Author Archives: lyra211

The message you hope you’ll never get

Content warning: stillbirth

Yesterday evening I got a text message that just about stopped my heart.

I went in to the ob/gyn today for the fetal monitoring and the baby’s heart had stopped. It’s a stillbirth. I’m at the hospital being induced. We have no idea what to do with the body, if you feel like sharing what you did in your situation.

This came from a friend of mine who was 38 weeks pregnant with her son, Colin. Her older daughter has been a daycare classmate of my son’s since they were babies; they’re only a few months apart in age, and her daughter is one of three kids that my son has really bonded with and whose families are relatively close. Not super-close, but playdates-and-texting kind of close. Her husband is a professor at my university, in another department. She knew about our loss, so I guess she felt comfortable reaching out, and I’m glad she did. But when I got the message, I stood there, said, “Oh my God oh my God oh my God,” started shaking, and then burst into tears. I was alone with my 18-month-old at the time, who thankfully was oblivious (he had just gotten over a massive tantrum because I cut his muffin in half, and was in a post-tantrum happy place, quietly playing on his own).

They’ve had a rocky pregnancy for a while now. They knew that their son had a heart condition. She was scheduled to be induced on Wednesday (which would have been 39 weeks), and they had been told to expect about a 1-month NICU stay, and about a 2/3 chance that he would need heart surgery soon after birth. I don’t know what they had been told about their risk of stillbirth; she never mentioned it. But I know they were deep into planning for a living baby, and were assuming that he’d be born alive.

Here were my responses:

Oh my God, X. My heart goes out to you so much. I am so very sorry… this is just the absolute worst. To answer your question: we had our baby cremated. If there’s one piece of advice I can give you right now, it’s to call Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep for (free) photos. I thought it sounded morbid, but now I treasure the photos of my daughter. Can I call them for you? 

I’m sure they are also giving you the option of holding Colin… I have never met anyone who regretted holding their baby, but I know several people who regret not holding the baby. Labor for a dead baby is the absolute worst. I am so sorry you have to experience this nightmare.

Call me anytime (even in the middle of the night) if you just want to talk or if there’s anything I can do.

She updated me later that they weren’t allowing NILMDTS into the hospital because of COVID-19, but the nurses were taking pictures. This morning she told me that they did decide to hold their baby, and were glad they did. I don’t know how labor went for her, but at least it didn’t drag out too long, because it was only about 15 hours between her first message and her message this morning that they had held him and taken some photos. She had a vaginal birth with her older daughter, so hopefully the induction went smoothly. It is just incredibly cruel to have to go through the labor and delivery (and recovery) process for a dead baby, so I hope that that part at least went quickly for her.

I sent her a longer email last night, basically pitching some ways we might be able to help (we had been plan C for taking care of their daughter… plan A was her mom, who was supposed to drive out from several states away sometime this weekend, and I’m not sure if she had actually arrived yet). I also made sure to let her know about the truly amazing pregnancy/baby loss organization in our state that helped us after our daughter was born; as I told her, I’m sure the hospital would let them know about it, but I figured I’d add my testimonial that they are truly a wonderful organization who really helped us.

And now… I guess I just sit back, and check in with her periodically? It’s so hard, especially during a pandemic. You want to be present, you want to support them, but you also want to give them the space they need. Now we also have to consider how to support them when there’s a pandemic… and my husband’s parents (who are older and therefore higher-risk) have just moved out here for the summer (so our risk tolerance has changed somewhat). My initial offers of help to them were: (1) childcare (we’d break quarantine if they needed it), (2) food, and (3) communication — basically helping to break the news if she needed it (as I told her, it became exhausting to keep having to tell people and deal with their reactions, and it was actually a relief when my mom and a close friend took over sharing the news with extended family and others that I didn’t have the energy to deal with). I don’t know yet whether they’ll take us up on any of it; again, I’m trying to be very sensitive about that fine line between being present and being pushy.

I guess mostly I’m just glad that my experience is able to help someone else, even a little bit, while they go through the living nightmare of a stillbirth. It was amazing how quickly her message carried me back to those terrible moments in the hospital (and before and after) while I was delivering our daughter. If I’d had someone to text who had been through something similar before, who could gently encourage me to take photos and hold the baby, I think it would have helped. Now I’m thinking about all the other things I wish someone had warned me about: my milk coming in, the panic about my husband and my dog dying, the little time bombs like getting the message from daycare that a spot had opened up for our baby… I want to warn her, but I also don’t want to be an annoying know-it-all who assumes that her experience will be exactly like mine (obviously it won’t be; it’ll be worse because it was later in the pregnancy, and there are all sorts of dynamics with an older kid that I didn’t deal with) and gives lots of unsolicited advice. I guess I’ll just back off for a day or two, and then maybe send another email reiterating offers of help and maybe mentioning the milk-coming-in thing.

