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The Squirt Bottle

Unable to have children of our own, my then-husband and I had the opportunity to have a foster-to-adopt situation with a precious little girl.

Just before her adoption, we were asked to also foster her little sister, who was about to be born.

I was hesitant. I didn’t want to take on a child who had a high chance of returning to her birth parents. But I couldn’t let my little girl’s sister go to strangers, so we said yes.

As time passed, the birth parents weren’t doing their part, and I felt more and more like she was my baby, and I would have her forever.

I should have been happy. I had everything I’d ever wanted!

The money the state paid us to take care of foster children made it possible for me to be home with those two pretty little girls all day. I had always wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom. And now I had not one, but two children to take care of! The girls were happy, and the best sound in the world was their laughter as they played together.

glitter on woman eye mommy wants vodka

I wish I could say my husband felt the same way.

He was resentful of that baby as soon as she entered our home.

He hated all the time I was spending with her, instead of him.

He was jealous.

Of an infant.

This one particular night breaks my heart. I wish I could go back and change things, but he had trained me for years not to question him. Fear of his anger kept me frozen.

The baby had learned to stand. She was so proud of herself! There was no stopping her now!

From the time she was a newborn, she had always hated going to sleep, and getting her to settle down for bed was a long, drawn-out process. But with her newly developed skill of standing, it became much worse. I would lay her down, she would stand up. I would put her down again, she would stand right back up.

One night, he had enough. “I”ll make her learn she has to lay down when it’s bedtime,” he said.

He came into the girls’ bedroom with me when I put her to bed.

I laid her down in her crib, telling her goodnight, same as I always did. She stood up, and he sprayed her right in the face with the water bottle we used on the cats when they were doing something wrong. I was horrified!

But what was I supposed to do? He was my husband, and I was afraid to question him.

The battle of wills between a man in his 40’s and a less-than-year-old baby went on for a while. I would lay her down, she would stand up, he would spray her in the face.

Finally, he pushed me too far. She was soaking wet, dripping on her sheets. I knew even if she did go to sleep, she would end up getting sick from trying to sleep in her wet clothes and bed. I took a chance and said, “That’s enough!”

Amazingly, he walked out the door without saying a word.

I took her out of her bed, pulled her wet clothes off of her, dried her with her little hooded towel, then put clean, dry pajamas on her. Then I changed the bedding in her crib and started the bedtime process again.

When I walked out of the bedroom, she was back to standing in the crib. I walked out to the living room where he was watching TV. I looked him dead in the eye and said, “Your way didn’t work, and you’re never doing that again.”

He didn’t argue, and he never tried that stunt again.

I think he figured out that there was only so far he could push me when it came to the children.

He could belittle me and mistreat me all he wanted, but don’t mess with the Mama Grizzly Bear.

My Journey Through 10 Miscarriages

On October 15, 2019, we will be publishing a Wall of Remembrance for those among us who have lost our babies far too soon.

You are invited to share the names of your lost babies here.

band back together wall of baby loss

I have had 10 miscarriages – just saying that is hard for me

For so long I have tried to sweep it under the rug –  once my number became larger then three I became numb to it all. I’m not really an emotional person, but this topic always brings up memories as if it all happened yesterday.

I have been through 10 miscarriages in 6 years.

I am 28 years old – I have been pregnant 13 times – and have 3 living children.

I can be a very private person, but I think miscarriage and infertility have enough secrecy surrounding it that I do not want to perpetuate it. The more it is talked about – the more women and families can feel supported and listened to and important – not embarrassed and ashamed like I am struggling to not feel.  I am opening up the door to talk about it –  so here is my long story:

My first two miscarriages were kind of a blur to me. We were not trying to get pregnant and basically found out we were expecting the same time we realized we were miscarrying. I had always heard that having one miscarriage was ‘normal’ and so I honestly didn’t put too much thought into it. They were still very painful and devastating to me but I thought once we were actively trying everything would be OK – that no one would have more then 2.

My husband and I decided to start trying for a family and we actively began trying to conceive using basal body temping as a guide. We became pregnant again in November 2004 after the first month of trying. I was about 6 weeks pregnant just around Christmas when I miscarried (#3). This time it hit me – hard. I mean I have never heard of someone who has had 3 miscarriages ever – let alone in a row.

