Thursday, March 20, 2008


We saw her for the first time on a rainy day two weekends back. Having just completed a conversation in which we mourned our reproductive failures and recommitted ourselves to the cause, J~ and I looked out the window and there she was, white as snow, big as a cat, and snacking happily on our sodden lawn. J~ smiled at me. "A fertility sign," he said, but I was already smiling and thinking the same thing.

And then we went to bed.

When we got up after an hour or so, the rabbit was still in the yard. We declared it female, and dubbed her Henrietta.

She came back a few days later. Thrilled, I ran for my camera.

Later, a neighbor stopped by. Our fertility symbol, she informed me, is her escaped pet. Female, yes, not Henrietta but Megan, and—get this—pregnant. For rabbits, gestation takes only twenty-eight days. There will be babies very soon.

It made me very optimistic to hear all this.

So much so that I did two pregnancy tests this month, holding my breath for the good news. Where a second blue line should have appeared, no matter how intently I stared, no matter how good the light, there was nothing but the snowiest Henrietta/Megan-white.

And then I got my period.

By the way, the experimental (ivy league, no less) graduate program I applied to admits one student, just one, each year. I got my letter on Monday: I am not the one. But I am one of four on an unranked list of alternates, in case that one lucky candidate declines. I'll know in a month.

I'm happy to be waitlisted, especially since I've been on the fence about school. (Lately, all I want to do is work, clean my house, plant my garden, brew herbal teas, write in my journal, and take long walks with friends. Hell, I'm actually looking forward to doing my taxes!) Besides, I can handle waiting. I know all about limbo. I can appreciate a "maybe next month." I know that drill.

It is so much preferable to an unequivocal No. Not ever. Never gonna happen.

The waiting list is a blessing. Menstruation is a blessing. Neither will last for ever.

Today I embrace the gift of possibility.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Time Capsule #6: Moving On, Once Again

This is the final post in a series of six I held back out of concern that the content might impact a graduate school admissions decision. (The verdict is in, by the way. Tune in again soon for the latest.)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Sometimes I go about in
pity for myself, and all
the while, a great wind
carries me across the sky.
-- Ojibwe Saying

J~ came home from work early Thursday, brought me food, tea, glasses of water, refills for my hot water bottle. He stayed home Friday, too, and did more of the same. Meanwhile, I lay on the couch. Surfed the web. Outfitted my new blog with a host of links. Solidified my decision not to apply to any more graduate schools, at least not this year, and contended with cramping and bleeding much more like a heavy period than last time's full-blown labor.

On Friday afternoon, J~ picked up B~ for the weekend, and Saturday, still tired, but glad to be recovering, I accompanied the two of them, along with two of B~'s friends, on an outing for lunch and ice skating in Providence. Physically, I wasn't sure I was going to be up for the trip. Emotionally, however, I was prepared to enjoy the company of three thirteen-year-old boys, and to appreciate the fact that I have such an easy opportunity to have them in my life.

And I did appreciate them, their earnest desire to be cool, their sweet pubescent awkwardness, the way they flop so smoothly back and forth over the line between budding adult sarcasm and sincerity, and childish play.

But home again, exhausted, and quickly settled in bed, I confessed to J~ that it had taken some effort for me to open to the gift of these boys. It meant also being open to the reality of what I don't have, what I very well might never have. I cried for a few minutes in my beloved's arms, and felt grateful again, as I do so very often, for all the blessings in my life.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Time Capsule #5: The End

This post is fifth in a series of six posts that I held back temporarily, so as to prevent them from impacting a graduate school admissions decision. I've been told the decision would arrive this week. Perhaps today...

January 1, 2008 1 pm

It's over. How could it not be over? I discovered this morning that I am bleeding. Red red blood. A steady drip.

My period is just ten days late. I don't expect to go through anything close to labor this time, thank goodness, though I'm keeping a hot water bottle close at hand.

