Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Two weeks after we lost Ethan, Andrew and I grabbed lunch with my parents on Grand Avenue. While we were waiting for our food, I made a quick trip to the bathroom. As I stood there washing my hands, a hugely pregnant - beautifully pregnant - woman came through the door. She passed behind me and into one of the stalls. Hers was the first pregnant belly I had seen since my miscarriage and I couldn't take my eyes off of it. I lingered a while, long enough for her to come out of the stall. I tried not to be creepy. I didn't want to stare, but I was just so amazed. How did she get that far? I knew that women went full term and had healthy babies every minute of every day. But at the same time, because I lost my boy so easily, so quickly, without doing anything wrong, it felt like a miracle that this woman could be so close to her due date and still going strong. I also felt...jealous. It wasn't a bitter jealousy but rather a deep, sad jealousy - a physical ache that filled the spot where Ethan should have been.

So began my belly phobia.

While I was trying to balance grieving our losses with going through fertility treatments, baby bellies seem to be everywhere. They were at Target. They were at restaurants. They were definitely at church. Church was the worst. They came in groups. They came wrapped in pretty sundresses or cute t-shirts with funny sayings about pregnancy. They seemed to have neon signs floating above them, blinking with messages like "Check this out!" and "I know you want one!" I'm pretty sure at one point, even old guys with beer bellies triggered my phobia. That was a real low.

Friends' bellies seemed to be expanding all around me, and I tried my absolute hardest to be thrilled for them, to celebrate those little babies, to be inquisitive and interested and excited. I tried so hard that it became exhausting, especially since I knew I was really bad at it. I wanted a belly just like theirs. But mine was empty and flat. (Actually, that's not true. It wasn't flat at all. Fertility drugs make you bloated and give you a pooch. I have a friend whose IVF meds made her belly pop out far enough to inspire an acquaintance to ask when she was due...ouch. And in the days leading up to our embryo transfer, my belly grew two inches in 24 hours. When I finally announced my pregnancy at work some months later, a coworker said that she could tell I was pregnant way back in early March. Um...I wasn't pregnant then. Nice.) Some very kind, sensitive friends wore loose shirts and tried to downplay their baby bellies. I was always so grateful for their efforts but it didn't change the fact that those camouflaged bellies were all I could think about.

Being friends with infertile folks is not for the faint of heart. I'm sure there are plenty of exceptions, but women on fertility drugs (and their partners) don't often make the greatest friends. From the side effects of the medications to the depression to the jealousy to the fading fake smiles, we just aren't very fun. When Andrew and I were about two years deep into infertility treatments, we looked around and realized that we had lost most of our friends. We hadn't had the energy to set up double dates or accept invitations to get togethers. I should have taken advantage of the nights Andrew worked to schedule a girls night or see a movie with a friend. But it was just so much easier to stay in my sweatpants.

There is a song by Sara Groves called "Like a Lake." She sings, "Everything in me is tightening, curling in around this ache." That's what I did. I think that's what a lot of us do. We close in around our pain. We try to contain it, protect it and hold it dear. And in doing so, our eyes turn away from the rest of the world and its pain, from our loved ones and their distress, even from our partners and their heartache. Later in the song, Sara sings of "fighting to stay open" and in her voice you hear the effort it takes to keep oneself open "like a lake," to expose our pain and make ourselves vulnerable to the pain of others. It can be so easy to get stuck in our stuckness and to feel that because we have weathered a tragedy or because we are on a very difficult journey, we have an excuse to stay that way. In doing so, we lose. We miss out on our own lives and the lives of others. I did this for a bit. I'm so glad I'm not there anymore.

It wasn't until I was pregnant that I was able to jump back into relationships. It wasn't so much a jump as it was a crawl. Some friendships were easy to reignite. Others took a little extra work, hard conversations, and mutual forgiveness. I am so grateful for the friends who stood by us throughout this process, who understood that for the time being, our friendship was going to be sort of one-sided. I'm also grateful for the friends who gave us some space and then opened their hearts up to us when we were ready again.