Basal Body Temperature Chart using Fertility Friend

I began feverishly doing my research.

With my basal body charts I had noticed that my luteal phase was under 10 days (according to research the shortest it should be for a successful pregnancy) so I began to take vitamins B6 and B12 to lengthen it. I went to the doctor and his thought was that my progesterone was low and that is why I was not able to hold on to the pregnancy past 6 weeks. So a new plan evolved. I would stay on the vitamins and go on a progesterone supplement the moment I found out I was pregnant. This made the basal body temping so important – I needed to know the exact date.

We began another month of trying to conceive (TTC). Thermometer in hand and a plan in mind we became pregnant again in June and I was on the progesterone medication. The plan was to stay on until 12 weeks pregnant and then to slowly wean myself off. When 12 weeks came along we lowered the dose of progesterone but I began to bleed so we quickly went back onto the medication. The baby was doing fine and the new plan was to wean off at 20 weeks. 20 weeks came and I was successfully weaned off with no further complications. I had my first full term baby (Big P) in December 2005 – a healthy boy.

Big P – 8lbs 1oz

My husband and I had always wanted to have our kids close in age, so we starting TTC again relatively quickly. I began the basal body temping again and got pregnant pretty quickly. When I got the positive I went to the doctor to get a prescription for the progesterone and started taking it again. I miscarried #4 shortly after 7 weeks. My doctor and I both thought it was because the progesterone was not started soon enough so I was given a prescription for the next time to begin the day I had a positive test. I got pregnant again and started the progesterone but miscarried #5 at 6 weeks 5 days and I was starting to lose hope. I went back on the vitamins and we began TTC again. Thinking back it probably would have been better to give myself a few months to heal physically and emotionally but I was determined and had the okay from my doctor.

In July 2006 we got pregnant again and everything was going smoothly. I was on the progesterone and we had an ultrasound that showed the heartbeat and the baby was growing. I was on bed rest again for the first 20 weeks and was weaned off the progesterone at 20 weeks. Everything was going smoothly. At 8 months pregnant I awoke with vertigo – fell and cracked my wrist. I was taken to the hospital and without going into too much detail I was diagnosed with possible stroke and they ran a large amount of tests and I was hospitalized.

In one of those tests they discovered I had a blood disorder called Factor V Leiden. Everything was going relatively smoothly with the pregnancy. I was having some weight issues – having only gained 10lbs and was 8 months pregnant they were checking to see if the baby was growing -which she was. I was being induced just over 2 weeks early because of the vertigo and possible stroke. Our healthy baby girl (Princess R) was born in February 2007.

Princess R – 7lbs 14oz

This is where the story starts to get a bit crazy. I had 2 more miscarriages (#6 & 7) due to failed birth control. We were not trying to have an other baby yet – however these losses were still quite painful.

In May 2007 I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and was on a strict gluten free diet. We had wondered if that was an underlying cause contributing to the miscarriages and we’re hopeful that was the answer. I still had the constant vertigo that started in January 2007 and was seeing a neurologist for possible causes. During one of our meetings she mentioned Factor V Leiden again. That was the first time I had heard of it since back when I was pregnant with Princess R. The neurologist thought that could be the cause of my possible stroke when I was pregnant. I was sent to other specialists for that.

My husband and I were ready to expand our family again. I went off birth control in the beginning December 2007 and we began TTC again.  I became pregnant the first month but lost miscarriage # 8 at just over 5 weeks. We didn’t take any breaks between that loss and trying to conceive again and we became pregnant again the next cycle at the beginning of January.

I was back on the progesterone and everything was seemingly going okay – baby was perfect.  We had made it past 8 weeks of pregnancy and thought everything was going to go smoothly. We had told extended family and friends and had begun taking daily photos of my growing belly – our kids were excited.

