People keep asking me if I’ve made any new friends here in Westport. But listen guys, it’s always hard when you move to a new place. And even harder when there’s a global pandemic. And even HARDER when you’re the kind of person who uses the global pandemic as an excuse, when really it’s just that you’re awkward and you hate meeting new people and talking in general and doing stuff that isn’t on your couch or phone.
Regardless, this week I actually started to make some social headway.
During Nora’s farm class (shut up) I was chatting it up with a bunch of moms who seemed refreshingly normal. As we watched our kids chase roosters around the chicken coop (yeah I’m just as confused by my new life as you are), one mom commented that every time she leaves the class, her son’s socks, shoes, and ankles are caked in mud.
I nodded knowingly. It’s absolutely never not often that I feel like I have worthwhile mom advice to give, but for once, I had it and I owned it.
Me: “So, I had the same problem with Nora. I finally got smart and put her in tall rain boots for class. So only the boots get dirty. Then after class I take them off, put them in a plastic bag, and have a clean pair of sneakers for her in the car.”
Other Mom: “Oh my god brilliant! A clean pair of sneakers! I always have a change of clothes in the trunk, but it didn’t even occur to me to have clean sneakers!”
“Oh yeah, the clean sneakers are key,” I replied, while mentally collecting my parenting trophy.
Other Mom: “Seriously, why didn’t I think of clean sneakers? Every week I’m here chasing him around, making sure he doesn’t step in THAT, and bring THAT into my car.”
She pointed to a gigantic pile of caked mud and animal poop. Just a huge steaming pile of shit. A mountain, really. It was as if every animal on the farm– the sheep, the cows, the alpaca, even the lone Nubian goat– had made a pact to ONLY shit in that one designated spot.
And of course, at the exact moment we all turned to look at said shit-pile, Nora sauntered right on over to it.
But I wasn’t worried.
Other Mom: “Uh oh, watch out for your daughter!”
Me (laughing): “Nah, she’s fine. She’s just checking it out. As much as she loves stepping in a good rain puddle, she does NOT like things that are straight up gross.”
And as if right on cue, Nora then turned around, a complete 180, and walked as far away from the pile as possible.
Other Mom: “Wow, good for her! And good for you! You really know your kid!”
Me (admittedly smug): “Yeah, she’s pretty good about–“
And that’s when I heard the rushed pitter patter of little feet and swung back around to see Nora sprinting across the chicken coop with Forrest-Gump like determination– straight toward the steaming pile of shit.
It turned out she hadn’t walked away because she found it disgusting, she had walked away because she wanted to give herself A RUNNING START.
I yelled for her to stop, but she just waved her hand at me and screamed back, “IT’S OK MOM! I HAVE MY BOOTS! I CAN’T GET DIRTY!”
I flashed back to the conversation we had in the car on the way to the farm. She did not want to wear her boots. But I had explained, over and over, that it’s a good idea to wear the boots, because if she wears them she can step in mud and SHE WON’T GET DIRTY.THE BOOTS WILL PROTECT HER. This reasoning had made her very happy and compliant, and I had awarded myself approximately 785 gold parenting stars.
Before I could intercept, Nora completed her sprint and took an Olympic-style pole-vaulting leap into the fresh pile of animal dung. She soared through the air with the confidence of a superhero, armed with the certainty that her magic boots would act as a full-body protective cloak.
The entire farm watched in shocked silence as, upon landing, Nora’s feet gave out from under her, and her tiny little tod-bod sank into the dune, which completely enveloped her, quicksand style, in shit. Even the hairy, 500-pound hog, half asleep in a mud puddle, was repulsed.
As soon as Nora discovered that her magic boots had not performed their mommy-promised protective powers, the high-pitched, bloody-murder screams commenced.
While hyperventilating and snot-sobbing like me on election night 2016, she somehow managed to extricate herself from the dung mountain. She surveyed the lumpy streams of crap covering HER ENTIRE BODY– her shirt, her pants, her hands, her face. Everything drenched and dripping in feces.
She ran toward me, arms outstretched, hysterical, screaming, “MOMMY HELP MEEEEEEE!!!!!” She was clearly traumatized and desperately seeking solace, so I did what any parent would do in this situation.
I ran the fuck away from her.
She was covered in shit, you guys!!!
The pack of moms stared in disbelief as Nora chased me around the chicken coop and I literally hopped the fence to avoid her. One of them half heartedly offered a change of clothes, but I assured her “No no, that’s ok, thank you– I have clothes in the car, obviously. You’re not a mom unless you cart around a change of clothes, right?!” (casual laugh).
