Dear Sam,

It’s snowing again. Big feathery flakes that swarm and disappear upon hitting the pavement.

You and I are winter babies. Born in the season of forced quiet. When the snow can feel both magical and cloistering at once. Perhaps this is why your signature expression is a wrinkled brow.

I wonder if you will be my serious child. If you will observe the world before engaging with it. At four weeks old, you appear to know more than you should.

IMG_3131

Lately, you’ve begun to study me. Your eyes—a blue so dark they look charcoal—reveal nothing as they scan my face. Do you trust me I wonder? Do I trust me I wonder?

Every day I rest you on my knees to stare into your eyes. You respond with a frown that seems to ask why have you summoned me here? And then you stretch your tiny arms, arching back into the nothing behind you. Because you do not know fear. You just know that my hands are there to support you.

I suppose this will be our lifelong dance.

But for now, let’s sit together by the fire. Let me just listen to you breathe and watch the snow. Let’s learn each other as we wait for the melting to begin.

Love,

Mama

reflections on a pregnancy

It is a strange feeling to have someone hiccup inside of you. And yet, also strangely comforting.

I’m in the final month of what is likely my last pregnancy. Sometimes I look down and watch my belly shape shift and wonder about the creature breaching like a dolphin beneath my skin. I feel aquatic. And I feel lucky.

This baby came so easily after the last pregnancy faded. I remember standing in the bathroom after my third pregnancy test just waiting to see the double blue lines appear. But I never really doubted them. I just silently noticed when a new week turned over and the baby was still here.

Sometimes, in this era of modern medicine, I think we forget how risky childbirth can be. How the body, growing another body, is risking its own. It is a burden that only women carry. And there are no guarantees. Just best intentions.

I know a woman who tried for years to have a baby – just one baby – until she could not try anymore. I know a man who waited for nine months to hold his child and never once heard it breathe before he put it in the ground.

Once, I interviewed a 16 year-old who lived on the streets of Austin and was pregnant with her second child. Perched on the exam table in her doctor’s office, she held her  tummy and talked about her hopes for her baby. Mostly, she wanted to be a better mom than she was with her son, she said wiping away tears.

“Well, you’re here now,” I told her before turning my face to my notes so she wouldn’t see my eyes.

At the time, I was struggling with infertility. I was heartbroken. For her, for me. Both in situations we desperately wanted to fix, but didn’t quite know how.

Two thousand miles and four years later, my life is unrecognizable. It’s snowing. Flakes so tiny they look like dust. Toy trucks are scattered on the floor.

The baby has stopped hiccuping. I think it is sleeping. Rest up, little one. I have so much to tell you.

alright

My two year-old is afraid of trolls. Lions. And deer. He thinks they will find their way inside our house and into his room at night. “I don’t want the animals to come,” he says, before plugging his mouth with his thumb. And while climbing the stairs for bed he asks what is underneath his bed.

Where does fear come from? Sometimes I think it’s too soon. Give him a few more years to fall in love with the world before recoiling from it. But I suppose it is human nature to be afraid of what can consume you.

The book where he first learned of trolls has vanished from the shelf even though he hasn’t asked to read it in a week. When tucking him in at night, I reassure him that lions live far away in Africa. Which is true. I tell him that he would need two planes, at least, to get there. I do not tell him that mountain lions roam the national forest that is our backyard. That I have seen their footprints in the snow. And that I have turned back when running certain empty trails just because I had a feeling I should.

Sometimes he runs around the house yelling “roar! Mama roar!” He likes being chased until the moment he believes a mother might really be able to transform into a lion. In his world, I know the answers to all questions. I am the keeper of safety. The chaser of bad dreams. It might even be possible for me to take flight.

The other afternoon he pointed to the sky, his cheeks reddened from the snow-scrubbed air, and demanded “fly like the birds, mama!” I kept my smile and looked up at sparrows overhead.

Afterward I snapped an icicle off the forsythia bush and placed it in his mittened hands. “You can’t eat it,” he told me. “Oh you can,” I responded. He slowly brought it to his lips and tasted the ice. His eyes sparkled. Then he cracked the tip off with his teeth and crunched on the cold.

“The world is alright” I said.

Dear Red Sox,

Congratulations! You won the World Series. (Again!)

Remember when I used to care deeply about things like that? If you scroll back on this site to posts from nearly a decade ago, you can find me writing to the coaching staff and players like you about strategies for doing so. Many I wrote in jest, but the sentiment was there: the team was failing me in some way and you could fix it if you just tried.

I don’t feel that way now.

I no longer get worked up about pitching changes made too late (or too soon). About cold streaks in need of breaking. Maybe it’s because you have become so adept at winning over the years. Maybe it’s because as we age it’s harder to be emotionally stirred by the losses of people you don’t really know living hundreds of miles away. But I don’t think that is true. Yet, over the last two years I have thought less about the concept of my team and winning.  I’ve just been thinking about other things.

