Thursday, December 30, 2010

I Thought You Were Smuggling Something Under There!*

Or, How I Came to be 30 Weeks Pregnant

Last Wednesday afternoon, Matt and I got to see the bean for the first time since our 18-week ultrasound. Same drill as before: we spend a few minutes in overwhelming waiting area, get progressively more nervous while waiting and staring at other mothers-to-be, we walk into the dark ultrasound room and make stupid small talk with the ultrasound tech while I climb up onto table and pull down the elastic "waist" of my maternity pants. I forget that the ultrasound tech is going to squirt jelly on my tummy and I gasp when she does, and then I turn towards the screen because there! right there! is that perfect little heartbeat.

And then I smile and cry a little and relax, finally, because the tech is saying things like, "there are the four chambers of the heart," and "there are the kidneys," and "look at those cute feet."

All of a sudden, time slows down and it's just me and Matt and our bean, suspended in that dark cocoon of a room, like we're all swimming around on that black screen while someone waves a magic wand over us so that we're projected on some other, different screen, and larger than life.

The bean looks and feels like a real little person now. It moves around during the day, making my belly and abdomen twitch. If you were watching me at all times, you would occasionally see me frown as the bean pressed on my bladder or stuck its little fist up and under my ribs, like it's trying to do right now.

We had a chance to find out if we were having a boy bean or a girl bean and debated the option right up until the very moment when the radiologist matter-of-factly asked us if we wanted to know the gender. It is an important detail that the radiologist was matter-of-fact; radiologists seem to never think about the patient attached to the magic wand, and speak only in abrupt, short sentences. "Let's wait," I said at the very last moment, and as the radiologist casually tossed some construction-paper-masquerading-as-tissues in my direction and walked out of the room, Matt smiled at me and said, "fine by me."

So we don't know whether it's a boy bean or a girl bean, only that it's definitely a bean. With a heartbeat, and a spine, and a bladder, and more or less Matt's nose.

I can't believe that there are only 9 weeks left in this pregnancy. It's 9 very important weeks, I know, but the fact that I'm almost 31 weeks pregnant means that I'm 3/4 of the way through the whole thing. Even though I know that time will slow down in these next 9 weeks, much like it sped up during the past 9, there is a part of me that just can't even wrap my head around this final home stretch and is eager for it to slow down. I know I will rue the day that I wrote this, probably sometime around March 16th, when I will read this post and think, "dummy, you tempted karma and basically asked for this to happen!" But right now, I want to freeze the moment, like a picture I could print out from the ultrasound machine, and carry it around with me.

I am 31 weeks pregnant. I am okay. Matt is okay. The bean is head down and ready to go, organs formed, Matt-like nose ready, arms waving and moving so much that it's almost impossible to snap its photograph.

It seems like forever ago that I first found out that I was pregnant. But it was 31 weeks, just over 6 months ago, and yet almost an entire lifetime. And then in 9 (probably 10) weeks from now, the bean will be more than ready, it will be HERE. I cannot put into words how amazing this feels for me, how far it feels like I've come. So I will say this instead: my arms get tingly when I think about holding it, my chest feels tight when I think about kissing its little head, and I am excited and nervous and scared and thrilled that life is actually about to become larger than life.

*The title of this post refers to something our hostess said when she seated us at a table last night. As I was taking off my coat to sit down, she said, "I thought you were smuggling something under there! Congratulations!" And it made me laugh out loud. Smuggling, indeed.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Twenty Years in the Making

I was sitting in my oncologist's office last Friday, waiting for her to come in and give me my routine exam, when it occurred to me that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer 20 years ago. The fact stunned me, and I sat there on the exam room table, looking out at the tops of the buildings I could see from the 4th-floor room, marveling at the fact of those 20 years.

My doctor pronounced my breasts, "perfect" and my belly "so cute," and scheduled me for another routine appointment in six months. "Bring the baby!," she called as I was finalizing the details of the appointment. And I smiled at her, because it's nice that she wants to meet the baby, nice that she would be interested in knowing what the bump turns out to be.

Twenty years ago, my mother's initial instinct was to keep me shielded from her cancer. I knew about it, but in a very peripheral way. I clearly remember that she wrote a letter my teachers explaining what was going on at home, and I will never forget the look on Mr. Deluca's face when he read that letter. I remember going to the wig store to pick out a wig that matched her tight brown curls, and I remember that was terrified that the wig would fly off when she was lifted up on a chair at my Bat Mitzvah. But I remember these things in a way that is fuzzy and distant, and not just because it was 20 years ago. You see, she wanted me to be able to erase these memories, to move on with my life as though they didn't have to be part of it. She wanted to try to shield me. I know this for two reasons: one, there are other memories from the same time in my life which my mother crystallized for me, carved into stone and handed back to me wrapped in a bow. And two, with just three months until I become a mother, it occurs to me that this is part of what it means to be a parent, that you pick and choose those things from which you incorporate or shield your children, to the best of your ability, anyway.

When I was a month shy of my 24th birthday, just barely on the cusp of my first year of law school, I found a lump in my right breast. The fear I felt that day is indescribable. In fact, when I think about the way that I felt the night I first discovered that something hard and foreign was residing inside my body, I associate it with the color white, which only makes sense if you know that I often associated strong emotions with colors. White is fear or panic, and when I think about having cancer, I feel the color white with every fiber of my being.

The biopsy showed that the lump was nothing to be overly concerned about, but its discovery opened up a whole pandora's box of white. To mitigate this, I was told to get regular check-ups by a breast specialist, something I have more or less avoided, despite two additional breast lump scares, until we moved to Boston. It was here that I decided to take control of my fear, that I determined to overcome the waves of white, and talk to an oncologist who would finally assess my cancer risk.

It is no secret that my single greatest fear is having a child that I do not get to know, of raising this baby until she is 15 or he is 24 and then vanishing from the world. Yes, I have certainly heard that one could get hit by a bus at any moment, but this statement has never worked to calm me and instead reminds me that I should be smart enough to look both ways before crossing the goddamn street. No, for me, the white hot fear is cancer, not rogue buses.