Despite renewed relationships and restored energy, my belly phobia continued...even though I myself was looking quite...rotund. At birth classes and maternity stores, I often felt like I could have a panic attack. Surrounded by pregnant women, I forgot I was one of them. Even women who weren't as far along as I was inspired that ugly jealous feeling. After Harriet was born, I told her birth story to a group of expectant moms, and even then, with my very own child in my arms, I felt jealous of the bellies all around me. What's that about?! Maybe it's just a habit, an automatic response. I don't really know.

do know that I'm getting much, much better. Really, I am. These days, I feel truly happy for pregnant friends. These days, I ask those questions everyone asks (How far along? Boy or girl? Where will you deliver?) with real care rather than feigned interest. But I still feel it - that little part of me that wants a belly just like theirs.

There is an exception to the jealousy, to the belly phobia. People often think that having experienced miscarriage and infertility, I must be angry about the addicts, the teenagers, the prostitutes, the women on welfare who get pregnant so easily and repeatedly. I am telling the full truth when I say that seeing them or hearing about them does not make me feel sorry for myself or angry in the least. Having a child can be as devastating for one woman as not having a child is for another. Who am I to say that my heartache is more noble than hers?

I know it sounds strange but I sometimes feel that these women can understand my plight better than most. They know what it is to struggle with the process of getting pregnant, coping with pregnancy, and having that child. I'm not talking about morning sickness and sleepless nights. I'm talking about making the toughest decisions of your life. I'm talking about deep, dark loneliness. I'm talking about looking around and feeling like nobody can help you, no matter how hard they try. I think that women with unplanned (and sometimes unwanted) pregnancies get that.

I think my belly phobia is strongest around those who don't seem to struggle with it at all. Getting pregnant (and staying pregnant) doesn't come easily for me, so if I'm not careful, I end up feeling sorry for myself around those people. I end up feeling jealous of the fact that they can actually decide when they feel like having a baby rather than having to save up thousands of dollars, involve doctors and nurses, and deal with month after month of heartbreak. That's when I have to remind myself that pregnancy has never come easily for me, but other things have.

It wasn't difficult for me to find a husband. Andrew was the first guy who ever took me on a date. (Well, there was this one guy who I was sure took me on a date but later found out we were just "hanging out"...awkward.) I have friends who have bravely gone on blind date after blind date the way I have done clomid cycle after clomid cycle. Their hope has dwindled just like mine. They have become frustrated and almost given up just like me. This has been their struggle, and while I have had the benefit of a partner to support me through it, they have done it...are doing it...alone. I hope and pray that they have struggled enough in the pursuit of a family and that God will give them children with little trouble. School has also come easily for me. I never doubted that I would finish college or that I would get a master's degree. But I know people who have struggled with academics and have had to work like crazy for every single credit. So fertility is my challenge. It's got to be something, right? Why not this?

People say losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a person. Maybe it is. But maybe it isn't. Maybe ranking people's pain as bad, worse, and worst is completely ridiculous. Especially in the world of infertility, we tend to measure our losses against one another. But from what I've observed, we rarely invalidate other people's losses. We're more likely to downplay our own. If we had an early miscarriage and someone else's child was stillborn, we feel that we shouldn't be as sad as they are. If we have been trying to get pregnant for two years and someone else has been on this road for five, we become embarrassed at our level of frustration. We chastise ourselves for not being as strong as the next person. Just like with the belly phobia, I'm not sure why this happens. I wish it didn't.

It won't be long before I'll be in active pursuit of another baby belly. It will be interesting to see whether my belly phobia crops up again. I sure hope I will be able to avoid curling in around my ache. I sure hope I will be able to stay open and aware of other people's struggles. I sure hope I can keep from measuring my journey against the journeys of those around me. And if you're in a similar situation, I hope the same for you. It's so, so hard. But where did we get the idea that we couldn't handle hard?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Yesterday was Harriet's first birthday. It's strange and wonderful how much difference a year can make. Last year at this time, I was just getting to know this little baby who felt one part stranger and one part kindred spirit. Today I am eating leftover birthday cake with hot pink frosting while my dear daughter naps upstairs. This has been a big year. I have had the honor of mothering this bright, brave, spirited, sweet girl and I can't think of a better way to have spent this time.

