love so intense it breaks your heart

This post is long overdue.

My baby boy was born on July 4th at 3:12am. Labor was long and hard and full of tears and grit and doubt and determination. But after these past 3 weeks with my boy I’m already forgetting just how grueling it was because what came next has been so incredible and all-consuming it makes everything that came before feel like a vague, inconsequential memory.

I started having contractions Thursday night, July 2nd, at 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant. They were barely noticeable; I had to concentrate to pick up when they were coming and going, but did note they were exactly 10 minutes apart. By the time my husband and I got ready for bed they had gotten strong enough that I hesitantly told my husband that  I thought this might actually be happening. He looked at me excited and said, “Then we should make sure to get a good nights sleep!” He fell asleep three minutes later. But I laid in bed wide awake for the rest of the night. Between the adrenaline and excitement of knowing I was in early labor and the increasing pain of the contractions I could not sleep. At 5am my husband woke up and noticed that I was pacing around. He got up and we finished packing last minute items in our hospital bags, had breakfast and started taking walks up and down our street, stopping periodically while I breathed through what I *thought* was a painful contraction.

By late morning the contractions were averaging 5 minutes apart and felt painful enough that we decided to go the hospital. We checked in, cheerful and excited, only to find out I was only 1.5 cm dilated. They sent me home, and the nurse told me to come back when the contractions were so painful I could no longer smile or talk.

And only a few hours went by before I lost my ability to smile or talk. The contractions turned into pain that I would never have been able to conceptualize or anticipate…pain that radiated through my lower back as if my back was being broken in half. I cried and swore and tried different positions while my helpless husband tried anything he could do to help ease the pain. I took a hot bath, I tried listening to relaxing music, I tried the breathing techniques we learned in our birthing classes. Nothing could make a dent in the pain.

We returned to the hospital in the afternoon, this time no longer cheerful, but with tears streaming down my face as I navigated another contraction while my husband checked in. At this point I was 4.5 cm dilated and we were admitted. An hour and a half later, we were situated in a beautiful hospital room, with huge windows overlooking Los Angeles. My epidural had fully kicked in, and my body was feeling a warm buzz from both the anesthesia and from finally feeling relief from such horrible pain. We had our relaxing labor music playlist going, and we watched the sunset over the Hollywood Hills from our window. I started to feel a sense of peace and a happy glow, and became even more overcome as I saw fireworks out our window in celebration of the pending 4th of July holiday. After such an intense day, I finally relaxed. But I still couldn’t sleep.

By 10pm I was fully dilated and by 11pm I began pushing.

And continued to push for four hours.

It was the most physically grueling experience of my entire life. I was nearing almost 48 hours of no sleep, over 12 hours without food, and my body was weak from all the overwhelming pain from the past 24 hours. But with every contraction I had to push with every bit of strength and determination I had and didn’t have. My baby got stuck in my pelvic opening and I started losing strength. I started to become unresponsive as my husband tried to get me to look at him in an attempt to revive me with a pep talk. I was dizzy and weak and panicked, and finally the tears came and wouldn’t stop. But I continued to push with every contraction, grunting and crying and pushing as hard as I could. My doctor started talking of vacuums and c-sections, but I couldn’t bear that thought so I just kept pushing. Even with the epidural the pain was intense and scary; I felt like his head would break all my pelvic bones.

And finally, at 3:12am he was out and crying and then instantly calmed as he was put skin to skin on my chest. I was suddenly no longer tired, couldn’t feel anything as they stitched me up; it was just my baby, my husband and me in this magical moment.

I finally had my baby. I finally had my boy.

The past three weeks have been an overwhelming mix of euphoria, exhaustion, disbelief, contentment, fear, self-doubt, and excitement, but also filled with love so intense it makes my heart feel like it could break. Caring for such sweet innocence has brought me to tears many times. I’ve had so many oddly paradoxical emotions as my postpartum hormones have fluctuated and settled. But all I know is I love this boy so much it breaks my heart.

Although I’ve been quiet in the blogging world lately, I still think about my readers and my fellow bloggers all the time. I have so much respect and admiration for all of you; the journeys you’ve all taken and the strength you’ve all shown. I know you are all in different parts of your story, and I want you to  know I still feel pain when you feel pain, and I feel joy when you feel joy. I’m cheering for all of you every step of the way. You’ve all helped me immensely as I’ve managed my own emotions and my own story to getting here. Even those readers who follow silently and I only know of when I look at my stats page – you’ve also brought me so much courage and encouragement.