I’ve thought about young children ripped from their families at the border. About children younger than 5 signing away rights they can’t fully understand. I’ve thought about the world’s changing climate and the inaction of my country’s leadership to even try to change the course of history. I’ve thought about white men with high capacity guns and a chip on their shoulder walking into churches, synagogues, and schools and snuffing out lives of innocent people in their places of learning and worship. I’ve thought about the attacks on the free press. About the lifting up of ignorance, of fear, of hate. So instead of writing to you I’ve been writing to my congressmen about all of these things.

And I admit, I am tired. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am still happy for you. You deserved the title. You put in the work. I never doubted you. I mean, 108 wins in the regular season? You beasts. And I am grateful for the distraction you have given me this last few weeks. The gift of a few hours reprieve from thinking about all of those other things has been a true blessing.

But now you will go to your respective off-season homes for a well deserved rest. And I will go back to writing to the people in power about their tacit endorsement of the status quo. I hope that a decade from now I’m back to writing you about lackluster changeups and the importance of hustling. Because I miss thinking about you.

Yours,

Kristen

 

 

the smell of decay

Rain that fell in the night soaks the golden leaves covering my path to work. The moisture lingering in the air reminds me of fall back home. The sweet smell of decay wafts from the trail—a rare treat in the arid West. The air feels heavy against my cheeks. But then again everything feels heavy these days. My growing belly. My tired heart.

I awoke yesterday to news of multiple bombs sent to leaders of the Democratic Party and members of the press. To the nation’s first black president. To verbal targets the president jeers during his rallies and over his Twitter feed. I thought of the journalist decapitated and dismembered just two weeks ago. His fingers purportedly severed. The price of dissent in a place where it is forbidden. We are not there yet I thought. Are we?

I called my senators. I worked. I ran. My mind did not wander though I know every curve of this trail. I know where it climbs and where it dips. I know the spot where you can find wild raspberries in the summer. And yet I feel lost. I feel we are lost.

And I am not sure how we wind our way back. Watching the Red Sox in the World Series last night I couldn’t muster the same joy I felt in years past. “You lose something when you win,” I said.

I’m still figuring out what that means.

waiting to miscarry

Warning: This is not a post for everybody. This is a post for me. And for anyone who has experienced infertility, the loss of a pregnancy, or who wants to support someone who has. It’s common for people to share pregnancy announcements on social media. To snap week by week photos of healthy growing bellies and freshly painted nurseries. It’s not as common for women to share announcements about their miscarriages. To share their disappointment with the world. However, I feel they are still stories worth sharing. This is mine.

1.21.18

I feel crampy today. The hopeful me wonders if this is the month, this is when a tiny blastocyst will burrow into my side, hitching itself to me for the next nine months. For life. I worry that it is not. That I will wait another two weeks and bleed and wonder if I will ever have a healthy pregnancy again. If Gabe will have a sibling. Or if he will simply wish for one.

1.29.18

I am grateful that my son is oblivious to the things I worry about. That he pulls out sheets of colored construction paper and hands them to me with a request: heart, please. And we sit together as he watches my scissors trim as many hearts as I can from the card stock. That he lays them down on the ground to admire their shape before taking one in each hand and pushing them skyward.

1.30.18

A coworker showed me some of the first pictures shot from a satellite heading to fringes of the universe to study an asteroid. We are so tiny, I thought as he showed me the last images it sent of Earth. A speck beyond a speck beyond a speck of light. Our problems are all so small.

2.2.18

I peed on a stick today. The faintest of a blue line. A ghost. A hope waiting for time to give it shape. I worry that I have already mentally sketched out the layout of the kids’ room and called my parents to circle the date. But I’m grateful that I can see a ghost line and simply imagine—perhaps.

2.12.18

The fetus, if indeed I am growing one, is smaller than a grain of jasmine rice. I worry that I may have an empty sac. Or that a million cell divisions will all go well except for one or two or three, which will change the course of this life. It’s a miracle every time a baby is born healthy. So many millions of cell divisions gone right. Every day I look at Gabe and feel so lucky that he is here.

2.21.18

I interviewed a woman about infertility issues today. Afterward I surprised myself when I slid the recorder back into its case and admitted “I will never get over it.” And I won’t. I can still feel my throat tighten every time I think about the three years we tried and failed to get pregnant. Every time I saw my hope bleeding into the toilet each month.

But I wouldn’t change what we went through either. I think I kiss Gabe a little more, squeeze him a little tighter than maybe I would have if he had come easy. Maybe for me, it’s what I needed to be a better mom.

2.28.18

Today was my first ultrasound. I brought Gabe to the appointment. I knew that if something was wrong, it would be best to have him with me. Because you can’t fall apart when you need to zip someone else’s jacket and wipe someone else’s butt. And deep down I suspected that something might be wrong. “I haven’t felt all that pregnant,” I told the nurse. “I haven’t felt that nauseous and I know that feeling sick is actually a good sign of a healthy pregnancy.”

