Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A decade

Last night was HARD. Samantha has been fighting some nasty virus for days. Her cough sounds horrible, her temps have been erratic. She slept maybe a total of 2 hours straight, and was inconsolable when she wasn't in my arms. There was a lot of me trying to hold her squirming body against mine in a rocking chair.

I got her to the doctor this morning and thankfully she doesn't have RSV which was my initial fear. No, based on her symptoms and check up she was whacked by a stomach virus late last week, recovered, and was whacked by another virus that's mainly causing congestion. We should be out of the woods in a few days.

This uneventful run of the mill life of a sick toddler got me thinking of the last decade.

Let me step back. Niblet is obsessed with "Mr. Kate" - a YouTuber who does interior design with her husband. We were binging on it the other day, while Sammi remained the dynamo of dangerous climbing in the living room, all while sniffling, coughing and snotting away on our furniture.

"What's a miscarriage?" asked Niblet, when we hit an episode featuring a couple who were expecting after three miscarriages (one was technically a stillbirth but I didn't get into it). The mother was now a week away from holding a baby in her arms.
"It's when you're pregnant and your baby doesn't live sweetie. You know how I said I had many of them before..." I stared at the screen, showing a nursery filled with rainbows and butterflies. "Sammi is our rainbow baby."

This decade. Oh my god, this decade.

I celebrated twelve years of marriage.

I raised a gorgeous insanely smart daughter into tweenhood.

I found a job near my home where I will likely retire fighting for low wage healthcare workers in my City.

I became a Zumba instructor.

I discovered a need to embrace my religious heritage in ways that surprised me.

I experienced eight consecutive pregnancy losses. They included a partial molar pregnancy and a TFMR in the second trimester. 

I had four D&Cs. I developed Asherman's Syndrome and sought treatment in Boston. 

I embarked on Donor Egg IVF at a clinic in Delaware, a process that involved more introspection and frankly, legal expertise, than I ever could have imagined.

I got pregnant from my first IVF cycle. 

I carried a supremely healthy baby, in the lowest-risk pregnancy of a highest-risk pregnant woman of advanced maternal age the world may ever have seen.

Samantha was born. Niblet got a long-awaited sister. I discovered the need for a baby all those years wasn't some sort of misplaced energy. Samantha was the baby who was supposed to be in my arms during those sleepless nights filled with coughing and discomfort. 

Samantha is now almost two.

I memorialized it all in this blog, this love letter to my daughters.

This decade.

Monday, December 23, 2019

thinking of all of the beautiful souls

We're in the frenzy of the season now, aren't we.

I'm at work right now, taking a break from a ginormous project that is occupying a good portion of my brain even when I leave work.

I'm stressing at night over impending state and federal tax payments for our nanny - I am a little unsure where I will scrape the money together if I don't get any kind of cash hanukkah gift from  my parents.

Through all of this - the stress of a skyrocketing credit card balance and the deep concern that we can't pay our bills - I am just clinging to the joy of my family.

To all the mammas who are still reeling in their grief, I see you.

To the mammas who feel those stabs as I do - intermittently - but acutely when they arrive - I see you.

I've been flooded with memories the past few days, as my household adjusts to life without my MIL. Viking is most definitely drinking his feelings, it's a sad sight to see.  My FIL will be arriving today. He is a recovering alcoholic and will be a good, calming influence on my husband. They need each other desperately right now.

I am the wandering Jewess, yet the specific person who throws the Christmas parties for the family I have married into. Christmas Eve dinner will include my FIL, possible my brother and sister-in-law and a family of friends who were looking for some place to find company. We'll have a ridiculous amount of food (I'm Jewish after all).

Christmas Day I will also host an open house for family (some cousins who are expecting, our uncle, and another family of friends looking for something to do). Muffin tin eggs (google it!), Nutella waffles and mushroom hash brown casseroles will be on the menu.  Possible a soup too if I feel inspired.

Niblet and I baked a million cookies, made some chocolate bark and started curing a bunch of salmon  for gravlax.

Meanwhile, Samantha is the most adorable troublemaker in the world. She's a tornado of destruction through the house causing more spills, breaks and the need for vacuuming than anyone her size.

And she is the greatest gift our household has ever known.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Saving tips

Any more credit card debt and this blog will morph into a penny-saver tip site, hahahaha

Looking to slash that household budget?

Renegotiate everything - your wireless plan, your car insurance, you name it. 

I've created a whole new art to take your lunch to work.  This week it's ramen noodles - hooray, I'm 19 again. God I love this economy. Pro-tips: 

1. Don't use the entire seasoning packet, to cut down on the sodium
2. Add a cup from the bag of frozen veggies of your choice.
3.  Add a tsp of THIS sauce: 

Laoganma Spicy Chili Crisp Sauce, 7.41 Fl Oz

Monday, December 2, 2019

more thankful than imaginable

The holiday weekend came and went so quickly.

Viking ended up being able to join us, his Dad spent the holiday with his brother. Yay! Our family loaded in the car and hauled to NYC with only a few tears from the backseat. The visit was nice- not relaxing mind you - but pleasant. My parents are in love with S (Nibble too, but S got the accolades for being the cuddlier one). But my mom made the Best Fucking Turkey in the Word (TM) and there was no drama. In fact everyone got along really well despite the close quarters and sometimes at odds politics. Yay for calm!