Ugh. I wish they were bringing home their baby. I wish I could change the past, predict the future, and bubble-wrap everyone I love. I wish things were different. I hope that I can be a supportive friend and help them get through this difficult time. I will be hugging my children very tight.

Life is Good

I’ve got two important anniversaries coming up: The 5-year anniversary of our daughter’s death, and the 2-year anniversary of my father’s death.  Early September just doesn’t have a great track record for me.

But even though I’m very aware of the anniversaries… life is good.  Not only good.  Life is amazing right now.  I think I’m now removed enough from having lost my three pregnancies that their main impact on my everyday life is to make me grateful for the two amazing sons I do have.  I’m sure everyone is grateful for their children.  But the last five years have taught me so viscerally about how fragile life is that I do think I soak up the moments with my two babies in a way that I would not have otherwise.  My relationship with my father was so fraught and complicated, but now that he’s gone, its main impact is to make me appreciate what an amazing father my husband is — he is the father to my children that I never had, and his father, my father-in-law, is the grandfather that my father could never have been to my children.  Having them as part of my family heals me in a way that I didn’t know I needed.

Yesterday was a perfectly ordinary — but somehow remarkably perfect — day.  When I woke up my older son, I snuggled with him in bed and told him “I love you more than chocolate,” and as he was waking up he said, “I love you more than chocolate AND frosting AND sprinkles!”  Then I went to work, where there was an internet outage, so I spent the morning playing with a new digital planetarium that my department acquired last year — this fall I’m teaching a course that involves teaching students to use the planetarium to give presentations to elementary school children.  And I was just thinking, “How cool is my job?!  My work for the day is to play with this amazing planetarium!”  Then I picked up the baby from daycare — it was hotter than heck, so when we got home I drew a cool bath and just let him splash around.  Let me tell you, there is no better way to appreciate a deliciously chubby 8-month-old than to watch him play naked in a little baby tub and splash and giggle.  I read to him for a while, put him down for his nap, folded laundry, loaded and started the dishwasher, whipped up some banana bread to bake, and sat down to do some writing to help my masters student turn his thesis into a published paper.  When the baby woke up after a 2-hour nap, I nursed him and we went to pick up the big kid from preschool.  After preschool, I played with both kids on the floor, building with Duplos, and there wasn’t even any squabbling over pieces.  Then we headed over to a friend’s house for dinner, banana bread in hand, and the kids were mostly well behaved and I even got to have a somewhat uninterrupted conversation with my friend, the math professor.  Home, snuggles, bedtime, packing lunches for the next day, and doing a crossword puzzle in bed with my husband, and we turned out the lights.  Perfect.

I am so aware of how temporary all of this is.  The baby is growing at an alarming rate.  Soon he won’t be a baby anymore.  Someday, my kids will be out of the house.  Someday, life will be over.  I just feel so fortunate every day to have the family that we have.  To have the job that I have.  To be the parent and professor that I wanted to be.  I think the last time I felt this content and happy and excited for the future was the summer before I left for college. I remember that beautiful glow, appreciating everything I had and eagerly anticipating everything to come, and it’s the same as the feeling I’ve had this summer as the baby has been turning into a little person and as the reality of tenure has sunk in.  I know this won’t last — nothing this perfect ever does — but for now, I’m soaking it up.