While I was sitting in my oncologist's office on Friday, I realized that try as she might, my mother wasn't successful in shielding me from anything. That's partly because genetics betrayed her and I'm considered high risk for breast cancer, but it's also because in some respects, by working to shield me from the cancer mess, she made me more curious and more afraid. I have spent 20 years worrying that I will get cancer and leave young children behind when I die. I am about to have a young child. In the past 20 years, despite all of the races and the pink ribbons, despite the advances in chemotherapy and hormone treatments and radiation, despite my own measures to overcome my fears, very little has changed.

I don't know whether this baby will worry about breast cancer the way that I do. I don't know if it will understand our family history, or have a girlfriend/wife/mother-in-law who is going through her own scare. I don't know if this baby will remain unshielded from my fears, or if it will live them and devour them as though they are their own. I can only say that I hope that the next 20 years bring some kind of change. I hope that in 2031, when I realize that it has been 40 years since my mother was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I am not sitting in my oncologist's office breathlessly waiting for her to tell me that my breasts look perfect. I hope that this son or daughter knows no real cancer fear, never picks out a wig, or watches their science teacher cry, or harbors all of the memories associated with watching cancer take someone they love.

I realized the other day, sitting on that crinkly white paper in my cotton gown, that I can't really shield this little one from, well, anything. And that is what is making motherhood real for me right now. Twenty years ago, my mother sat in a similar room, wearing a similar gown, waiting for her doctor, hoping that she would hear that her breasts looked perfect. And I imagine her sitting there, thinking of her babies, hoping against hope that she would be able to shield them from whatever lay ahead.

If all goes well, in six months, I will have a 3-month-old at home. I will shave my armpits, put on the cleanest clothes I can find, and go to my routine oncology exam. I will not bring the baby with me, and I will perch on the crinkly white paper in my cotton gown and I will think about the fact that I am nearing the end of my maternity leave. And then I will wait breathlessly for my doctor to tell me that things are fine, that my MRI looked great and that I should come back in another six months. I can only imagine that no matter what I hear, I will go home after that appointment and think, "thank god for you, little one."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Eye of the Storm

The last time I sat down to write something, I was 24 weeks pregnant. Four weeks have passed since then, and for the first time since I found out that I was pregnant, time went quickly. I feel like it was just yesterday that I last heard the bean's heartbeat, last peed in a cup for the nice people at Harvard Vanguard, last skipped out of work on my way to my appointment.

I can't quite figure out why time sped up this past month, and I can only conclude that the closer I get to actually having the baby, the more there is to do, and the less time I can spend fuh-reaking the F out.

A year ago this Wednesday, I was in a conference room in Boston, about to start a day-long conference that I was more or less dreading. But I got a text message that morning from Julie saying this about J and Cris: "It's a boy! A nine pound one!" And I spent the rest of the conference nearly jumping out of my seat, I was so eager to meet Oliver Paul. I showed everyone at the conference his picture, grainy and small on my phone, but nonetheless so fantastic that it was all I could do not to reach into the phone and kiss his enormous cheeks.

I remember walking through the hospital that night, bouncing on my feet and nearly speeding through the halls, Matt close on my heels. I remember whispering into Ollie's shmooshy little face, finally kissing his sweet chubby cheeks. I remember going to eat Chinese food after we left the hospital, ordering a plate of spicy pork buns in honor of the spicy pork bun that had come into the world that day.

The crazy thing is, I remember it like it was yesterday. I literally can't believe that a year has passed since Oliver was born. Today, Oliver walks, eats cheese, says "dada," and sticks his tongue out while concentrating. A year ago, he was just a spicy pork bun.

A year ago, I was living in Davis Square, I'd never met Stephen or Linda, and I was a few weeks into a pregnancy that wouldn't last. Matt had only just started his current job, Ike wasn't even sitting up yet.

And yet here we are. 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days later. I both can't and can believe everything that's happened this year, just like I can't and can believe that I'm 28 weeks pregnant, counting down the weeks until I become somebody's mother.

I think that the last four weeks have moved at lightening speed because some months have to do that. Some months have to leave you surprised at all that's happened, bracing yourself for what's ahead. Some months move like molasses, forcing you to examine your life from every possible angle, wonder whether or not you're comfortable with what you're living, whether it really suits you.

And no matter what, there are some days in every month where you're granted the gift of freedom from your thoughts, the rare moment where you can look at a little boy who was once just a spicy pork bun and think, I am so glad I get to know you.

Happy (early) birthday, Ollie-bear. Thanks for slowing me down.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


The title of this post roughly translates to the sound of the bean's heartbeat. Whisper it to yourself quickly, with short "o" sounds, at roughly the rate of 140 beats per minute. And that's the magical sound our little bean's heart makes as it flips around on the inside.

It is the best sound I have ever heard. Really. Ever.

I am 24 weeks today, and feel like a pretty good cliche. I have energy but I sleep well. I can eat a full meal and feel satisfied. Walking up a flight of steps is annoying but not totally exhausting. I crave chocolate but I also crave broccoli. I am hormonal but not totally off the deep end. I feel grateful that the bean is still warm and safe, and I don't yet feel annoyed with it for taking up so much space under my ribcage. And so far, I only get up to pee at most twice a night.

Despite all of this, despite the total unremarkable facts of this pregnancy, despite the fact that I have felt more or less okay since I passed the 16-week mark, the other day I had one of those horrible anxiety-ridden days where I just couldn't calm myself down.

The Anxiety Day came just after a very full weekend and a very long preceding week. Matt's return from Amman was fantastic. I felt like I'd never been so happy to have him home from somewhere. He came home on a Wednesday, the same Wednesday that I had my first ever work-related high-profile speaking engagement. That Thursday was my birthday, but it was also the beginning of a 3-day conference where I was supposed to remain intellectually engaged in the topics at hand while schmoozing with other lawyers. At the end of those three days, I went to work on a Saturday, and capped everything off with a birthday dinner, followed on Sunday by a football gathering at our place where I made too much food and worried that the invited guests wouldn't feel comfortable in our apartment.