Thank you all.

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my love.

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fertility-friendly recipes

Despite my deep love affair with sweets, cheese, and pasta, I have always loved healthy food. And now, in my ongoing quest to be in optimal baby-making condition, I’ve given more focus to my diet than I ever have before. I’ve tried to cut back on sugar, gluten, processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol (except for the binge that happens every month following a confirmed BFN, of course). I’ve also tried to pay more attention to how my body feels after I eat certain foods. Am I tired? Sluggish? Irritable? Energetic? I’ve found that when I’m able to sustain a tip-top diet for a period of time everything changes – I feel happier, less anxious, more energized. So I decided to share a few of the healthy dishes I’ve created over the last few years. I hope to continue adding to this list and sharing more recipes as time goes on.

These recipes all focus on foods that help fertility, such as avocado, walnuts, black beans, lentils, kale, and berries. The recipes are pretty simple, but I’ve never done anything like this before, so please let me know if any of the instructions are unclear. Click on the images below to be directed to the full recipe. Enjoy!


 Lentil and Avocado Salad

click here for full recipe

Lentil and avocado salad - fertility-friendly recipes


  Turkey Taco Bowls with Avocado, Black Beans and Brown Rice

click here for full recipe

turkey taco bowls with avocado, black beans and brown rice


  Full-fat Yogurt Parfait with Berries and Flax Seed

click here for full recipe

Full-fat Yogurt Parfait with Berries and Flax Seed - fertility friendly recipes


  Tortilla, Black Bean, Tomato & Egg Scramble

click here for full recipe

Tortilla, Black Bean, Tomato & Egg Scramble - fertility-friendly recipe

 


Steel-Cut Oatmeal topped with Walnuts, Almonds, Berries, & Chia Seeds

click here for full recipe

Steel-Cut Oatmeal topped with Walnuts, Almonds, Berries, & Chia Seeds - fertility-friendly recipe


Lentil, Kale & Potato Soup 

click here for full recipe

Lentil, Kale & Potato Soup - fertility-friendly recipe


Quinoa Salad

click here for full recipe

Quinoa Salad with chickpeas and walnuts and lemon garlic dressing - fertility friendly recipe

one lovely blog award nomination

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I’ve been nominated by My Perfect BreakdownElectric Mystery, and Drunk Storks for the One Lovely Blog Award. These are lovely bloggers themselves; they have provided me with endless support, words of wisdom, encouragement, and empathy, even in the midst of their own struggles. I respect and admire them and think of them as strong women who are handling what life has thrown at them with grace and courage.  I’m so touched they would pass on this nomination my way. Thank you! (Since writing this post I’ve also been nominated by While We Wait, The Chronicles of the Unfruitfulness, The Cat Bed, and Scrambled Eggs and Sundry – all incredible blogs, all incredible women!)

The criteria for accepting a One Lovely Blog Award are:

1. Thank the person who has nominated you. Provide a link to his/her blog.
2. List the rules.
3. Include 7 facts about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 other bloggers and let them know that they have been nominated.
5. Display the award logo and follow the blogger who nominated you.

Seven facts about me:

1. I have a 15 pound chihuahua, which is huge by chihuahua standards. She’s not necessarily fat exactly, just more big-boned 🙂 I got her when I was a 25 year old single girl living in NYC, and she’s been the sweetest, most quirky little companion ever.

2. Since moving to Southern California, my favorite weekend activity hands down has become hiking. The hikes are beautiful here, and I’ve found them to be so healing and centering during tough times.

3. I love international travel, and I have spent time studying in Madrid, Florence, and central Mexico.

4. In my last job, I worked closely with members of the United Nations to help connect the LA creative community to the UN, in an effort to spread awareness of global issues through creative content.

5. My husband and I honeymooned in Cambodia and Thailand for three weeks after we got married.

6. I come from a very creative family which includes a film maker, blues musician, actresses, theatre directors and writers. I love the arts, and like to dabble in lots of little creative projects here and there.

7. My husband and I both worked in book publishing and our house is overflowing with all the books that we’ve collected over the years!

