Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Be Here Now

I had a dream last night that after some whirlwind travel, I arrived home to find home was not my love-filled house with J~, but a 3rd-floor walk-up apartment with A~, my first husband. He was washing dishes when I arrived, and didn't look at me, as distant and unhappy as ever. I tried to pry under his shell, to reason with him, to convince him that it was better to move on than to remain in limbo, afraid of change, investing in a relationship he felt more as a trap than a treasure. For the first time I saw how useless this was, trying to convince him to leave me. If I wanted out, it was up to me to get out.

So ladies and gentlemen, I broke up with him. I didn't sweat over his every trivial complaint (the wrinkle in the bath mat, the smell of my lunch). I didn't put his few loving gestures on a pedestal and blame myself for their scarcity. I didn't worry that I had done something to upset him then struggle to make it up to him. And most of all, I didn't wait until he fell for someone else, cheated and lied. I just said, "Listen, it's been clear to me for a long time that you aren't really sure you want to be with me. I want to be with someone who is sure. And if I can't find that, I'd rather be alone. We need to go our separate ways."

And then I woke up to incessant beeping: my stepson's hyper-loud alarm clock. He couldn't hear it, he was already in the shower. And J~was already downstairs doing his morning yoga. I tried throwing a pillow over my head but then my puppy sat up from her little bed beside mine, soon to start jumping up, biting my hair, whining for me to take her outside. I was still very tired, with the same headache and sore throat that had been plaguing me for days, and a daunting "To Do" list crowding out all other thoughts.

Save this one: Maybe I didn't have the foresight to make such a bold move at the time when it would have spared me pain. Maybe I didn't have the courage then, or the self-esteem. But I have it now. And now is all that counts.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Puppy Love

The drive home

Meeting the neighbors

Learning the ropes

Millie has arrived! She's nestled in my lap as I type this, alternately sleeping and chewing at the zipper of my fleece jacket. She chews on everything. She has kibble-breath. Until we blocked the entrance, she treated our computer room as her own private toilet. And I'm completely in love with her.

I had no idea it would take so much to ready myself for a puppy. I'm not talking about money (four digits and counting), or trips to the pet supply store (six), or long drives to visit with her at the breeder's house (four), or hours pouring over puppy care and training manuals (too many to count), or days spent rearranging furniture to accommodate her presence in the house (two), or hours of work and away-from-home play cleared from my schedule in anticipation of her needs.

For years I've had a space reserved in my heart for all of these exertions, but that space was cluttered with baby dreams. In order to make room for Millie, I had to excavate some mighty disappointments.

Sometimes it feels like I'm a one-track record, going on and on about my grief for all my lost babies, but then, as if passing by a mirror, I catch a glimpse of what I've been through and I'm reminded that it's not insignificant. Anyone reading this who has suffered or is currently suffering such a loss, I hope you are surrounded by people who recognize this fact and honor your feelings. And I wish you many adorable puppies.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


In honor of our anniversary, J~ and I spent a long weekend on Cape Cod, biking, window shopping, hiking the sand dunes, eating big decadent meals, and reminiscing about our early days as a couple. What a strange time that was for us, both reeling from our suddenly broken marriages, thrilled and nervous about the bond quickly forming between us.

The three years since we married are marked with so many milestones, not the least of which was made plain to me this weekend: somewhere along the line, this crazy new romance became a solid partnership. There have been down times of course, our failed pregnancies not the least of them. But the hardships we've faced together are framed by a shared tenderness, which turns them, to a certain degree, into treasured memories.

As I settle into the likelihood that I will not have children of my own, I accept that there will always be a certain amount of sadness in the picture for me. But I also see how that sadness has mellowed over the years. Until menopause – as long as there's hope – there will be vulnerability, but perhaps one day I'll carry only tiny scars where once there was an open wound.