The one thing that makes me sad and wistful is that… I want another baby, and my husband doesn’t.  I think I’m OK with that.  I recognize that more children means more divided attention and time, and I want to spend as much time as I can with my two existing children.  I think I’m more at home with the chaos of dealing with small children than my husband is — it stresses him out more than it stresses me out, and I don’t want to risk his mental health or our relationship by adding more stress than he can handle.  At the same time, when we talk about why he doesn’t want another baby, for him it mostly boils down to immediate things.  He says maybe if his parents lived closer and could help, and maybe if we didn’t have a dog, but he’s just feeling like he’s starting to get enough time back for work and exercise and he’s not ready to give that up again.  Which I get, but I’m also thinking 10 and 20 years down the road, when the kids will be in school and what our family will look like in the long run.  We both come from small families, and I worry that my kids will feel alone with no cousins and only one aunt — they’re basically it for their generation.  Plus, I admit that my current baby is so wonderful and perfect that it’s hard for me to accept that this is the last baby.  And I still haven’t quite given up on my dream of having a daughter, although I’d also be happy with another son.  And when I consider my husband’s reasons, what I hear underneath it is that he could use more support.  And I think… I could take on more of his responsibilities around the house (we split things pretty much 50/50 now), and we are also fortunate enough to be able to hire out some of the work, like dog-walking or cleaning or cooking (we tried hiring someone to clean and cook a few months before L was born, but it didn’t work out particularly well so we stopped when my husband’s parents came for the month of December).  I think this decision is a “two yeses, one no” case, so I will ultimately defer to my husband’s wishes — I just can’t imagine pressing such an important life change onto someone else.  When I asked him how sure he was recently — like, should I start giving away the baby clothes, or should we revisit in 6 months — he said he’s pretty sure, but we can revisit in 6 months.  We obviously can’t wait forever — I’m 36 now, and given our history it seems unlikely that the process would be smooth, and biology might just decide “no” for us.  So I’m waiting to bring it up again until our little one is a little bigger, and not holding out much hope, but there is a little spark of hope there.

And that’s the full update.  I don’t know if I’ll keep updating the blog very much beyond this point, especially if we don’t have another baby.  But maybe I’ll check in every once in a while — I do still read all the blogs that I’ve followed over the years and love to read the occasional updates there.  But the immediacy of needing a place to write out my experiences has mostly passed, I think, and more recently it’s been a way to maintain the wonderful relationships that have sustained me through some of the worst experiences of my life.  So thank you to anyone still reading.  I’m sending my love to you all.


Well, it’s official! I somehow managed to miss not one but TWO calls from the university president to my cell phone this weekend, though as a result I now have the call recorded on voicemail and can listen to it on repeat.  I got the call in front of my husband and kids and did a wild happy dance while I was listening to it, so of course my three-year-old asked for it over and over again that night: “Mama, I want to listen to when you got tenure again.” (My heart, it melts!)

We celebrated at a local Italian bakery.  S had cannolis for the first time at his friend I’s birthday party at daycare this week, and apparently cried when he couldn’t have seconds.  I gave him the choice between ice cream and cannolis, and he chose cannolis, but then once we got there wound up more interested in the fruit cake and chocolate mousse.  What could I say… eat your heart out, kiddo!  Maybe we’ll do this again if I ever get promoted to full professor. 🙂 Here’s the photographic evidence:


Friends, SO MUCH LIFE has happened on the tenure track. In case you’ve missed the tally along the line, here’s the cliffs notes version of what didn’t go into my tenure packet…

Year 1: Adopt a dog! Get married!
Year 2: Start infertility testing. Last grandparent dies. Get pregnant! Buy a house! Baby girl dies in the middle of the second trimester.
Year 3: Lots of infertility/loss testing/treatment. Get pregnant again! 
Year 4: Baby boy S is born!
Year 5: Start trying for #2. Miscarriage. Father dies suddenly. Miscarriage. Mother has major surgery #1. Start recurrent loss testing.
Year 6: Pregnancy #5. Mother has major surgery #2. Baby boy L is born!
Year 7: Somehow… tenure!!!

It’s been quite a ride, and since I’ve been busy thanking everyone who helped me along the way this week, I wanted to make sure to give you all a big, giant THANK YOU.  As I look back down that list, I would definitely not have made it through years 3-6 without this outlet.  I am so grateful to those of you who have been with me, cheering me on, for part or all of this journey.  It’s been a wild ride, but I couldn’t be more grateful to be where I am now, and to have met such amazing people along the way.

The End of an Era

Academia post alert!

I’m the faculty advisor for our campus Women in Science group.  The way the group functions (which I inherited) is that we maintain a vast email list, but a “steering committee” of about half a dozen students does most of the work of planning and executing activities for the group.  I interact almost exclusively with the steering committee, though I occasionally interact with a random assortment of members who come to the various events.

I arrived in my current job in January 2013, and took over as advisor for the WIS group in the fall of 2014.  That same year (which was also the year our daughter died), a quiet Jewish second-year math grad student named M joined the steering committee.  The following year, a black freshman biology major named J with roots in West Virginia and Iowa joined the steering committee.  The year after that, K, a sophomore from the Midwest with deep religious conviction who had blasted onto the campus leadership and organizing community scene the previous year joined the steering committee.

Today was my last steering committee meeting with all three of them in the room.  I cried.  They did too.