I woke up on Monday feeling like I'd been run over by a truck. Which in my current state, translated to waking up and realizing the following impossibilities:
  1. There is no way I am going to be able to cram 7 months of work into the 4 months that I have left before I go on maternity leave. And even though I probably need to take it easy on myself, I can't slow down because I haven't yet talked to my boss about my post-maternity-leave plans, and I don't want to her to think that I'm a slacker.
  2. There is no way that Matt and I are going to be able to afford to pay for daycare and this apartment at the same time. Which is a problem because I want to think about decorating the baby's room, even just a little bit, even though it makes me feel superstitious, because it also makes me excited. Except that I can't think about decorating the baby's room if I don't know whether we're staying in this apartment, which I can't figure out until I know how much it will cost to send the kiddo to daycare, which I can't know until I figure out whether we're staying in this apartment.
  3. There is no way to balance all of the changes that Matt and I are going to face in our relationship with the changes that we're going to confront when the baby is born; it is impossible to prepare for such things, so we are likely doomed.
This culminated in the obvious: a total meltdown at Park Street Station while waiting for my train to arrive.

Matt rescued me from Kenmore and stayed silent while I ranted for the car ride home. He was silent for two reasons. For starters, I was yelling. But also because when I finally took a breath between high-decibel tear-infused frustration, he looked at me and said, "I'm so glad you're finally ready to talk about this stuff."


It turns out that Matt, like most dads-to-be (at least according to this valuable tome), think about all of these nitty-gritty details from the moment they find out that they're going to be someone's father. Moms-to-be, on the other hand, initially think about things like their changing bodies, and labor, and nurseries, and whether it's really okay to have sex in your pre-pregnancy favorite position. But eventually, all of us parents-to-be come to the same conclusion: having a baby is a giant mind fuck, and there's a lot that's going to change, a plethora of unanswered questions, and completely uncharted territory.

So my questions about where I'm going to live are other parents' questions about how to work out their call schedule. My concerns about getting all of my work done before maternity leave are other parents' nanny versus daycare conundrum. In typical Matt-Lizzi fashion, while I was spending my time marveling at the size of my breasts, Matt was patiently waiting for the day when I was ready to talk about things like our budget, our apartment, and our childcare options.

We had a long talk that night. It involved spreadsheets. We made a list of the things we need to do. We made some decisions. We made some decisions about not deciding. We reached out to some people who might have answers. We fell asleep on the couch totally exhausted. Matt read Superman to my belly.

I woke up the next day with the start of what turned out to be a 24-hour (plus) stomach virus, which I took to be my body's way of telling me to slow the F down, for REAL this time. And today I finally feel like myself again: 24 weeks pregnant, just as many unanswered questions as answered ones, and beating a steady pace inside me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Never on a Friday

The bus is packed. Bodies are pressed against bodies, windows fogged from the humidity of the rain outside coupled with the warmth of the people inside. Despite the fact that most people look showered and ready to work downtown, the bus smells like an old, wet dog. You spot the odor-culprit muttering to himself and rocking back and forth. Sighing, you heave your computer bag onto your shoulder and collect the various other bags containing your lunch, conference materials, and the cookies you're bringing in for a co-worker's birthday. You manage to grab onto a pole as the bus lurches to a start, and two of your bags swing dangerously close to the women sitting in front of you. She looks up, annoyed by the near-death encounter with your baked goods. You smile an apology, she takes in the fact of your bags, your exhaustion, and your swollen belly, and she returns comfortably to the book she was reading for the remainder of the ride.

"You're clearly and obviously pregnant now!," chirps the cheerful words from the baby website you read once a week to find out how big the baby is (the size of a Harry Potter book!). "People will smile at you on the street, give your belly unwanted pats, and stand up to give you their seat on the bus."

Except that there's a limit to even the nicest commuter's willingness to give up their seat, and I have found that it is correlated to two things: weather and day of the week. If it's raining on a Friday and you are so huge that you look like you're going to go into labor any second, be prepared to hold onto a pole while balancing 14 packages for an entire train ride, all while trying desperately not to wet your pants.

Sunny Mondays are the best. Filled with the good will of a weekend, event BU Frat boys will offer you their seat on the bus. Wednesdays and Thursdays are tricky. Women are more likely to give up their mid-week seat, more likely to stand up during the evening rather than morning commute, and are most likely to offer their seat if they are somewhere between the ages of 25 and 45. Younger women remain engrossed in their cell phones, and even when they look up, they will probably scowl the gross-ness of your condition, and then promptly return to their text message. Pregnant women are the most likely to give up their seat for other, more pregnant women, something that gives us a chance to smile at each other in a "don't other people suck?" kind of way. Most of the time, men aren't interested in giving up their seat. Chivalry is probably dead and apparently labor isn't hard enough. I'm pretty sure they're not remaining seated because they think that no good feminist would want them to stand, but I could be wrong. This is Boston, after all.

As a daily commuter, I vow to teach our children how to give up their seat for the elderly, the disabled, the exhausted-looking, the woman with a stroller, and the pregnant. I vow to teach my someday son to be chivalrous, to look up from his ipod (or whatever device) when people get on the train. I have every intention of becoming the woman who asks for a seat during my 10th month of pregnancy when it's snowing outside. But the next time it's raining on a Friday, I will probably drive.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What 6000 Miles Can Mean

For the past 10 days, Matt has been in Amman, Jordan. The trip is mostly business and partly pleasure, and it marks the longest amount of time that we’ve spent apart since I got pregnant. I spent a few days in Denver around the 16th week of my pregnancy, but there’s something inherently different about Denver and Amman. I think it’s probably the 6,903 miles that separate the two cities, but I could be wrong about that.