I'm thankful that this didn't drag out for a month, two months, four. I'm grateful that J~ will be coming home early from work today, to be with me. I have mixed feelings about telling my family – I'd been hoping for the opportunity to share unequivocal good news, but now it seems like stale, old, rotten bad news. Sharing it now seems like casually dropping a bomb. Nothing can be done or said to fix the situation. When I imagine speaking to them, I feel awkwardly mute, as if I have a plastic egg in my mouth. I could lay the information at their feet some other way, but what do I expect them to do with it? Do I really want to hear, yet again, "Oh, Amy, I'm so sorry"? Wouldn't that break my heart all the more?

I'm glad I haven't made any rash moves with my graduate school applications, though the two conflicted inner-selves I sent off to work it out over a plate of imaginary waffles are still sitting at that imaginary table. The waffles are long gone, the sticky plates pushed aside. They seem to be making progress – their identical heads bent together as they scribble out lists of pros and cons, make charts of my long- and short-term goals, mindmap my dreams. They offer this report:

Latest thinking — I may not apply to any more schools. The application to my favorite program is done. If I don't get accepted there, I may be brave and give myself another year of focused work on my freelance career, on being a writer and artist in my own right, before I consider investing time and energy into any graduate program that feels like a back-up plan.

One thing's for certain: I get the day off from major decisions of any kind today.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Time Capsule #4: Waffling

This post is fourth in a series of six that I held back temporarily, so as to prevent them from impacting a graduate school admissions decision. The decision has been made, the letter and its yes or no verdict is on its way. In fact, it may be in my mailbox right now.

January 1, 2008

On Sunday mornings, my husband makes waffles. It used to be pancakes, then buckwheat pancakes, then gluten-free buckwheat pancakes. In the summer, he started adding blueberries, in the fall, bananas. These days, he's graduated to cinnamon-apple-walnut Belgian waffles (still gluten-free, for my sake), served with maple syrup, almond butter, blackstrap molasses, bananas, and yogurt. B~ and I are loving it.

But this is not a post about waffles. It's a post about waffling.

I'm waffling.

Ever since this pregnancy came along, it's been hard to think about graduate school. Something shifted in me, and even through moments of certainty that the pregnancy would be short-lived, I haven't been able to shift back. It's unfortunate, since only one of my intended five applications is done. The rest are due by the end of the month, and there's tons of work ahead of me. I keep giving myself pep-talks about how much better I'll feel with options lined up for the fall, just in case. But the more I push myself, the more I suddenly need a snack.

In fact, all I really want to do is gather my journal, my laptop, a telephone, and a big pile of books and magazines, and crawl into bed for a month. I imagine I'd get up for an occasional walk, bath, bowl of cereal or soup or cup of tea, but other than that, I'd allow myself to lounge, read, dream...

I'm of two minds. One says, Let go, pamper yourself. Trust what feels right. Life is unpredictable. Stop trying to control it. The other is nervous, shrill, but also big-hearted, trying to take care of the future-me in the best way she knows how, reminding, in her best coaxing tone, that just a week or two ago I was excited about graduate school, about building my professional identity.

The me that contains them both has no solution, no conclusion, and no momentum in either direction. The truth is, I'm scared. There's only one thing to do in circumstances like this: I'm going to have to sleep on it. In my dreams tonight, I'll sit the two sides of myself down in front of a stack of J~'s best waffles with all the fixings and let them work it out on their own.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Time Capsule #3: Embracing Uncertainty

This post is third in a series of six that I held back temporarily, so as to prevent them from impacting a graduate school admissions decision. The decision has been made, the letter is on its way. I don't know the verdict.

December 31, 2007

I cried yesterday admitting to J~, admitting to myself, that as much as I would like to be certain of the fate of this pregnancy, I simply do not know. I keep telling him, telling myself, telling YOU, that I know it's all over. It feels like this is true – my pregnancy symptoms seems to be fading – but really, I can't say for sure. Which means I have hope.

Shouldn't this feel like good news? But I hate hope right now, I hate it's teasing little dance in the back of my mind. I hate fantasizing that all will turn out amazingly, miraculously, fine. I picture myself completing graduate school applications without any true bleeding, but without a whiff of nausea or breast tenderness either – in other words, without distraction. I imagine that as soon as I pop the last manila envelope in the mail, the pregnancy signs will simply, suddenly, kick in. I'll be amazed and surprised and happy.

