Thoughts on Valentine's Day

spoiler alert: a picture of three.

Blogging consistently has never been easy for me. I'm usually very quick to start projects, but not able to keep them going long term.

It's hard to not see this as a theme in my life -- especially when it comes to pregnancy, which everything feels like it relates back to.

I stopped working on this blog for so long that I actually let the domain lapse without even realizing it. You see, after hitting publish on the last post, I careened straight towards my 30th birthday, and then took a sharp turn towards the holidays: my busiest, blurriest season of the year.

Everything feels marked with meaning.

30 felt impossible. I couldn't let that number sneak up on me without being pregnant. But as the calendar rolled forward... I still wasn't. I took solace in the knowledge that at least we were trying again. But with travel, stress, work, and so much more that we all deal with, it wasn't happening for whatever reason. I tried to not let it bother me.

But, anniversaries. My birthday has now also become an anniversary. A week before I turned 29, I miscarried for a second time. So, now too, my birthday week is tainted with the painful memory of heavy bleeding into a pad that I couldn't decide whether to throw out or keep.

Anyway, the holidays rolled on. I kept my hands and mind busy. And it was a beautiful season touched with its own share of hardships and joy, seemingly equal in measure.

When I went through TSA on my way home to visit my parents for Christmas, I was secretly relieved that carrying Bucket through security meant a pat-down rather than a scan -- I was suspecting something was up. I was still days from a missed period, but let me just say it, my boobs were HUGE.  

I'd started taking progesterone two days after ovulation and the prenatals had been pulsating in my system for months. I finally felt like I struck the right balance with everything... this was a solvable puzzle. And yet, negative after negative. On Christmas Eve Eve, while out picking up Chinese food for my family, I stopped to get an actual pregnancy test -- it was time to ditch those shitty little ones that come with the ovulation prediction kit that are so tiny and fickle and impossible to read.

I just couldn't let go of the idea that the negatives weren't telling the whole story.

So here's a funny thing -- Christmas Eve morning, I'm sitting on the floor of the bathroom. There's a disposable cup of urine on top of the closed toilet seat next to the instructions -- yes, fifty pregnancy tests later, I still read them -- when my five-year-old niece bursts into the room. Locking doors has never been a big thing in my family. Neither has knocking, either, apparently.

"What are you doing?!"

"Um, I'm working on a special project," was all I cold muster.

"In the bathroom? That's silly. What is it? Can I help?"

Since lying to kids doesn't seem smart, and my sister has always been pretty transparent with her kids, I opt for the truth.

"I'm almost done. I'm trying to figure out if there is a baby growing inside me. This stick uses the pee to find out. The pee knows."

"But pee doesn't have a brain. Can I use the potty?"

I clear the way for her, dumping the urine, and putting the test away in the cupboard. It was negative anyway.

The day passed with our usual tradition of braiding christmas bread, butchering crab in the backyard, and picking at the leftovers in the fridge. Since I'd been talking about nothing but fertility and how I can't let go of the fact that I'm not pregnant, I confide in both my sisters that the real First Response  test is negative. Boo hoo.

But I still can't move on.

Like, I really, really can't let it go. My boobs. They hurt so bad and they are just so big.

So I go back to the bathroom cabinet and check it again.

You guessed it.

POSITIVE.

Right there in pink and white.

see? proof.

I'm a little bit in shock, and a little bit relieved, and a lot a bit anxious.

"Thank you for being with me today, baby." I say as I pat my tummy.

This is my new mantra for pregnancy. Thankful for what exists in the now.

I unceremoniously tell my husband in the guest room of my parents place, on Christmas Eve, that I'm pregnant. He's dubious, but I wanna hang the tiny stocking I happened to pack in case of this eventuality. We decide to wait until after dinner, when we are putting cookies out for Santa.

I know at least one of my sisters catches me swapping my full wine glass with Alex's empty during pre-dinner drinks.

Then, as we are all sitting down to crack crab at our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, there's an impromptu round of toasts. This is the moment. I feel it. I squeeze Alex's hand under the table, let's tell them.

Skrrrrrtt. Let the record scratch here for a second while I explain something. Before I ever got pregnant, before I ever miscarried, I always believed and was told that you wait until 12 weeks before you tell anyone you're pregnant. I know what you're thinking: I'm like two minutes pregnant. Isn't this a dumb idea? Well, if you can guess where this whole story is going, then yeah, maybe it is dumb.