Matt was a mess before he left. I couldn’t figure out how to help him, how to calm him down, how to make him see that this trip would be an incredible experience, an opportunity that he simply couldn’t pass up, and one that truly couldn’t have come at a better time in my pregnancy (namely, before the baby was born). The night before he left he tossed and turned, anxiety crippling his features in a way that I have never seen in the 11 years we’ve been together. It was almost too much to bear, and I complained to Julie that I wish he’d just LEAVE already, because it was too hard to not understand what he was going through and not have any power to help him.

But I was talking to an old and dear friend about it over the weekend, and she was so insightful. “Being there for you is pretty much the only thing that Matt can DO at this point,” she said. “When he’s not there, then it’s almost like he’s not part of it, because he’s not growing that little person, not feeling the aches and pains, not going through the changes that you’re actually going through.” And all of a sudden Matt’s anxiety made sense. The one thing that he can do to usher us safely through this pregnancy is to help usher me safely through this pregnancy. It’s awfully hard to usher when you’re 6,000 miles away.

But the strangest thing about Matt being gone is that it’s forced me to spend some time alone with my own thoughts about pregnancy and motherhood. A few weeks ago, this would have been a very bad thing. I would have thought about all of the ways that I was already a terrible mother, because I was likely doing something terribly wrong to hurt our little bean. But now, a few good appointments under my belt, regular movement in my tummy, and the occasional visible-from-the-outside kick near my belly button, the thoughts aren’t all anxiety-laden. Even as I sit here licking the remnants of a Milky Way from my fingertips, I know that I’m not (yet) a bad mother.

But what I realized the other night was just as shocking to me as if the bean had screamed “I hate you!” from inside my uterus. I realized that I was okay. Rather, I realized that even with Matt not there, I was doing alright, and that the bean and I are a new lumpy little unit.

I can’t explain why this realization was so jarring to me, except to say that I will look back on it as the first time that I realized that I am actually going to be somebody’s mother. The mother to somebody who will need me for most moments of their first few months, somebody who will expect me to calm their fears, exalt their accomplishments, and be present for the little and big moments of their life. Someone who will have every right to expect my unconditional love, and who will someday shout at me for smothering them. It was both a terrible and an amazing realization, because it made me feel wonderful to feel so needed at the exact same time that it made me feel terrible for needing Matt a little less.

I haven’t shared any of this with Matt yet, so when he reads this post he’ll probably feel sad. It flies in the face of what it is that he probably feels like he can do to make this pregnancy easier for me. If I don’t feel like I need him when he’s gone, then what can he give me while he’s here?

The truth of the matter is that by leaving for Jordan, he gave me something he couldn’t have given me if he stayed. He gave me confidence. He reminded me that I’m strong enough to weather a long-distance relationship, that missing someone (for a little while) can be a good thing, that I can be the type of partner who recognizes a great opportunity for her husband when she sees one. But more than that, by leaving, he made me realize that I will be the kind of mother I want to be, the kind that fails (by her own standards) many many times, but succeeds many times too. I already know exactly what kind of father Matt is going to be, because he will be the man that I married, the man who loves me and our someday-bean unconditionally and feels anxious at the thought of not being able to be there for us. I am starting to realize that together, we’re going to make a pretty good team.

Matt will be home in 2 more days, just in time to celebrate my 32nd birthday. I can't wait for him to come home, can't wait to hug him and kiss him and see his face as he marvels at how much my belly has grown in the 12 days he was gone. I have no intention of being apart from him for the rest of this pregnancy; I AM better off when he's around. But in the interest of donning a pair of rose-colored glasses, of looking on the bright side (finally), I think that this trip was a good thing for all of us, for me, and even for our growing little bean.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Over Halfway There

I am 21 weeks pregnant today. As I write this, I can feel the bean doing a somersault. Maybe he’s excited and wants to come out in 18 weeks! Maybe she likes her cozy home and wants to stay there for another 20. Either way, the calendars tell me that I’m over halfway there.

“Happy halfway there!” read Elissa’s email from last Thursday. And I read it and thought, “oh my god.”

That night on the way home I turned to Matt with a panicked look in my eyes. “What?!,” he asked, “what is it?” I put my hand on his arm to steady myself. “Matt,” I said, “it has to come OUT.” He laughed. He can do that, you see, because he doesn’t have a vagina.

But in reality, I’m not scared about labor. I’m too naive to know what to be afraid of. I have conveniently skipped the “Labor and Delivery” chapter in my books. My “birth plan” is to be admitted to the hospital while pregnant and to be discharged from the hospital holding a baby. What happens in between admission and discharge is up to me, Matt, the bean, and my doctor, not in that order.

What I am scared about is actually being someone’s mother, and doing so sooner rather than later. It has to come OUT, as in, it has to come into the world, it has to exist in our apartment, it has to ride safely in our car. It has to be clothed and fed. It has to have toys and books, blankets and black-out curtains. But more than the things that it has to have, more than the mountains of necessary and not-so-necessary baby stuff that is certain to accumulate in our apartment overnight, the bean has to exist in the world as a baby. The bean has to become a person in the world.

And what a scary world it is.

I’m not talking about the world of wars and climate change and Republicans (though lord knows that I could). I’m talking about my world, the world where Matt and I are pretty young and have no idea how to be parents. I’m talking about the world where my genetically-related family lives miles and miles away. I’m talking about the world where daycare is expensive and people ask me questions about how much I care about infant CPR. I’m talking about the world where we still get wrapped around the axle (every day!) about work and bosses and dry cleaning.

Everyone says that our world will shift. These soothsayers explain it all calmly, with a wave of their hand. Sometimes the shift will seem gradual, they say, and you’ll wake up sometime in June and realize that the lens through which you view the universe is different than the lens you were using in December. Dry cleaning and bosses will seem silly in comparison. And sometimes the shift will be immediate, they warn, and the day after the baby is born you will find yourselves un-self-consciously referring to your breasts as the “moo-makers.”