I have had so many special moments with these amazing women over the years, and my relationship with each is so very different.

M has been a late bloomer throughout her time in academia, so she is almost my age.  I have watched her struggle with physical and mental health, her own doubts, and the difficulties that plague any PhD student as projects stall or dead-end and writing becomes overwhelming.  I’ve watched her stress about teaching her first courses.  I’ve watched her blooming relationship with a visiting professor who then moved away, and her subsequent (successful!) efforts to maintain their relationship long-distance.  I’ve also watched her meticulously consider every aspect of each event that we’ve planned, catching problems before they happen, and often being more thoughtful than I am about the impact of our choices.  She’s the kind of person who will freeze up when asked to address a crowded room, but who thrives as the force behind the scenes.  She sees what needs to be done, and does it.  She is kind and loving and works to make everyone feel welcome.  She spots the tough problems and then solves them, like a true mathematician.  She will defend her PhD thesis on Thursday, and I will be there to cheer her on.

J arrived on campus freshman year with no idea what it takes to succeed in college, but a huge store of drive and persistence and curiosity.  I don’t know what made her want to join the steering committee, and to be honest, when she did join, I worried that we had made a mistake in selecting her.  The first year, I had to be on top of any event that she was placed in charge of, because she had no idea how to organize or lead.  Then, something clicked.  I will never forget when we organized a screening of Hidden Figures and J put together a panel on women of color in STEM after the screening.  She prepared an introductory speech and questions for the panelist.  There were probably 100 people in attendance.  She had never led a big event like this before.  I went over her speech with her ahead of time, and I remember her hands shaking as she clutched the paper and walked to the podium.  Her voice shook at first, then gained conviction.  She nailed it.  The event was a smashing success.  After that, she seemed to grow into her leadership role and these past two years has been a powerhouse.  At the campus leadership awards ceremony this weekend, she accepted awards on behalf of three organizations (out of 11 awards given!).  One of those awards was for our WIS group, and we wouldn’t have won it if J hadn’t had the idea that we should nominate ourselves — and then drafted the nomination herself.  Next year she is off to nursing school, and her patients are going to be so incredibly fortunate to have her in their corner.

K’s reputation was already well established on campus when she joined the steering committee.  She won a freshman leadership award, was a prominent face within the STEM community on campus, and was already involved in a wide array of student groups.  Her application to the steering committee minutely dissected our mission statement, explicitly pointing to strengths and weaknesses of our current slate of activities and offering a plethora of brilliant ideas to strengthen our organization.  The only objection to adding her to the group (raised by M, I think!) was a worry that she might be overcommitted and not have enough time to really contribute to the group.  When she joined the committee, it felt like she single-handedly raised the profile of our group, and instantaneously connected us to the other active and relevant groups of which she was a part.  She is brilliant at organizing and leadership.  When we had a budget overrun, she suggested ways to invest the leftovers in assets that the group could carry over from one year to the next.  She always keeps an eye on our mission and has helped to guide the group in new directions and into new collaborations.  She was set to graduate in three years.  And then, she hit a wall.  She took a leave of absence for medical reasons, related to mental health.  She was open about what happened to her, and that she was hospitalized and would be on leave.  J kept in touch, said she was having a hard time.  We sent notes of support, but tried not to bother her.  We didn’t know if she’d come back.  But she did — she just appeared one day at a meeting, and we were thrilled.  Then she took my course on STEM equity and inclusion, and kept working towards the goals of making our community a more welcoming and equitable place.  This year she won the senior class leadership award, and I couldn’t have been prouder at how far she’s come, and how she worked to come back from her significant setback.  She is a paragon of strength, a gifted scientist, and a gift to our community.  She is off to work as a researcher in a big R1 lab next year, and I can’t wait to see where her abilities take her next.

This particular group of graduating students feels so special to me.  They are each remarkable, in such different ways.  The future is bright for our group.  We have amazing freshman, sophomore, and junior members remaining.  Thanking the students for their service and saying goodbye to them today made me appreciate my work so much.  I get to interact with such amazing people at such a transformative juncture of their lives.  I get to watch and encourage their growth.  It’s the blessing and the curse of being liberal arts college faculty: I have a constant rotating cast of incredible students with whom I form deep relationships.  I get to be part of their growth at a critical time in their lives, in a very meaningful way.  But I only get them for a few years — then I have to say goodbye.  Sometimes they reappear, but never for long.  It’s a microcosm of life, I suppose.  A reminder that everyone in my life — my children, my husband, my mother, my friends — are all on temporary loan from the Universe, and that beginnings and endings are part of the human condition.  I love them while I can, I do my best to help them on their way, and I wish them well as they move on.