She assured me that it’s also normal not to experience morning sickness during pregnancy. And she’s right. “Let’s see if there’s two or three in there,” she joked.

“Or anything at all,” I said.

The moment the doctor inserted the ultrasound wand I looked for the sac. I think I knew it before he did. No heartbeat. “How far along should she be?” he asked the nurse. “Far enough along that there should be a heartbeat,” I said.

The hardest thing is my body hasn’t figured that out yet. And it will be weeks before my hormones resettle. Before my body recognizes that there is no life in here to support. Rational me says people get bad news every day. Today was just my day. And yet.

3.1.18

I started spotting during an afternoon run. I worried that the miscarriage would stream out of me all at once. That I would return to my office with blood-stained pants. It is a strange thing to sit in a meeting and hope you will not bleed out onto the roller chairs. They’re an unfortunate gray color. But a miscarriage can take awhile. Weeks. Even months before the body gets the memo: no baby here. I haven’t spotted since.

3.2.18

I am still waiting to bleed. And to try again. Gabe has picked up a funny new saying: “happens.” He says it while reading after seeing an overturned car, a person slipping on some marbles, or the general chaos in a Richard Scarry book. “Happens,” he says. And he’s right. Sometimes unfortunate events happen. And then we turn the page.

3.5.18

Today I found myself clicking on graphic images women posted online of the contents of their miscarriages. One woman apologized for the gruesome nature, but, does anyone know what this could be, she asked? I think it’s normal. To want to know what went wrong. To want to know how pregnant you were before you weren’t. Not that it matters. In the end there’s still no baby—just a desire for one.

3.12.18

I’ve started calling it “the nothing.” As in “the nothing is still in there.” Wednesday the waiting will be over. I’ve scheduled a dilation and curettage to clean out my womb. There are several tacks women can take when they are waiting to miscarry: let a natural miscarriage occur, take a pill to facilitate the process, or undergo a surgical procedure that ensures the lining and sac are removed. I chose the latter because I want some control over the where and when. Because I am 37. And I don’t feel I have a lot of time to wait.

3.13.18

Strangely, I haven’t been too emotional about the miscarriage. I’m pretty sure it stems from the years of trying and never once getting a positive pregnancy test until the one. From the years of saying “I just want one.” And I have Gabe. And he’s amazing. In a way, I am also grateful. Miscarriages are normal. The estimates vary, but figures suggest between 20 and 33 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage.

I am relieved we didn’t spend three years trying this time. That conceiving didn’t take visiting a fertility doctor, taking Chinese herbs, or acupuncture. That I didn’t collect pennies on heads from the street and store them in a jar on my windowsill. Maybe next time it wouldn’t hurt to look for a few coins on the sidewalk. But I am grateful that maybe this is a sign there will be a next time. Because right now, I am not losing a baby. Just the hope of one.

3.14.18

It poured this evening. A Texas-style storm that erased the dividing lines on the roads. The kind of rain where you find yourself holding your breath on the highway.

We spent the whole day at the hospital. I felt old sitting in my obstetrician’s waiting room with a bunch of expecting mothers as they unconsciously stroked their swollen bellies and thumbed their phones. They didn’t seem to register skinny me with crows feet around her eyes holding a card indicating that I’ve been administered RhoGAM. Bleeding and wondering if someday I will be back in this waiting room under different circumstances.

I cried about the loss for the first time post-surgery to the anesthesiologist. “It finally hit me why I’m here,” I said.

The last time I wore a hospital gown I left the hospital with a baby. This time I left with a light period. The two nurses who helped me shared their miscarriage stories. My obstetrician shared his, too. This happens. But I’m sorry, they said holding my hand. It helped to hear I’m sorry. But I’m still glad it rained on the way home.

gentle

My 19-month old is confronting the realization that sometimes, when we’re not careful, we can break things that cannot be easily fixed. Like seashells. Paper hearts. And crayons.

“Fix,” he said holding up two pieces of an orange crayola.

I knelt down and showed him how the edges fit back together without a scar if you press them together hard enough. He was delighted. But when I let go the split returned and the halves fell away. And Gabe lost it. I tried taping the crayon around its midsection but that only upset him more.

“Broken!” he sobbed.

I know the feeling. These days I’m glad he is still learning to identify colors and shapes and animals he may never see anywhere but on safari. That he’s in the phase where he wants me to cut purple, yellow, and blue paper hearts and scatter them on the floor. Where he doesn’t know that hearts symbolize love. Where he just wants to read and climb and run and laugh.

Because I can’t tell him how heartsick I am. How I worry every day about the cracks growing apparent in our institutions. How I’m not sure how we can put things back together if they fail. Because there are certain words he doesn’t need to know yet.

Gabe crawled over to our cat BB and stroked his fur. Then he closed his fingers around BB’s tail and yanked. BB meowed pitifully.

“That’s not gentle,” I said pulling Gabe into my lap and rocking him. “We have to be gentle with the people we love. We have to be gentle with the things we love.”