,I’ve written a million versions of this story and intended to share it many times, but I always feel the need for a disclaimer that this blip of sadness in my life is small in comparison to the tragedies of our current world. Maybe if I release this story into the wild, I’ll make room for other things.
I knitted this through three pregnancies, two were short and one was Wylie. There are many flaws and holes that I never corrected in this blanket. I just moved forward with all the ugly bits left in. It’s a story. It is one way to tell the story.
The first was a missed miscarriage and the second was an ectopic pregnancy.
When we went in for our first appointment well into my first trimester, there was no heartbeat and the floor of my reality fell away. A missed miscarriage occurs when you lose the pregnancy, but your body keeps trucking along as though you are very pregnant. I felt like I had failed as a female.
We waited, but potentially not long enough, before trying again.
By the end of our delayed honeymoon to South Africa, I knew I was pregnant, but by our layover in Cairo, I had started cramping. I had trouble convincing my doctors here that something was wrong because my hormone levels were such that I still appeared quite pregnant. It was a midwife friend who really looked at my numbers and listened to my symptoms and then said it sounded like a classic ectopic.
When you miscarry, you get to know your clinic and the phlebotomist really well. Weekly blood draws let you know just how pregnant your body still thinks it is. This can take months. I got a 5 dollar weekly bill for my blood draw for many many weeks.
I can’t remember when I was finally not pregnant anymore. It took a while. In the meantime, I did acupuncture, cut back on running, ate more protein, picked up pennies on heads, let all the spiders live in our house, meditated, took relaxing baths, did yoga, took my vitamins, and consulted with a fertility specialist. Granted, even though they are very good at helping people get pregnant, that wasn’t really our issue. It was keeping it and keeping it in the right spot, so that wasn't super helpful. We waited and waited and I tracked my cycle and knew way too many details about fertility and temperatures and timing. I finally couldn’t wait any longer. I was 37.
Then, there was the very stressful election, a sort of stressful board presentation at work and then somehow a positive result and very clear first trimester symptoms. My betas were super high and I saved the message from my doctor where he says that it is a very good indication of a healthy pregnancy. This was the same doctor who told me he thought I’d be just fine and we worked strictly with him until I was released to the midwives. For anyone going through this, find a doctor who will listen to you, tell you when you need to stop with all the intricate details of your cycle and help you come up with a plan of action (even if that plan is..take a breather).
There was nearly a year between deciding to try and finding out we were pregnant. During much of that year in a new town I was full of first trimester hormones and mostly, although loosely, holding onto that secret.
Honestly, there was never a time when I felt totally confident that everything would be just fine and that we would get to come home with an actual baby in our arms. I’ve heard many people who have had loss say this very thing. Your opportunity to have that feeling doesn’t really exist.
In truth, I never REALLY understood pregnancy loss and I owe many people in my life an apology about that. I would rattle off something from Evolutionary Biology class about how common it is or how they were lucky that it happened early or some other insensitive remark. I get it now. I get how quickly it becomes all you think and plan, and dream about. How sad you feel in secret. How you feel like a biological failure.
So what is it about telling your story that is so scary? I think it is the permanent settled feeling of it. The story has less room to evolve once it has been written and then observed and then told by others. Setting a story free means that you no longer have control over it.
I am not sure where I stand on what we gain from over-sharing. I feel especially confused lately, but I certainly can say that when I was going through a hard time, the thing that was most helpful to me, the thing that normalized my grief and gave me hope was reading the stories other women had written about their own loss. Many of these were on blogs I check in on like Cup of JO, Peanut Butter Fingers, Apples Under My Bed, and many others I can no longer remember. So, I am grateful for their sharing and I hope that my sharing can help somebody who has experienced loss, who may someday or who loves someone who has or might. I don’t love that I couldn’t share this until I had a successful pregnancy. I wish it didn’t feel so secret.
One thing comes from sickness and loss is the room it makes for that really good human stuff. We were overwhelmed with the immense outpouring of empathy, shared grief (maybe those are the same), disappointment, loss, and the stories of other couples and families who have also experienced this. I am grateful for their candidness and their ever-evolving stories.
Most of the time I can’t believe how lucky I am to get to do this. Below are all the pictures I took of him with the blanket every time I meant to write about this. His birth was another crazy story, which hopefully I'll get to soon as he is almost turning 1.