Tenure/Baby Update

This is a big month for tenure and baby!

Tenure first: the university-level committee has now had two meetings about my tenure case, one on its own and one where they brought in my department to discuss any questions they have with them.  That latter meeting took place on Friday.  Afterwards, my chair sent me a formal, uninformative email basically telling me that the meeting had taken place but that they couldn’t officially vote because one of the committee members couldn’t be at the meeting, but that everything was recorded for the absent committee member and we should find out the outcome after March break.  However, after that I got an email from my awesome faculty mentor — she was actually elected to the university-level committee (for the third time) this year, and while she has had to recuse herself from voting on my case because of her role as mentor, she is present for all the meetings.  In her email, she congratulated me for making it past the university-level committee!  I replied to her and was basically like, “Um, thanks… but did I?” and then she was all like, “Oh, oops, I guess they won’t officially tell you the vote until they can record the absent member’s vote, but um, basically, yeah.”  So, thanks to my faculty mentor spilling the beans, I now know that the vote from the present members was very positive (which my chair confirmed when I mentioned it to him today).  So, unofficial yay!!!  As I mentioned in my last post, this is basically the last major hurdle — if both my department and the university-level committee vote favorably, then the odds of my case getting overturned by the university president or board of trustees are astronomically low.  I still won’t get the final, official, irrevocable decision until sometime around Memorial Day, but I’m breathing a sight of relief to know that nothing weird is happening at the level of the university committee.

Baby: He is four months old!  The transformation from three months to four months is just phenomenal.  He’s like a different baby — so interactive, so giggly, so much more aware, and just clearly soaking up so much about the world.  I remember this phase from when S was little — it’s the phase where they still can’t do much, but they are so curious and get bored so easily that we basically hop around the house to different “stations” to keep him from getting fussy: the play mat in his room, the bouncy chair while I cook in the kitchen, a blanket on the living room floor, sitting up in the boppy while I fold laundry in our bedroom, etc.  He is also starting to tolerate the car better, and loves to go on outings (especially now that he can stay awake for longer, and now that I can wear him facing out).  We go to the university for various baby-friendly events, we’ve gone to the grocery store, and shopping for clothes for me and the kids (two of my old pairs of pants gave out spectacularly in the same week, which left me with exactly one pair of non-dress pants that sort of fit and didn’t have holes in it).  We haven’t been able to do much walking outdoors because it’s been cold and snowy, but the forecast is nice for this week so I’m hopeful.  I’ve also mostly mastered handling both kids after picking up S from daycare (not really any trick to it — honestly it’s just easier as L gets bigger).  It’s so much fun to take the kids to the local children’s museum or the library together at the end of the day, and mostly S has been really well behaved when he knows I have to take care of L too.

That said, everything changes next week, when L starts daycare!  It’s such a bittersweet transition.  On the one hand, I’m very, very ready to get back to using my brain to think about physics again and to have multiple-hour stretches in which to concentrate on a task.  On the other hand, I will miss the special time with my sweet and amazing little baby, and I find it so hard to think of him getting overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the busy daycare environment.  Fortunately, we’ve worked out a plan to keep him in half-day daycare until the fall semester.  For the six weeks that I am teaching this spring, we’ll shuffle our schedules so that I’ll pick him up M/W/F afternoons, and my husband will pick him up T/Th afternoons (which is when I teach).  Then in the summer, I’ll just work half days. I worked half-days all summer when S was a baby, and I LOVED it.  I was super-productive in my 4.5-hours of daycare time, and then I still got to spend most of the day with S.  I am really looking forward to doing the same with L this summer.  I feel so fortunate to have the flexibility to arrange my schedule this way — I’m basically getting a Canadian or Nordic-style parental leave despite being in the US.  My babies are only babies once, and the closeness with them at this age is so intense and so important, and I am grateful that I’m able to devote so much time and energy to my baby while also keeping up with the career that I love (and that I know will sustain me as they grow and need less and less of my time).

Basically, I’m on cloud nine these days.  Even though there are difficult moments during the days (and nights!!!), overall I am just so appreciative of everything that I have in my life right now: a wonderful husband who shares all the good and bad parts of parenting, a great job to come back to very soon, and above all these two wonderful tiny humans with whom I am sharing the most remarkable relationships of my life.  I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I am just enjoying L’s babyhood so much more than I did with S, mostly because my anxiety level is so much lower.  When little old ladies at the grocery store tell me to savor every moment, I can honestly smile back at them and tell them that I do.  (I mean, clearly not every moment, but most of them!)  It’s been a long road to get here, and I mourn the little lives that I never got to know, especially the daughter that I didn’t get to raise, but I am above all grateful for everything that I have — particularly S and L.  What amazing little humans, and what a wonderful family we have.