I had no change of clothes.
Keeping a good 5-foot distance ahead of her, I somehow managed to verbally coax Nora back to the car, where I promptly covered my hands in plastic bags and stripped her down naked right there on the grassy knoll. I then bathed her with baby wipes as she stood there screaming, her pale little wrinkled tush blowing in the 50-degree breeze. I should mention that we were parked roughly 30 feet from a gardening event attended by approximately 15 senior citizens, all of whom were watching this scene unfold. Plastic-bag-hands covered in shit, I waved.
After what seemed like an eternity, I finally got Nora decently clean, shoved her clothes in a garbage bag, and threw her in the car seat. She rode home buck naked and wailing.
Pretty much since Nora was born, she’s been completely attached to her pink bunny “lovey” (aka a “stuffed animal.” It’s just a goddamn stuffed animal. I don’t know why it gets a fancy name).
Eric and I are in constant fear of the day Bunny gets lost, because there is absolutely zero chance Nora will be able to sleep without it. You’d think we would have ordered a back-up replica of Bunny, but no. Instead we’ve just spent 2 years rolling the dice.
And last night we rolled a 3.
(That’s bad, right? Idk I don’t play dice games).
Bunny was nowhere to be found. We searched the entire house in a panic, tossing pillows, stripping beds, praying to gods we don’t believe in, accusing one another of foul play, threatening divorce, digging a bunker, considering suicide.
It got tense.
Eventually we gave up. Bunny was gone.
So I did what any mom would do in this desperate situation, and threw a Hail Mary– I attempted to substitute Bunny with a stuffed animal that looked NOTHING. LIKE. BUNNY.
Here’s a visual model of the swap I tried to pull off:
I gingerly handed the imposter to Nora, and shakily whispered, “Here you go sweetheart, how about this?” I then backed away ever so slowly, and prepared myself for her response:
Nora stared at Not-Bunny for a good 30 seconds, then stared back at me for another 10. She turned Not-Bunny upside down, then right side up again. She poked DeVito Doll right in the face a few times with her finger, presumably testing for texture. And then, with every fiber of her soul and at a dog-whistle octave, she screamed:
“BUNNY!!!!!! YOU FOUND IT MAMA!!!! IT’S BUNNY!!! I LOVE YOU BUNNY!!!!”
“I think people were surprised when Donald Trump won the election because usually the president is black. But when Kamala Harris wins, things will be normal again.”
— Kid, age 11, whose hopeful, raised-in-the-Obama-era innocence is giving me a reason to live right now so I’ll ignore how shockingly off-base he is regarding norms, and how swiftly and miserably he’s going to flunk U.S. History class.
On Friday, September 11, in the bullshit, hellfire year of 2020, I peed on a stick and it showed a positive result.
Sorry, I should clarify– I peed on a PREGNANCY TEST stick and it showed a positive result for PREGNANCY. (Just in case you thought I peed on a popsicle stick or a yard stick and that the stick, as a result, felt optimistic. As far as I’m aware, my pee does not have that power.)
One might view this as good news, and generally it is (obviously), but any excitement I felt about the positive result was quickly overridden by doubt and worry because 1) the line was VERY faint and 2) it took four days after my missed period to even show up on a test (My mother, quite the Fertile Myrtle* yet from the Jurassic Era of pregnancy, did not find this latter point suspicious in the least, but we all know that modern pregnancy tests can now detect pregnancy SUPER early, often BEFORE a missed period, and almost certainly on the DAY of the missed period. And by “we all know that,” I mean that’s what happened with my last pregnancy and therefore based on that one situation once, it is filed in my brain under “Facts We All Know.”)
So naturally, I immediately googled “faint line on a pregnancy test 4 days after missed period and I’m freaking out.” I got about 78923392893 explanations, and 78923392892 of them were some version of “Every woman is different. You’re fine, Karen.”
But naturally, I zeroed in on the one article that mentioned ectopic pregnancy as a possible reason for this late, faint-line scenario, and my anxiety disorder immediately perked up and declared “YES. I’LL TAKE ECTOPIC PREGNANCY FOR 500, ALEX!”
For those of you who don’t know what an ectopic pregnancy is and who enjoy getting your medical information from this blog (not advised), it is a complication of pregnancy in which the embryo attaches outside the uterus (don’t worry, I cut and pasted that from wikipedia a verified medical source so that you know it’s accurate). The uterus (again for those of you who skipped 5th grade health class because your parents are religious, or for those of you who are Mike Pence), is the only place in the body that can provide a “hospitable environment” for an embryo. If the embryo attaches outside the uterus, it cannot thrive and grow, and therefore has no chance of being a viable pregnancy.
