I went away for a year. I’ve decided I’m ready to tell you where I’ve been.
It’s been a year. I can say that in so many ways. It’s been a year since I blogged, a year since I shared my recipes and stories and silly things. It’s been a year. Like, it’s been the year of years. The highest highs. The lowest lows. The biggest leaps. The biggest yearnings to God from the deepest, rawest parts of my heart. The biggest answers. The biggest losses. And a gift like no other.
It’s been a year of very boring food. Sorry, folks, but that’s the truth. If you come here for gluten-free inspiration, you’ll be sad to know there was a disproportionate amount of gluten-free chicken fingers, little smokie sausages, and potatoes lazily baked in the microwave, dressed with a pathetic little dollop of butter and pre-shredded cheese.
When I left you last, I was gloriously making camp-side gluten-free delicacies and tasty treats. I talked about the peaches and the meatloaf and the fun paper plates. I failed to mention the fertility medicine’s hot flashes that, coupled with the 100-plus heat of the day, almost caused me to pass out several times. Or that just weeks prior, I sat in a doctor’s office with The Professor and learned there was a five-percent chance of every having a baby without medical intervention.
By the time I was working on the camping posts, I’d been on the medicine a few weeks. It was a strong and nasty drug, as fertility meds are known to be. But hey, when you’re tricking your body to artificially perform every reproductive task it should do on its own, you deal with it. The meds became stronger and stronger with each dose – both the dosage was increased and they had a cumulative effect – and soon I was on survival mode, both mentally and physically. No more blogging. No more Swoon Designs projects. No more social life. No more creative dinners. But lots of crying. Poor Professor. He was a trooper.
But it was all good. Before, I would have felt like a failure. But I didn’t, honestly. I felt like a warrior, stealing herself for battle, fighting for something bigger than my blog posts. Like those new Disney princesses or something.
A few months later, I lay awake in bed, waiting, wondering and praying my heart out. During the month I endured the meds, the shots, the embarrassing doctor’s appointments that had somehow become routine. Now all there was to do was wait until the appointed moment to check to see if our efforts worked. Finally at 5 a.m., I tiptoed out of bed, slipped into the guest bathroom so I wouldn’t wake up the professor, and peed on a stick. And this happened.
It was a moment like no other. Like when your knees buckle under you, but because of something good, not something bad. An answer to so many prayers. I cried, I took pictures, and then walked softly into our bedroom and whispered into The Professor’s ear, “I’m pregnant.” He was asleep and he confusedly gave me a high five. The Professor has a history of inappropriate gestures at important moments (don’t get me started about our first kiss or on one of early dates where he shook my hand when he saw me), so I went with it and high-fived him back, and slipped into bed to snuggle. And everything was right with the world.
I called my doctor the next morning and they rushed me in, hugs all around, and on to the blood work to start monitoring the pregnancy. The Professor and I talked logistics – cancel his school trip over the summer. The baby will be here by that time. Should we tell our family in two-and-a-half months at Thanksgiving?
A few days later, tears welling up in my eyes, I listened over the phone as my doctor explained that the blood work showed that I wouldn’t stay pregnant. As lovingly and gently as she could, she told me to wait for it to end.
It took a week. It wasn’t a normal period. I went from not bleeding to blood pouring out of me, puddling into my shoes. I cried in my office and then went home to shower. I curled in bed and put to sleep all the dreams I had for this child.
There aren’t any nice ways to describe a miscarriage. It’s not sad. It’s not hard. It’s not unfortunate. Those don’t do it justice. It’s death. Death, plain and simple. Death inside of you. It’s not just your knees buckling, but your whole body buckling, unwilling, unable to hold you up. It was a death we grieved, me especially.
This was a battle, and we knew what we signed up for. We lost the pregnancy so early, we were able to try again the next month. So we did. Another cycle. Another set of drugs. Another insemination.
Four weeks later, it was 5 a.m. again. It was time to take the walk to the guest bathroom and pee on the stick. I did. The same thing happened. Excitement, hope, and another loss. Another death deep inside me. Another baby we’ll meet someday in heaven. Dreams unrealized, hope delayed.
It was worse now than the day we were told we’d only have a five percent chance of getting pregnant without medical help. Now we had medical help. I had a team of doctors and nurses and PAs who I saw sometimes three times a week. We knew each other. I could look at an ultrasound and actually know what I was seeing. I could eyeball follicle diameter. We had all the medical help, and what we learned is we could get pregnant, but we couldn’t stay pregnant. And that seemed hopeless.
We decided one more try and then we’d take a break for a little while. By now, our budget was stretched thin. My parents were coming up to visit a lot since I was too sick from the meds to do house work and cooking. They conveniently had groceries in tow each time they came.
This time, I’d done some research and asked to add progesterone to our cocktail of drugs. The internets say low progesterone can cause early miscarriages and it wouldn’t hurt anything. Four weeks later. 5 a.m. Another test. It was positive again. By this time, I was callous and cautious and maybe a bit bitter. No pictures of the positive test. I glanced at it, winced with the anticipation of another month of pain, and threw the test away.
But something happened. The first day’s blood work looked positive. Two days later even better. Two days after that, even better. Two weeks after that, the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard. A heart beat. Two weeks after that, still a heart beat. If we could make it two more weeks, to 10 weeks, and there was still a heart beat, we would be out of the woods and back in the general population of risk. A 10 weeks, we heard it again. Eight weeks after that, “it” became a “he.”
Eventually I looked like this – taken on my due date.
Eight weeks ago, we welcomed our son into the world. He’s here. He’s beautiful and perfect and I love him with a fierce and beautiful intensity, so great that it took me by surprise.
Our journey to parenthood wasn’t nearly the journey that some endure, and for that we are so thankful. It still was the most difficult thing we’ve ever done.
I’ve learned a lot of things. One of those is to have grace with myself. That extends to the blog. I’d like to do more blog posts, specifically about fertility treatment, infertility, childbirth. His birth was scary and ended in an emergency c-section.There are so many stories – both lighthearted and serious – to share. They’ll come slowly and irregularly. There are beautiful stories of how God sustained us, how friends loved us and how we made it through.
I just invented a new salad. That might appear someday. It had roasted pears and a whole-grain mustard vinegrette and bleu cheese and candied pecans. Maybe some posts on all the make-ahead meals I made and have since eaten. Maybe some more cat stories, although Charlie is an only cat. Pippa joined the circle of life. First by preferring to be outside at night to catch mice. Later by being eaten by an owl.
But for now, I am here, listening to the sweet coos and cries and occasional screams of an answered prayer.