One big step closer to tenure

Guess what?  My department unanimously voted in favor of my tenure case today.  Hooray!!!

To back up a bit, there are four steps to tenure at my university: the department recommendation, an “advisory” committee of faculty from across the university, the university president, and the board of trustees.  In practice, the department and the university committee are the two major hurdles: if you have positive recommendations at both of those levels, it is extremely unlikely (though not impossible) that you’d be denied at the president/board level.  It makes sense — after all, your department presumably contains the people on campus who know the most about your research and how to evaluate it, while the other faculty are the ones who can look at the big picture of your research, teaching, and service within the broader context of how the university functions, and keep an eye on any shenanigans that your department might be undergoing.

I knew that my department had to make its decision and give its recommendation to the university-level committee by February 15, but I didn’t know when they were going to make the actual vote until this morning.  Since I’m still on parental leave, I haven’t been around the department much (I’m currently making trips to campus about twice a week for a couple hours at a time to meet with my thesis students, and that’s about it).  This morning I drove to campus to walk our dog while pushing baby L in the stroller (campus is only 3 mi from our house, and it’s a nice place to walk with actual sidewalks, unlike the area around our house which is on a busy road).  As I was loading baby, dog, and stroller back into the car at the end of our walk, my department chair walked out to the parking lot, offered to hold the dog’s leash while I juggled baby and stroller, and nonchalantly told me, “Oh, by the way, the department will be meeting to discuss and vote on your tenure case this afternoon.  Is it OK if I send you an email about it afterwards?”  I was like, “Um, yes, please don’t keep me in suspense!”  Then he cooed at the baby and the baby gave him a chubby-cheeked grin that was totally adorable (good job buttering up the chair, baby!).

I mostly managed to keep my mind off of it for the rest of the day — childcare is a great distraction.  I picked up S from daycare at 4, and took both kids to our local children’s museum, which was lovely (L fell asleep in the baby carrier on my chest, leaving me free to engage with S).  But as soon as my husband finished working and my kid-juggling responsibilities eased up, I was glued to my phone waiting for the email, which came in around 6:30pm.  It was short, just informing me that the department had voted 3-0-0 in favor of my case, saying congratulations, and reminding me that the university committee was the next step.  Phew!!!  I immediately decided to take the big kid out for ice cream to celebrate while my husband put the baby down for his last nap of the day (and yes, we brought ice cream home for my husband).  I texted my mom and three friends to let them know the news, and enjoyed the congratulations rolling in.  It sounds like the celebration will drag out a bit, since one friend offered to bring dessert by this weekend to help celebrate, and another wants to celebrate next weekend — since my birthday falls in the middle of the two weekends, I find this a most desirable state of affairs!

So, that’s the news!  As I’ve mentioned before, tenure has been this big heavy weight hanging over my head, and it’s such a relief to have successfully cleared the first hurdle.  Please send good vibes to the university tenure committee, which will meet to evaluate my case sometime in the next couple of months!

Two kids, OMG

Little L is now 7 weeks old, and the sweetest little bundle of love we could have hoped for.  In true second baby style, he is more laid back than his older brother — much happier to just chill out in the bouncy chair rather than being held all the time, very smiley and outgoing with all of our family including grandparents and aunt.  He seems to fall asleep easier and cry less, though he is definitely all-around more alert and tends to wake up at little noises or changes of light in a way that his big brother didn’t as a newborn.  He is also not as good a night-time sleeper as his big brother was, and is still mostly doing 2- and 3-hour stretches at night, with an occasional longer stretch thrown in (his record so far is 5.5 hours, but we’ve only gotten a 5-hour stretch twice, and once was when he was sick).  At this age S was sleeping 7-hour stretches pretty much every night, and he got up to 8- and 9-hour stretches by the time he was 2 months old.  But, then he stopped sleeping at just over 2 months old and drove me insane with sleep deprivation for the following two months, so I’m hoping that L is just gradually building up and won’t regress the way his big brother did (I can dream, right?).