I haven't written here in ages, but I'd like to get back to it and it was a big effort to go out west with Wylie for the first time, so I'll honor that effort with a very long photo-heavy blog post. Other than a quick post about Hurricane Harvey, I haven't written since Wylie was born late last July. Life has been RICH with the spectrum of things since and unfortunately none of that was recorded here. It lives in texts with friends and family, icloud photos, poorly written journal notes, and my ever-changing memory. Hopefully I can remember a few things to record retroactively at some point (hopefully a free Mary Poppins will arrive soon).
So, back in April Wylie and I flew out to meet Eliot after the bird conference and before he left for Panama for another bird-related event. It was a haul. We stayed in Syracuse the night before our flight to take advantage of a shuttle and free parking. We flew to Tucson and slowly explored our way to the coast and flew back from LA. All in one piece.
UPDATE Post Harvey:
NPR's list of ways you can help post-Harvey can be found here.
500Women Scientists suggest these: Portlight and Houston Coalition for the Homeless
We took a late April trip to the Corpus Christi, Texas area for spring migration and some vacation before baby. This post is light on text, but it was truly wonderful! My heart breaks for the people and old Live Oak trees of Texas.
Back in the fall I was asked to take over the Visit Ithaca instagram page. I gladly accepted and then the day before I was supposed to start the election happened and all the wind went out of my sails. Key to my not losing faith in humanity was the task of highlighting the beauty if the Ithaca area. Here are a few shots from the effort.
Many months ago I was incredibly grateful to make it down to Washington, D.C. for the Women's March on Washington. My major motivation for getting myself there was to march with the 500 Women Scientists group started by some fantastic friends from CU Boulder.
Below is an email I sent to some college girlfriends about the experience and some photos I took with my iPhone that day. More about my photos used in some of the material for 500WS can be found here. The photo above actually made it into Science.
I feel really lucky that DC was an easy option for me. The bus wasn't too expensive and still allowed me to work most of Friday and get into DC before it was too late to navigate the metro. And then, I was able to stay at the home of one of the 500WS organizers who I know from CU Boulder. There were good friends from Boulder and new friends from Wyoming. There must have been 14 women in the 2 bedroom house.
Things started early on Saturday with reporters in and out of the house and all of us trying to figure out what to carry and which phone numbers to sharpie on our arms just in case. I don't think I spoke to a single reporter. Oops, I need to be better about standing up. It did feel good to see my purple flower on everything.
So, we eventually made it to our rally spot pretty early and there I saw some other ladies from my cohort at CU. I hadn't realized just how much I have been missing familiar women friends. It felt so good to be with that group again. I lucked out in grad school with a cohort of women (and one man) who were good scientists and were also wonderful educators and communicators. That group always helped me to feel very grounded in my own passions in grad school. It has been wonderful to see what we have all done with our various skill sets.
We stood like sardines through about 5 hours of rally speeches. We heard Gloria, Ashley Judd, Alicia Keyes, Janelle Monáe (maybe my favorite), and totally missed Madonna. The crowd felt diverse to me. Lots of men, lots of people of color, lots of ages. I felt pretty good about that. There was some complaining about all the standing, then a good friend totally snapped at some folks during the call and response of mothers and the names of their children who have died due to police brutality. It was an important moment.
I felt overcome with emotion and gratitude. I felt hopeful. It was amazing for people to cheer for us and for science. I cringed at Trump Hotel.
We marched until dark, got home to refuel and finally drink water and then had a really long meeting about next steps. Mostly our focus will be education about climate change and the importance of science and research in everyone's life. Flint Michigan should be an example for everyone, Zika, etc. etc. We are also working on a science education outreach to red areas program. We had that meeting at the home of someone whose parents are social scientists and their opinions were golden....if a bit on the academic side. They were trying to help us find ways to communicate on the level of people who don't believe in climate change. It is hard. Really really hard.
Sunday was more of me watching the organizers do press. During the time it took me to get Saturday's dreadlock out of my hair, they did an hour long interview. Goals.
The bus home was full of speeches from local teachers, professors, cosmetologists, mothers of trans children, women from South Africa who have seen this shit before, women who had unsafe abortions, women whose lives were made better because they had access to abortions, teenagers who were scared for immigrant friends, young black women who had just done their first march and mother-daughter teams who marched for each other.
I am glad it was an option for me and relieved that it has proven to be such a helpful group for staying motivated and organized.