I think it's true what they say - the days are long but the years are short. Some of our days (and especially our nights) have been very long. But this year truly sprinted along, transforming my tiny button of a baby into a little person who walks and talks (sort of) and steals my heart over and over and over again.

Her birthday party was this past Saturday and it was, of course, pink. Someday she may play hockey, go fishing with her dad, and want to paint her bedroom orange or green. All of those things sound wonderful and I can't wait, but for now, while it's still up to me, I'm keeping things pink.

My husband is talented at a lot of things, but I never knew he had such a knack for crepe paper.

My mom made this fabulous wreath. I just love it.

Harriet's Auntie Bean helped us decorate for the party on Friday. As we were leaving, my mom said, "Wouldn't it be funny if we came back in the morning and Bean had folded the napkins into some crazy design?" Well, in the morning, there were swans.

Andrew and I made the cakes ourselves. My sweet friend who owns a cupcake business was very patient with me as I texted, called, and emailed for her advice and opinions.

She's one.

Harriet's godmother, Ashlee (below with her boyfriend, Dan). She may not be of the fairy variety, but I'm certain that if she had a magic wand, she would turn pumpkins into carriages and outfit our princess with glass slippers.

The napkin artist herself (with her boyfriend, JP).
Grammy and Papa.

This candle set off the smoke detectors...Are you surprised?

Unforunately, our party girl wasn't a fan of the smash cake.

 I was.

It had to be funfetti.

We planned three days of activities for Harriet's birthday weekend - the party on Saturday, the Holidazzle and Macy's 8th floor on Sunday, and the Mall of America on Monday. We ended up snowed in on Sunday. At first, I was disappointed to miss the parade and an afternoon downtown, but I ended up grateful for a day at home with nothing to do but play with Harriet. We tried out the sled she got from her aunt and uncle. You can't tell from the picture, but she loved it.

Yesterday, we had pancakes for breakfast. (That's a 1.)

And then headed to the Mall of America, where Harriet got to see the fish at the Sea Life Aquarium.

And rode the Merry-Go-Round with her dad.

She seriously loves shopping.

It feels so obvious and trite to write this, but...I feel so blessed. I vividly remember a time when I doubted we'd ever get here. And even during those rare hopeful times, I never could have dreamed that having a child would be this wonderful...and challenging and exhausting and messy...and wonderful.

Happy, happy birthday to you, Harriet Grace.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


One day this past summer, my husband earned his way into the dog house. This doesn't happen often. We both do our best to forgive quickly, but I will admit that I held this incident over his head for a while. You see, Andrew is by no means cheap. In fact, he has one of the most generous hearts I have ever known. But he does like to save money where he can. So when he got a call from the Kirby vacuum company, offering to come clean our carpets "for free," he was all over it. 

Andrew works nights and scheduled this "free carpet cleaning" during a time when he would be asleep and I would be awake. "It'll be fine," he said. "Some woman is just going to stop by to clean our carpets. No strings attached." 

I tried to convince him that no company would do this type of service completely free, but he was immovable. 

So later that day, in place of Andrew's promised female carpet cleaner were TWO male vacuum cleaner salesmen. I stepped out onto the front step, Harriet on my hip, and closed the door behind me. I was setting a boundary. I told them that I was incredibly sorry but we were not in the market for a vacuum so they might as well move onto their next home. I said that my husband had set this up and I was sorry that we had wasted their time. They were lovely men and kindly insisted that they understood the situation and were happy to clean our carpets anyway. After a bit of back-and-forth with them, I opened the door and let them inside. Big mistake.