Our big scare so far has been when big brother S brought a nasty daycare bug home when L was 3.5 weeks old.  S was out of daycare for 3 days with a fever, and despite our maniacal handwashing and isolation campaign, poor little L got the bug and was miserably sick.  There were multiple middle-of-the-night calls to the pediatrician wondering if we needed to bring our newborn to the emergency room because his breathing was so labored.  Then, just as things seemed to be looking up, he woke up at 2am one night, wouldn’t let us put him down for the rest of the night, was hardly nursing especially on one side, and by 10am I had brought him to the pediatrician and confirmed what I already knew: he had his first ear infection at 4 weeks old.  Cue his first round of antibiotics.  I would have liked to wait longer, but at least those antibiotics are miracle drugs and he was back to his happy self within 24 hours.  Now everyone is finally healthy again, and has been for the last couple of weeks, and we’re finally starting to figure out how to do this whole family-of-four thing.

Which, by the way, have I mentioned that it’s a challenge? My husband and I have agreed that going from 0 to 1 kids was more challenging emotionally/psychologically, but that going from 1 to 2 kids is much more challenging logistically.  I mean, I know that people do it all the time, and with many fewer resources (family support, financial, etc.) than we have… but I just don’t know HOW.  I mean, when you have a newborn and a toddler around, the newborn pretty much always needs something, and the toddler often needs something, so if you have one parent per kid it works pretty well, but then you basically can’t get anything done other than watching the kids.  I mean, maybe you can take the toddler to the grocery store, or engage the toddler in a cooking/laundry project, but not all the time.   So, how do people do it all???  Especially single parents or stay-at-home parents?  There is a single mom of two young kids who is a professor at my university — since she was a single mom by choice, she has been flying solo since Day 1 of their lives.  I have SO MUCH respect for her — always have, but now I want to study her life to figure out how she makes it work, because I literally have no idea.

At some point soon I am going to have to start taking both kids to do stuff at the same time, because my husband is already back at work, and our last family support leaves on Tuesday.  I seriously have no idea how it is possible to take care of a newborn and a toddler at the same time, but I guess people do it all the time, so I’m just going to have to try it and figure it out as I go.  I suspect that my toddler’s screen time will increase like crazy, especially while I’m nursing, because already it is difficult to pry him off me. Without intervention by another adult, he will reach across his brother to try to grab my face wailing “Mama, mama, pick me up!!!” the entire time that I am trying to feed poor little L.  I have to say that overall he’s an outstanding big brother, very gentle and sweet, talking and singing to little L… but not when I’m nursing — that’s when the jealousy really hits.  Ah, well… we will figure it out, and it will get easier as they get older, or so I am told!

Having family around has been wonderful — my mom was here for most of the first two weeks, and then my husband’s parents came for a month (they stayed at an extended-stay hotel, which was phenomenal, if expensive).  My sister-in-law was also here for Christmas week.  They just left today, and my mom will be back Mon/Tues, and then we’re on our own.  Both my mom and my husband’s parents are wonderfully helpful — I haven’t had to cook or clean since the baby was born.  So, now it gets real!  But other than the two weeks of illness sweeping through the house, and other than the sleep deprivation, my parental leave has been truly wonderful so far.  I have been just drowning in love for my two little babies, and I love seeing them starting to play together.  My husband has been a total trooper — he is a true partner in this whole parenting game.  Our family is such an amazing thing — it’s hard to believe how much we have grown in love since my husband and I met just over seven years ago.  While I never forget our missing little daughter, and the two babies we lost so very early, I feel incredibly fortunate for everything that we have, and excited for everything that is to come.

He’s here!

Meet Leif, born last night.  Here he is with his mom (that’s me!) and big brother.


Induction was quick and easy (A+ would do again!).  Took a while to get started, but once they broke my water, he was out 3 hours later after about 10 minutes of pushing.  He’s a whole pound heavier than S was (8lb, 2.5oz), but seems to be very healthy so far.

We feel so lucky and happy to welcome this new little life to our family.

Full term, and the end is in sight!

Hard to believe, but here I am at 39w1d — officially full term!  I just had what is looking like my last prenatal appointment this morning — one more NST and ultrasound, and then the midwife checked my cervix which is looking like it’s starting to do things (2cm, 60% effaced, medium, soft, and -1, for those who like the stats).

