Tag Archives: miscarriage

Tenure

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:

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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.

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.

Anniversaries

Today is the fourth anniversary of the day we found out my daughter had died.  It’s also four days after the first anniversary of my father’s death.  It’s been a somber week.

Both anniversaries feel a little bit lonely — nobody has remarked on either (though I did get a handwritten card from the funeral home about my dad).  I understand why.  I’ve had a couple of wonderful friends who remembered some of the important dates around my daughter’s death and have checked in with me on those days, which I so appreciate.  Four years later, while I still mark this day as a private day of grieving, I don’t feel as much need for the support, so it’s OK with me that my friends have stopped reaching out.  It feels natural and fine that they’ve played an important part in my healing process and the support has faded as I’ve needed it less — it’s not as though I’d expect them to remember and get in touch on this day for the rest of our lives.

As for my dad, well… I think that’s different because everyone close to me knows that I didn’t get along with him and was not close to him.  They know that his death raised complicated emotions for me.  So, probably they’ve either not thought about following up, or assumed it wasn’t important to me, or they have thought of it but have been too daunted by not knowing what to say.  And while it’s true to some extent that it’s not hugely important to me that anyone reach out, I admit that I would have welcomed some acknowledgment of the complicated feelings, or just someone to say that they were remembering him or thinking of me in some way.  I have been grieving, in my own way.  The death of a parent is always a little earth-shattering, even if you’re not close with your parent.  It’s not really something you can just emotionally skate over, even if I don’t have to deal with the deep feelings of loss and absence that I assume someone close to their parent would have to deal with.  I did a lot of my grieving for our relationship long before he died, but there’s still something so horrifyingly final about his absence from the planet.  No chance to revisit our relationship, no chance that he might be a better grandfather than he ever was a father.  And of course, a reminder of my own mortality, and the sadness that comes with seeing how easily his existence seems to have been forgotten.  He led a fairly sad and lonely life, and feeling like I’m the only one remembering the anniversary of his death just drives home the sadness of his empty life even more.

So, that’s where I am this week — not as melancholy as I sound, I promise!  But it’s a big week for memories and contemplation.

One hopeful project I started this week is that I’m knitting matching hats for my son, S, and his little brother.  When I was pregnant with S, I was too nervous to do any sort of nesting projects before he was born.  I thought several times about knitting something for him, but just couldn’t bring myself to do it, because it was too depressing to imagine having it lying around if S died too.  We reluctantly got some furniture in the room around this time in my pregnancy with S (or maybe even later?), and I remember sitting in the rocking chair in his room and crying every night for a long time (weeks?) before he was born, wondering if I’d ever be lucky enough to meet him.  This time around, I have been able to relax and hope a little bit more, which feels good.

This weekend we went to a craft store to pick out some fabric for the window seat bench we are making for the new baby’s room (it’s an Ikea hack that we’ve been happy with in S’s room — we’re basically redoing everything we did in S’s room, furniture-wise, just with different colors and patterns), and while we were there I wandered over to the yarn section with S, who helped me pick out some yarn to make a hat: “One for S and one for S’s baby,” as S insisted.  S’s favorite colors are “light green,” orange, and purple right now.  There was no orange yarn in the baby section, so S picked out one skein of a lovely lavender and one of a lurid yellow-green.  I eventually convinced him that the skein he picked out was closer to yellow than green, and was able to suggest a softer leaf-green color instead, but there was really no negotiating beyond that!  So I started making this hat, with lavender and leaf-green cotton yarn.  It is a cute gender-neutral baby combination, and I love that S is so excited about me making matching hats for him and his baby brother that I don’t really care if the colors are a little weird (and will totally clash with S’s maroon winter coat). 🙂 It felt so nice (and a little bit ridiculous) last night after S was in bed to just sink into the stereotype of the nesting pregnant lady, resting my knitting needles on my 7-months-pregnant belly between rows.  This project is, for me, an act of hope, and an act of love and connection between me and S and the new baby.  I know that whatever happens, I’ll treasure the memories that these hats will bring.