They vacuumed the living room floor with our Dyson, then fired up their miracle-working Kirby. The main guy would put these little white disks in the filter, vacuum a little, then take the white disk out to show me how much dirt our Dyson left behind. This process was excruciating. I was sitting on our couch with Harriet on my lap, covering my face with my hands in shame as he laid disk after disk out in a perfect arch, each of them covered with carpet gunk. "You can just stop," I said. "I get the point."

I couldn't even remember the last time we had vacuumed. I was humiliated. "This is probably the worst you've ever seen, huh?" I said, hoping they would tell me that this level of dirt was fairly common.

"Well, it's the dirtiest we've seen from a family that didn't buy a vacuum."


They left an hour and a half later. I felt just horrible that we had wasted their time and I was embarrassed by my subpar housekeeping. So I did the only thing I could - I gave them a few of the citrus butter cookies I had baked the day before. Part of me is shocked they even ate them after experiencing our dirty house.

Later that day, I vacuumed. I let Andrew have it. And I vowed to make dust, dirt and grime of any sort an anomaly in my home.

One problem:

We have a dog. A dog that loves messes and mischief. If you have this sort of dog, you know that a spotless house is as attainable as a yummy low-fat dessert.

We also have one of these:

And as darling and sweet as she is, the girl cuts into my cleaning time. More accurately, she cuts it out. Completely. Because I would rather play with her than polish. I would rather dance with her than dust. I would rather snuggle with her than squeegee. It's okay when our "sensory play" ends up all over the kitchen floor because the best learning is messy. I don't mind our living room turning into a sea of toys because play is her work. And because I know nothing makes her happier than the pure freedom of nakedness, I don't care much if she pees on the carpet. (Once she pooped behind the couch but we try to keep that to a minimum.)

The same is true about our pup. We decided long ago that we would only get a dog if we could offer it a good life full of fun, dog stuff. So if we are on a walk and he notices an especially tempting dirt hill or mud bog, I often unhook his leash and watch him run through the muck as though he has never known a more perfect moment than this. I find so much joy in watching his celebration of all things gross and smelly. (Later, I often regret it, but that's beside the point.)

I won't pretend that I'm always so laissez faire about my house and purely focused on fun. There are times when I lament to my husband that it's impossible to keep up, that I just want things to be clean and put away. To that, he says that he'll do it. And he does. Which is why I can't be too angry about the Kirby thing.

I'll admit I was a bit nervous to publish this post. I worried no one would ever want to come to our house again. So know this...if you stop by for a visit, our home will be (relatively) clean. The floors will be swept. The toilets will be scrubbed. But more importantly, know this...

If you are going to spill a full bowl of chili on the carpet,

if you are going to get a little clumsy or rowdy and put a dent in the wall,

if you are going to come in from the rain and drag mud and leaves up the stairs...

...this is the place to do it. At our home, it's okay to make a mess. Heck, it's okay to be a mess. Because that's the kind of place where I want my children to grow up.

Good thing...because I wouldn't know how to do it any other way.

P.S.   I typed this post with one hand while holding a sick, sleeping baby so you can just imagine how clean my house is(n't).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

freight train

Infertility left me bruised and scarred, both emotionally and physically. The intramuscular injections created painful knots in my muscles that lasted months. I also had to give myself two shots of a blood thinner every day during my pregnancy to prevent miscarriage. A year later, I can still see the shadow of a couple of those black and blue marks on my stomach. Even prior to pregnancy, I gained weight from the medications. I was weak from the activity restrictions. And I was angry with my body. My physical self had failed me. It hadn't worked right when I needed it to. It allowed my babies to die. It stubbornly refused to ovulate. It didn't cooperate with the doctors. I was furious with my lazy ovaries and inept uterus. There was a giant chasm between me and my body. We were at war.

And then IVF. And then I was pregnant. I appreciated the work my body was doing to protect this tiny life inside of me but I didn't trust it one bit. I fully expected it to eject this child as well. I fully expected it to ruin everything. 

