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.

Everyday Life

Running toward light

December 31, 2016

2016 was a journey.

I spent most of the year walking trails filled with sadness and fear, with an unsurmountable mountain of anxiety always looming ahead. I carried a heavy pack, stuffed and bursting at the seams with grief due to the loss of my grandparents, the loss of my first pregnancy, and the loss of the trust in myself, my body, and life itself. I spent countless hours in therapy, many in a hospital due to dehydration (the inability to keep down food or liquids for the first half of my pregnancy was to blame), and much of my time on the couch, curled into a ball, crippled with fear.

Although I was overjoyed to be expecting our first child, there were many times where I lost sight of that joy as I stumbled along the path, in the thickest of fogs, to the month of August (when I was due to give birth), and what felt like the end of my life’s journey. I was filled with such doubt. Doubt that I would survive, doubt that my baby would survive, doubt that my body could do something — anything — right in regards to bringing a person into the world, doubt that I would ever feel like myself again, doubt that I would ever escape from the lightless world I inhabited alone.

It took 41 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy, 36 hours of labor, and 45 minutes of pushing before I emerged from the darkness on the night of September 1st. In an instant I had no more doubt, and in that moment, I felt no more grief. I faced and overcame my biggest fear, and once I did, I was filled with an unrivaled sense of relief. The skies cleared, the sun rose once more — there was never a night so bright.

During 2016, most of my dreams involved me running. Sometimes I would be running into nothingness, or running away from a bear on the side of a dark and narrow highway, or around the high school track in Bethesda, MD. Sometimes I’d be running in Radburn Park, or up the stairs of the Empire State Building, or down the street we lived on in Georgia. I was always running, and seemingly always running away from something. Maybe I was running from fear. Maybe I was running from the life I knew so well into unfamiliar territory. But maybe I wasn’t running from anything at all. Perhaps I was running toward a better life, or toward a new self, or toward the light — this light that now fills my life — I was so desperate to find in the midst of my despair.<

This year was a struggle, but when I squint through the fog, the never ending darkness, the confusion, the fear, the heavy sadness — I can see that there is so much beauty, and so much to be grateful for.

2016 brought me to my beautiful daughter, the most magnificent human I have ever met. It brought me to motherhood, a deeper purpose in my life, and the filling of a hole in my heart I wasn’t aware existed. It showed me that I am capable of doing hard things, and taught me to have faith that the destination can be great even if the journey is perilous. 2016 allowed me to grow as a person, gave me a renewed appreciation for life, taught me that there are some things that I just cannot control, and that it’s possible to go on without it. I confronted my deepest fears, and learned that just because I haven’t done something before doesn’t mean that I cannot. I discovered the ability to embrace change even when it’s chaotic and terrifying, knowing that it allows for growth.

I’m starting the new year with a calm spirit and excitement for the future. I know that I am up for any adventure, and that I can navigate any obstacle. I know that although everything in this life is a wild unknown — I’ve got this. I’m holding fast to a trust in life, and the knowledge that whatever happens this year will lead me to where I am meant to be.

Here’s to a new year, a new start, and new opportunities. Here’s to growth, and lessons learned, and change. Here’s to facing fear, and having trust, and climbing our mountains to whatever summits await us.


I’m still here, I just have a 3-month-old baby.

December 14, 2016

Before I became a mom, I was basically the best mom ever. All of my ducks? Totally in a row. I knew I would still be productive, and social, and on top of self-care after the baby came along. I’d shimmy into my pre-pregnancy clothes, stand up like it was NBD, go to 13 Coins (where we were brunch regulars) with Alex at six weeks postpartum, and my pelvis definitely wouldn’t (still) feel completely broken as I pushed our 28 lb stroller the few blocks to get there. I would walk around the mall or park with friends, strap an infant onto my chest with ease and go hiking, put my baby who never cried in her car seat into my anything-but-a-Subaru-Outback to get to all of these places to do these things, and when I got home, I would find a way cook dinner like I did every other day.

My motherhood game was strong.

Well, the baby has been on the outside for three months, and guess what? All of the things I thought I would do, all of the ways I thought I would feel, and the person I thought I would be: I haven’t done, felt, or been. Like, at all. I have eaten more sandwiches one-handed while nursing than I care to admit, can count the number of times I have been brave enough to venture out, and I even drive a Subaru (though it’s not an Outback, but only because we hate the way it drives — so, at least I was right about one thing).

My how the mighty have fallen.