Tenure/Pregnancy update: End-of-summer edition

30 weeks pregnant and all was well at our monthly ultrasound this week.  Little guy is bopping around in there, currently lying sideways across my belly.  My husband and I have settled on a default name (unless we come up with something we like better by the time he is born) and are setting up the nursery.  I don’t remember at what point we did all this with S, but I think it was later.  I do remember that this was the point in my pregnancy with S at which our dear friends offered to throw us a shower, and I broke down in tears and just couldn’t handle the idea of planning for a living baby (the upshot was that we agreed on a “sip-and-see” a few months after S was born, which was a lovely compromise).  Some days I still can’t handle the idea of planning for another living baby (how lucky can we possibly hope to be???), and some days that’s all I can think about.  I still feel plenty of pregnancy impostor syndrome — like, this pregnancy isn’t actually going to last, there’s not actually going to be a new baby, it could all come crashing down at any moment.  But I’m at least able to act more normal this time around, mostly not responding weirdly to people’s innocent inquiries about whether this is our first (standard answer: “No.  We have a 2.5-year-old at home”) or jibes about how we’ll have our hands full with two boys (standard answer: “I sure hope so!”).

On the tenure side, I submitted my materials to my department today!  Hooray!  Now comes a long, long wait.  If I’m lucky, I’ll have a final answer by May 2019, and if I’m not lucky, I’ll have a final answer by December 2019.  The big steps in the process are:

  • This fall the department solicits letters from experts in my field around the country/world who can comment on my research portfolio.  This process typically takes a couple of months, as I understand — it happens in two stages, the first of which involves sending letters asking people if they will agree to write letters, and the second of which involves sending letters asking them to actually write the letters and then waiting for the responses.
  • Hopefully by the end of fall, but possibly later if there are delays, my department will have collected all of the external letters and will meet to go over all of my materials and vote on my case.
  • After my department has made its recommendation, presumably sometime in the spring, my case will go to a university-wide faculty committee for evaluation.  This committee currently includes members from the departments of English, Music, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Economics, Sociology, Chemistry, and Biology — there’s also one from Earth and Environmental Sciences, but she can’t vote on my case (unfortunately, since she’s the most qualified to evaluate it) because she’s officially my faculty mentor.  I go to the end of the line for the university-wide committee this year, since most faculty start at the university in the fall, but I started in the spring, so I’m on a one-semester-late review schedule.  This is the main reason for uncertainty in when I’ll get an answer about my tenure case — they will review my case in the spring if they have time, but if they are overwhelmed with fall cases they aren’t obligated to review it until next fall semester.
  • After the university-wide committee votes on my case (if the vote is positive), it goes to the Board of Trustees, and then the university president.  If I’ve gotten positive reviews at each stage up until this point, it’s usually a rubber stamp at the upper levels, but there was a case in recent memory that was positive at the department and university level but was overturned by the president, so there’s always the possibility that something weird will happen.  Since the Board of Trustees meets only a few times per year, this is another potential source of delay, depending on when the university-wide committee reviews my case.

After all of this, I’ll get a yes or no answer: either yes, I can keep my job essentially forever (barring unlikely circumstances like a major failure to meet my duties or major reorganization of the academic structure like eliminating my department), or no, I’m fired and I have to go look for another job.

It’s a long time to be in limbo, and many faculty find the uncertainty torturous.  My goal is just to try to relax and let the process play itself out, and allow myself to be distracted by the hopeful new addition to our family in November.  It’s the sort of setup that could either be really great (because I’ll be so busy with a new baby that I won’t have time to fret about tenure) or really awful (because being home with a new baby is psychologically challenging and so is waiting for news about your tenure case).

But either way, both of these big projects are looking like they’re in good shape at the moment, so I have to focus on that.  And now that I’ve turned in my materials, they have something else in common too: there’s essentially nothing I can do to change the outcome of either at this point.  The work I’m submitting for tenure has been done and documented, and this baby is baking away and the only thing I can do is to take care of myself and wait to see what happens.  I should avoid doing stupid things, like starting a feud in my department or suddenly becoming a binge drinker, but otherwise I have to accept that I have little to no control over the outcomes of either my pregnancy or my tenure case at this point.  And that’s hard for someone who likes to plan and act!  But if nothing else, my experience with pregnancy loss and infertility have given me plenty of practice at waiting, accepting lack of control, and dealing with difficult outcomes.  So, I’m pretty sure that whatever happens, we’ll make it through.