To say that I’m excited about it doesn’t really explain what I’m feeling. Excited is how you feel about your birthday, or a vacation. Excitement for me always implies a known component; I generally know what I am excited about. This time, while I am excited to see our little bean live and in-person, I am also apprehensive. I am uncertain, confused, nervous, tentative. I am guarding the world that we currently live in, struggling to balance day-to-day life with the ways that day-to-day life is already 100% different, all while totally unable to comprehend how it will change even more than it has since that day in July when I found out that I was pregnant.

You see, the bean has to come OUT. I will have moo-makers and new lenses in a matter of weeks. WEEKS! That’s what it means to be over halfway there, there where the world is different, where the ground has shifted, where the population of the world (our world) has increased so fundamentally, so dramatically, that it’s like we’re making space for a bean farm, not a bean.

So in the next 18, 19, 20 weeks, I have things to do. I have to store up on fertilizer and dirt, rakes and tractors. I have to get ready for the bean invasion, the bean explosion, the magnificent mountain of bean. In plain English this means that I have things to buy, pictures to finally frame, dinner dates to squeeze in. But more than that it means that I have to do exactly what I’m already doing. I have to stand at the precipice of my existing world and peer over the edge, holding Matt’s hand and wondering what’s out there. And then, when the time is right, the bean will help us all jump, the first of many things it will do to take us to a new and different world.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Universe Unto Itself

I remember exactly where I was sitting the day that J called to tell me that Charlotte was born. I was at our kitchen table in our small apartment in Pittsburgh. I had spent the day planning for our trip, trying to nail down our precise route and figure out how we could fit all of the places that we wanted to see into just 100+ days (we couldn't). I wasn't working at the law firm anymore, so I spent my days at that kitchen table, listening to music and feeling happily unemployed for the first time in a long time.

When my phone rang, it startled me because I'd been by myself all day. But when I saw that it was Jason, my heart stopped for a split second, because I knew what he was going to tell me.

"It's a giiiirrrrrl," he said. "Her name is Charlotte and mom and baby are doing great." He went through the play-by-play of Cris's labor, and Charlotte's height, weight, and baby statistics. I know that my memory is accurate, because I wrote down everything that he said on a recipe card that I keep in the front of my recipe box, along with all of the songs that Matt and I heard in the bar that night when we went out to get a beer and celebrate Charlotte's existence.

Charlotte was the first baby that really changed my world. It's a hard thing to put into words, but the short version is that after Charlotte was born, I thought about her and before she was born, I didn't.

I thought about what she was doing, how she was growing, how her parents were adjusting, what she would be like in 3, 5, 15, or 20 years. Before Charlotte was born, there was no space for her in my head because she simply didn't exist. And then after she was born, either I found some untapped space, or I shoved over some other thoughts that weren't relevant in order to make room for her. Either way, she was in my head.

Since Charlotte, other babies have made their way into my brain space, eliciting boundless affection and a world of enrichment. My beautiful and perfect nephew, our dear friends' son who lives in Philadelphia with all of that delicious curly hair, Charlotte's adorable brother, my high school best friend's smiley sweet boy. These babies, (especially the nephew who makes my heart hurt, I miss him so much) are the opposite of how life often works. In my world, things are here today, gone tomorrow. But these children weren't here yesterday and today make up an entire universe.

It was something that I didn't totally understand before Charlotte was born, that a baby can take up an entire galaxy, that even when your life is complete, when you want and are ready for a child, it can make your life more complete somehow. Even when you are so happy about the path you have chosen, a baby can take you down a path you didn't even know existed.

The funny thing is that I know that I don't even totally understand this now, because I've watched other people go through it, rather than been inside of it myself. But as with many things on which I stand on the outside looking in, I have a sense of how much bigger my world will be after the bean is more than a bean.

It is a funny thing to credit a three-year-old with opening your eyes to a world that's a different place, but so it goes. Someday I'll explain this to her and I bet she'll do that thing where she crinkles up her eyes and nose just like her dad while smiling just like her mom. She will probably think I'm just being sentimental, OLD even. And that's fine. She will be well on her way to seeing new worlds of her own.

Happy birthday, Little C. I hope you help to water this baby for the rest of your lives together.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lonely But Not Alone

This is not the first time I have experienced something huge without my mother. For some reason, I just didn’t think it would be this hard. I would like to say that I just didn’t think about it, but that isn’t true. I thought about it a lot, but I truly believed that I would weather it differently.

These are the times I have missed her: when I look at bassinets online, when I think about where I will store the furniture we need to buy, when my dearest friends offer me hand-me-downs, when my brother says he wants to buy me something, when I have to buy maternity clothes, when my boobs are suddenly the size of grapefruits.

I am standing there, bra in hand, marveling at the fact that my breasts have morphed into something I don’t recognize, and suddenly I am weeping in the dressing room.

I am going through the book about baby bargains at the kitchen table, thinking to myself that the selection of bassinets are basically the ugliest things I have ever seen and then I realize that I am feeling bereft that there won’t be one waiting at my mother’s house ready to come to Boston when she gets the news about the bean.

I am trudging through department stores with Matt, irritated that most maternity clothes make me look like a pregnant orka, and I am furious that she isn’t there with me, that she can’t just go online and surprise me with some clothes that at least make me look like an animal that is cute while pregnant.

I am 14 again, buying bras without her. I am 17 again, trying to decide on a college. I am 24 again, picking out bridesmaid dresses with Matt. Except that I am 31, I am pregnant with my first child, and this, finally, I cannot do alone and without her.

“You’re NOT alone,” Julie says. And I know what she means. I have her, I have Andy and Elissa and my dad and Matt’s brother, wife, and parents. I have the people around whom I have chosen to expand our family, raise our child, here in Boston. I have Matt, Matt who has gone through these lonely-for-my-mom times with me as an adult and trooped alongside me through a surgical breast biopsy, to pick out bridesmaid dresses, to buy maternity clothes.

But I AM alone. I am alone because I have an abundance of love and support and I still feel lonely for my mom. I am alone because I wish
that it was different.