Big P and Princess R telling the family about the growing baby

A phone call came to me a few weeks later that shattered me.  The baby (Triton) that had made it to 13 weeks was “no longer viable” and he had passed away (miscarriage # 9).  I was confused – I had done everything ‘right’ – I was on the progesterone, was on bed rest – everything.  I was scheduled for a D&C because I did not want to deliver at home.

The OB who was going to be doing the surgery turned out to be a lifesaver to me. Another miracle that Triton brought into my life. My OB had read over my chart, talked to me for a long time about my history and pegged that I had been diagnosed with Factor V Leiden, a blood disorder that predisposes me to making blood clots.

The surgery was scheduled for April 24, 2008 and I was able to get the answer I needed. When the pathology came back it showed blood clots caught in the umbilical cord cutting off the supply to Triton. He had given me the answer and we had a new plan and a concrete diagnoses for all my losses – Factor V Leiden.

Recovering from surgery, my husband and I were not trying to conceive yet. I did become pregnant (seriously it’s like he just has to look at me to get me pregnant) the next month but miscarried again (#10) likely because I was not healed up completely from the surgery. We were both ready to start the process of adding to our family and met up with my OB again.

The new plan – because Factor V Leiden predisposes me to throwing blood clots normally and any pregnant woman’s risk of blood clots increase anyway – my chances were pretty high. This is the reason for my miscarriages, my possible stroke at 8 months pregnant – but luckily there was something we could do. I was still going to be on the progesterone for 20 weeks because I did have an issue with low progesterone – it was just not the whole story.

I continued with the basal body temping and this time added low dose aspirin (it’s a blood thinner). Once I got that positive pregnancy test – I went on the progesterone and was put on another medication called Fragmin. This medication is a needle that I inject into my lower abdomen – it is a blood thinner that is safe to take while pregnant. This medication was designed to thin my blood enough to stop me from making clots and putting me and baby at risk for miscarriage or still birth.

I injected myself with this needle every day – I was covered in bruises but everything was working. It became second nature to me. Since it is not safe to go into labor while on blood thinners I was placed on bed rest at 36 weeks because I had begun to dilate. The plan was to induce me again just over 2 weeks early – I had to be off the blood thinner to deliver but could not go over 12 hours without the medication or I would risk another stroke. So, the safest thing to do was a planned early induction.

In February 2009 our third full term baby (Baby E) was born perfect and healthy. I was put back on the Fragmin blood thinners and had to continue giving myself the injections for 8 weeks postpartum.

Baby E – 7lbs 13oz

Now, if you are still with me – thank you. It is hard to condense this story into a few paragraphs. I don’t really have a ‘moral’ or ‘message’ to this story except this is my story. It has been a very difficult and extremely painful journey.

It has taken me a long time (and I am still working on it) to accept what has happened and to begin to digest it all.

Ask The Band: Heartbroken

Sometimes, you lost something so devastating that you don’t know if you’re going to be able to breathe. The Band is paying tribute to the losses you’ve had. Please share with us a loss you’ve experienced (doesn’t have to be a person, can be a dream, or a pet, or an item).

Click here to add your post.

I am infertile.

We have been trying to have a baby for years to no avail. I will spare you the details, but I was approached by a potential birth mother who is a friend. She is pregnant, doesn’t want the baby, was going to have an abortion and decided she didn’t know if she could go through with it. She asked if we might be interested in private adoption.

YES, oh YES, it would be a dream come true.

I did it. I got my hopes up against all logic and warning from everyone.

I got a text today that says she is not going through with the pregnancy and is having an abortion. I am so sad right now. I am heartbroken at the needless loss of a life that could be my baby.

I had such a tight lid on this I never let myself feel this hope or dream. I let the lid off and now I am devastated.

Where do I go from here?

Dose of Happy: Puppy Love

I love my dogs. It’s not unusual, nor is it something not to be proud of.

I’m unable to have children, but dammit, I’m one hell of a doggie mom. I’m not all weird about it or anything – I don’t have little puppy clothing or diamond collars. I don’t buy my dogs exotic food more expensive than my own.

I do let the little dog, Bettie, sleep on the bed with me, and I totally use a weird voice when talking to her. I even call her “Pretty Girl.”

Ugh. I’m sickening.