Second place is a good place to be

Two big pieces of news this week: (1) We had a normal anatomy scan, and (2) as of today, this pregnancy officially moves into second place of my five pregnancies in terms of how long it has lasted.

The anatomy scan on Tuesday morning was blessedly uneventful.  It was my husband’s first time seeing the baby on ultrasound, which was pretty special for him (he came to every single prenatal appointment for my first two pregnancies, but when you have a toddler somehow all our time disappears and “divide and conquer” becomes a survival strategy).  This baby moves around a lot (which was also commented on at the 13-week NT scan), but apparently is more cooperative than S, because they didn’t have to tilt me upside-down or make me walk around and they still got all the views they needed — unlike with S, who was so stubborn that we had to wait four more weeks to get a decent view of his aortic arch.  The ultrasonographer was quick and efficient, not chatty, but that was fine — she just kept snapping pictures, saying “looks perfect,” and moving on.

The doctor who came in afterwards was fine, but could really work on his bedside manner.  Basically his job was to tell us that the scan was normal, but that of course a normal anatomy scan doesn’t guarantee a problem-free pregnancy or birth.  Instead, he delivered the message in such a way that it sounded basically like he was saying, “There are SO MANY ways a pregnancy can go wrong!  I mean, you’ve already had a normal NIPT, but that’s only really good at detecting Down Syndrome, and of course the anatomy scan is normal, but it doesn’t pick up everything and you could still do an amniocentesis if you’re really worried about catching every uncommon chromosomal abnormality, but even that doesn’t rule out a whole host of other birth defects!”  Luckily, my husband and I weren’t too fazed by it, since we do already understand the limitations of the tests and the probabilities that go along with them, but this doctor must freak out a whole lot of families — and he’s in an MFM practice, so you’d think he’d know better!

Otherwise, 18w is feeling OK so far.  It is hugely reassuring to have the normal anatomy scan under our belts (a milestone I never had in my pregnancy with my daughter).  S’s sleep has been a little rocky lately which means I feel the pregnancy fatigue a little more acutely, but my anxiety level is MUCH lower in this pregnancy than it was with S.  I mean, I’m still far more anxious than I was in my first pregnancy, and I assume more anxious than someone who has never experienced loss and maybe particularly late loss, but I do not have the acute panic with every minor twinge that I had during my pregnancy with S, which is a huge relief.  I think the big difference is that when I was pregnant with S, I had no experience with what a normal pregnancy was like, since our daughter had died, so even stuff that I had experienced in my first pregnancy (because it was totally normal) freaked me out in my second pregnancy because I didn’t know if that was a sign that whatever happened to my daughter might be happening again.  Now I have one normal, full-term pregnancy under my belt, which gives me a much better sense of what’s normal vs. what I actually need to freak out about.

And this week is another big milestone in the sense that this pregnancy is now officially my second-longest-lasting of my five pregnancies so far.  I think second place is a great place to be, and in my ideal scenario (healthy live birth within days of my due date) it would stay there until the end, since I don’t really want to go a week past my due date again!  The milestone of a normal anatomy scan has also opened us up more to starting to think about logistics: names (boy names are hard!), rearranging our house (relocating my husband’s home office as we turn the current room into the new nursery), figuring out what furniture we need (e.g., are we going to try to do the transition to a big-kid bed, or buy another crib?  Do we need a second glider?), and all of the other things we’ve been studiously ignoring up until now.  There’s a lot to think about, but it’s fun to plan, and it feels good to be able to believe in this pregnancy enough to start actually making plans.