Reading all this on The Google offset a series of back and forth with my OBGYN. I requested an earlier ultrasound, because the soonest appointment offered to me was 10/14, which would put me at 9 weeks 2 days pregnant. That seemed an absurdly long time to wait, especially considering that my “advanced maternal age” (cue flirty hair toss)
and previous C-section automatically put me in the category of “high risk.” The doctor agreed to do bloodwork to ensure my hormones were rising as they should, but wouldn’t budge on the ultrasound date.
Then I found blood in my underwear.
Finding blood in your underwear is never a sign that today is going to be a good day. Even when it’s the “good” blood (aka your period), it’s a huge fucking bummer. So when you find the “bad” blood, you can pretty much throw out your chances of mental sanity for the foreseeable future. (What you can also do is take pictures of it and send to your BFF, thus solidifying what you already knew was an in-the-trenches-together-for-life friendship. Thank you again to that friend, and I’m sorry if you still can’t eat.)
I called my doctor and she insisted that it was still too early for an ultrasound (at this point I was 5 weeks 3 days), but that we’d see what my blood results had to say. My results came back the next day and showed that the hormones were increasing as they should. And you know what’s great about your hormones increasing properly during early pregnancy? ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOTHING IF IT’S AN ECTOPIC PREGNANCY. Because technically, you are pregnant (just in the wrong place), so your body continues to supply you with the hormones as it would for a properly-placed pregnancy. It doesn’t yet know the difference. So a blood test early on will reveal absolutely zero helpful information in terms of discovering an ectopic pregnancy.
You know what WILL reveal an ectopic pregnancy that early?
A MOTHERFUCKING ULTRASOUND.
After more pleading (because I was not satisfied with the bloodwork results alone), my doctor agreed to move up my ultrasound to 10/6 (when I would be 8 weeks 1 day). I still found this unacceptable. She continued to argue that it was too early for an ultrasound (FALSE– perhaps too early to detect a heartbeat, NOT too early to detect an ectopic pregnancy), and it wasn’t until I burst into tears with the secretary that she magically found a way to squeeze me in on 9/30, which would put me at 7 weeks 2 days. I still found this absurdly late for a first ultrasound given my age, the suspicious faint line, and the blood, but not wanting to harass them any further and come off as a complete crazy person (big mistake- I should have owned my title as I always have), I accepted that date.
On Monday, 9/28, two days before my scheduled ultrasound, I woke up to more blood.
And about an hour later, I began experiencing cramps on my right side, which quickly devolved into EXCRUCIATING pain. I could not move from the fetal position. Not that the fetal position was even helping. No matter how I contorted my body, the pain was sharp, intense, and relentless. It literally took my breath away, in the absolute least romantic interpretation of that phrase.
Eric called the doctor’s office. My OB was not in that day (OF COURSE), but the secretary told us to go to the emergency room. We drove straight to the nearest hospital in Norwalk.
Due to COVID, Eric was not allowed to stay with me. So I would now like to add “Scared and alone in the ER” to my “Things I Blame on Trump” list.
They took an ultrasound. Fun fact: the ultrasound technicians are not allowed to reveal to you what they are seeing. I don’t know if they take some kind of acting class in order to hone the skills required to stay completely fucking stone-faced while staring at a pregnant woman’s empty uterus, but I gotta say, the Oscar goes to technician Cindy in Ultrasound Room B.
Bitch didn’t bat an eye while gazing into what I would later learn was the hollow, unoccupied abyss of my uterus. She didn’t show the slightest hint of emotion when I asked her, through a cascade of tears, if she could hear a heartbeat. “I’m not allowed to discuss what I see,” replied Cyborg Cindy.
About 30 minutes after the ultrasound was completed, the ER doctor reported his findings. “There are no signs of pregnancy in your uterus. The ultrasound shows significant bleeding in your right ovary, and we believe we see an ectopic pregnancy in your right fallopian tube. The bleeding and pain is likely the result of the tube rupturing, but we will need your OB to come in to confirm.”
He was perfectly nice and sympathetic when he relayed this news, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to light his face on fire.
They called my OB’s office, only to be told the on-call OB was in the middle of performing a C-section. She would get back to us in an hour. I stared at the wall and choke-sobbed, creating a list of reasons (I love lists) why this was happening to me. In true depressive form, they were all my fault.
In a not-at-all-shocking turn of events, the on-call OB at my practice finally called back to say that their doctors are not licensed to practice at Norwalk Hospital, only at Greenwich, and therefore could not come to consult. I would need to be seen by the attending OB at Norwalk.