My Nominees for A Lovely Blog Award:

When I started blogging, I never anticipated the amount of true loveliness I would encounter within this new community. Every single blogger I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my journey with has shown total kind-heartedness, understanding, compassion, and somehow always has the right words to say to give me comfort when I’m struggling. I’m excited to highlight the following blogs as some true stand-outs, whether it’s through the grace they’ve shown through incredibly tough times, the humor they find in light of hardship, the wisdom in which they write about their experiences and perceptions, or the generosity in the kind support they’ve shown me. Thank you all!

A Calm Persistence

My Hope Jar

Laughs n’ Love

F*%k Infertility

Wishing For Positive

The Boy Who Never Lived

Lady Love and Baby Dust

Hope Anchors the Soul

The Cat Bed

Blooming Spiders

With Grace and Faith We Make a Family

Infertility, Why Me?

The Bruised Banana

Waiting for Baby Bird

Look for Rainbows

very inspiring blogger award

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I am truly honored to be nominated by My Perfect Breakdown and F*%k Infertility for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I have tremendous admiration for these two bloggers and am continually inspired by their raw, courageous, and honest accounts of their difficult journeys. I felt quite touched when I first saw my name on My Perfect Breakdown’s post. To be nominated a second time by F*%k Infertility warms my little heart.

(Since writing this post I’ve also been recognized by City Life/Farm Wife, The Cat BedFinding Hope After a Miscarriage, and Hope Anchors the Soul – thank you, thank you!)

I learned of these nominations shortly after getting a negative on that wretched pee stick, the first failed cycle after our last miscarriage. I was in the midst of a very difficult moment; a moment when I suddenly felt the weight of this entire 18 month journey come crashing down around me. A moment when I felt deeply every sting, every loss, every bit of crushed hope, every thud in my gut, every moment of searing jealousy, and every crazy-making moment the constant waiting and uncertainty has caused in the past year and a half. I could feel all of it, all at once. I felt overwhelmed by its magnitude, and by how much energy and stamina it takes to manage emotions that are by definition so untamed. I didn’t feel like I could make it through the day, let alone continue this conception journey. I certainly didn’t feel inspirational.

But receiving these nominations lifted me. And I realized, this is how we inspire each other. The constant support of a genuinely empathetic community. And we watch each other keep going, and we cheer. Despite feeling some of the most intensely crushing emotions, we continue, we keep hope. I know so many of my readers and fellow bloggers have suffered far longer than I have. You’ve lived through more losses, and survived the extreme disappointments of failed IVF and IUI cycles. And no matter what your journey has been, you inspire me. You have given me the strength to continue, and the courage to take a hundred leaps of faith. I see how you all hurt, and how much you struggle while managing the hardest emotions.  But you persevere. And along the way, you find joy and take the time to celebrate the small things in life. You stop to offer support, encouragement and love to others. You are a life boat to so many of us struggling. And I see so many of you make it to the other side, and it gives me hope.

With that I’d like to share my list of nominees for this award. I know many of you have already been recognized, but I’d like to underscore how deeply valued you are, and how much you have truly helped me. Thank you.

Bloomingspiders

Laughter Through Tears

The Cat Bed

My MMC Story

Unicorns and Baby Dust

Preggo My Eggo

My Hope Jar

Dear Noah

Infertile is the New Black

When Dreams Become Rainbows

Pregnancy Pause

Waiting for Baby Bird

A Calm Persistance

Look for Rainbows

The Way I’m Making Sense of Miscarriage

To accept this award, here are the things you need to do:

1. Thank and link the amazing person(s) who nominated you.

2. List the rules and display the award.

3. Share seven fun facts about yourself.

4. Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.

5.  Optional: Proudly display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you.

Seven Fun Facts About Me:

1. When I was in first grade, I attended a private elementary school in New Hampshire and was the only girl in my class. I have no idea how that happens, but I was desperate for girl friends and was thrilled the next year when three other girls joined my class!

2. I am happiest when I’m creating or working with my hands. Ever since I was young, I could spend hours drawing, building, painting, knitting, decorating, and anything on crafty. I also love ceramics and throwing on a potter’s wheel and have also taken a handful of photography classes.

3. One of my favorite experiences in my whole life was the trip my husband and I took to Morocco, when we rode camels through the Sahara dessert and slept in a tent under the stars. We woke up early the next morning to climb the dunes and watch the sunrise. A truly magical experience.

4. My husband and I got married in the mountains of central Mexico in a town called San Miguel de Allende. Fifty of our closest friends and family traveled with us to watch us get married.