Another piece of ultimately good news is that our little campus daycare seems as though it should have a spot for our baby in March, which is when we really need it.  They’ve been horrible at communication (first they told us yes, then they told us no, then today the director emailed that we’re in again), but ultimately it looks like they’ve worked out a solution that should be reasonable.  The problem is that our daycare is so small that it only has four infant slots, but they rigidly age-group the kids by fiscal year so having an infant starting in March means that if they reserve an infant slot for our baby next year they are essentially only able to have three infants the first eight months of the fiscal year, which is a loss of about $10k in tuition for them.  The director was going to save us the spot anyway (which is why she originally told us yes), but then the “executive board” (two parents who are now on my blacklist) decided that the cost was going to be too high so they were just going to ignore the fact that we had top priority on the wait list and not offer us a spot until the new fiscal year in July 2019.  I mean, there are all kinds of dumb things going on there, including the fact that $10k is a miniscule fraction of what our family will be paying the daycare to send two kids all the way through from infant to preschool, and also compared to what they’d lose if we pulled our our older kid before he switched to preschool, since they have a lot of pressure on infant slots but usually have trouble filling all the preschool slots — and if we had to find another daycare for our second baby, the probability that we’d pull S out is actually quite high, since he’d be transitioning to preschool anyway and it’s better to make that transition a bigger one for him than to totally disrupt an infant’s routine four months into daycare to get them in the same place.

So anyway, the upshot is that the infant/toddler teachers were apparently just like, “Um, why can’t we just move S to preschool a few months before his age-mates to free up a spot for one of the older infants to officially become a toddler and then we’ll be able to open a new infant spot in March?”  So, it looks like S will move upstairs to the preschool about a month after his third birthday (which I think will be mostly a good thing — being the oldest in his age group means he’s occasionally seemed bored and frustrated at the end of the year when he’s ready for big-kid things and gets barred from them because of the arbitrary age grouping).  His age-group buddies will join him in July, but since he’s currently in the same classroom as the group who will be moving up to preschool this year and therefore he already knows them, I’m not too worried about the social aspect of moving rooms a few months before his age-mates.

So anyway, the point is that things are good, and we’re thinking about the future and starting to plan for a new family member, which is a nice place to be.  There’s always that part of me that fears making plans or telling people (like my students) about my pregnancy, because what if…?  But I’m mostly able to accept that those fears will always be there, that the possibility of another loss will always be there, but that it’s OK to be optimistic and hope and plan in the meantime.  In a way, having faced the worst in the past makes the worst seem at least hypothetically more manageable this time around.  I hope beyond hope that it won’t happen again, but I know that if it does, we’ll get through it, because we’ve done it before.

Mother’s Day Sandwich

The concept of the “sandwich generation” has really been resonating with me lately.

In the last year, I’ve experienced parenting a toddler, two miscarriages, one first trimester, the death of my father, and two major surgeries for my mother.  Since my parents were divorced for 25 years before my father died and I’m an only child, all their arrangements/care has fallen to me.  All while doing my full-time job, of course.  We spent this Mother’s Day visiting my mom in the hospital at the end of her week-long stay — she had a hip replacement last Monday (her second), then had a bad fall on Wednesday, needed surgery again on Thursday, and I just brought her home today.  We packed up the toddler into the car on Saturday and came to her house for the weekend to take care of her cat and her house and visit her while she was still in the hospital.  I’m writing this from her house, where I’ll be for the next couple of days taking care of her as she starts to recover, and then I’ll be driving back and forth (two hours each way) several times over the next couple of weeks, depending on what she needs.  We just did this in December/January with her first hip surgery, so at least we both know better what to expect this time.

I’m exhausted, no joke.  The timing isn’t awful, since it’s the end of my semester, but I’m still running around like a chicken with my head cut off this week begging random people to proctor exams for my extended time students while I’m with my mom, figuring out what to do about the student who badly burned his hand while fire-juggling this weekend, dealing with the student whose dean told me that she was almost hospitalized for mental illness this week and is trying to help her figure out whether she can finish the semester, and the stack of term papers that are sitting there giving me the hairy eyeball while the clock ticks down to the day that senior grades are due on Monday.  With all of my extended-time students and various other necessary accommodations, out of two classes with a total of 85 students I have had to make arrangements for a grand total of 26 hours of exam proctoring this week, not to mention all my regular grading work and, you know, writing, editing, and printing the exams, running review sessions, and dealing with the inevitable “I know it’s exam week but can you please please meet with me for two hours the day before the final because I’m freaking out about stuff I still haven’t learned and now I’m finally motivated to learn it.”