After three nights of not sleeping on a cramped futon with an often screaming baby in the pack and play 30 inches away, the first night back in my own bed was amazing.

I'm pretty sure I have some sort of muscle injury in my back from hauling the 40 pound person around and up and down stairs. I'm considering seeing a chiropractor because it's covered by my insurance. What I'd really love is a massage but....

We're experiencing a cash flow problem in my house.  "Are we poor?" asked poor Niblet, when she heard Viking and I bickering about money. "Nooo sweetie, we're not poor by a long shot. We just have to be really careful about money right now because having C on a payroll and paying her fairly is eating at our ability to have more nice meals out and buying things we really don't need."

Actually, it's a little worse than that -  we are accumulating a fair amount of debt on my credit card - that I don't see being able to pay off in the next three months without a substantial gift from my parents. Viking has eliminated all of his savings. Thankfully, I was raised on the fringe of the middle class and have a good idea about how to save money overall - but it will take a while. Viking on the other hand is freaking out. We are still paying off our home equity loan - the one that allowed us to bring Samantha into the world. Money well spent, but money still owed.

We've cut out virtually all eating out. The convenient fancy Wholefoods Grocery across the street is a treat now, it's all Giant foods with coupons all the time now (Please Please Please don't go on strike Giant members of UFCW local 27 who were chanting in the store last week. I support you and can't cross a picket line but I really can't afford the WholePaycheck right now). I haven't bought a cup of coffee in months. My black beans in the slow cooker are a thing to behold.

I've cut trips to Target (buy your diapers online to cut the impulse shopping!) Viking is going to sell his roadbike. I am hoping to start back up a Zumba class at the office to make an extra $20 bucks a week next year.

Both T and I have significantly reduced our 401K contributions. I've also reduced Nibble's 529 contribution. I'm constantly looking for other places to slash the household budget.

Hand me down toys that Samantha has never seen will emerge from the attic this Christmakuh. Nibble understands she will not be getting the electronics she wants (don't worry, she'll do just fine on the present front).

Viking and I realize just how much my mother being Nibble's primary caretaker her first year meant financially, we are so grateful for my parents help. Having C on payroll is a finite expense and we are so grateful for having her in our lives. But paying one's Nanny a living wage and benefits is definitely something that is stretching us to our limits.

The main thing I'm trying to do is ensure Nibble doesn't feel any of this. We are still paying for her (very) expensive dance training because she loves it and is incredibly talented and I don't skip on quality ballet classes. She has Hebrew School which also must be paid for. I'm constantly on the hunt for Groupons for activities.

It's all good. Aside from my back and knees (which desperately need PT that won't be covered by insurance) and teeth (which need braces for non-cosmetic reasons that also won't be covered by insurance), we have our health. We have our house - it needs a lot of work that also won't get done any time soon (peeling plaster, a rotting front porch), but it's still standing.

So thankful.

(I just need my car to not break down).

Friday, November 8, 2019

take a deep breath

People say to breathe all the time right?

So we always travel to NYC for thanksgiving with my parents.  I cook the goyishe Christmas meal. This is how we've traditionally managed the separate families who live states away.

Except this morning I received a text from Viking.  "Hey, I may stick around for thanksgiving to be with my dad."

There was a piece of me that was bracing for this. First thanksgiving for my FIL without his wife of 40 years. They traditionally spent it with my brother in law and his wife, but those two are wildcards.

Breathe. Don't type back. Just breathe.

I will not drive the girls myself. No gonna happen, my car is already in poor condition and I can't manage the two screaming kids in the back on a roadtrip by myself. Nope nope nope.

So it's the train or my girls don't see her grandparents. Ok. Get on Amtrak.com and look at the fares.

Jesus. This will cost a fortune and I'm currently carrying a $6000 balance on my credit card that I can't pay down fast enough. Ok, cheapest 6am train it is, I can do this. I can pack up the baby and her sister, a large stroller and one large suitcase. I can do this. My parents would like irritate my husband beyond repair anyways this year.

It will be ok.

Except the fraying is there. This weekend marks my 12 year anniversary - 12 years married, 17 together. A lifetime.  When I first got that text message I was indescribably angry. I'm exhausted. The brunt of household chores fall on me. I'm offered the option of working out after I get the baby down at 7pm, which I've got to say is the worst time in the world to work out because you're tired and then your heartrate jacks up and it's damn hard to fall asleep. And at 7pm I have to first clean the living room up to make space to work out anyways. It's not a great deal.

My nanny informed me that from her daily morning parenting podcast she learned that single mothers have less housework than married ones.  Read that again. Based on the cleaning I do I can totally say this true.

I don't want a marriage frayed from the years of resentment brought on by exhaustion. He's exhausted too. He gets up at 5 to commute 90 minutes to a job he doesn't particularly enjoy. He lost his mom. He's worried about his dad. He shares the responsibility of getting Niblet to her dance classes, to Hebrew school if I'm gone. He cooks some meals and does grocery shopping, (though honestly not as efficiently as I do because he still doesn't know how to meal plan. But he makes his own breakfasts and lunches and that's something).