But for me, especially after what I've been through, keeping this secret in felt more painful than sharing. First of all, the twelve weeks thing is designed to save you from the embarrassment of having to reveal a miscarriage should one happen -- which is likely -- before that point. Here's the thing: I miscarried and honestly, it was way more embarrassing to have to call someone while choking back tears and explain that surprise! yes, we've been trying to get pregnant, yes, it worked, but then I lost it. 

That was too hard.

Plus, I'm not embarrassed of miscarrying. Hiding miscarriages only makes the subject more taboo, compounding the pain a woman might already feel, by making her feel more alone.

It was much easier and more simple for me to say, hey, we're back on that baby making train, wish us luck! hey, guess what? it worked! i'm pregnant as of this second! than to try to lie and hide and sneak and deny.

The truth was much less painful. The truth is also a lot more joyful. It was nice, thrilling even, to be able to share happy news for once!

So anyway, back to Christmas Eve. I'm so excited as I'm raising my glass of sparkling water, that the liquid wobbles in my hand. "Here's to family," I toast. "And to it getting bigger!" I say as I point to my belly.

There's shock. There's screaming. I think someone cried. But the whole thing is such a blur... I was just glad to not be sitting on this secret, even though I didn't get to reveal it in the pinterest-perfect way I had planned. I hang the baby stocking up that evening anyway. Santa put a candy cane in it.

On Christmas morning, we call Alex's family to tell them the good news. I didn't want to leave them out of the loop now that my whole family knew. "Best call ever!!" my mother-in-law shouted.

This is the part I feel really guilty about. Getting other people's hopes up.

But I was feeling good. I was taking all the vitamins and supplements and hormones, I was eating right, exercising, meditating, journaling. All the things. In theory, this was all going to plan.

That is until, just a couple days later -- the tiniest red spot in my underwear.

I pushed the worries aside, reminding myself that stress is the worst thing I could do to my pregnancy. {What a vicious cycle! To stress about stress!!} But the bleeding persisted. And got worse.

While out for a sisters-only evening, a trip to the restroom revealed to me that it was really over. Without being graphic, it was just too much blood. I knew what a miscarriage looked like, and this was it.

This is the other part I feel really guilty about: I cut girls night short. I boo-hoo'd to them on the sidewalk outside a margarita bar where five minutes earlier I had sat drinking lemonade while they sipped tequila. I couldn't make myself go to another bar and pretending to keep having fun. As we walked back across the plaza in front of City Hall, I remember suddenly feeling so, so cold. As if I could feel everything now -- the grief, the frustration, the anger, the remorse -- it crashed down on me hard.

I lived under that weight for weeks. Hell, I'm still under that weight.

By the time I got back to Tennessee and my doctors office, there wasn't even enough HCG in my system to register a pregnancy. The tiny light at the end of the tunnel was that knowing, stupidly, that a third miscarriage would open up a new level of insurance for me because I could officially be diagnosed with "multiple miscarriage."

Nope. My chart would read "chemical pregnancy," instead. If you don't know what that is, look it up. It's one of the seemingly endless terms I've picked up since starting this journey. It's basically a false positive, a fertilized egg that doesn't implant, enough hormones to spike a home pregnancy test, but not enough to keep things going...

So, why is Valentine's Day so hard?

It was my first due date.

It's bizarre to think that in another universe, if I hadn't miscarried on that trip to Maine, I'd be lighting a single candle on the first birthday cake my firstborn would get to taste.

Here's the truly dumb thing: every time I throw a party while pregnant, I miscarry.

Fourth of July, Halloween, and now New Years Eve now all mark the coming of the end.

Along with Valentine's Day, May 28th, and September 1st, those celebratory dates will probably always be hard for me.

And I might never host a party while pregnant again.

I've had so many pregnancy losses that every season has a little bit of grief in it. Whether is a due date, an anniversary of loss, another holiday spent without my children, the calendar seems pocked with painful dates. They kind of feel like potholes to me -- like you can swerve to avoid them and hit something else, or you can just careen towards them head on.

I think I'm doing the latter.

XO,
Annika

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