Anyway, yesterday it was all kind of crashing down on me.  But at some point after driving the two hours back from visiting my mom with my toddler only sort-of napping in the back and then dealing with his meltdown at the end of a weekend of disrupted routine and cooking dinner for the dear friends that we didn’t want to uninvite over since who knows when we’ll be free to see them again and having had no time whatsoever for a Mother’s Day celebration myself, I suddenly thought, “How lucky am I?”

I am so lucky.  I’m so lucky to have my amazing son, my wonderful husband, my dear mother, and our unborn son as part of my lives.  The sandwich generation is only a thing for people who are fortunate enough to have their kids and parents in their lives at the same time — I am so needed only because I am so deeply involved in the lives of all of these people.  The death of my father this year only drives home to me how fragile it all is, how short our time here on Earth is together, and how fortunate I am to have such rich relationships (which he never really had).  And at least my mother should recover from these surgeries (if all goes well) and have many more healthy years with me and her grandson(s) before we have to say goodbye to her.  After all our pregnancy losses, I never take for granted how incredibly fortunate I am to be mother to a living child, nor to be pregnant with his little brother, and it was so sweet to see my son giving his Nana a hug and kiss in the hospital and getting to bring her his school photo (which turned out completely adorable this year, unlike last year) along with the flowers to brighten up her hospital room.  This is life: messy, hard, but ultimately beautiful.  Being there when things are tough — for your tantruming toddler or your convalescing mother — is what it’s all about.

There will be lots of other Mothers Days that will hopefully be a little calmer, but I wouldn’t trade this one for anything.

Chromosomally Normal Boy

At 10w5d, the results of our NIPT screen came back, showing that I am pregnant with a chromosomally normal boy.

Hooray for chromosomally normal!  I have honestly been freaking out a little bit about what I would do if there were chromosomal abnormalities.  I mean, I freak out about everything in pregnancy, so it’s not anything special, but I am hugely relieved to find that our risk of chromosomal abnormalities is so low (<1 in 10,000 for all of the common ones they tested for), and now I can stop worrying about that particular aspect of pregnancy.

The boy thing is more complicated.  I’ve written before about my complicated feelings about the sex of our babies.  The short version is that we were wildly excited in my first pregnancy to find out we’d be having a girl — my husband and I both want healthy babies above all, but bonus points for a girl.  Well, I had my girl… it just turned out that she died, so I didn’t get to do much mothering of my daughter.  With all of my subsequent pregnancies, I’ve been hopeful that I might get another chance at being the mother of a daughter, and both times I’ve made it far enough to find out the sex, I’ve found out that we were having a boy.

The news is honestly easier to deal with this time.  My son is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me in my life.  Not only do I have no regrets about being his mother, but every day I feel grateful and awed that I have the privilege of being his mother.  I love him more than I can express, more than I have ever loved any other human on the planet (please don’t tell my husband or my mom!), more than I knew was possible.  So, it’s not that I think I won’t love this little boy.  Obviously I will.  More than I can currently imagine, I’m sure.

It’s more that I can’t help but wonder about what being the mom of only boys will mean I’ll miss out on.  My male friends are mostly less emotionally less close to their mothers than my female friends are, so I might miss out on that often-special mother-daughter relationship.  If I have grandkids, I’ll always be the mother-in-law — I won’t have that special closeness during pregnancy when my daughter wants to know what it was like when I was pregnant with her, and I probably won’t have the experience that my mom had of being in the delivery room when her grandson was born.  Those are the big ones, but there are little ones too.  Helping a daughter through puberty would be a heck of a lot easier than helping a son through puberty for me, I think.  I loved Girl Scouts when I was a kid, and I would just love to pack my daughter off to Girl Scout camp rather than having to consider the local Boy Scout camp whose website brags about the different number of projectiles that boys will learn to fire.  And ugh, the superhero/macho/violent culture that stereotypically goes along with little boys is so repulsive to me — I donate any hand-me-downs we get with those hypermasculinized slogans and characters on them (seriously, it starts when they are babies and toddlers!), and I try whenever possible to stock my son’s wardrobe with bright colors and gender-neutral themes, but I’ll have less and less control over his interests and preferences as he gets older.  I mean, obviously none of these things are guarantees.  Some men are really close to their mothers, and some women aren’t.  There’s no guarantee that even if I had a daughter she’d ever get married or have kids.  There are plenty of great co-ed camps and activities to choose from.  My interests are more stereotypically boyish than girlish.  I fully realize that sex and gender are far less deterministic than we tend to assume.  And yet… we live in a gendered society.  I love the company of other women.  I don’t get much of it in my everyday life, where I live with my husband and son and work in a building and in a field dominated by men.  I hoped that there would be one other set of XX chromosomes joining our house to keep me company, and it’s a lonely feeling to think that my life will be even more male-dominated than it already is.