Monday, November 4, 2019

It's time to dance

The last few weekends I was sent out to knock on doors for politicans running for local offices in Virginia. It's technically volunteer work, but really I call it "voluntold" work because there's unwritten language with my employer that I must participate in these weekends.  

This weekend I was out of the house on Saturday from around 8am to 5pm, and then Sunday from around 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. I raced home each night as fast as I could to get to S, mainly to snuggle and squeeze her.  Last night after I put her down I let Nibble French braid my hair (her new obsession) and just reveled in a little coziness.

I know 2020 is going to be exhausting, especially after the primaries (though at this rate they feel like they're 20 years away). No matter what your political persuasion you KNOW it will be exhausting. 

So I've already decided I'm checking out. I need to muster the skills to talk to voters at their homes next year, and I'll do my job as always.  I do healthcare policy for a living (I've even drafted a few state bills on the topic thank you) and I am well versed in the many opportunities and many challenges of expanding Medicare. 

But as I start to hunker down mentally for the holidays I realize that I need to do some key things for the coming year, long before resolutions are even uttered...

1. For one I need to commit to unplugging from social media. Phones get turned off at 10pm. No exceptions. I've already mulled eliminating Facebook (which is difficult because it's my primary way of communicating for my Zumba classes). Which gets me to...

2. I'm also committing to choreographing a new series of Zumba classes for my colleagues at work and my daughter's school community. This is easier said than done because I use a lot of bandwidth of time getting Nibble to and from her own dance classes.  But I feel like the time I putter away on FB, IG and Twitter could be used towards REAL community.

I feel like I write this all  the time, more dancing less social media, because I do write it all the time. Now I need to hold myself to it.

Things have fallen off the cliff in my house just from two weekends of not being home. Like, don't look at my floors or my bathtub. seriously, it's more a warning than anything else. Also I haven't cooked as much as I need to keep our budget in line. Like, I am deeply in credit card debt right now and need my own braces which aren't covered by insurance despite not being for cosmetic reasons and I can't afford to buy you that lunch at Chipotle Nibble, no, I really don't have that $10 right now. And I have to budget for a nanny tax bill and an extra week's pay for C for Christmas, like now, so I'll have the money.

The other truth is that my Zumba classes (which are donation only) will be my free way of exercising and standing in place of the destressing massages I can no longer afford.

Monday, October 21, 2019

HOME and moving forward

I returned from my jet-setting adventures through NY about 16 hours early, late Saturday night.

Viking had a cold.  A head cold sure, but I could tell, this put him out of his depth.  Based on looking at some red-nosed, glassy eyed pics sent to me of Samantha, she had one too. So while I was having a surprisingly good time walking down memory lane with classmates on Saturday, I skipped out on  the evening drinking portion of the reunion and hopped on a train back home that night.

When Sammi woke up on Sunday morning I assumed she would be happy to see me.  Yeah, she was, but....

This is also the week I chose to wean her. So she repeatedly cried "NA NA" while closing her hand in a fist (her sign for milk) and yeah, kid, that was rough.

I have to say, I have some very mixed emotions about weaning her.  See, I used to always joke that as soon as a kid could use words to request a specific food, that would be it, they're cut off.

The truth is that I loved the quiet time we spent every morning and night. She wasn't getting a whole lot out of me, yes, I was really functioning as a human pacifier. But I honestly never had an issue with it.

So why did I wean (besides being away for days and effectively killing my milk supply)?

I need a mammogram.  I can't get one.  No matter how hard I try through my doctors, I can't find anyone to give me one unless I'm no longer lactating for at least 3 months. And I have super dense breast-tissue, so I am already bracing for the hell of getting red flags on my mammograms.

I also currently know three women my age who have recently been in treatment for cancer. All of them I know through our kids.  There's a voice in my head that won't quiet.  Call it an intrusive thought, call it my general anxiety about always expecting the bottom to drop. But I have to get a mammogram and this is honestly the only way I will get approved for one.

My baby isn't taking to losing our nursing bond very well. There were some loud screams and big tears last night, and this morning.  It's a shock to her system in a way that it wasn't for her sister (Nibble was weaned around 14 months, and the best word for her reaction was ambivolent).

We'll get through it quickly I'm sure.  I now spend about 5 straight minutes just holding her and snuggling in those moments we used to nurse.  But yeah, the sense of loss is mutual kid.  It really is bittersweet.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Remembrance Day

October 15th has snuck up on me again. This miscarriage and infant loss Remembrance Day has a way of doing that.

I’m gonna be all up in my feelings because I am flying off to upstate NY today for a work conference. Then on Friday I fly into NYC for a school reunion.  Today is Tuesday. I won’t be home with my living babies and husband until Sunday afternoon. This is the first long trip I will have taken away from Samantha and Niblet since Samantha was born. Oh. Wow

I’ve been trying to focus on the positives. My kids are in good hands with their dad and our nanny. I will finally have the opportunity to wean the almost 2 year old. I might get some nice sleep and adult conversation.

But my heart actually aches for my kids, and I’m only en route to the airport. And I will be sharing a hotel room with a nice but chatty colleague who I will probably have to flee from repeatedly, especially at 7 pm this evening when I try to find a candle to light in my babies’ memories.