But I always come down out of that fantasy into remembering how sure I felt that it was over, how I've never, in all my pregnancies, had that feeling and been proven wrong. And then I feel sad all over again.

Last night, after dropping B~ with his mom for the last few days of his winter break, J~ and I went discount-shopping, luxuriating in the time alone together. We bought socks for each of us, some much-needed drinking glasses, and a new colander to replace our old, falling-apart one, then took ourselves out for samosas and curry. We had a surprisingly nice time, under the circumstances, then came home to Christmas cookie leftovers for dessert, a fire in the wood stove, and the pleasure of each other's company.

Contemplating the possibility of another miscarriage, I said to J~, "Maybe the gods want to give us the gift of more time for just the two of us, before we rush into parenthood."

"I never expected we'd get so much time to ourselves," he mused. "I thought B~ would be here until he graduates high school. And I thought we'd have a child together very quickly." He was smiling as he said this, both sad and appreciative. We watched an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm on my laptop, which made us laugh, and then we kissed. And then we did things we wouldn't have done if there were children in the house, and it was lovely.

And then it hit me: in spite of everything, or maybe because of everything, I really do like my life.

Monday, March 10, 2008


(There are two posts today - see previous entry for Time Capsule post #2)

When I conceived pregnancy #4, my friend and neighbor, S~, conceived at the same time. She didn't tell me she was pregnant until after I'd miscarried, and I cried receiving the news. I love S~ a lot, and was sad we wouldn't get to be pregnant together, sad to be so close and yet at such a distance from an experience I wanted so badly, sad that I might never see a new life come into the world.

I've been struck, occasionally, as S~'s pregnancy has progressed, by repeat waves of sadness. In the last few days, as S~ has gradually moved into labor, this has been especially true. Imagining the intense and joyous scene about to unfold at her house (she was planning a home-birth), it was easy to picture the same scene in my own home. I felt supremely sad.

S~ called yesterday afternoon. "Would you like to come over for tea?" She was having intermittent contractions, needing some female support. I gathered myself, trying not to get too excited – I doubted I'd get to be present for the birth, but I knew it was a possibility.

At first I just sat with S~, drank hot maple sap (her husband was boiling it outside, making maple syrup). I timed contractions, held her hand, encouraged her to talk through her fears, and as things progressed, I coached her through each intensifying wave. "You're on top of it," I chanted, "you're doing this." and then, between contractions, soothing, "good, good, breathe, relax your shoulders." I called her husband inside to fill the birthing tub and look after their two children. He showered and called the midwife. Another woman friend arrived, and later, the midwife and her assistant. "Don't leave my side, Amy," S~ told me repeatedly, "no matter what. I need you."

And so, that's where I was when a new baby boy came into the world, umbilical cord wrapped tightly under one arm and around his neck. He was blue, and entirely limp.

The midwife's assistant moved swiftly to gather instruments, turn on her oxygen tank, while the midwife spun the baby's slack body upside-down on her arm to administer the Heimlich maneuver, tapping on his tiny back to clear his breathing passages.

I stood by, holding S~. I was worried, but S~ was calm. "You're okay," she cooed to her baby, "Mama's here," as the midwife clamped her mouth over his dark face. The midwife breathed into him, then rubbed his chest. Gradually, color rippled into his small body, a red flush emanating from his chest. He opened his tiny mouth and cried.

And later, so did I.

Time Capsule #2: Spotting

This post was written on December 29th, 2007, four days after my most recent positive pregnancy test. (See previous entry for Time Capsule #1)

I haven't told many people in my life about this pregnancy. "It's too precarious," I said to J~. "I'm not telling anyone with whom I wouldn't want to discuss another miscarriage. I don't want to have to manage everybody's feelings about it."

But then again, I also had the urge to blurt the news all over the place. I wanted to do happy dances with everyone who would be excited for me. I wanted to buy herbal "Pregnancy Tea" at the food co-op and exchange knowing smiles with the cashier. I wanted to whisper the news into my mother's ear the day after Christmas, when she stood beside me in the kitchen, in full view of the rest of our family. Most of all, I wanted to have that trust that so many women get to have, that a positive pregnancy test means (all smiles) "We're going to have a baby!"