I let the big dog, Fritz, sleep on the bed when the husband isn’t in it. He’s too large to sleep on the bed if that pesky man is there, otherwise you bet your sweet ass he’d be cuddled up next to me and Bettie.

I play fetch with Fritz – who also goes by “Mr. Foo” and “Handsome Puppy Face” – with his squeaky hedgehog toy. He’s nine and has arthritis in his hip, but he’ll run around like a puppy when you throw something for him to fetch. I swear he thinks he’s a year-old pup.

He can “sing” on command, and I’ve learned recently that he digs Motown and ’80’s music. He sits, shakes, and stands up either by hand signal or vocal commands. He even smiles! I promise. I have pictures to prove it! He’s the sweetest boy you’ll ever meet.

Bettie isn’t quite as talented in the ol’ trick department, but she makes up for it in cuteness. She’s small and shaggy and sweet. She follows me around the house wherever I go – like we’re on some sort of adventure when I’m walking to the refrigerator to grab a soda. She has some bizarre quirks like growling when a cell phone, soda can, or the like come near her tiny, little face. We’re teaching her to do some of the tricks that her “brother” does, but so far all she’s learned is how to sit and sing… sort of. Nothing cracks me up more than her high pitched squeal that is indescribable and oh-so endearing.

She’s a Mama’s Girl, even if the husband does call her “Daddy’s Little Princess” when no one is around.

For my Dose of Happy, I thought about writing about the husband (I still may), but I decided that people like me, who are/were unable to have any children, would appreciate a little levity about being a pet parent.

I love my dogs, and even though I was not able to conceive, I still have my sense of humor. I also have two furry creatures who need me.

They’ve been there with their unconditional love every time I’ve needed it. They’ve helped me when I was so sad I couldn’t breathe. They’ve listened to me sobbing and screaming. The only thing they have ever needed in return was my love. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Do you?

Please Don’t Take My Sunshine Away

You are my sunshine

My son has taught me how to live, love and grow in ways I could have never understood before. His very being keeps me going and gives me purpose. It is a love like no other.

My only sunshine

After nearly three years of trying to get pregnant, (including an ectopic pregnancy, surgery and infertility) in June of 2009 I successfully conceived. I didn’t allow myself to get too attached while I went for weekly blood draws and ultrasounds to monitor my early pregnancy.

As the first trimester passed and we saw our tiny bean grow into a perfectly formed tiny baby, the hope in me stirred and I began to let myself feel joy. Anxiety continued, however, as I underwent frequent fetal echocardiograms to evaluate the baby for a heart condition he was at risk of developing.

The second trimester came and went and his heart remained perfect; we were in the clear.

In my third trimester, at 32 weeks, I started having contractions, followed two hospital visits for pre-term labor. At home, I remained on bedrest, and made it to the 37th week.

My labor was quick and my beautiful baby boy was born perfect and healthy at 6 lb., 1 oz.

I felt the biggest relief in my life when I saw my newborn baby. This joy quickly dissolved when the OB began the repairs. I began feeling very funny. I was trying to communicate how weird I was feeling when I found I was unable to speak. Ringing in my ears drowned out the sounds and I slipped into unconsciousness.

This is it, I thought. My baby was born healthy, but I’m paying for it by dying in childbirth.

The next thing I knew I woke up on the Mother-Baby Unit. The nurses there cheerfully told me I had experienced lidocaine toxicity and my baby was with my husband in the nursery. I ached to see his face and hold his perfect body. When they returned, I instantly felt a jolt of joy and energy as I acquainted myself with my new family.

Two days later, we were discharged and went home as a new family of three. Our families had camped out at our house but we sent them home to have the space to figure out what we were doing.

The next few days were quiet but things did not feel right with the baby. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong with him. My milk came in late and my son became dehydrated and difficult to arouse.

After that crisis resolved, we received a concerned call from the pediatrician. The results from A’s metabolic screen were positive for a rare but potentially fatal disease. They cautioned us that there are many cases of false positives, but I went into panic mode. We stayed on alert night and day to watch him breathe. We had to wait for a week for the news that it was an error. He was fine.

You make me happy when skies are grey

The weeks after were full of relief, bliss and love.