5. I grew up 25 miles away from my husband in Massachusetts, moved to NYC at the same time he did, and worked at the same company as him for three years before we actually met.

6. When my husband was in business school, I joined a boxing club to get in shape for our wedding. Boxing and kickboxing have always been my favorite forms of exercise.

7.  When I was a little girl I was obsessed with cats (I’m now horribly allergic to them). I had three and named them Anastasia Bumble Bee, Jillian, and Whitey.

blog hop: women writing

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Katie from The Cat Bed (I recommend checking out her fantastic blog) asked me to participate in a Blog Hop that features new women writers across all genres, and celebrates why we are writing. I am quite honored that she nominated me to participate, given how highly I think of her and her great blog.

Although I don’t quite consider myself a writer, I’ve always loved to write. As a child writing was part of who I was; I would sit for hours crafting my own short stories, writing poems, and using the books I loved reading as inspiration. I’ve always been a quiet, private person, and have found it easiest to communicate my thoughts through writing, when I have time to think and reflect on what I want to say. And although I pursued a career in book publishing, the role I was in did not require much writing, and over the years I started to lose my imagination for the craft. 

I started writing again after my husband and I experienced our second miscarriage, first just privately, to begin processing all that we had been through. I was searching for some sort of meaning in the experience, looking for answers, and trying to find strength through our journey. Thinking about what we were going through and putting it into words on paper helped me process and deepen the experience.

What am I working on/writing?

Right now I am just focused on my blog. At any given moment I have a handful of posts in progress and a list of topics and ideas that I want to write about. I’m also continually reading articles and researching all things related to pregnancy loss and grief healing that I hope to explore in future posts and provide to my readers as a resource.

How does my work differ from other writers in my genre?

As I’ve gotten more involved in the blogging community and started following the incredible stories of so many women that are experiencing repeat pregnancy loss and/or infertility, what’s really struck me is just how much of a shared experience this is. The spectrum of emotions, from jealousy, to shame, to grief, to utter helplessness and frustration, is something that we all experience, and to a level of intensity we may have never quite anticipated or understood had we not gone through this. My blog follows the same roller coaster experience that so many others face, only in the context of my own life.

What I’ve started to explore, which may differentiate my blog slightly, are the psychological ramifications of miscarriage. This is an area that I hope to develop further through researching studies and other academic sources, to help other women understand what we are actually faced with when we suffer a miscarriage and how to heal in a healthy way.

Why do I write what I do?

My miscarriages have had a huge impact on my life. Facing these losses, as well as the reality that there is a possibility that we may not be able to have biological children, has caused me to grieve in a way I never have before. And the heartache and struggle stays with you, month after month. The experience has changed me. It’s deepened me as a person, taught me many hard lessons, and as cliché as it is, made me much stronger.

I decided to write publicly about my experience initially to help other women. Although I’m a private person, I really struggled with the silence that surrounds miscarriage. Grief is such an isolating experience, and miscarriage is even more isolating because it is so hard for others to truly understand if they haven’t experienced it themselves. Plus, there is little societal recognition for the loss. I also think in our society we find nobility in silent suffering. But I think we also should validate those that can embrace, acknowledge and be honest about difficult emotions. I started this blog to set out to do just that. I wanted to be one more voice in this taboo community, and let other women know they are not alone in their suffering. That’s also why I decided against blogging anonymously, although I completely respect the decision to keep fertility struggles private.

In addition, there is such a lack of knowledge and research surrounding pregnancy loss and infertility. I hope to continue to write about the emotional repercussions I’ve faced, as well as learn more about the medical aspect of repeat pregnancy loss and infertility. Eventually I’d love to start a foundation to promote medical research in this area, and provide psychological services for women suffering through this. There is a huge need for this in the US.

Next Week’s Blog Hopper

I am excited to share with you next week’s blog hopper, When Dreams Become Rainbows. I really admire this blogger and have found her writing be full of wit, candor, and honesty. I encourage you to check out her site.

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From When Dreams Become Rainbows:

I’m a 27-year old (as of next month, haha) army wife/publishing graduate student from Boston, MA. I’m attending Emerson College for my MA in Publishing and Writing. I live with my husband and our two cats. I love wine, chocolate, Joss Whedon, and music. I’ve been with my husband for 8 years, married for 2 years.

my nephew is here

My brother called me at 10pm last week and told me in a shaky voice, “The baby has to come out now.” It was four weeks before their due date. 