But I don't get to have that kind of blind optimism. And so, of course, I restrained myself.

I did tell four people. Now it feels like four too many.

Three days ago there was a twinge of nausea. Two days ago, a smidge of a twinge. And yesterday, just the barest hint of a smidge of a twinge.

This morning I am spotting.

I know, I know, many of you would rush to encourage me not to read too much into any of these early signs. But I've been through this before, and I trust my gut, which tells me: no dice.

Yes, sure, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'll be spared the distracting maternal fantasies while I slave away at my remaining graduate school applications. Maybe I'll emerge from the very busy month ahead bleary-eyed, blinking against the bright light of day, and still full-tilt pregnant.

Then again, maybe not. (Probably not?)

In conclusion, for now: if I'm going to lose this pregnancy, hopefully it will all be over soon.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Cats out of Bags

Nobody knows for sure, but that expression – don't let the cat out of the bag – is said to derive from the old market fraud of substituting a cat for a pig. I suppose it's a swindler's proverb, and a very valuable one at that, since it applies to anyone with a secret to keep.

Why do I mention it? Because I, dear reader, in an attempt to keep my very public private life from influencing a graduate school admissions decision, owe a few cats their freedom. I don't yet know if I've been accepted at the school of my choice (more on that later) but I do know the decision has been made, and the letter will be in the mail to me today or Monday.

In the meantime, There are five blog posts, dating back to December 27th, 2007 (ten weeks ago) that I've kept under wraps.

So, without further ado, I'll begin at the beginning:

Time Capsule #1: Here We Go Again
December 27, 2007

This is how it went down: My period was due on Christmas day or the day after. I did a pregnancy test on December twenty-third. It was negative. J~ and I went to sleep, breathing easy. After all, I am applying to graduate schools now, and he is gearing up to enroll in a yoga teacher training program. Our lives are expanding and moving on.

But an hour later, I was up again to pee, and I took another look at the test. There was an unmistakable but very faint second pink line. When I returned to bed, I told J~, who smiled without opening his eyes. "I don't know what it means," I cautioned. "You're not supposed to read the test after so much time has passed." In the morning, I felt crampy again. J~ looked at the test. The second line was gone.

The only other test in the house was one of those stupid electronic ones which I don't trust, with the blinking digital read-out, but I did it anyway: "Not Pregnant" it insisted. I tried to let go of what, at this point, seemed like silly, false hope. But by midday, my cramps had subsided, and I found myself calling J~ at work to ask that he make a stop at the drug store and pick up another two-pack of pregnancy tests. "Just in case." And, "Nothing fancy please."

When I woke up Christmas morning, I felt crampy again. I resisted the urge to do a test.

By bedtime, I still wasn't bleeding, but was convinced I would be by morning. J~ climbed into bed. "Just to clear the air," I told him, as I broke into the new pack of pregnancy tests and made one last trip to the bathroom. I brought the undeveloped test back to bed. We watched two lines, blue this time, rather than pink, develop. We stared in disbelief. We stared at each other and shook our heads. We laughed. We looked at the test again, just to be sure.

Yup. I'm pregnant. Again.

This is my fifth pregnancy. This is my fifth chance. It feels like a bonus round. It feels extra-lucky. Especially because I am so ready now to let go of it entirely. We both are.

I can't broadcast the news yet because I know how slim the chances are. I can't jeopardize my graduate school applications. If I don't get accepted somewhere, I don't want to be wondering: Is it because they know I'm pregnant? And if the pregnancy doesn't stick, I need that alternative plan in the works. Life must go on, one way or the other.

For now, this post will go into the "Drafts" folder, where I'm sure it will soon be accompanied by more updates on pregnancy number five. In a couple months, when all the applications are done and I've heard back from the schools, when I'm either still pregnant, or no longer pregnant, or somewhere in between, I'll share this little time capsule with all of you. In the meantime, all I can say is this: Wow. And this: Here we go again.