Scanning my inner horizons, I see another emotional trauma yet unhealed, that of my first marriage's end. Time has helped, but I have not managed to close that wound. Perhaps this also has to do with hope, though I'm not sure what I'm hoping for. I certainly wouldn't trade what I have now for a return to that relationship, though it was not without its own beauty, and I appreciate the role it played in my life.

One thing is becoming more and more certain to me with every passing year: Life is short. Too short. It's a tragedy for all of us. The more I accept this, the more apparent it becomes that I can only do my best, assume everyone else is doing their best, grieve the disappointments as they arise but get back to appreciation of the fleeting present moment as quickly as possible. Because life is also pretty darn great.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Millie Vanillie

I have wanted a dog since I was nineteen. Back then, I fantasized about traversing the country vagabond-style with nothing but a backpack on my back, a sleeping bag and tarp my makeshift home. And a loyal and loving dog as protector and companion.

I was brave enough to make the trip, but not brave enough to get the dog.

All these years, I've worried that I wouldn't have the personal and financial resources to properly care for a pet. (No wonder I've been skittish about having children!)

Twenty years later, I am finally taking the leap. I had to get past my family's allergy issues and my own stereotypes about the hypoallergenic breeds (aren't all poodles snooty and, if properly named, called Princess or Fifi?). Apparently not, because this one is named after J~'s Aunt Mildred, who helped raise him, and also after a downright mystical experience I had long ago involving the before-their-time karaoke duo, Milli Vanilli. (I'll tell you the story sometime.)

Meet Millie. She's three weeks old. She comes home to us next month.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Midlife Crisis, chapter 2

The long view.

"It doesn't get any easier," said T~, the tall man swimming, and smiling in the lane next to me. We were at the gym, and I'd just come up for air after a challenging drill. I hadn't met him yet, but it turns out my sage of the swimming pool is a national top-ten champion in his age bracket. But not just any age bracket. T~ is eighty-seven years old. He might just know what he's talking about.

"Oh, why do I bother?" I replied, thinking of so much more than swimming laps.

T~ chuckled gently. "Sometimes I ask myself the same thing."

There's the operative word, folks: Sometimes.

Because sometimes it - life, laps, infertility - feels every inch as hard as it is. Sometimes it feels like mild drudgery, surmountable, but dull. Yet other times, it's really okay. And sometimes, some times, every once in a rare while, everything feels easy and great. You never know quite which you're going to get, but you have to show up to find out. And that is the answer in a nutshell. That is why I bother.

The other day I braved the heat and went for a run, my usual 6-mile loop from my house through my rural neighborhood, thinking all the way: look how lucky I am. I get to live in this beautiful place. I have a loving husband. I have a solid, cozy home, challenging, fulfilling work, health insurance, and not a penny of debt. I have a 39-year-old body that can run six miles with relative ease!

After my run, sweat-drenched, I peeled off my shoes and dove directly into my neighbor's pool. (I have a lovely neighbor who practically begs me to use her pool whenever I like.)

A week later I retraced my steps with a camera, counting my blessings, and documenting them too. A few of those pictures are included here.

Maybe I'm emerging from my midlife crisis. Or maybe this is a temporary reprieve. Whatever it is, I didn't want to let it slip by.

J~ took the week off last week. Perfect timing for ovulation - let's just say we put in our best effort yet.

I'll keep you posted.

Runner's heaven - a long dirt road through the woods.

Great Blue Heron on a beaver's dam - what a lucky day to be carrying a camera!

Joe pye weed in full bloom.

The pool next door - all of the cool, none of the work.

Warmth for the coming winter, one more cord on the way.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Midlife Crisis

When people ask me lately how I'm doing, I tell them, in a light and joking tone – but in all seriousness – that I'm having a midlife crisis.

I'm told a midlife crisis should entail flashy distraction: an extramarital affair, a shiny new sports car. In my case, there are long bicycle rides, the most recent of which was undertaken alone on the Fourth of July, 100+ miles of winding Connecticut roads from my home to my mother's where I met up with family and friends and celebrated the holiday, old school. (Literally - we went to see fireworks at my old high school.) The whole day was a pleasure.