I am sending peace and solace to everyone who is finding themselves deep in thoughts about their babies tonight. So much love to everyone in this community of motherhood.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Happy New Year

In the Jewish Calendar it is now 5780, we are celebrating our New Year.

The Rabbi of our congregation gave us an exercise to ponder as we approach Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  For my non-Jewish readers, this is Easter Sunday for the tribe - meaning that those of us who never show up for services DO attend on this day.

I offer some of my off the cuff introspection below:

Something I regret from this past year:
I would say not calling my parents enough, and viewing it with grim trepidation when I do (which in case you're wondering, is roughly a few times a week).

Lately, we've had to have some carefully narrowed conversation to avoid arguing, it's exhausting when we're arguing. I should add, this isn't new. They also felt it's appropriate to freely criticize the Viking for the last decade.

(But I want to be clear, they will never say anything negative about him in front of our children, they've told me that and they honor it. Still their willingness to trash talk him to me has always been, sigh, exhausting).

Something I realized this past year:
People say that time heals - but I really think it's that we are given the opportunity to have love fill some of the broken places. A lot of grief is love that needs a place to go.

Something that brought me joy or gratification this past year:
This one's easy. My daughters and the way they interact with each other. Niblet calls her sister "Yammy" (like, uh, a sweet potato). Her sister calls her "DeeDee because she can't pronounce her name. They really do stare at each other with wonder sometimes.

L'Shana Tovah

Thursday, September 12, 2019

It's that time again

The election season is upon us.  People seeking votes are clarifying their stances on abortion.


I made the decision to terminate my pregnancy with Celine just shy of 5 years ago. The more I read about babies who either didn't survive or suffer with her condition, the more I settle into the decision. I'll never truly feel settled mind you, but I know deep deep in my soul that her gray diagnosis was going to be a potential death sentence for her at birth if she survived. That should I deliver her she would suffer for the likely short duration of her life.

But I think time not only served to heal me a bit, but time as allowed me the ability to settle into this experience being a fact of my life that I cannot separate out or wall off.  I am one of the women who has been in this situation and I am one of the women who is now in a place to speak about it publicly.

I dipped my toes into this on social media a bit. And I survived.  I know there are realistically plenty of people who believe I murdered my baby, though I'm appreciative that they haven't yet said this to my face. And if they ever do, I will survive those stings and arrows.

I also know that Samantha, the literal ray of light in our family is the very specific baby the universe decided I should mother.

To experience her personality is to experience the closest thing you will ever match to liquid sunshine. Her sister is intense, introspective, fiery at times.

Anyone who has ever met or had the pleasure to hold Samantha knows that she is in fact a marshmallow wrapped in a rainbow dappled with magic, all bound together in the softest, peach fuzziest human skin.  The love that she bestows upon ever living creature she meets, well, you have to experience it first hand to believe it. Her hugs and snuggles and warmth is jaw-dropping.

This is why I now speak my truth to the world:

Through the miracles allowable in reproductive science I was given the opportunity to bring a second extraordinary human into the world. As I was for her sister Celine before her, I am her fiercest protector. I understand the gift of life, the true blessing of children, better than anyone can imagine.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

more validation

So, my parents are loving and kind. They've given us all of the financial support we could ever hope for.

But they're a little cray. And with a significant portion of their generation of Baby Boomers, they have a Boomer world view that isn't quite adapting to our changing culture and planet. They are easily susceptible to idiotic memes and youtube rabbit holes. I will confess, I've done more than a little handwringing about some of their politics (which, 1) are completely counter to tolerant and accepting people I grew up with and 2) completely counter to my current worldviews).

For much of my adult life my Dad has worried about talking about politics on the phone, convinced "they're listening to him" Who? The NSA? The CIA? Fuck if I know.  (The comedy in all of this is that we do have an invasive electronic web listening to us - but I think "they" could care less about our politics, and a whole lot about our purchasing power. Ever say something in your car and find a targeted ad for it on your facebook page? Ever think about Alexa and Amazon Echo? THAT's the spy state as it exists now).

But I digress.

Nibble spent a week with her grandparents.  And came home... well, puzzled and grappling and a more than a little frustrated with some of the things that came out of their mouths.

Much as I used to grapple with my grandparents in years past and my parents today.

Where I got really calm, is how maturely she handled them -a lot of eye rolling behind their backs but she stayed away from arguments.  "Mom, it makes no sense to argue with them. I actually tried to debate something they said and they just refused to listen to me and ignored the points I was making. I decided it was a waste of time and changed the subject. it was exhausting."

At nearly 11, her worldview is so on its way to formation just by being a person who lives on the planet. She happens to attend a majority black school in an economically divided city, and has her own experiences with navigating complicated race relations. She attends Jewish Sunday school and has immigrant and Muslim friends. She questions whether she believes in God and has personal fears about climate change along with opinions about how to address it.

While she was sharing some her stories about comments my parents made in her presence, the lightbulb went off.  She could unpack their love from some of their crazy. She could separate some of the politics they espoused that are 180 degrees from what she's been exposed to, and just shrug her shoulders.  Our nanny joked that I didn't have to do any "de-programming" because she's already an independent little person who chooses to read about 20 books a week in her spare time. Yes, she lives in this lefty household helmed by a former union organizer and a labor union healthcare policy analyst, and she could have an entire future "awakening" to lord knows what, should she head of to college.... but I know from watching her interact in spaces that she will do the *most* important thing: Listen.