I hate that last paragraph. I hate that I sound so ungrateful, that I am taking all of this support for granted. I am not ungrateful, I don’t take it for granted. When I think about these people, when I think about how lucky I am, how lucky this baby is because it is already so loved, I feel like I am overflowing with good fortune. But I am overflowing with good fortune and my mom is still dead.

This is how it ends: I do get through this and I am not alone. I pick out a bassinet and a crib and a changing table, I ask if I can store it in a friend’s basement, and I hope he understands what this means to me; I tick through the list of offered hand-me-downs and I truly think, “thank god Cris saved all of this stuff!”; I avoid my brother’s request to buy me something; I buy maternity clothes that don’t make me look like an orka; I find bras that fit.

And if all goes well, in 21 weeks we bring home a live and squirming bean who is so loved that it brings some people to tears to hold him for the first time, who has her grandmother’s cheeks or her uncle’s mouth. I bring home a baby that my mother will never meet, but who I believe she will know somehow, through and through. I become the mother that my mother will never meet. And sometimes I will miss her like I miss her right now, through and through.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Our World: Getting Bigger by the Day

Some of you might already know that I have been secretly blogging for a few weeks now, an activity that coincided roughly with seeing two pink lines on a "First Response" pregnancy test.

I have decided to go public with the posts, and as I'm writing this, I don't remember why I kept them secret in the first place, or why I have now decided that they shouldn't be a secret anymore. Either way, I am ready to share them with you, the two or three people in the world who are interested in reading what I have to say.

A few words of warning about these posts:
  1. They are almost entirely about how I feel about being pregnant. There are no interesting pictures of far off lands, or stories about men touching Matt's butt in tight spaces.
  2. They have a theme that goes something like this: I am thrilled and I am terrified in equal parts; life is crazy these days; everything makes me laugh and cry; the end. They are awfully repetitive.
  3. I am 100% aware of the fact that I am lucky to be leading this life, but I also feel that since I am the only one I know who is living my life, I have the freedom to complain about it, cry about it, laugh about it, and talk about it.
With all of those warnings in place, please know this: if none of those things sound like something you want to read, by all means, stop reading! But if you decide to proceed, do not blame me if I sometimes make you want to throw up, shout "grow up already!" at your computer screen, or cry. You have been warned.

So with all of those caveats out of the way, welcome back! I can't promise it will be as exciting as watching a pizza hut dance party in Agra, or as crazy as taking a cooking class in Thailand, but I know for certain that we are in for the adventure of a lifetime.

Monday, October 4, 2010

You're Only What You Give Back

Written October 4, 2010

Nearly nine weeks ago, something really huge happened to me. Matt, Julie, and I were frantically preparing to host our house-warming party. None of us had showered, all of us were frazzled. I was cooking and cooking and cooking. Julie was as to be expected, cleaning the house from top to bottom. And Matt was running around doing errands, taking care of things we were sure we’d forgotten to take care of, and generally trying to stay out of our way.

There came a point in the day when Julie had finished the playlist and had gone out to get one last thing, Matt was doing a final beer run, and I had cooked everything I could and was taking a moment to savor the calm before the storm. I turned to Julie’s computer, which had been slowly working its way through the night’s playlist, and picked out a couple of songs to listen to. I danced around to a few and eventually landed on Imogen Heap, who was a new addition to my list of great artists. I had been playing her song, “Earth” on repeat for weeks. I can’t tell you why it spoke to me, only that it did.

That day, I lay down on the freshly-vacuumed living room carpet and listened to the song over and over again. I thought about the fact that I was living in this great apartment with two of the people I love most in the world. I thought about the fact that my best friend was happily dating someone I suspected might be around forever. I thought about the fact that our friends were coming over to celebrate our new place. I thought about how lucky I was to have this moment, and more importantly, to realize how lucky I was. I thought about the fact that I was pregnant. And then I burst into tears.

That was how Julie found me, lying on the floor of our living room, staring up at the ceiling fan, blasting Imogen Heap, crying huge and happy tears and gasping for breath. Only she didn’t know that they were happy tears and she knelt above me, touching my shoulders, my face, looking as worried as she sounded that day in January when I told her about the miscarriage, asking me what was wrong.

“Nothing,” I told her. “I’m just, I’m going to have a baby. Julie, I’m going to have a baby and I’m going to be someone’s mom.”

“I know!,” she said, her relief so obvious I felt like I could touch it, and she settled herself down on the floor next to me, shoulder-to-shoulder, and stared up at the ceiling fan as we listened to Imogen Heap and I laughed and cried and calmed down.

It was an amazing day, the day that I knew that this baby’s heart was beating inside of me, the day that I knew that I was right about Julie and that new boy, the day that I realized just how much my little world was changing, and how beautifully.

You’re going to lose it all and find yourself on your knees
So get a grip and you might flow, reverse the great slow bleed.
I’ve tried patience but you always want a war.
This house won’t tolerate anymore.

You’re only what you give back.
You’re only what you give back.
You’re only what you give back.

Today we had our 18 week ultrasound and saw kicking feet and waving arms and kidneys and leg bones. I stared at that screen and thought, “I love you I love you I love you” with every single inch of my body, crying and laughing and holding tightly to Matt’s hand.

I can’t totally explain why the two moments are connected in my mind, the sun-drenched day in July with Imogen and the happy tears, and today’s low-lit room flooded with pictures of our baked-potato sized baby. I think that it has something to do with realizing change, with being in a place where change feels amazing and right, despite the difficult things that come with it.

When I got up from the carpet that day in July, I turned towards the kitchen to put the finishing touches on something that we probably never got around to eating, and there were tears drying in the corner of my eyes. I remember smiling at Julie, who smiled back at me as she picked a final piece of lint off the carpet. When I hopped off the table today, I literally burrowed into Matt, holding onto him and saying what I always say after these appointments, “did you see the bone? Did you see the kidneys?” just so that I can hear him say, “did you see the ribcage? And the brain?” There were tears drying in the corner of my eyes and I smiled at him. He grinned back at me.