That's the thing about midlife crises, they aren't straight-out despair and depression. There is something vigorous in them, a reclaiming of life's joy, a new-found intolerance of years-long low-level misery.

As long as I'm exercising, or with loved ones, I'm fine.

The down part comes only after several hours alone, during my solitary work days. That's when I start to sink. For the past two months, I've felt downright miserable a good deal of the time.

On the bright side (I know this will sound strange) I'm doing a lot of crying.

What's bright about this? The stuff I'm crying about is stuff I have needed to cry about for years: childhood loneliness and disappointments, dashed hopes, all the miscarriages, the divorce, the fact that I felt so poorly about myself that a marriage to someone who I knew wasn't deep-down sure he wanted to be with me felt like the best I could expect out of life, that such a thing, not so long ago, actually felt like good luck.

It's hard work, all this crying. I often feel feverish beforehand, heachachy, and afraid. The tears come in heavy, sweaty, snotty, guttural sobs.

I'm not doing this alone. I have counseling partners (we trade time in counselor and client roles, sometimes on the phone, sometimes in-person, taking turns caring and listening and handing each other tissues, trusting that this emotional expression is the path to healing). Sometimes I cry with J~. After each round, I feel lighter, better.

I love this midlife crisis, actually. I love that I can no longer tolerate a dull, low-level misery, that I can no longer mask it with a trumped up enthusiasm for a long list of chores. I love the sense that old limitations are lifting away, that slowly, subtly, I'm moving my life to higher ground. I feel brave.

I also have new thoughts about pregnancy, and the not-yet resolved Babies or Not question. More on that soon...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Letting Go. Or Not.

I've been ruminating on questions raised by my last post, namely, have I truly given up on pregnancy, and if not, why not continue to pursue answers? Why risk another miscarriage?

Such good questions, such simple questions. I've been soul-searching for weeks.

This is what I've figured out so far:

No, I haven't yet given up, not fully anyway, in spite of my fervent wish to the contrary. There is still a glimmer of hope, like an ember in an otherwise dying fire. Add a little kindling – a well-timed cycle, pronounced premenstrual symptoms, a bunny in the front yard – and the whole thing is ablaze again.

But kindling is easy to come by. There are flare-ups every month. I find the prospect of stoking and tending the fire, gathering the heavy logs of sustained desire and a pursuit of purposeful intervention, utterly overwhelming. Why? Well, for one, the hope simply isn't very strong. I am discouraged by the idea that all that work and heartache could be for naught.

And then there is the shame. Somehow I feel foolish still longing for a baby after all these years. I suppose I've felt foolish all along, so strongly have I absorbed the message that smart, talented, interesting women have more important things to do than make babies. Or if they do make babies, and raise children, they do so with ease and only peripheral attention, akin to a trip to the bathroom in the midst of writing a fascinating dissertation. It's a terrible, sexist notion, one I know is patently invalid, but I live in a sexist culture, and in spite of myself, I've absorbed and internalized a measure of this thinking. It creeps in when I least expect it and requires concentration to banish.

And then there's the issue of pursuing effective medical help. I don't trust doctors easily. I mustered the courage to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist at one point, J~ and I went together. The doctor leaned way back in his chair and spoke in a relaxed, weary tone, going on about how underfunded research is in this field and how nobody really knows anything, reinforcing my feeling that it's all a crap shoot anyway.

I was relieved and pleased with this doctor at the time, so afraid was I of a salesman's fake smile and hucksterish enthusiasm, pushing me toward interventions that made me uncomfortable. Just sign on the dotted line and hand me your life savings, please. Now lie still on the table and we'll see if we can get to the bottom of this.

But then I started wondering maybe if this jaded-seeming doctor would have treated me differently if J~ and I were younger, if I seemed a more promising candidate. A letter came from the practice, two weeks after our appointment, announcing this doctor's decision to retire.

I never followed up.

I haven't tried another doctor.