Of course, all of this assumes that (1) this pregnancy will continue, and (2) we’ll be done having kids after this next one.  Obviously I would be delighted if (1) were true, but it’s not a guarantee. (2) is probably true.  Before we got married, we thought we wanted 2-3 kids, but after our son was born, my husband said he’d be OK with stopping at one, although he was also OK with two — he sounded pretty skeptical that he’d be up for three.  I’m also pretty skeptical that I’d be up for three.  Considering everything we’ve been through to get to this point, if this pregnancy keeps going well, it’s hard for me to imagine doing it all again: trying to conceive, possibly having even more miscarriages, being pregnant, dealing with a newborn… and we’ll be older, and who knows if I’d even be able to get pregnant and carry to term again at the age of 37+, and obviously there’s no guarantee that we’d get a girl even if it all worked out!  So I’m pretty sure we’ll be done after two, and since (thankfully!) everything is looking good at this point, odds are high (though definitely not guaranteed) that I’ll be a mom of two boys and that’s that.  I’m OK with it, and in some ways delighted about it… just wistful.

When I went to the OBGYN’s office today for a heartbeat check and I heard that little whooshing thump, I smiled and fell in love all over again.  How amazing it is to have a little one on the way again.  How lucky we are that it looks like it might work out for us not once but twice — I never forget how awful it was the many times I doubted that I would ever be able to have kids, and I always know how lucky I am that I wound up being able to after all.  I still hope against hope that this will be a healthy, uneventful pregnancy like my pregnancy with my son, and a healthy mom and healthy baby are all that really matter to me in the end.  This is just one of many ways in which pregnancy after loss is emotionally complicated — I don’t think my feelings would be this strong if I didn’t have to deal with the feeling of having my daughter stolen from me three and a half years ago.  I never forget her, and I always wonder who she would be if she were a little three-year-old running around now.  My sense of loss is mostly about her, and I’m doing my best to focus on the world of things that I will gain by hopefully adding this new little life to our family come fall.

Still Looking Good

Since my last post, I’ve had two ultrasounds: my last with the RE, and my first as a new OB patient with the local OB.  Everything is still looking good — growing right on track, nice strong heartbeat, and I even got to see those first little twitchy movements on the ultrasound today.  My official due date is Nov 7, though I’m currently measuring two days ahead, which puts me somewhere around 9w right now (I was measuring 9w0d today, though according to LMP/EDD I’m 8w5d).

The weird thing is, I felt totally calm until after the ultrasound today, and then I got all shaky and weepy and was barely able to hold back tears while I was talking with the new midwife in the practice during my appointment.  She must think I’m nuts — everything looks perfect, and I was an emotional wreck anyway.  I should have been thrilled.  I’m honestly not sure I can explain why I was so weepy today.  Yeah, yeah, pregnancy hormones and all that… but I think it’s also just because with everything I’ve been through, pregnancy is so darn stressful, even when things look good.  In fact, especially when things look good, because I’m an expert at handling losses at this point, but I also know that the later I go, the harder it will be if this pregnancy ends.  There’s the fear of getting attached, the fear of getting hurt as much as I was hurt when my daughter died.  And, let me tell you, when that little nubbin was kicking its little arm and leg stumps on the ultrasound this afternoon, I was amazed and a little in love in spite of myself.  Just dreaming that this might work and we might get to add another baby to our family… it’s so big, and so incredible, and I’m just afraid to even start to believe that it might happen.  Hence the tears and shakiness.  This is wonderful, guys, but it’s also really intense.