Yes, you’re only what you give back. And change can actually be everything you wanted and then some.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

16 weeks

Written on September 23, 2010

I feel like I have to write something today because I want to capitalize on the sky-high happiness I'm feeling.

Today was my 16-week appointment and it seems like things are going well. For me and for the bean. I gained 4 pounds this month, meaning that I have gained 11 pounds so far. Which is bizarre and amusing at the exact same time. The bean has a perfect little heartbeat of 149,and it was rolling around in there so the heartbeat was pierced with occasionally little squeaks and squawks as it bumped around in its watery home.


The days leading up to these appointments are agonizing for me. I don't sleep, I eat white food and candy, and I generally feel nervous and worried. Every thing that is happening to me is evidence that something is wrong. I know that I'm not alone because Dr. Internet has helpfully directed me to thousands of crazy pregnant women just like me, who are experiencing the same near death symptoms as I am.
Oddly enough, these crazy sisters out there on the interwebs are comforting to me, and I am more grateful for their insanity, their complete inability to spell, and their extraneous use of exclamation points than I would have willingly admitted before I got pregnant.

An example of such words of comfort:

Ur baby sounds perrrrfect. I had so much hartburn I burped all the time and my hubby videotaped it. lol. congrats on your LO!!!!!!

(Where "LO" equals "little one." Yes, really.)

See, compared to other pregnant weirdos, I'm actually fairly normal.

I have been thinking a lot about the fact that just a few weeks ago, I was smack in the middle of my first trimester, more scared even than I am right now, more nauseated than I am right now, and so much more exhausted. It sort of feels like I dreamed it, because even though I know that it happened, I can hardly remember it happening to me.

My brother, his wife, and their amazingly wonderful son were in town last weekend and I was marveling at the fact that nephew has actually been a living, breathing person for a year already. I remember the night he was born like it was yesterday. I remember looking at him for the first time, totally breathless at the fact that this little pink person was my brother's son, and that I was lucky enough to be his aunt. I think about him all the time, probably at least once a day. I wonder what he found newly amusing that day, what made him have that beautiful belly laugh, what he learned about in his fast-moving little brain, what he incorporated into his world, what word he has come up with for milk or dog or truck.

When Andy saw me last weekend, he took one look at my little bump and said, "oh, Lizzi!" with that excitement that I'd been waiting weeks to hear. We spent so much time over the weekend talking about babies and pregnancy that by the time Sunday rolled around I was equal parts thrilled at the reality of this pregnancy, and overwhelmed by the fact that it would happen.

Andy kept talking about how he barely remembers Ike's infancy, about how he looks at him now and thinks about him exactly as he is in this very moment. I think that's probably the brain's way of coping with everything you have to cope with as a parent. Your child is exactly as they are, and they need you to be exactly what you are for them at that time in their lives. So I have decided that pregnancy is the same way. I don't remember the nausea because I don't need to remember the nausea. I only vaguely recall the exhaustion because I am supposed to capitalize on my newfound energy. And apparently, I'm supposed to eat my weight in pasta. Or not. Whatever.

If I can figure out how to put it up here, I'll leave you with a little segment of today's appointment. This was literally music to our ears today. I could listen to it all day and never grow tired.

Little bean, I am excited to be whatever you need me to be. And I promise to do my best to shield you from all of the crazies on the interwebs.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Just a Day

Written on September 16, 2010

Once upon a time, way back in December 2009, I thought that I was going to be having a baby this week. I was shocked and amazed by the news because after only three months of trying, I wondered whether or not I was really ready for something so huge. But just a few weeks after I found out, before I could get used to the idea, before my waist disappeared and my boobs grew a cup size, and before the faintest whiff of trash gave me dry heaves, I lost the pregnancy. Or, the pregnancy ended. Or the mass of cells that was supposed to be growing and doubling stopped growing and doubling. More succinctly: someone died.

At least, that’s how it felt.

I heard all kinds of things in the weeks that followed, both from loved ones and well-meaning dummies, who were occasionally also my doctors. I heard that “it was for the best,” or “better to have something happen now than later,” or “it wasn’t even a baby, yet,” or, my personal favorite, “at least you know you can get pregnant!” I said very little in response, though I wanted to say, “there is nothing best or better about this,” or “it was a baby to me and to Matt,” or, “yes, but I don’t know if I can stay pregnant, so please shut the fuck up.”

Some people said nothing at all. Their silence implied discomfort, disquiet, and sometimes, a respect for my wish to stay hidden and cocooned.

Trying to explain why I felt as devastated as I felt was impossible. I couldn’t even explain it to myself. I felt a strong need to justify it to others, especially the well-meaning dummies. Some of those dummies were people whose opinions I value and respect above most others in the world, people whose counsel I seek and whose shoulders I lean on. I felt like I needed to explain why I felt so bereft, so full to the brim of grief, so very much like I was walking through a fog.

I kept picturing myself in 10th grade when I had just come back to school after my mom died. I was going through the process of meeting with my teachers to try to catch up on what I missed, and in what is now a long-established habit, I apologized for being so sad. My math teacher brightened at this and said, “well, at least now that the funeral is behind you, you will be able to concentrate on school again, you won’t have to worry that your mother is going to die.” I stared at him just like you’re staring at your computer screen right now. How can you explain grief to someone with no connection to it? How can you teach someone tact and understanding? How can you tell someone to just take you where you are, to let you feel what you feel, even if they don’t understand it? You cannot. You cannot do any of those things. And you are foolish to try.

And so I soldiered on. Not alone, of course. There are very few things that I do alone. But I felt awfully lonely. The loneliness and grief sneaked its way into the very corners of my existence. I could and did pour myself into work, but I would push and pull all of my friendships and relationships. I could talk to Matt about how I was feeling, but then I would spend days pretending that I was totally fine, when my brain was repeating, “miscarriage, miscarriage, miscarriage,” over and over again.