Childless me just didn’t get it. I didn’t know how exhausted I would be trying to feed and keep a tiny human alive. I didn’t know how my insides would feel in the weeks after birth whenever I stood up and especially when I walked (like they would legit fall out). I didn’t know that showering, let alone leaving the house, would be an accomplishment. As for the hiking, shopping trips, and the regular brunches I thought I’d be enjoying? No way, and no thanks. I’m going to need some serious recharging, motivation, and painkillers to make any of that sound enjoyable.

The image I had of my life was grand before I became a mom, but back then I also didn’t realize that anything I imagined of my life would pale in comparison to the reality. It turns out that there are far better things in life than YOLOing naptime on a hike with friends or trying on clothes in my pre-pregnancy size at the J. Crew in Pacific Place. I didn’t know that everything would change when a warm baby was placed on my chest. I didn’t know how much I’d truly love my child, or how I’d prefer being at home bonding with her than anything else. I didn’t know that a single smile could make my day or a joyful screech would be the best sound I had ever heard. I didn’t know how often I would laugh or smile, or how I would thank the universe, tears streaming down my face as I rocked my sleeping baby, for giving me the most meaningful gift I have ever received. I also didn’t know that naps were not to be toyed with or taken for granted.

When I last wrote a post, I was five days into solo parenting during the day while Alex went to work. Now I’ve been at it for close to two months, and worry a lot less than I used to about  dropping her or whether or not I’m a complete failure as a mom. Nowadays I only feel like I’m a complete failure when it comes to self-care, or being more than “just” a mom. Unsurprisingly, I don’t really have time to do much for for myself, but this is par for the course when you have a baby so young. Taking care of my own needs and the needs of a baby is a balancing act, and I’m still figuring it all out.  I’m sure I’ll get there soon enough.

My days with Kaia consist of lots of play and tummy time, reading stories, and listening to music. Sometimes Kaia will spend time playing independently while I do things like unload the dishwasher or put clothes in the dryer. She will go down for a nap (always on me) after about an hour of awake time before she gets upset, and nurses every 1.5-2 hours (and will sometimes go as long as a 3-4 hour stretch if she takes a particularly long nap). Bedtime is still not consistent, and most days I am lucky to get an hour where I don’t have to tend to a baby before I head to bed myself (this is probably what I find hardest about parenting). Night sleep has been hit or miss these days. Sometimes we get a five to seven hour first stretch, while other times we get a two to four. On a few occasions she has woken up every 30 minutes to an hour which makes for a really interesting night. Either way, she wakes up ready to start her day at 6:00-7:00 AM, and is her cheerful self regardless of how much or how little sleep she gets.

Kaia has been thriving, and seeing her personality bloom has been wonderful. She is so much fun to be around, and I genuinely look forward to seeing her face when we get up for the day. She wakes up squealing and making gurgling sounds, likes to kick, has finally found her hands (which she has in her mouth at all times), licks anything she can get near her mouth, and even rolled from her tummy to her back (once).  Just this afternoon she laughed for the very first time, and it was amazing. We’ve discovered that Craig David’s song “What’s Your Flava?” is a surefire way to calm her down (sometimes Springsteen’s version of “Jersey Girl” will do the trick), and so is giving her a bath. Her dislikes consist of getting out of the bath, being put down after she has gotten out of the bath, and nursing from the breast with a particularly forceful letdown when she only wants to comfort nurse.

She is in the 50th percentile for weight (12+ lbs these days), and off the charts for height (about the size of the average 6 month old). Her doctor is impressed with her head control, and her development in general, and we are very proud of her. She is meeting all of her milestones, gaining weight and growing taller consistently, and is a very healthy baby. We are so lucky.

I was a few weeks pregnant with her this time last year. I was anxious, and happy, and wondering what life would be like a year later. Life doesn’t look the at I expected it to, and it is so much better than I thought possible. It has been three months since we welcomed this bubbly little girl into our lives, and being her mom is the best, hardest, and overall most rewarding thing I have ever done.



50 thoughts this new mom has on a daily basis

October 27, 2016

I have no idea what I’m doing.

She will surely be speaking to a therapist in a few decades about her horribly inadequate mother who never knew what she was doing.

Am I a bad mother because I rap Biggie and Tupac songs while changing her diaper?

Am I a bad mother for finishing up the last bites of my banana if she is crying?

Am I a bad mother because I surf the internet on my phone while nursing?

Am I a bad mother?


If you think about dropping the baby, you will surely drop the baby.

Please don’t cry, please don’t cry.

Why is she crying?

I have no idea what I’m doing. I have  no idea what I’m not doing. She is crying for one of those reasons.

Wait, is she seriously hungry again?