I mean, the plus side of almost losing it in front of the midwife is that when I asked if I could come back in two weeks instead of five for a heartbeat check, she didn’t even hesitate — and she also offered to let me come back as often as I need to for reassurance.  I really don’t think I would have been able to stay sane waiting 5 weeks to know that everything was OK.  They might consider me a normal (if geriatric) OB patient, but I am pretty far from emotionally normal, clearly.

She did try to reassure me with the old line about how “a normal heartbeat at this gestational age means that you have a less than 5% chance of miscarriage,” but I put the kibosh on that.  I told her (gently, I think) that those numbers don’t really mean anything to me since losing a pregnancy at 18 weeks (and I didn’t even add that they almost certainly don’t apply to me, since 2nd and 3rd trimester losses are highly correlated and MFM told me I have a significant risk of placental issues in all my pregnancies).  I have long since stopped expecting doctors to have any idea about what it is like to lose pregnancy after pregnancy in the first and second trimesters.  I do appreciate it when they try, but I sort of feel like whenever I’m feeling up to it, it’s a service to the others who will come after me if I try to give them some insight into what it feels like and what is and is not reassuring, so I’m glad I spoke up a bit today.

Anyway, next week is my intake appointment with MFM, along with the bloodwork for NIPT and the other standard first-trimester testing, and then the following week I go back for a quick check-in with my OB, and then it’ll be time for the 12w ultrasound.  So, at least I have weekly opportunities for reassurance over the next few weeks to help me stay sane.

If I am lucky enough to make it through the first trimester, I have to start worrying about the fact that my pregnancy is pretty much at the worst possible timing for an academic, but that’s a subject for another post.  There’s nothing I can do about it now, other than trying (and failing) not to think about it, because it would really make me feel a lot better to have a plan but I can’t make one until I’m ready to tell my department chair that I’m pregnant.  I mean, after four perfectly-timed academic pregnancies in a row, it figures that the awfully timed one would be the one that sticks, amirite?  I’m also trying not to freak out about the fact that this baby and my tenure packet are due exactly the same week.  But hey, cross that bridge when I come to it, right?  These are really very good problems to have, in the grand scheme of things.

And that’s the update!  Hopefully, my updates will be similarly boring and normal from here on out.  Wish me luck!

Good betas

Well, I’ve got good betas.  Friday’s number: 926.  Monday’s number: 2500-something.  Doubling time: just under 48 hours.  Right on the money.

Of course, I’ve been here before.  At least three times, to be precise (we didn’t have betas drawn for the fourth pregnancy, so I don’t know if they were good or bad).  One of those times resulted in a live birth, and the others didn’t.  So, while this is an encouraging development, I’m not exactly counting any chickens just yet.

I also wanted to record a conversation that has been bugging me all day.  I was walking to a faculty meeting in a different building with my department chair, who also happens to be the closest member of my department to me in age, and with whom I am friendly.  He is currently the only person in the department who knows that I have had three miscarriages, including two since S’s birth.  As we headed over to lunch he said: “Oh, I just sent you an email about this, but remember my recent postdoc X and his wife Y?  Well, X just sent me the news that Y is 9 weeks pregnant and wanted me to share it with everyone!”

I said, “That’s great. [pause] Wow, 9 weeks… oh, to be that optimistic… But, good for them.  I’m happy for them.”

And he just kept talking, as though it was nothing.

Now, I know and like this guy.  I don’t think he meant to upset me.  But it was upsetting.  I was able to handle it OK in the moment, I think… I only expressed the twinge of wistfulness about feeling confident enough to announce a pregnancy to an entire department of your former mentors and colleagues at 9 weeks(!).  But… I would much rather have gotten the news by email, in the privacy of my office, where I could work through my feelings without needing to respond in the moment.  There was no reason for him to bring it up with me in person, other than general cluelessness surrounding my feelings about early pregnancy.  I get that he was excited for his former mentee — my colleague is a father of three young kids, and just loves babies and little kids.  I just wish he had been even a little bit sensitive to the fact of my previous losses, when clearly it didn’t even occur to him that this news might hit a nerve for me.  It made me feel lonely, and reinforced the reality that most people, perhaps especially men, don’t understand the emotional impact of pregnancy loss, particularly recurrent pregnancy loss, on women.  What it communicated to me was that he doesn’t see my losses as a big deal, and doesn’t even understand that they might be a big deal for me.

