping, (mild) hiking, and trips out of the city in the next several months. Despite a couple of nixed pre-baby vacation spots because of Zika virus, we are still dreaming of a bigger vacation at some point before August! We have to devote some more thought to the location, but I’m down for pretty much anywhere that involves me sitting in the sunshine and drinking Shirley Temples. Alex, I hope, will spring for something alcoholic.

We are so hopeful, and so thrilled to share our news. We can’t wait to meet our our daughter this summer!
Hope all is well wherever you are!