The kids are alright.

Monday, August 26, 2019


I may have mentioned before, I come from a family that has this weird ideological opposition to therapy. Like it's going on your record for the rest of your life and somehow someone (the government? Schools? Your neighbors?) will use it against you.

Nibble has some anxiety issues (hey apple, meet the tree you fell from), and they're resulting in some behavior that's occasionally less than stellar.  My parents witnessed one of these outbursts.  Viking and I believe that maybe talking to a therapist would be helpful to her. We were quietly talking about it at my parents' house.

My dad called earlier today...

"You shouldn't take her to a therapist, that will go on her record,"

"Wait, WHA?????"

"It will be part of her medical record."

"I'm so confused.  What's wrong with talking to someone who's neutral about her emotions? If she's having problem with outbursts and getting angry, maybe talking to someone about coping mechanisms will help her."

"No, She shouldn't need that her parents should be able to help her."


"Dad, you DO know I saw a therapist for many years."

"When? Why?"

"Um, because eight of my babies died."

"Oh, that. Fine. Never mind.  You don't want to listen to me."

"No, you're making my point for me.  Your response is *exactly* why I had to seek therapy..."

"[now he's cutting me off] Yeah, we're terrible parents so you needed a therapist. You did talk to me about your pregnancies."

"[Deep breath] You're great parents.  But you couldn't help me cope when I wanted to rush under a table every time someone on TV called me a murderer.  Everytime I felt like my heart was racing out of my chest. And you couldn't say things that would make me feel better when I was in the depths of grief. So I saw a therapist.  And my only regret is that I didn't go sooner.  I needed to speak to someone to give me the tools to function. That doesn't make you bad parents.  Just like it doesn't make me or V bad parents because we aren't the best people to give Niblet the tools she needs to cope better when she's worked up. The whole point is that we're NOT therapists."

SIGH. that was exhausting. And there were parts of that interchange where my heart felt like it was racing out of my chest. Luckily I have a fucking champ of a therapist and I walked away from that conversation without any yelling and with my basic wits about me.

Monday, August 5, 2019


My American readers will understand what it feels like to wake up on the morning after another mass shooting feeling sort of immobilized. You put one foot in front of the other. If you're lucky enough to have children you pick them up (if they're demanding 18 month olds), or comb their hair (if they're 10 year olds who are auditioning for Rapunzel) and you keep on keeping on.  You shove in the fears that physically manifest in a lump in your throat. Keep going.  Focus.  Stare at them to ground yourself. But careful, because if you stare too long and the insane beauty that you have been charged with protecting, you may catch your breath and fall apart.

If you're an American you also get your short but necessary summer vacation. It's time to escape at Casa de Justonemore, this year we're headed back to Vermont and then Montreal. A night in NYC with my parents, a long weekend in Vermont with cousins and their kids who live on the side of a mountain in paradise. Four days in Canada to explore a beautiful city with functional public transit that's the closest my brood will get to Europe for a while. Then back to Vermont for a few days of blissful relaxing by a pond. Nibble will likely close out her road-trip with a few extra days in NYC with my parents.

We all anesthetize ourselves with something. I've done it with food and exercise. Others in my family use alcohol. For this year's trip I decided to take advantage of the kindness of our cousins and plop our family down in the middle of a mountain, as a bookend to exploring a place I used to roam with my grandparents every summer of my childhood.

We happen live in a beautiful tree-lined walkable neighborhood on the northern edge of a city wracked by poverty and gun violence. The City that I call home was only just kicked out of the news cycle because of El Paso and Dayton mass murders. But even in our upper middle class haven, the violence and desperation touches us.  One of my closest friends lost her closest friend to a murder by gun a few days ago. Public school will be starting soon. Nibble attends a fantastic, but underfunded neighborhood school. I work in a section of the city plagued by addiction right outside my office door. "They lean," Nibble says, as she visits me at work regularly. "You can tell who is high on drugs because of the leaning." The reality of living in urban America is stark, even when you can afford to escape it.

I wish everyone peace right now. And strength. These have traditionally been the wishes I have offered for all of my friends suffering from infertility and loss. But it's so clear that the very special brand of PTSD I've suffered isn't so special after all.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

When it's too intense

Sometimes there will be a trigger that has no immediacy to pregnancy. A dying bear photographed wandering in Siberia. Dirty lonely children locked up in camps.

Last week I literally felt the cortisol rising in my bloodstream. So I said, ok mamma, let's exercise.  I put in a Zumba DVD and lo and behold, the DVD player was broken. My house's spotty internet connection made streaming a class through my instructor's license impossible.

So I had to go to the gym.  But couldn't find headphones.  I need music to get out of my head.  "Niblet, where are those earbuds I lent you?" "I don't know what you're talking about." We go back and forth.  Viking is getting annoyed because I am starting to lose my shit.  "Just go to the gym," he says, exasperated.  "But I don't have music," I respond, trying not to cry. "You don't need music to work out," he says, "This is getting annoying."

I walked over and got on the treadmill.

No music.  The gym overlooks a swimming pool, I tried to focus and breathe on the blue water.  It didn't help.  My head was exploding, flooded with what I'll just call intrusive thoughts. I barely made it through the next 40 minutes.