I jotted down this hour of wasted time in excruciating pain as the final point on my “Ways This Practice Has Ass Raped Me” list (looooove lists), and vowed to never return.
The one bright spot in the story is that the attending OB then stepped in, and she was a lovely angel sent from the heavens. She had the (wee) stature, coloring, and gentle, soothing manner of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and I immediately felt safe in her Jewish motherly presence (she probably wasn’t Jewish, but definitely had that “vibe,” which is a positive trait in exactly one kind of situation, and this was it). Ruth Dr. M was calm and comforting, but also knew her shit and wasn’t going to beat around the bush.
She immediately confirmed an ectopic pregnancy.
Obviously. Of all the “this-pregnancy-situation-aint-lookin-good” scenarios, Of COURSE this was an ectopic pregnancy. Because in no other body than mine would the egg and sperm go through all the trouble to meet and merge, only to then be TOO FUCKING LAZY TO MAKE THE 5 INCH** TRIP DOWN TO THEIR UTERUS HOME.
Sperm and egg were like “Hey, you wanna do this thing? Cool. So let’s just park it, crack open a can of hard seltzer (this embryo was VERY white) and netflix n’ chill here in the fallopian tube instead of, you know, doing all the stuff that requires energy.” Basically the story of my and Eric’s courtship.
And I’m obviously in favor of the whole “meet-and-immediately-settle-down” approach but in this scenario, putting in one more tiny modicum of effort turned out to be necessary for the success of the relationship. They were lazy and they blew it.
So I had immediate emergency surgery.
The embryo had been growing in my right fallopian tube, and because it had grown to a size that exceeded the diameter of the tube, the tube had ruptured. In case you’re wondering what it feels like when an organ ruptures inside your body, stop wondering. You don’t want to know.
They put me under general anesthesia. They preformed the surgery laparoscopically, and removed my ruptured fallopian tube. The internal bleeding and inflammation was so bad at that point, the doctor told me I was extremely lucky that I came in when I did. I took that to mean I very possibly could have died, but I didn’t ask her to clarify. Even I, the masochist, didn’t want to know.
When I awoke from surgery, which took about 2 hours, I was delighted to see Ruth Bader Ginsburg– the ACTUAL Ruth Bader Ginsburg– stroking my hand and telling me I did a great job. She was super proud of me. I thanked her, then asked, “Did you come back from the dead, Ruth? I can call you Ruth, right? That’s ok? Or are you a ghost? You know what, it doesn’t matter. I’m just so glad you’re here.” At which point Ruth lovingly assured me that I was on lots and lots of drugs, and that I should stop saying words.
I stayed quiet after that, but only after asking her to please sign my water bottle.
Idk she must not have heard me.
I am now home recovering, and have been getting plenty of rest and lots of love. My mother-in-law arrived the day of surgery and took care of Nora for the following 3 days. My parents then took over on Wednesday night. They arrived with a full bottle of Grey Goose, 5 bottles of wine, and their own coffee machine. None of it was for us. Those are apparently the supplies they require in order to make it through a 48 hour stay in our home.
My respect for them runs deep.
How am I feeling? I appreciate you asking (you didn’t). I’m pretty much all over the fucking place (hence the choice to start writing. It helps.) Here’s a sample of some of the things going through my mind. Don’t worry, it’s just a pu pu platter. I won’t torture you with the full menu, as I haven’t even worked through that myself.
I’m angry with my OB for not giving me an earlier ultrasound, and angry with myself for not pushing harder. I recognize she could not have prevented the ectopic pregnancy, but she could have discovered it sooner and treated it with medication, thereby saving me from this hell parade of an experience and the loss of my tube. While I know you only need one tube to get pregnant, it’s sure as shit easier with two. Plus no one likes to lose an organ if they don’t have to. Not to sound like my terrible-2 toddler, but that was MY tube, godammit. MINE! I grew it myself!
I’m sad. While I never fully committed to the idea of this baby due to the anxious circumstances surrounding it from the beginning, and therefore can’t really say I feel a true sense of mourning (as I know many women do feel after a miscarriage, no matter what stage of pregnancy, and that feeling of loss and grief is always completely valid), I had still let myself get excited. I was thrilled about the idea of Nora getting a sibling– that she’d have someone to talk to, even though there is no one she’d rather talk to than herself. She’s so ready to be a big sister, and I want that for her. Badly.
I’m anxious. About the future, and what this means for the family we were hoping to grow. The fact that this happened to me once means there is an increased risk of it happening again. I’ll be 39 soon. I’m down a tube. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the odds are bad– but they’re certainly decreasing.