J~ and I are talking about going to someone else, maybe someone recommended to me on this blog. The ball is in my court.

I keep putting it off.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day Again

In the front yard the other day - she's back, daintily nibbling violets and dandelions. (If you were reading this blog last spring, you might remember this visitor, nicknamed Henrietta, and the symbolism I ascribed to her then.)

In the neighborhood, a barred owl – tan and white with great yellow eyes, big as a (fat) cat (we call it Hootie) – implores each evening and morning: Who cooks for you? Who cooks for yoooou? I got a good long look at him (her?) perched on a log not eight feet away, but no camera on me at the time, alas.

Biking 90-ish miles on the weekends lately, and a little more during the week. Loving it.

All dressed and ready to meet riding companions yesterday morning, I burst into tears when it hit me: it's Mother's Day.

This is still so new, this letting go of the pursuit of motherhood. I'm not sure that I have let go completely. Not yet anyway. But I'm headed in that direction. I'm thirty-nine now, after all, and though I'm not preventing, I'm no longer trying to conceive, nor am I pursuing answers anymore, or super-charge health cures, in regard to my many miscarriages. Another Mother's Day passing.

So I cried for a minute, then kissed my very sweet and supportive husband, strapped on my helmet, and rode off into the bright windy morning.

Friday, April 24, 2009


I received an email this morning from Lisa Rosenzweig, a Columbia University doctoral student in Counseling Psychology. She is researching the miscarriage experience. Have you had a miscarriage in the past six months? You may want to consider participating in her survey. If you have questions (like for instance, why limit to just the last six months?) you can email her directly.

Here's her text:

Research Opportunity

Everyone has a unique experience with miscarriage and many find help and support through websites like this one. Unfortunately, little is known about women's experiences of support and how this may affect responses to miscarriage, and so I invite you to participate in my dissertation research study examining women’s experiences following a miscarriage. Although there is no direct benefit to you, survey results may help healthcare providers better understand and meet the needs of women following miscarriage. This online survey takes approximately 15-20 minutes and is open to women who have miscarried a wanted pregnancy in the previous 6 months who are 18 years of age or older, living in the United States, and involved in a relationship with a significant other. Participants are eligible for a raffle for a $50 American Express gift certificate. For more information, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Lisa Rosenzweig
Teachers College

Friday, April 17, 2009

Turning Over a New Leaf

After so many years of orienting my life around where I am in my menstrual cycle, it is both liberating and sad to throw in the towel. Liberating most of the time. But then I stumble into a pocket of sad. I suppose it will be like this for a while.

After a long two weeks of marathon work, I packed my cameras and a journal and took a leisurely afternoon hike yesterday. These photos are (part of) the result. FYI - the black background you see in some of them is my shirt.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Sometimes the harvest just keeps on coming:

A successful solo art show in the gallery.

A request to make an appearance on a popular radio show - tomorrow morning (details here).

Finally opened my Etsy shop.

Just landed a design account three times bigger than any I've ever had.

In today's mail - a book with my writing in it: Who's Your Mama?: The Unsung Voices of Women and Mothers

I had better go to bed before I think of anything else!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Or Not.

See more of my art >>


9:15 am: Positive home pregnancy test. It's a faint second line, but it's really there. I stare and stare. A sweat breaks across my lower back. I leave a message on J~'s cell:

I want to talk to you... about... something.

9:30 - 10:30 am: I post a photo of the test on this blog. I have some happiness, some trepidation about the demands of parenthood. Though I know it may very well happen, I'm surprised to note that I'm not worried about miscarriage.

So why this nervous shaking in my thighs?

10:30 am: J~ returns my call and I tell him the news. Our conversation is guarded – upbeat, but not ecstatic.

11 am: It's decided - I will ride with my bike club on Saturday, despite the cold I'm fighting, despite the pregnancy. I find myself having an imaginary conversation with an imaginary Devil's Advocate:

D.A.: With your history, I'm surprised you don't just crawl into bed and stay there for the next nine months.