I wasn’t officially considered high risk, but because of our history, we chose to do a hospital birth. We picked the hospital in our area that has the lowest c-section rate (by far) and is known for natural births. We also chose our doula, Sarah, a friend of my husband’s from nursing school. She is excellent. She met with us several times before the birth. She asked me to tell Ethan’s story in detail. She listened to it so carefully and I felt she knew him even though they had never met. She calmed my fears and waged war against my insecurities. She trusted my body even though I didn't.

We asked Sarah to recommend a doctor who would support our desire to have a natural birth. She sent us to Dr. L, a family practice physician who has been trained in water birth and feels very strongly about patients taking charge of their own health decisions. There were several times during my pregnancy when I called Dr. L in a panic, begging him to check for a heartbeat. He stayed late to see me and even did an ultrasound to calm my fears. “I don’t usually use this thing,” he said, “But we’ll figure out how it works.” And we did. Well, he did.

I was absolutely set on having a natural birth. I did lots of research – books, websites, classes. I even heard Ina May Gaskin, the midwife of all midwives, speak in person. My family and friends tried to temper my enthusiasm. They were worried that I would be very disappointed in myself if I wasn’t able to give birth the way I wanted to. I realized they were right when I broke down sobbing upon hearing I had tested positive for strep B. I was under the impression that the hospital wasn’t going to let me do a water birth because I would need IV antibiotics during the delivery. I was so grateful when Sarah assured me that this wouldn't be a problem. Still, even this teeny, tiny setback built my case against my body.

last picture taken of me pregnant (39 weeks)
Due to my blood clotting disorder, the doctors encouraged induction at 38 weeks. We refused it because we felt strongly about letting our baby decide when he or she wanted to be born. Dr. L was perfectly fine with this. A week later, on December 9th, at about four o’clock in the morning, I awoke to mild contractions. It wasn’t painful, just bothersome. I laid there til my alarm went off, trying to rest but not comfortable enough to actually sleep. I saw five or six clients that day, my contractions getting a little bit stronger with every session. I called the hospital, my doctor, and our doula to explain my symptoms. The nurses told me that as long as I could walk and talk through the contractions, I needn’t come in, so I decided to stay at work. I just wasn’t convinced that this was the day. I was a whole week early. The hardest part about being at work during early labor was having to stay seated. I tried to think of every excuse to stand up and walk around during contractions so that my clients wouldn’t catch on. I wrote something on my white board, left the room to “grab some paperwork,” whatever I could think of.

That night we had dinner with Andrew’s family to celebrate his birthday. The contractions were intensifying and I was getting excited. I kept telling myself that I was probably just experiencing Braxton Hicks because I didn’t want to get my hopes up or look like a drama queen. During dinner, I kept having to stand up and walk around the restaurant. I was getting pretty warm, so I stood in the entryway a while, breathing through contractions and letting the December air cool me off. Part of me wanted to say to people entering and exiting the restaurant, “I think I might be in labor. Isn’t this so cool!?” But don’t worry, I didn’t.

I ate a huge dinner at the restaurant – salmon, potatoes, a salad and lots of rolls. Just in case, I thought, I need to have energy. We went back to my inlaws’ home after dinner and Andrew called Sarah again. She recommended I take a warm bath to see if the contractions would subside. He called the hospital and they reiterated that as long as I could walk and talk through contractions, I should stay home. The way we reported the contractions must have convinced them that I wasn’t going to have this baby any time soon because the on-call doctor prescribed me a muscle relaxer so that I’d be able to sleep well that night.

I took the warm bath at my inlaws’ house. The contractions stopped. During the time I was in the water, I didn’t have a single contraction. Andrew came into the bathroom to help me out of the tub and I told him they were gone. I was a little disappointed. But the very moment I stepped onto the rug, I had a strong contraction. They came back more intense than ever.