I texted him when I was done and switching to the bike:

I don't think you understand. I need music because I am having intrusive thoughts right now. I tried to walk them out. I can't stop them.

The other male in my life, Work Husband and I were just bickering about politics and human existence, as one does when you're me. He can't fathom living in my brain where existential crises and the potential collapse of civilization for millions of vulnerable people due to climate is imminent and cause for tears.  I can't fathom living in his, where because you're personally comfortable you just go on living your daily life and ignore the dumpster fire that is temporarily blocked from outside your house.

I know there are plenty of people in the world who don't have children who are plagued by anxiety.  I also know that having children has probably jacked mine up exponentially.

Holding my baby forces me to calm down, I have a life in my hands, can't drop them, right? But it's not a workable prescription for me.

Unplugging helps.  Particularly from social media.  Walking through the woods or along a beach or even a park will do.  Dancing and listening to music is my crack I guess, the fix that carries me through to the next disaster.

Friday, May 31, 2019


Today is the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. George Tiller.  Dr. Tiller was the 8th abortion provider who was assassinated by fucking losers in the US.  Dr. Tiller provided abortions for women like me, women in their 2nd and 3rd trimesters who discovered their babies were devastatingly doomed. He was acting as a church usher when he was gunned down.

Obviously with the heartbeat bills and abortion bans across the US, Celine has been on my mind. With time, and the cuddles of two daughters who I frankly can't believe co-exist on the same earthly plain, I am getting closer to being able to speak publicly about Celine and the hell of losing her.  And the fortune I had to live in a state where I could say goodbye to her on my terms without the fear of incurring medical debt and the logistics of getting on an airplane.

Actually, all of my losses have been on my mind.  I imagine cops coming to my door in a hypothetical dystopian future where someone's questioned why I had five D&Cs in a row.

That abortion is healthcare is plain as day to any of us who've needed a doctor to surgically remove our miscarriage. That a 2nd trimester abortion is healthcare is plain as day to any one of us who sat with multiple teams of doctors and sonographers, and poured through medical journals and statistics after our babies' diagnoses. Every single goddamn step of my abortion was a fucking medical step.

That any of this is still being battled in state legislatures and ultimately the Supreme Court is sort of mind-boggling when you think of it. That I had a conversation with Viking a few years ago and said, "hey Viking, so you're on the same page, our house will be part of an underground railroad to safely haven and transport women to their abortions if the day ever comes" is off the chain surreal.

Monday, May 13, 2019

There's no such thing as too much love

The other morning Samantha reached out her arms and cried out for her nanny when she walked through the door.

For a moment, I was all "Oh shit, my baby is rejecting me."

My Dad always asks, "Aren't you worried that she will be confused who is her mother?" That stupid comment zipped into my brain.

And then I crushed the stupid comment. There's just no such thing as a baby feeling too much affection from the people around them.  Full stop.

Can I gush for a moment on how fortunate I am to have someone caring for my children who I trust? C is not merely competent.  She's warm and funny and loving.  And she tend to turn everything - all running commentary, instructions and questions - into song.  She's the closest thing my daughters will get to me while I'm gone, in many goofy ways.

On a day where so many were focused on the emotional energy of mothering I spent a lot of time ruminating on this woman who makes crazy a little less crazy.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

finding her roots

So has anyone seen that Henry Louis Gates show on PBS, Finding your Roots?  It's pretty engrossing (he uses a team of genealogists and DNA to track down the family histories of celebrities).

When I went on Ancestry, I hit a few understandable dead ends seeing as the holocaust decimated my family history.  My genetic roots are mostly Ashkenazi Jewish - which means that I can't pinpoint exactly what countries my family lived in because they basically lived in Jewish communities in those countries. I know we had some family living France, and many in Poland. but I can really only go back two generations.  There were some interesting curveballs in there (the Algerian/North African DNA which might explain why my dad is so dark), and some English in there too (which explains my mother's veddy English maiden name).

Viking's ancestry was also interesting.  His genetic makeup is hugely Eastern European (makes sense, his dad was a child of Hungarian immigrants), with a good dose Scandinavian thrown in for good measure. His
Mother liked to focus on their Swedish cultural traits but while he looks like he belongs in some dark movie set in Copenhagen, he's got other stuff going on in his DNA.  And lo and behold, there was a Jew in his woodpile too.

You know, there was a time when I really wrung my hands over all of this, as far as Samantha's future.  I imagined her watching this show or some future iteration of it.  Her wanting to do an Ancestry test.  Her DNA will show something completely foreign to us, right?  How will she feel about it?

Well, what if I reframe the whole scenario?  What if finding her roots when she's a teenager become a gift of many roots? So she has three family branches, two of which are genetic.  Is this grounds for handwringing or maybe can we shift our thinking as this being really interesting and maybe - just maybe - cool?

I can't run from her origin story.  Once she's of age to understand it, I won't be able to hide it.  I can't allow it to be shameful. I can't allow it to cause her hurt. So bear with me here (becsuse I'm not like a huge fan of the book), but what if I just LEANED IN to it? I know she's got English in there.  Belgian and Netherlandian too.