I literally just stopped nursing her 20 minutes ago…

Why do  you time nursing intervals from the beginning of one session to the beginning of the next?!

Holy cow, she has the best smile ever.

Is that the cat or the baby?

Do I want to mess with either the  stretchy wrap, woven wrap, or soft structured carrier to take the dog out this time?

How many more buckles can this Lillebaby carrier possibly have?

Do not drop this baby while putting her in the carrier.

Will she ever sleep, or is that just not a thing she does anymore?

Today’s goal is to be okay with not achieving today’s goals.

What if I fell down with the baby in my arms?!

For the love of god, DON’T fall down with or drop the baby!

She makes the cutest noises known to man.

How does she have so much lint in her hands?

She is so cute when she sneezes.

She is so cute when she coos.

She is so cute when she lives and breathes.

She is so damn cute!

How did poop get on the side of her onesie?

I need to thank Kristen for telling me you can take a onesie off from the top down.

What if she suddenly learns to roll while on the changing pad?

I really want  to staple pillows to the floor just in case she falls or I drop her.

I should keep 10 burp clothes in every corner of the house.

I can’t believe how big she is already.

I can’t believe my milk made her so big.

I can’t believe I actually birthed this tiny human.

Is it normal to reflect upon her birth so often?

Is there a word that’s kind of like “traumatized” but a little less extreme? That is how I feel about that whole birthing experience.

How is she already holding her head up so well?

She is basically the most advanced baby ever.

Should I be playing Mozart for her or something?

Do I dare to leave the house when I have to nurse her so often?

How cool are Seattleites about the whole breastfeeding in public thing?

Get up slooooowly, do not wake the baby.

I should probably work on getting her to nap in her bassinet and not on me.

NOPE. Naps in the bassinet will never actually happen, so I should probably just do what works for now.

How badly am I screwing up this kid?

I hope she will like me when she grows up.

I seriously, seriously have no idea what I am doing.

Everyday Life

Our rainbow to keep

September 19, 2016

Alex and I are thrilled to have welcomed our daughter, Kaia, into our family earlier this month.

On the morning of my scheduled induction, I was admitted into the hospital in active labor. Twelve hours later, with the help of Alex, a doula, a midwife, and a nurse, I brought our little girl into the world.

Labor was much more intense than Alex or I expected, but I survived, and I love when that happens. I’m so grateful for the prenatal care I received, my good health, and everyone who assisted me while laboring and delivering which made that outcome possible.

Life with a newborn has been wonderful. It’s less exhausting than we thought it would be (we get at least 8 hours of sleep a night), and so much better than we ever imagined. Kaia’s arrival is the most wonderful thing that has happened to us, and Alex and I agree that we couldn’t love anyone or anything more than we love her. She is beyond compare.

We have spent the last few weeks getting to know our little one, soaking up newborn cuddles, and enjoying our new role as parents. So far, this experience is like everyone said it would be: simply the best.

Everyday Life

I gave birth! (just kidding, that’ll never actually happen)

August 26, 2016

I’m 41 weeks pregnant. There are no words.

My journey through pregnancy

The moment I woke up at 40 weeks pregnant

7 days later, what is currently happening in my body

How I’m feeling these days

How Alex is feeling as he watches his wife become increasingly pregnant and miserable

When I’m climbing into bed after yet another day of no labor

My reaction every time someone asks me if the baby is coming, or if it’s time yet

When a friend tries to console me by telling me that this will all be over soon

My reaction when my midwife answers with what essentially amounts to “maybe” when I ask if my contractions should feel different than menstrual cramps

When someone due several weeks after me announces that they gave birth

Walking into yet another midwife appointment at 40 weeks and 6 days pregnant

Not getting the news I was hoping for in regards to my “progress”

Finding out during the NST that I’m actually having contractions which could maybe, possibly, magically be doing something to progress this whole situation

When I ask my midwife when I can not be pregnant anymore

When my midwife throws me a bone with the words “induction” and “next week”

When someone tells me to do what I have already done as a means to start labor

What I tell myself to feel better about being overdue

When the person scheduling my 41+3 appointment repeats several times that I might not make it until then

Waking up at 41 weeks pregnant

How I feel during conversations with anyone since I surpassed 40 weeks

 Whenever I take a step, or lift a leg, or get in the car, or get up from a chair

One of the many reasons I don’t sleep well these days

When someone 35 weeks along complains that they are still pregnant and want their baby

When I need to take the dog outside but I can barely walk because I’m in so much pain

When I see people with their newborns

My plans for the weekend knowing that my body has no intention on giving birth

How I feel about going into another week still pregnant, and about next week in general

When I finally and miraculously go into labor

The TL;DR for this entire post


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


The once-nameless place I love

May 6, 2016

Have you ever loved a place you have never been to? I know I have.