Andrew dropped me off at home and went to pick up the muscle relaxer. I took the dose and we went to bed. Not even five minutes later, I had a serious contraction. And they kept coming. Some of the contractions were less than a minute apart and lasted 45-60 seconds each. Andrew was suddenly obsessed with timing them. When I felt like I wanted to yell, "PUT DOWN THAT BLEEPING STOPWATCH!" I knew it was time to go in. I could still walk and talk through contractions but I was miserable and starting to feel a little bit afraid. I simply couldn’t do it at home anymore. I told Andrew that I wanted to go to the hospital, even if it was just for a distraction, to have something to do to make time pass more quickly. I fully expected them to send us back home once we got there.

The drive to the hospital was excruciating. Sitting in the car felt way too constricting. I needed to walk and move. When we arrived at the hospital, Andrew offered to drop me at the door, but I knew that walking from the parking garage would help move things along so we made the trek together, stopping several times along the way for contractions. It was about 11:00 now and we had to wait in the deserted emergency room for about twenty minutes before someone came to bring us up to the maternity floor. Looking back, I’m glad for the delay because it was a change of scenery and it broke up the time a bit. The nurse who came down to escort us up to the maternity floor offered me a wheelchair, but again, I knew that walking would help bring the baby down, so I decided to do it on my own.

When we got up to the floor, a nurse and a resident checked my cervix. I hadn’t wanted to be checked at my OB appointments so this was the first time. It hurt! I expected them to tell me that I wasn’t dilated at all and send us back home, but the resident said, “You’re at a four. You’re having this baby tonight.” I was elated. I am having this baby tonight. We are having this baby tonight. My game face was on. I knew that if I had gotten to four centimeters on my own while going about my day, I could get to ten and push this baby out.

I hadn’t wanted to wear the regular hospital gowns so I had packed a long, t-shirt-type nightgown to wear. The problem was that I packed my bag six weeks ago and my shape had changed a lot since then. The nightgown didn’t even cover my butt completely. At that point, I didn’t even care. A minor set back. I was shaking like a leaf so Andrew kept asking me if I was cold. The doctor said it was the adrenaline. Wow, I thought, this is some powerful stuff.

Sarah showed up soon after that. She was magical. Her eyes and hands scanned my body for tension, and where she found it, she kneaded and rubbed and encouraged my muscles to stay pliable. She directed me to squat, to sit on a birth ball, to stand next to a bedside table, to walk, to lie down. Andrew was a great labor coach, but there is something about having a doula, a woman, who has been through it herself and can "mother" the woman in labor. I will never, ever give birth without a doula. No way. 

Weeks later, when Sarah came by for a postpartum visit, she told me that at one point during labor, I had fallen completely asleep between contractions and was even snoring. The contractions were minutes apart, so it wasn’t much of a nap but that’s how tough birth is, how taxing. I didn't talk much at all throughout labor. After each contraction, I was grateful that it was over and just rested up for the next one.

I was in the zone, a woman on a mission. I literally only saw about two feet in front of my face. Everything else was a blur. Sarah later described me as a freight train, plowing forward, completely focused on the goal. I had never before pictured myself as a freight train but I have many times since. It’s not especially lovely or ladylike, but I find a lot of strength in that image. I never even considered an epidural. Based on the research I had done, I decided that pain medications wouldn't necessarily take away the pain. I would just be trading one kind of pain for another. I kept reminding myself that the pain I was experiencing was a good and safe pain. And there was no way I was going to be tethered to the bed. If I was going to get this baby out, I needed to move around the room freely.

They checked my cervix again. I was eight centimeters dilated. The next hour may have been the hardest part because I was starting to get the urge to push but was being told that pushing too early can cause the cervix to swell, slowing the process considerably. I held off as best I could but stalling that sensation was like trying to hold back a…freight train. Up until this point, I hadn’t yelled or screamed or cried out in pain. I had been really deliberate about my sounds – mooing and blowing out hard through my lips like a horse. Apparently one’s cervix can’t stay tight and closed when one’s mouth and jaw are slack. So I kept my voice very low and controlled, mimicking barnyard animals, and I know it helped…until I was dilated to eight. I would feel the urge to push and start with another “moo” but the moos kept morphing into yells. I could…not…do this. They checked me again. Ten centimeters. Thank you Jesus.