I’ve been talking about the possibility of induction with my providers for the past few weeks — my favorite doctor in the practice is on call next Friday, and L&D had openings, so we went ahead and scheduled an induction for next Friday.  I’m a little nervous about induction, but I’m more nervous about going too late and risking the complications that come with that.  I feel good about being induced at 40w2d — my dating is extremely precise (was tracking ovulation and had several ultrasounds around 6-8w that all agreed with ovulation) so there’s no chance of accidental prematurity, baby was measuring 76th %ile as of last week (bigger than my first son), and since my first son was born at 40w5d (after labor at 40w4d) and my cervix is already ripening I think the chances of my body not being ready for induction are pretty low.  I found some great statistics online, and with a Bishop score of 8 (or more by next week) and a previous vaginal delivery, it looks like my odds of needing a C-section with induction are about 6% or less.  Plus it’ll be good to have a date when I know I can stop taking the Lovenox — I just hope I don’t jump into spontaneous labor an hour after my dose sometime in the next week!  (I actually skipped it this morning, just in case the cervical exam got things moving — last pregnancy a doctor did a membrane sweep at 40w4d without warning me, and I had my first contractions within an hour after that appointment!)

It’s so hard to believe that by next week we’ll almost certainly be meeting our second son.  I mean actually hard to believe — it just doesn’t feel real yet, somehow.  We’re as ready as we can be, and now I’m just hoping for no surprises, no emergencies, and maybe even a similar textbook labor and delivery as we had with S.  It’s so helpful to have the memory of S’s birth to ground me — I feel much less fearful about going back to the labor and delivery ward of our local hospital than I did last time, when my only association with that place was the awful delivery of our daughter.  I now know that things can go well, and I even have an expectation that they might go well, rather than feeling like I’m constantly in emergency mode.  Part of me wonders if my more even-keeled emotional state in this pregnancy will affect the baby.  Maybe this baby will be more laid-back than his big brother?  We can hope!  (S was actually a pretty great newborn — he’s mostly just a bit more clingy and anxious than the average toddler, I think.  But if I got another like him, I’d be thrilled!)  Wish me luck!


37 weeks

Well, this is it.  37 weeks.  Officially early term.

I had my second NST + AFI with the local OB today, and everything is looking good.  Baby has finally flipped, so hooray for head-down!

Today I was pleasantly surprised to be seen by my favorite OB in the practice rather than the one I had been scheduled with — I think I’ve only seen her once early on in this pregnancy, but she’s the main doctor I saw during my pregnancy with S and she’s really the reason I came into the practice, so it was nice to reconnect with her.

She did ask me about how I was feeling about induction vs. waiting for spontaneous labor.  I told her I don’t want to go much past my due date, and she said that she understood and agreed and they’d be willing to induce me anytime at 39 weeks or beyond.

That was actually kind of reassuring to hear — I’m not into interventions, and I was really pleased to go into spontaneous labor one day before my scheduled induction date at 40+5 in my pregnancy with S.  But at the same time, I worry a lot about the small but rising risk of stillbirth after 39 weeks — for me, even though the probability is low, my experience with late loss tells me that I would not want to torture myself with wondering if I could have avoided it by inducing earlier if I ever did wind up in that situation.  In addition, the closer I get to my due date, the more stressful it is to have to worry every morning about whether or not I should inject myself with Lovenox (which I’m staying on right up until delivery thanks to the Heparin allergy we discovered in my pregnancy with S).  I was a huge fan of my epidural while delivering S, and I know I can’t get an epidural until 12 hours after my last dose of Lovenox, so if things start on their own and happen quickly I could end up with an unplanned, unmedicated vaginal delivery, which I am just not interested in (though I know and respect that many women are) — obviously I’d deal with it if it happened, but I also worry about what would happen if I ran into complications and had to have a c-section.  Without the option of an epidural or spinal, they’d have to put me under general anesthesia, and I both find general anesthesia pretty creepy and also would be sad to be unconscious for the birth of my son.  Induction offers a nice way to have a little more control over the timing of stopping my medication and not worrying about the small but real risk of developing clots.

So, the way I left it with her is that I’ll wait to see what my cervix is doing in a week or two, and we’ll take it from there.  As a multigravida who had a totally textbook vaginal delivery last time, the risk of c-section is pretty low this time, induction or not (especially given the results of the ARRIVE trial).  My plan at the moment is to aim for induction during the week of my due date, unless my cervix is totally unfavorable, in which case I’d wait until the next week (the end of week 40) to induce.  But I am not interested in the risks of going into week 41 and beyond, so if I haven’t gone into spontaneous labor by then I will stop caring what my cervix is doing.

And there it is.  Unbelievably, our baby could be three weeks away… or even less!  It’s thrilling and terrifying and unbelievable all at once.  I can’t wait to welcome him to the world.