I managed through the marathon feedings and fell more in love with my son each day. Parenting seemed to come naturally to my husband. I finally had everything I dreamed of. Then at 11 weeks, A did a remarkable thing: he slept through the night.

Usually a cause for celebration, this milestone marked the beginning of my downfall. I felt as though this gift I had dreamed of for so long was a mirage and could be taken from me at any moment. The lines between fear and reality became blurred.

First, I stopped being able to sleep. I felt the need to rest my hand on the baby’s chest to feel the reassuring rise and fall. I started having the most disturbing images in my head. These horrifying images tortured me relentlessly. I felt constantly nervous and on edge. I felt so agitated I couldn’t keep my body still. When I lay in bed, my legs wouldn’t stop moving.

I had the most intense feeling that sometime terrible was about to happen to my son, A. Something that I had to stop. Soon, I was having stomach problems and I couldn’t keep anything down. I started going days straight without sleeping. I stopped eating solid foods. I lost twenty pounds in a month. I became weak and fragile.

The images I’d seen before were now coupled with horrifying phrases in my head. They all involved seeing my baby hurt. I had urges to do things like bang my head on the shower wall to stop them. These urges were like the most intense itch you know you should never scratch. I felt if I didn’t give in to them, I would jump out of my skin or explode.

During the day, I had panic attacks where I felt like I was dying; my arms went numb, my heart raced, I became sick to my stomach and felt paralyzed.

At night; the baby and my husband tucked safely in bed, I started having these urges to disappear. I wondered how fast I could pack everything up and drive off before they awoke. I thought if I disappeared, my baby would be able to grow and thrive and would be better off without me.

My husband did not understand what was going on and became very angry. We fought constantly. I had to ask him to stay home from work or leave work numerous times because I didn’t feel safe alone with the baby.

Soon, I found myself unable to get out of bed. I wondered if I was dying or losing my mind. I didn’t want to live anymore. I pictured milestones in A’s life without me present. I became obsessed with planning A’s birthday party because I had the distinct feeling that I wouldn’t be around by then. The day came when I couldn’t take another second.

That was when I reached out to my Mom.

You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you

I’d always wanted to get better. For my son, for myself and for my family.

I didn’t want anyone to know what a bad mother I was so I tried to stop visitors and kept phone calls brief. I’d been refusing to take the medications I needed because they were not compatible with nursing. Having to suddenly wean my baby was like a final blow of failure to me.

After my urgent phone call to my Mom, she left work in the middle of the day without packing a thing, got on the highway and talked to me on the phone until she arrived three hours later.

She took me to the midwife, who sent me to the ER to be admitted. But because I told them I had no imminent plans to kill myself, they wouldn’t admit me. They gave me sleeping pills and the address of an urgent care psych center.

Problem was, the place was a partial-hospitalization program, which my insurance did not cover and would require me to be away from my son during the day. I felt helpless and desperate. I didn’t have any hope of anyone being able to help me. I was taking the medication, but it didn’t seem to be doing anything for me. Things escalated at home with my husband and I really feared hurting myself, so I packed our stuff and we left.

After my Mom and my sister helped me get settled in, things started to turn around. I moved in with my sister who was a huge support to me. I had family and friends around me constantly. I had the help I needed to care for A while taking care of myself. I sought help at a local center devoted to postpartum mood disorders and began to see a psychiatrist and therapist regularly.

I was given a name for what I was going through: Postpartum OCD. I joined a local support group that meets monthly and I met the most amazing and inspiring women who really get it and have been there. Their strength was contagious. I starting believing that I could get better.

The horrible thoughts in my head started to disappear. I felt more connected with my son. I still had some panic attacks where I felt myself regressing and dark thoughts would again invade my brain. Sometimes, I felt like I wasn’t getting better at all and there was no point to struggling through it.

But I learned to reach out to those who cared about me when I felt this way. During my darkest days the phrase “this will not end well” would repeat itself in my head, this mantra was now replaced by “this too shall pass.”

Please don’t take my sunshine away

Time, therapy and medication have given me my life back. My recovery has been full of ups and downs; good and bad days. I am still working on mending relationships. But as the autumn came, I felt my old self emerge.