They had just received some test results diagnosing my sister-in-law with cholestasis, a liver disease where the normal flow of bile in the gallbladder becomes affected by pregnancy hormones. The bile flow becomes stopped or slowed causing a build up of acids in the liver which can spill into the bloodstream, increasing the risk of stillbirth. She and my brother needed to check into the hospital immediately, while they evaluated her and eventually induce labor. 

They were completely freaked out. Mentally, they were not prepared. Logistically, they were not prepared. The nursery was not finished, the room only housing a few big pieces of furniture and the onslaught of gifts that had steadily been arriving the past few months, all still in boxes. They had no carseat. They hadn’t finished their parenting classes. And both sets of parents had plane tickets booked for the following month. 

I got to the hospital as soon as I could and sat with them for many hours. 

They waited on test results to see if the baby’s lungs had reached maturity, and could handle being outside the womb. 

They fretted about brain development, and what the effects of delivering four weeks early would have on his eventual intelligence. My brother googled ‘famous preemies’ and ‘professional athletes that were preemies” to find some reassurance. They sought opinions from as many doctors as they could contact. They were told that the risk of the cholestasis harming the baby outweighed any risks to brain development. But ultimately, the choice was theirs. They could wait it out in the hospital another week, with heavy monitoring, and let the baby continue to gestate a little longer. But this increased the risk that the bile could contaminate the placenta, putting the baby in immediate danger, and would lead them straight to an emergency c-section. 

Deciding whether to go ahead and induce labor is intense. My sister-in-law burst into tears. 

Thirty-six hours after checking into the hospital, the labor began. About eighteen hours after that, my nephew was born, limp, and not breathing. Fifteen terrifying minutes later he was stable, breathing, crying, and a healthy 7 pounds.

In between the long hours I spent at the hospital, helping them think through decisions, attempting to provide comfort and enough entertainment to help pass the time, I started to prepare for the baby’s arrival. I drove around LA, looking for the exact right car seat that they wanted. I made big batches of soup, so they would have a meal to come home to. I stocked their pantry with groceries. 

And then I tackled the nursery. 

I spent two days in there, quietly opening boxes of books and toys, of swaddles and blankets. I spent an afternoon washing and folding onesies, separating them carefully into neat piles. Long sleeve onesies over here. Footed onesies over there. I googled how to organize a changing table, labeling all the drawers, changing my mind again and again about the order of the items. I arranged the stuffed animals and took pictures of my dog snarling at a yellow lion perched on a shelf, clearly taunting her with its gaze. I hung a welcome banner.

It was hard, and it was easy. Focusing on a project, however ladled with emotional triggers it was, helped to focus my intention. In the midst of the chaos and intensity from these turn of events, I wanted to make their transition home a smidgen easier. I wanted them too to feel swaddled with love and support. 

But my emotions still swung and still needed to be managed. When the doctors would come in to the hospital room to perform an exam, I would step into the hall and wait. Stand there quietly with no distractions, with the buzz of pregnancy and labor and birth all around me. And I would feel sad and tired. I would crave to go back into the room and shut the door to shield myself. At least in that room I had family and love and my soon to be nephew to help me through. 

And then my nephew came and I love him. Even though the envy is still there, the sad desire, and the memory of my losses remain, I love him. And I want to be around him all the time. 

It was an intense week, but this is what I learned.

I learned that all of our bodies can fail us. I got pregnant at the same time my sister-in-law did, and then I lost it.  Her pregnant glow and growing belly symbolized a stark reminder of the failings of my own. Her body, doing perfectly what it was supposed to do, my own, a constant source of emotional pain. But after eight months of a seemingly perfect pregnancy, her body failed her too. Developing a condition that would harm her own baby in a serious way. Forcing her into an emergency induction. 

I learned in the most visceral way that it’s possible to feel an intense mash up of paradoxical emotions. Happiness, melancholy, excitement, anguish, nervousness, depression, envy, desire, love, and sometimes numbness. I felt the waves of all those feelings, coming in and out, sometimes all at once, sometimes not at all.

And I learned that sometimes cliches are true. Your love for someone can trump all. No matter my history, my losses, my own pain and difficulty around pregnancy and babies, my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew come first. Helping them ease into parenthood amidst a scary, unexpected ordeal became my first priority. 

And I had no mixed feelings around that.