ME: No way. I don't want it that bad.

My response catches me off guard. I don't?

4 pm: I have not veered from my original plans for the day – work (client design stuff, plus I'm preparing for an art show, only two weeks away and still lots to do), a walk, and a drive to the bike shop to pay for my new bicycle.

This is no small purchase. I've resisted for a year, unsure of my commitment to the sport, reasoning that if I were to get pregnant again, I would not be riding much. Last year, a fancy new bicycle seemed like a leap of faith in the wrong direction. But a year later I'm still riding, still loving it. And another pregnancy has not emerged.

Until today, of course.

Isn't this the way it always goes in the movies?

Okay, now I'm getting a little excited.

4:30 pm: I plunk my credit card down on the counter along with a patch kit, a spare inner tube, a few tools and accessories. The shopkeeper is chatting with her friend, commiserating about how, with young children, they no longer find the time to ride like they once did.

I resist the urge to blurt that I am pregnant, resist the pull to think about what they are saying. Resist also the desire to add an expensive form-fitting windbreaker to my purchases.

5:30 pm: Home again, I do another HPT, anxious to see a darker line. But it's just the opposite, fainter than the first test, almost nonexistent.

I feel completely deflated.


7 am: another HPT: Negative this time, no doubt about it. Damn.

9:30 am: Bleeding. And to think - my period wasn't even due until Sunday! If I hadn't done the test, I never would've known an egg had been fertilized. Bum egg, bum sperm, bum uterus. Who knows.

10:30 am: pick up the co-op order. I look at all the other co-op members. It feels strange, and sad, that no one knows.

1 pm: 40-mile bike ride with my club. Feeling happy.

It makes me nervous that I'm happy.

Another 30 miles with the club followed by a two-hour nap on the couch. Still feeling happy. I can't make heads or tails of it.


I'm troubled that I don't seem to have any lingering feelings about this miscarriage. I admit to K~, my friend and counselor, I may be more excited about my work and riding my bike at this point then I am about getting pregnant.

And then it hits me, and I start to cry.

It's been a long, hard road. It didn't lead where I had hoped it would lead. This was not the goal. I did not want to find myself here. But it's happened, and there's nothing to be done.

I've moved on.

Friday, March 20, 2009

HO. LY. C. R. A. P.

It's faint. But it's there:

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Recap and Reprise

Past and Future Ghosts, 11 x 17" gouache and ink on paper.
This piece will appear in an art show upcoming at Windham Arts Collaborative, in Willimatic, CT. If you're in the area, come to the opening reception on Friday, April 3rd. I'd love to see you! (Details here)

I began this blog shortly after my second miscarriage, which took place on a Wednesday night in November, 2005. I was at work when I knew for certain.

I worked as an abortion counselor.

I left the clinic early that evening, heading home to my hot water bottle and an empty apartment. (My husband, A~, was away on business.) Luckily, this loss was easier than the first - quicker, less painful. I could handle it on my own. The grief that followed was a hard but familiar terrain.

Shortly thereafter, my marriage shattered. After more than a decade together, it was a sudden and devastating break. I felt like I'd been run over by a truck: nauseous and heartsick and unable to breathe properly for months. At the same time, I felt freed of a great weight. A life I thought I could never endure (without A~) became a life full of promise. I wrote all about it on these virtual pages.

During this time, I was introduced to J~, who was struggling with a very similar life crisis. Three years (and, sadly, two more miscarriages) have come and gone. J~ and I are married - happily, to say the least. B~, my stepson, now in high school, is thriving.

Babies or not? It's still an open question, though it burns less urgently than it did when I began discussing it here.

Babies or not, life is good.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Fence, the Grass, and the Color Green

Remembering my summer garden...

It's been five years, four miscarriages, two partners, and now a full year without a pregnancy since I began this pursuit of motherhood in earnest. It seems to me that the window for children to come into the world through my body is beginning to close. If it hasn't closed already.