I will never be the person I was before I had a child, but I am a stronger, wiser woman. I have found I am strong enough to make it on my own, but that the support of others is essential. I am learning to enjoy the moments without obsessing about what will come next. I am learning to let go of complete control and let my son explore and experience with my guidance.

It’s a new way of living, and it’s very freeing. I am able to enjoy every day with A. He amazes me on a daily basis. I don’t know what challenges or heartaches I might face in the future, but now I am healthy and strong enough to face them head-on. And if I’m not, I will still be okay because of the support system I have.

And in February, I will be at my son’s first birthday party, celebrating his year of thriving and mine of survival.

Planting The Seeds

It’s estimated that between 5-10% of the female population is affected in some way by Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

This is her infertility story.

I’m a lesbian. Ordinarily that isn’t super-important, but I’m at the point that I want kids, so it becomes very important.

Once people find out that I’m gay and want kids, I get asked, “So you’re planning to adopt, right?” There seems to be a socially-held expectation that being gay means you must adopt. Once, someone told me that adopting was “my social responsibility.”

However, my response is always, no, I want to carry my child. I want to experience pregnancy, with all its ups and downs. I want to feel my child grow. It’s my experience, and no one should try and take that away.

While I was never big into kids, I’ve dreamed about being pregnant since I was a teenager. I always vaguely knew it was something I had to do at some point.

Then, about two years ago, suddenly a switch flipped and it was all I could think about. I started reading about it, talking about it, doing everything I could to get near it.

And one day, my partner and I decided to start trying.

My partner and I have tried to get pregnant for a year and a half. We tried to get her pregnant because her cycle was regular. Since I cycled irregularly, and we didn’t know what it would take to get me regular enough to become pregnant, it seemed the easy choice. We started tracking her cycle, found a donor, went through a contractual process that took months, and finally started trying.

Every month we’d try, watch her symptoms, get excited, take the test… and it would be negative. Twice we got hopeful. But eighteen months and two miscarriages later, we’re back at square one.

During those eighteen months, I ran through every emotion imaginable. The worst of which was the jealousy; jealousy that I wasn’t able to carry our child. I consoled myself by saying I’d carry number two. However, by the end, we both felt defeated, deflated, and devastated. I also felt a fierce determination; a determination that I wanted this so badly, I’d do anything I needed to do.

After 18 months of failure to get pregnant, I decided to see an endocrinologist. I’ve always had a really irregular cycle, so I knew something was wrong. However, it took me a long time to be ready to face the possibilities of what that might mean.

After meeting with the endocrinologist, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS. PCOS has major fertility implications – PCOS means that I don’t ovulate. No ovulation = no baby.

I’ve started a treatment regime including medication and weight loss, that so far has been unsuccessful in booting my system – no easy task. Next month I start an ovulation drug that will allow me to ovulate regularly.
All of a sudden, this got very, very real. My coping strategy involves researching the hell out of my options. I’ve been sensitive to my options for a while, because, by now, we’re up $2,000 in to plane tickets, doctor visits, and everything associated with a bootleg-approach to getting pregnant.

We tried working directly with our donor. We had him tested for fertility. We got ourselves prepped. It costs a lot of money. Starting our adventure with the endo and getting my cycle regulated meant we had to consider some options.

My options are to start fertility drugs.

Once I do this, I can try either a home insemination, or an Intrauterine Insemination, or IUI. This whole TTC thing gets complicated, overwhelming and expensive really quickly. My understanding is that IUI, in which a tube is placed in my uterus to flush sperm in to the area as I ovulate, is my best option.

Of course I know how baby-making works, but damn.

I hate that it has to be so clinical. I hate that there is always someone else in my bedroom. I hate that this can’t just be mine. I hate that I can’t be surprise. I hate that we will pay an $800 price tag for an 18% chance of success. It’s just not fair.

Despite all of this, I’m optimistic. Still looking forward to the future. I know it will happen, and I can’t wait until it does.

As long as there is that tiny pinprick of light, I’ll keep the sputtering flame of hope alive.