To be perfectly honest, much like most of the months surrounding that 10th grade conversation with my math teacher, I cannot conjure up the months immediately after the miscarriage. I remember specific things like Matt’s birthday dinner at the Summer Shack, Neema’s falafel party, and going to New York with Julie. But I don’t remember how I functioned, because in my memory, the images float by like they happened a long, long time ago and I don’t feel connected to them.

The last few weeks couldn’t have been more different than those weeks. These weeks feel brightly colored, hued in pinks and yellows and bright, vibrant greens in my mind. The smiles I see in my memory are genuine and not strained, the connection I have felt with Matt is as real as it ever gets in any marriage, and there is nary a well-meaning dummy in sight.

But the fear is very, very real.

I recently read an article about pregnancy after miscarriage, and the author concluded that while all pregnant women know real fear about their pregnancies, women who have had a miscarriage have a totally different level of fear, one that can’t be controlled or rationalized. I couldn’t agree more. I was the only person who imagined myself as that baby’s mother and after I lost the pregnancy, my imagination was all that was left.

Some days I have to work hard to imagine myself as THIS baby’s mother. It will catch me off guard, the times that I imagine it, because more often than not I imagine myself grieving, walking out of the doctor’s office after hearing the terrible news, or trying to picture getting out of bed if something goes wrong again.

Miscarriage, as it turns out, is like any other loss. Sometimes it’s with you wherever you turn. Sometimes it sneaks up on you. But no matter what you do, it is part of you who are, something to fold into the fabric of your life, like any other fact, happy or sad.

Tomorrow was my first due date, the date by which I would have been pleading with my doctor to just induce me already. And now tomorrow is just a day. Just a day when I’m also 15 weeks pregnant. Just a day.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Population Two and a Bean

Written on August 25, 2010

A few weeks ago, something amazing happened. And over the course of the next six months, more amazing things are likely to happen. Please check back and prepare to be amazed.

The End.

No! Of course not! It’s more like, “Once upon a time” these days. For this, THIS is a beginning if ever there was one. This is the start of a journey, the journey of a lifetime. Three lifetimes, actually: mine, Matt’s, and the little person we hope to bring perfectly into the world sometime in March 2011.

I found out that I was pregnant exactly 12 days after I became pregnant. Which for those of you who are counting at home, is about 6 days before most normal people know that kind of thing, and made me exactly 3.9 weeks pregnant. I called my doctor immediately, because despite the fact that I had a perfectly clear answer sitting right in front of me, I was certain that something would go wrong, and I wanted her to reassure me that it wouldn’t.

She did not do that.

Instead, she scolded me for taking the pregnancy test too soon, and told me to wait through the weekend to come in for a blood test. It was a long weekend, made longer by the three additional pregnancy tests I took, with that second pink line growing pinker every time.

By the time Tuesday rolled around, I was not surprised that the blood test confirmed that I was pregnant. Instead of surprise, I was simply filled with abject fear. There wasn’t even a hint of giddy excitement, because the fear took up all of the emotional room in my brain and wouldn’t make any space for things like joy and delight. The fear spilled out in obvious and not-so-obvious ways: crying into Matt’s chest every night before bed, cursing while putting together a wooden filing cabinet, anxious and restless sleep, and trying to run over unsuspecting Newton residents on their way to 4th of July fireworks shows.

The problem was the problem that is always my problem: I cannot balance rational thought with emotional thought. I try to, I really do, but it hardly ever works for me. Which isn’t entirely true. I am both a rational thinker and an emotional thinker. I spend my days rationally and methodically convincing elected officials to do the right thing because it’s in the public interest. And I can cry with delight while I watch my best friend fall in love with the perfect person. I am Rational and Emotional and good at both, capital letters intended. But what I can’t do is reconcile both of those things around a single personal issue. So the rational side of me knew that I had just as much of a chance of having a miscarriage this time around as I did the first time around, maybe slightly higher, but only slightly. But the emotional side of me was convinced that this wouldn’t work, that this baby wasn’t going to be mine to love, that this pregnancy wouldn’t be mine to experience, that I should probably prepare myself to walk through the tunnels of grief that I walked through from January to June.

And as it usually happens, time marched on.

A few things have happened in that time. Most importantly, we saw our little bean. We saw its little heartbeat, beat, beat, beating as fast as it possibly could. And we saw it moving around, moving and shaking and dancing around, almost as if we’d caught it in a private moment. We also told some very important people. And those people cried and laughed and hugged and asked questions and reassured us and smiled fondly at us when they thought we weren’t looking. We told some not as important people, and those people asked practical questions about work and daycare and plans for after March. And some other amazing things happened in the world – dear friends started to fall in love with amazing people, parents were healthier than we worried they might be, babies with delicious thighs took their first tentative steps. And somehow, between the dancing bean, and the love from our favorite people, and the practical questions from the practical people, and the happy things that were unfolding all around us, it started to feel real for me. I started to believe that I am pregnant. I started to believe that in a few months, we’ll be falling in love, struggling with practicality, and living a totally different life.

Of course, I take myself wherever I go. And wherever I go there is doubt and fear and concern. I ask Matt 100 times a day whether or not he thinks I’m still pregnant. And he always tells me that I am, always without wavering, never rolling his eyes, just looking at me and sending clear, pure love for me and for our bean. I hear sad news about a loved one’s trials and my heart almost bursts because I want to make it better for her and her family and because I so desperately want to have a different experience. I toss and turn at night, partly because my vivid dreams don’t make any sense, but mostly because I can convince myself that any twinge or cramp is a sign that something is wrong.

But there is that pesky time again. Marching on. Moving me and Matt and the Bean steadily towards March, through fall and winter, through birthdays and holidays, and first-spoken “I love you’s,” through more fear and more doubt and tremendous excitement, through six months of a life that’s about to be so different, so absolutely different, that I just can’t wait to live it. Except of course, that the waiting is part of the story.

So welcome to the beginning of this story. I can’t promise that it will have a happy ending, but I know that the journey will be one for the ages.

Monday, March 22, 2010