Okay, I'll admit it. I've been crying my eyes out over this lately.

An old friend, younger than I, wrote to update me on her own infertility journey, which includes acupuncture, over a year of drugs, surgery (for endometriosis), IUIs (five of them), and now IVF. Not to mention the 3-hour commute to her RE's office.

I have nothing but respect and admiration and the highest hopes that her dedication will pay off.

But I ask myself: why am I not driven to follow a similar path?

This is not a new question. I revisit it all the time.

Is it because I am so easily overwhelmed by the medical world? Or is it because, in spite of my very sincere sadness, the desire to be a mother just isn't as strong in me as it is for some?

Though Number One on my wish list is an effortless pregnancy followed by a healthy child, Number Two is not a hard-won pregnancy, even if it came with a healthy-child guarantee.


Next on my list is simply to let it go. Even if that means crying my eyes out on occasion.

Because when I'm not crying, there is time to make more art, read more good books, take more long walks, to take advantage of the time remaining in this very short life to love the people who are already around me.

Then again, I'm sure if I had that hard-won child, I would say every expense, every struggle was worth it. I'm sure the grass on that side of the fence would be very green.

I guess I'm gambling that if I keep watering the lawn of right here and now, I'll be okay with the grass under my feet.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Magical Thinking

(I've been obsessed with designing patterns lately. See more here.)

I'm no longer sick. Thanks goodness.

My naturopath said I don't have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), just PCO (polycystic ovaries). What is the significance of this distinction? I can't say that I know. I arrived at her office on January 9th with J~ in tow, ready to get the lowdown, but the appointment was railroaded by a misunderstanding.

In a nutshell: Over the phone, while I was sick, she told me to eat only vegetables and broth. I did not understand that she meant this recommendation only until I felt better. She had also mentioned seeing my ultrasound report, and that I had PCOS, which hit me hard. I thought the food guidelines related to this diagnosis. I wanted to ask questions. She assured me we would talk about it at my appointment.

But we never got that far. Instead, after I confessed that I was unsure about what to eat, and feeling hungry and lightheaded, she gave me a brief lecture on how I need to "take responsibility" for my diet, eat every two hours, and have protein at every meal. She then proceeded to write out a food chart for me, right down to the breakast-snack-lunch-snack-dinner-snack detail. Just give me the guidelines, I tried to argue, I don't need a meal plan, but she was convinced this was necessary. In the end, there wasn't time to discuss the ultrasound.

I left that appointment feeling distressed and angry. I've been following a strictly limited diet for half a year now, and it has not been exactly easy. I've been proud of how well I've done. The last thing I want or need is a prescription for every morsel I put into my mouth. Or a doctor-patient relationship that feels like being sent to the principal's office.

I've been in a bit of a tailspin ever since.

It doesn't help that the freezer broke down at my local food co-op and they gave away all the ice cream - just as I arrived at the store.

In her moving memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking Joan Didion tells of how, after her husband's sudden death, she found refuge in the belief that he would one day return — if only she kept the way open for him. She held onto a single pair of his shoes, for instance, not for sentimental reasons, as she allowed others to think, but because he'd need them when he came back.

I can relate.

I've been thinking that if I am a very good girl and do exactly what the doctor tells me to do, if I eat exactly the right foods and get exactly the right amount of rest and exercise, if I do meaningful work and cross a few big projects off my lifetime To Do list, and then, finally, if I am so happy and fulfilled that I stopped trying altogether, I will get to have a baby after all.

I've been thinking this way for five years.

I always assumed, however, that if I still hadn't had a child by age 38, I would throw in the towel. I figured that by then I'd feel sick of all the disappointment, and ready to move on. What a relief it would be to quit wondering half of every month if I might be knocked up. Like right now, for instance - my breasts are uncommonly tender. I keep thinking I might be pregnant, but I need to wait another week before I can know for sure.

I hate the question mark lurking in the back of my mind, and yet I cling to it.

I turn 39 in six weeks.