Off we went to the birthing tub. I was so grateful for a change of scenery and the soothing, warm water. At some point, Dr. L showed up. I’m not even sure when because he was so still and quiet. He just sat on the edge of the bed and observed, allowing Andrew and Sarah and I to take the reins. His calm, respectful stance gave me confidence. He believed that I could do this on my own. He didn’t view himself as the big doctor hero. He saw me as the hero, and I think that gave me the confidence I needed.

So here’s something they don’t always tell you about birth – you’ll probably poop and it’s totally okay. I was so terrified to poop in front of people that I actually put it in our birth plan. But when I was in that tub pushing my baby out, I didn’t matter one bit. Gross? Maybe. But embarrassing? Not at all. Equipped with a goldfish net, my wonderful husband took care of it. I love him for that.

Another thing you don’t always hear about birth – it feels like the baby’s coming out of your backside. Literally. That feeling had me 95% convinced that something was wrong and my baby was coming out of the wrong hole. I think I asked the nurses about two or three times whether that was possible. They told me it wasn’t, it was bizarre how much pressure I felt. It was also bizarre how strong I felt. I knew that I had more physical strength in that moment than I had ever had in my life. 

Sarah encouraged me to flip from my hands and knees to my back. I asked Dr. L how long it was going to be. He thought about fifteen minutes. “I can’t do this,” I said. “I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this.”

“I can do this.”

“I can do this.”

“I can do this.”

Andrew, Sarah, and the rest of the room jumped on board and affirmed my change of heart. Labor was so intense and so exhausting that between contractions, I had been telling myself that I needed a break, that I was just going to do the next contraction half-way. But then the contraction would start and I would realize that if I had to go through all of this pain, I might as well use the contraction as best I could to bring my baby closer to birth. So I squeezed every last drop of progress out of those contractions. I did the same thing with pushing.

I reached my hand down and felt a head. This was our child. This was the one we had been waiting for. I had to meet this baby. A few more pushes. Really strong, give-it-all-you-got, my-child’s-life-is-depending-on-this pushes. We were so close. Dr. L told me to stop pushing for a second so he could slip the cord off the baby’s neck and shoulder. One more push and Dr. L swept our baby up out of the water and onto my chest, into waiting arms that had ached so long for this moment. “It’s a girl,” Andrew said. And joy like I have never known overtook me.

We kissed her and talked to her and fell completely, head-over-heals in love with her. This was our Harriet Grace. 

Another thing they don't tell you about birth - the pain doesn't go away after the baby is out. In fact, the intensity just barely lessens. I was holding Harriet and loving on her, but I was still contracting like crazy. 

They took Harriet from me so I could get out of the tub and onto the bed to deliver the placenta. The water in the tub was a murky, black mess. And in that moment, as I stepped onto the floor and made my way across the room, I knew that I was leaving my infertility in that tub. I was leaving my heartache in that tub. I was leaving death and defeat and stolen dreams in that tub. In that moment, I was reconciled with my body. This time, my body had not failed me. In fact, my body had done exactly what it was supposed to do, what I needed it to do, what Harriet needed it to do. I had labored all day and then pushed for 37 minutes. Like Sarah said, I was a freight train. I felt so proud of myself. I actually did it. My body and Harriet had worked together beautifully. Birth was way, way harder than I thought. But I was also way, way stronger than I ever thought I could be.

They gave my daughter (my daughter) back to me so that I could nurse her while Dr. L sewed me up. Nursing actually worked. I hadn't expected it to but it was absolutely amazing how this child, only minutes old, knew exactly what to do. 

For me, birth was healing. It gave me the opportunity to reconcile with my body and experience myself at my best, at my strongest. Did it take away my infertility? Of course not. But it sure healed some of the wounds infertility left behind. It can be scary to live in a world where there are so many ways to be wounded. But I really believe that there are just as many ways to heal. This was mine.

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