There somewhere I saw in a music video by Temple of the Dog (back in the 90s, if the name of the band didn’t clue you in), and from the second I laid eyes on the opening scene, I was in love. I was convinced that this music video was shot in California, mostly because I associated anything that was in the United States and beautiful with only that state during my childhood, and started on a 15-year-long quest to find where exactly this particular place was located so I could sit in that tall grass like Eddie Vedder, and see that lighthouse in person. This was before the age of Google, when we had to type “win” into the command prompt of a PC (then wait two minutes) to start Windows, and when I was so young that my dad wouldn’t let me access anything that wasn’t school related on the internet except for Yahooligans. It wasn’t a matter of looking up a location with an internet search engine for little me, but a matter of waiting, and searching, and wishing. At least until the early 2000s when I became a teenager, got a computer of my own, and had Google at my fingertips. I could have made quick work of obtaining the answer I sought, but by that time, I forgot about that rocky beach with the little lighthouse on it, and I continued to forget for another eight years.

When Alex and I moved to Georgia from Maryland in late 2008, I began playing the music from my early childhood — grunge, the dominant genre of the 90s — probably because I missed home so much. After listening to endless tracks by Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Stone temple Pilots, “Hunger Strike,” a song I hadn’t heard in years, started to play on the Spotify station I was listening to. All it took were the first few notes, and I was taken back to the image of the place I loved but had never visited — of a beach in dusky light, of an expansive view from a cliff, of a widespread meadow. I didn’t bother to do an internet search (which would have given that place a name), and my childhood quest to somehow find this place had resumed. It didn’t take long to realize that it was a bit of a far-fetched goal: there was no way to scour every inch of what I still assumed to be California while on vacation, and did not believe that I’d end up on the West Coast at any point in the immediate future to make my search a little more feasible. Instead, I decided to search for bits and pieces of the place I saw in the music video — wherever I went — starting with that tall grass, which I was pretty sure I could find even in Georgia. I’d get my fill of rocky beach on a trip to Catalina Island, and lighthouses in a variety of coastal towns, some just a four hour drive away. They wouldn’t be the same, but they would do. Of course, I was never satisfied with anything I found.

In late 2012, we were sitting in the car in Bogart, Georgia when Alex got the call from Amazon saying he was hired, and that we’d be moving to Seattle in three weeks. We were excited to live in another state, and even more excited that we ended up a few states away from California, a place we eventually wanted to move. After I thought about the rain, and driving on the steep hills of Seattle, I thought about the music video, and how much closer I was to eventually seeing the place I had been wanting to visit for over a decade. We were now only a two hour flight from California, and that place I saw in that Temple of the Dog video was even closer than I could have ever imagine.  The night we arrived in Seattle, knowing that I had to be less than 1400 miles from wherever it was, I pulled out my phone and finally googled where the “Hunger Strike” music video was shot. I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t filmed in California at all, but in Seattle, just a few miles from where we lived. How could such a beautiful place be in such a notoriously depressing city?  I was so surprised that the place I loved so much wasn’t in the state I loved so much. California, while still appealing, had been dethroned as “best state ever” in one fell swoop (I’m easy to please). And that was even before I set foot in the Enchantments, or anywhere outside of the city limits (which, upon visiting, placed me firmly into the “Washington is the best state ever” camp).

I was reminded of the time in my life when Seattle was on my list of “nevers.” In my childhood and adolescence, I associated seattle with the famous sign that read “Will the last person leaving Seattle — Turn out the lights.” Plus, the latitude and winter season equaled depression in my mind, and that wasn’t at all appealing. I could never see myself in such a place. But there I was at the age of 25, sitting in a Seattle highrise in early November, overlooking Puget Sound. The place I saw in a music video and loved for over a decade was only six miles away. It’s funny how that happens.

Discovery Park: the first place we traveled to see in the city, the place I had been searching for going on for nearly two decades. I took one look at the grass, at the lighthouse, at the radar tower that is barely glimpsed in the music video, at the sand and the meadows, and felt so lucky. The random, unknown place I loved the most, the place I only saw on MTV or on Youtube for so long, now had a name, and I was actually there.

I visit often and I still love it. It’s my favorite place in the city. It’s somewhere I can go to remind myself of my past and my present, and to remind me, even on the toughest of days, that life isn’t so bad in here in “rainy, overcast, depressing” Seattle — the beautiful city I never knew I was always drawn to.