I'm a stickler these days for precise terminology.  I'm her biological mother, and I'll say it until I'm blue in the face. I carried her, I'm nursing her, and so much of what she is becoming is a result of what I'm giving her. My family history as a descendant of Holocaust survivors is written in my DNA but even with out the DNA that event is a huge part of my being.

What is written in her DNA remains a fundamental mystery to us. I know she will want to solve it.

The bottom line is I'm trying to turn this whole genetics thing on it's head. I'm trying to look at it as a really cool thing that shes going to be a part of, a future set of fun mysteries to solve.  But Man, don't let me kid you, it does take some serious ongoing emotional work for me to get there.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

She looks nothing like you

Ahhhh, if I had a nickel for every comment on how my Valkyrie child doesn’t resemble me. I am crazy grateful for the fact that Niblet doesn’t either. She herself said it last night, “wow mom, I look a little like you but Sammi doesn’t At. All.”  Oh kid. Just you wait.

Today I went to my PCP for the first time in ages. I’m overdue for a mammogram but I can’t get one because my baby won’t wean. I mean, I’m flattered, but it caused me no small amount of anxiety. Luckily my dr felt me up and decided that my risks were low because there’s no breast cancer in my family, breast feeding lowers risks, and I should just hang tight until we’re fully done with weaning.

I’m waiting on A1C results now too. God I truly hope I’m not back to being prediabetic. I was eating like a horse when I nursed 10x a day, but now, with just two nursing sessions and one pump a day, I’ve gotta get my act together. I haven’t been exercising and it’s not a good look.

Samantha is a surreal baby in so many ways. You’ve gotta trust me when I say that she is insanely fucking cute. Like, smiles at people in the shopping cart and makes angry underpaid Wholefoods workers smile.

But The vestiges of loss appear in ways that blindside me constantly. Like, I sometimes have terrible fears that she or her sister will develop a horrible illness. Or that my husband will die. Or that I maybe have breast cancer because my slacker boob that doesn’t produce much milk which Sammy rejected entirely is actually diseased. I know this isn’t rational. But it goes to show that. It isn’t always kittens and parties in my brain, unfortunately.

 I ran into my therapist in the supermarket, on a day where Sammi and I were both glowing with maternal baby joy. It was a rainy Sunday and we were just happy to get out of the house together. My therapist asked how I was doing and I said really well. This wasn’t a lie. I AM doing really well. But that also comes with me waiting for the bottom to fall out from under me.

Does everyone live like this?

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The personal is political



Wednesday, February 6, 2019

I'm glad she asked

Last week I was checking in with my friend D, a Vice President at my organization who rocks, I love working with her.  She's smart, hella organized, works tirelessly for the nursing home workers she represents and just fucking kind.  She's also deeply, DEEPLY religious.

At the end of our meeting where we outlined some plans to save the world, she had a random question for me:

"My members have been talking about that new abortion law in NY.  It's a really hot topic and they just don't understand how the state could pass it. What am I missing? Do you know anything about it?"

"Funny you should ask that," I replied.

So I told her. I started with the miscarriages.  And then I got to Celine.  About how we were lucky to be able to see Celine's future pain on a 13 weeks scan and had a few weeks to talk to specialists. And how Samantha truly was a miracle for science and faith.  And then I explained exactly what the law was designed to cover, and shared with her these two articles:

This, Interview with a woman who had an abortion at 32 weeks,

And the follow-up to her story. (Spoiler: It has as happy an ending as anyone who suffers such trauma can claim).

I explained that this woman's advocacy (she lobbied HARD) led to the NY law's [assage.  And how sad it was that this was really HEALTHCARE legislation being dressed as morality. How no woman wants to say goodbye to their desperately loved baby, let alone have to fly to Colorado and spend tens of thousands of dollars to do it.

Well, D read both articles and thanked me for them.  She also printed them out for the workers she knew who were asking so many questions.

These past few months I have been pulling off of facebook.  This conversation was all the rage there too.

To say these past few weeks have been triggering and depressing have been an understatement.

But, they did one thing to firm my resolve: If we get to a point in this country where safe abortion services are as limited and non-existent as state houses across the country are trying to make them, well sign me up for the call to help.  I've got a spare room with a private bath (the nicest bathroom in our house).  Someone vulnerable needs a place to stay? My state has doctors who perform second trimester abortions.  I've got you covered.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

To my donor, on Samantha's birthday

I've been thinking about you with some frequency lately, because Samantha turned 1 the other day.

You gave us a cell that when brought together with Viking's cell, created a baby that makes me fucking weep with joy on a pretty regular basis.

