infertility · pregnancy · trauma

“So, How Was It?” The Feels Edition

I’m part of an online group for people who are pregnant through IVF, and it’s been bringing me back to last December full force. The minute clocking of how many days and weeks along, the agonizing over whether taking your medication early or late or not at all that day will cause an irreparable issue, the wondering, wondering, wondering.

I’ve already written a bit about the early days and weeks of my pregnancy with HB, how worrisome it was for me. There was literally nothing else on my mind. When I had abdominal pain acutely on one side of my belly, I was absolutely convinced I was having an ectopic pregnancy, which mandates “cancellation” of the pregnancy. This fear has to continue until the embryo is large enough to detect on an ultrasound, which means you’re even more pregnant than you were with a potentially non-viable pregnancy, which also means you’re even more invested in it going well, you’re even closer to seeing it come to fruition.

At my earliest possible time, I came in for an ultrasound because I was convinced my abdominal pain was the portend of bad news. She’d told me it was early, that just because they may not detect anything didn’t mean it wasn’t there. My blood levels were continuing to rise apace. Then, the frozen agony as she angles around with the wand like a spotlight in my body, searching, searching for life.

And there it was, a flutter on the black-and-white screen. A flutter in my uterus where it should be. She turns on the sound, and there it is… a heartbeat, an honest-to-goodness heartbeat. Not my own, something new, something hers. Her. New. Yes.

And this is how it was for every minute of every day for me. A terrified conviction that any moment could be the last, as it had been several times before. It was this way until my 20-week ultrasound, an in-depth three-dimensional view of the growing body inside me. I would not, could not with a fox, allow myself to breathe until that 5-month test. I know personally three women who’d had “bad scans” at that critical appointment, all three who’d had to make haunting, heart-breaking choices, and I could not allow myself to plan for the arrival of a baby until then.

To be honest, it was only a few weeks to the end of my pregnancy when I was posting in a group about my terror that it would all come crumbling down. This feeling didn’t abate until she was safely, healthfully in my arms in the hospital bed. It’s a horrible feeling. It’s a horrible cloud to live under during a time that many people feel can be the most blissful and abundant.

And this was usually the kind of content I gave when friends asked how I was feeling. The emotional piece. I expressed how difficult it was for me to trust, how I was awaiting the 20-week scan to really believe this would happen, how I was having a hard time wading through my own trauma. Funnily enough, after several minutes of my talking in this vein, friends would often say, “I meant, ‘How are you feeling physically?'” but I knew what they meant. That aspect just wasn’t that important for me to talk about (see previous blog!).

But there she was at 20-weeks, a face, eyes, nose, heart. Four chambers of a heart. All moving blood, red and blue pulses of light on the screen. Pulses of life.

Til the end, this is how it was, checking my underwear for spotting each time I sat down to the toilet. She was still right-side-up as my time came closer, and this worried me. (She did flip on her own eventually.) Two weeks to go, I hadn’t felt her move in over a day. I drank juice, did jumping jacks, drank cold water, and sat quietly in the dark awaiting her movements to confirm she was still there. Really there.

I came downstairs streaming tears. J drove me to the hospital. And she was there, really there, just moving less but healthy, beating, “breathing.”

Everyone does what they can to assure you, assuming things have been going well, that they will be well. Everyone with the best of intentions and with all the love they can muster try to hold your hand, physically or virtually, as you wade, slog, crawl through the darkness that creeps into the side of your vision. The unbidden thought. The momentary arresting of your breath.

So, How Was It?

Pregnancy is a nine-month mental labyrinth, regularly gnarling your joy into a Gordian knot.

Until it’s over. And the knot unravels, cascading open to reveal the most tender pulse of awe and magic this side of the veil.

memory · newmom · parenthood

“It’s a Blur.”

[Note: This was composed when Hannah Berlin was 5 weeks old… she’s now almost 10. I guess it really IS a blur!] 😉

I’ve asked multiple people how they got through the first few weeks of their new baby’s life. I’ve asked those who’ve had a baby 40 years ago, 20 years ago, even as recent as a year ago, and their responses are markedly uniform (and, frankly, not quite implementable as far as advice goes): It’s a Blur.

Being now in the 5th week of our daughter’s life, I can certainly see why this is the consensus. As I’ve read about people as they get older, the years can whirr by mainly because there aren’t weighstations of events to mark the calendar, to remind them that, “Oh yeah, that was the year that…” As people age, their years tend to settle into the routine of life, which while comfortable, does not lend itself to bold time stamps serving as sticking places for our memory.

And, this is how the first few weeks in BabyLand feel: As though there are no, or few, time stamps. However, being me, and having known this to be the case, I’ve been trying to take a few notes on anything remarkable. While the days themselves do not seem to vary widely, the small moments are the ones that I’m capturing:

  • The first time J. picked up the swaddled bundle of baby and zoomed her around the room like a rocket ship taking off.
  • J. “wrestling” with the baby, taking her tiny (oh so tiny!) balled fists and batting them at him and making “ringside” commentary.
  • Her first sleep smiles, all gums and ridiculous joy.
  • At her first sponge bath, J. towels her down as though waxing a car and, straight-faced, asks her: “Air freshener?”
  • The way her hands began to uncurl and how she stares for minutes at a time at the joining corner of two walls.
  • Her first pediatric visit where the doctor is so darn relaxed and slow-talking, J. and I joke that he’s likely stoned.
  • And, one of my favorites: At 4 days old, we start her bedtime routine, ending with a reading of Goodnight Moon, something we’ve continued to do now for the last month. (Plus the night J. forgot his glasses and so had to make up the words, including “Goodnight Ducati.”)

When taken as a whole, at 30,000 ft, our experience so far could certainly be summarized as an unending and unerring cycle of food, cleaning, soothing — but it will be these small moments, the victories, laughs, and milestones, that will anchor this frankly hallowed time.