Of course, it helped that I was able to hear the news while I was pregnant, rather than two weeks ago when the testing and treatment seemed to be dragging out interminably.  It’s amazing what an emotional roller coaster every pregnancy is for me, even the fifth one.  You can bet I wasn’t in the mood to tell my chair that I was pregnant (I mean, 5 weeks is basically like 9 weeks, amirite?!), but at least I was able to feel a little bit hopeful, and then getting the news of good betas later in the day helped me feel even more hopeful.

Now I have to wait two weeks for that all-important heartbeat ultrasound, since I’ll be traveling from the 12th to the 16th of the month.  Please keep sending good wishes, especially until then!

The two-week wait after the two-week wait

I’ve gotten pretty good at the two-week wait over the years.  I am a model of patience and restraint: I never test before a missed period anymore (why would I?  It’s just a waste of a pregnancy test that I most likely wouldn’t need if I just waited for my period to come in its own time).  I’ve been pregnant five times, which means a heck of a lot of two-week waits, so I guess I’ve finally worn down my anticipation.

But the two-week wait after the two-week wait?  That’s a whole different story.

In my four previous pregnancies, I’ve always had an ultrasound at 6 weeks.  In our first pregnancy it was because we’d had some difficulty conceiving and were being followed by the RE, and after that it was because I was supposed to start Lovenox at the first sign of viability.

That first six-week ultrasound was magical.  We saw a heartbeat right away.  There was a living creature.  Inside of me!  It was amazing!  I was elated!  I cried!  I fell in love at first sight.  It was just incredible.  Later we found out it was a daughter, and that was a magical moment as well.  There was so much anticipation in that pregnancy.  Which probably made it all that much harder when it ended at 18 weeks.

Since then, the six-week ultrasound has been a different story.  I am more wary, guarded, less attached to that little bean, less surprised whether I see a heartbeat or not, more clinical as I interrogate the ultrasound tech.  In my fourth pregnancy, I warned the ultrasound tech before she started that pregnancy didn’t tend to go well for me, so I wasn’t expecting good news.  Why did I feel like I needed to warn her?  Indeed, when she had nothing but bad news to give me after that ultrasound, she was fine.  I was the one who held it together until my doctor asked how I wanted to end the pregnancy, and then I lost it.  The six-week ultrasound has gone well for me twice, and poorly for me twice, and even in the cases where it has gone well, only half of the outcomes (i.e., one) were positive.

Same with betas.  I’ve had betas drawn in three pregnancies: my first, second, and fourth.  They’ve always been great — I’ve never had a bad hCG draw.  (I say, knocking on wood, waiting anxiously for the second round of betas for my current pregnancy.)  Yet 2/3 of the pregnancies with good betas have ended poorly.  So you’d think I’d be over them by now.  But here I sit, the night after my 2nd hCG draw in my 5th pregnancy, unable to concentrate on putting together my lecture for tomorrow because I’m wondering what’s going on with my betas.

After everything that’s happened, I don’t trust betas, and I don’t trust the six-week ultrasound.  But… I still get so obsessed with waiting for the results!  I’ve been thinking and worrying about them all day.  The two weeks after the two-week wait, while I wait for blood test results and ultrasound results, feel like the longest weeks of the whole pregnancy.  (Except for the days after my due date in my pregnancy with my son — those were truly the longest days of the entire pregnancy.  Each one felt like a week!)  I torture myself: have they not called yet because the news is bad, and they want to wait to deliver bad news tomorrow?  Even if everything’s fine with the betas, it’ll be two weeks before I can have the ultrasound, due to some poorly-timed travel… how will I make it that long???

At least if the news is bad, I won’t have to wait long to find out what’s going to happen in this pregnancy.  The only way I was able to make it through my pregnancy with my son was through continuous distraction.  So I’m just going to try to distract myself like crazy for the next two weeks.  Traveling to the conference next week will help.  Afternoons with a toddler who demands all of my attention will help.  What else will help?  How do you survive the two-week wait after the two-week wait?