If you ever choose to allow her to contact you personally in the future - and I hope you do - I want you to know the following:

 - She has her father's face.  Except her nose, I am pretty sure that's from you.
 - Her sister - who also shares her face - and our cat make her eyes light up. They're blue, like her dad's, except they twinkle more than his.  His Dad's eyes do that too.
- She is insanely musical. The jury is of course out on what path this will look like, but she responds to music in a way that is different from how her talented dancer sister did.  It's like she feels it, you can see songs coursing through her. Now, this could come from her Dad (the kind of guy who can pick up an instrument and teach himself to play it).  But it could have also come from you - your talents and musical family were one of the things that drew me to your profile.
 - I do believe in epigenetics.  There's something in her wide smile that looks a whole lot like mine. Her smile sort of looks like she of takes large bites out of life, a pretty good description of mine as well.
 - Her origin story is completely intertwined to my loss story.  Only through so many losses did I arrive at the moment where I could continue forward without my own genetics.  Turning to a (semi)anonymous donor to have a baby was honestly the closest thing to jumping off a cliff I've even done.
- I can't begin to express the joy that she has brought me from the moment doctors put her in my arms.  She burrowed into me. And eventually, when she could open her eyes, she stared into mine, deeply.  And today, when she burrows into me, and stares into my eyes, she smiles, deeply.
 - She will learn her origin story, and eventually, as she owns it, her sister will too. It won't be sprung on her like a shameful secret, it will unroll as she gets older with more detail.  I am steeling myself for the day when she matter-of-factly tells her friends that she was the product of a donor egg pregnancy. I'm also doing everything I can as a mother to make sure her sister will never ever say some stupid shit to her in a tantrum, like, I'm not her mom.
 - I believe it's my responsibility as her mother to ensure she can have as much information as she needs about her origins.  I have a flash drive with all of the pictures you provided to the clinic, as well as all of your written questionnaires. I keep it with our passports and other important documents and have told her Dad to make sure he knows to drag it out of the house if I'm ever gone and the house is burning down.
 - I am her biological mother.  I carried her, I delivered her, and I nursed her for a year. I am hoping that I am the only woman she ever considers her mother. But I won't erase you, she wouldn't exist without you. That said, I hope - really hope - that you never EVER refer to her as one of your children.
 - I'm hoping that you are at peace with what you did.  I hope the clinic gave you the medical and emotional support you need to move forward with your own life, with happiness and health.

Well, I guess that's pretty much it for now.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Tex Mex for the memories

The last few weeks have felt a bit blurry, like a marathon.  I took the girls to NYC to be with my parents during Christmas, while Viking stayed behind to spend some time with his Dad and brother.

As always my mom and dad were kind and general champs about having so many people in their tiny apartment, but also as always, it was really nice to get back to my comfy - albeit messy- house.  Samantha would NOT SLEEP in her pack and play and since we were sharing a room - with Niblet, and I couldn't let her cry because the neighbors wouldn't take a crying baby very gracfeully, well, it was fucking exhausting.

I spent some quality time with one of my oldest best friends. "She's [Niblet] 2.0!" said my friend R, as we strolled around Bryant Park's holiday market.  "Wait she's even more [Viking] than Niblet was, that smirk she has, those blue eyes..." he continued. Yeah, tell me about it.  It was surreal walking around NYC with a baby in a carrier attached to me.  I used to stare longingly at women in the City during wintertime, with their babies all tight and snug.

When we returned to Baltimore we were as close to saying AAAAHHHHHHH as any tired family could.  And we spent some time with Viking and did a day trip to Winterthur, the DuPont family mansion in Delaware, taking one of Nibble's friends with us.

So here's a thing I've alluded to before: My clinic was in Delaware was chosen because it was the only clinic that was easily accessible to me which offered people seeking healthy eggs semi-anonymous donors.  In other words, she could potentially be contacted by Samantha when Samantha is 18.  I don't spend a lot of time thinking about Samantha's genetics.  I think about it them often as I think of Niblet's I suppose - will Niblet need x, w, z health screenings based on her family history, for example.  I do often look at Samantha's nose with wonder because it's the only clue that she is spring from a different genetic tree.  But this kid is so obviously blended into her paternal line, it's really not something I get hung up about.

But this weekend I really wanted to eat at the Mexican restaurant Viking and I lunched at while I was cycling. I was a little emotional about it, Viking, not so much, I'm not sure it registered the same way. Have I mentioned that all I wanted to eat before and during that pregnancy was Tex-Mex?  Niblet and her friend who joined us completely balked but being the hungry grownups in the car who really wanted fucking enchiladas, we prevailed.  It was a weirdly comforting meal, eating at a place where the whole science-y shebang of Samantha's conception really began.  I know there are DE moms who struggle with their feelings about not having a genetic link to their babies, I guess I got lucky.  While I don't shout our third-party reproduction to the hilltops, I'm really at peace with it.

But the cycling itself is like a dream.  I saw an Instagram picture I posted of myself years ago, taken  at a work retreat I attended when I was self-administering injections on the sly. I was cleaning out my bedroom and found a stash of needles.  Many people know I used IVF to have this baby, I'm completely honest about THAT.  Hell, a few weeks ago a woman in the grocery store who was sharing a bit too much on the checkout line asked me if I came by my baby naturally.  Nope, I had a little help I replied.  (BTW, I told Niblet about this conversation, and my 9YO astutely commented: She probably really needed someone to talk to.  God, my child...)

I will probably be more open about using DE too, but not for some time - I am maintaining a personal rule that it is no one's business until Samantha herself understands it and comes to terms with it.

To be honest, I feel something like survivor's guilt from these experiences.  Sure, it took six years to have this baby.  Sure, I experienced grief and lows from my losses that still punch me in the gut today.  But I have a baby. A beautiful healthy girl who is starting to cruise around the living room and can say "cat" who even charms her very tempestuous tweenaged sister.

I hope beyond hope that I do right by these children that I am insanely fortunate to have.