I’m annoyed. On a purely logistical level, this was a perfectly timed pregnancy for a myriad of reasons. That feels silly to even put in writing, but it’s part of the feelings shitnado, so there you have it. I’m pissed that it didn’t work out, that my meticulously planned timing has blown up in my face, and I’m overwhelmed by the idea of starting from scratch.
I’m hopeful. Somehow, I’m able to wade through this shitswamp and take solace in the fact that whatever is meant to be is going to be. I often hate when people say that, but I do truly believe it in this circumstance. In many ways, I feel strong. And I agree with Ruth– I’m proud of myself for getting through this (this part, at least. I know I’m not done). I feel a new, even deeper appreciation for the one amazing, beautiful, dynamic, hilarious child I DO have. I feel once again validated in my amazing choice of partner (not that it ever needs validation– I just enjoy being right), because as always he has stepped up in every way possible. And I have not-new-but-always-growing gratitude for my incredible friends and family, who have always been there for me, this moment being no exception.
But none of this is linear. I’m deeply humbled one moment and back to angry and sad the next. Then back again. The only constant is the steadfast eating of feelings. I would like to thank “snacks” for sponsoring this miscarriage.
My body still hurts. I am still expelling remnants of a pregnancy that once carried endless possibilities, and is now just a visual reminder of hopes dashed. I know I’ll get through it, but I’m still in it.
And it’s pretty dark in here.
So thanks to those of you who have provided some light.
Especially you, Ruth.
*”She got pregnant if I even looked at her funny!” – My Dad. 🤢
My 5-year-old nephew and I are hanging out on the beach during our Outer Banks vacation….
Nephew: “Auntie Em, I’m gonna go to the White House. It would be so cool to live there, don’t you think?”
Me: “Meh. Not right now it wouldn’t be.”
Me: “Because you’d have to live there with Donald Trump.”
Nephew: “He lives there?”
Me: “Yes, and he’s the worst. He’s not a good person. He’s extremely selfish and rude and he has no respect for other people, especially women. So do me a favor– stay away from the White House until there’s someone respectable living in it, which will hopefully be the case come January. Until then, I think you should take a stand with your Auntie Em and stay far away from ANYTHING having to do with this president, who is nothing but a bully– because I know that you have a kind heart, just like I do.”
Later, my nephew’s nanny approaches me….
Nanny: “Did you say something to Tyler?”
Me: “What do you mean?”
Nanny: “I was going to take him to see the lighthouse in Corolla today and he was so excited, but now he’s yelling that he won’t go because a bad, selfish bully lives there, and he’s taking a stand with his Auntie Em.”
Since moving to the burbs, we’ve had issues with house flies, mainly because we are super bad at remembering to close the kitchen sliding door that leads to the deck. So naturally, we invested in a fly-swatter bulk pack (family style!) and are constantly running around the kitchen chasing flies, killing them, and then congratulating ourselves with a celebratory dance and a screamy notification to the whole house that “I KILLED THAT FUCKER!”
Nora watches all of this.
We really gotta start remembering that she’s there (for this reason and also, just like, in general.)
Because naturally, seeing this ritual in action then led her to believe that house flies are very scary and dangerous (necessitating the brutal killings and professionally choreographed victory dances). Therefore, whenever she’d see one, she’d scream, run away terrified, and yell “Mama, can you kill it?!!!”
It took some explaining to get her to see that flies are not dangerous and will not hurt her, so she doesn’t have to be afraid. Luckily, Nora is pretty smart for an almost-2-year-old, and before long, with some patience and gentle encouragement from me, she was able to see that house flies are not dangerous, they’re just annoying. Armed with this explanation, she was no longer terrified of them and started to say “Is ok, fly don’t hurt, is just annoying, Mama” whenever she’d spot one. She’d then waddle over to the table, grab the fly-swatter, and hand it over to me like the dutiful little partner-in-crime she is.
Yes, I will gladly accept my bouquet of parenting trophies.
Flash forward a few days. Nora and I are on the deck.
Nora: “Mama, what’s dat sound?”
Me: “That’s Uncle Jeremy blasting music in the kitchen.”
Nora: “Why he so loud, Mama?”
Me: “You’re right, he IS being loud. But that’s ok. It’s no big deal, it’s just a little annoying.”
Me: “Oh, man. I’m sorry to hear that. But you know what? I think everyone’s hanging on by a thread these days. I know I certainly am. It’s just becoming too much, you know? Waking up every morning and every day is pretty much the same, with very little to do to get our minds off the problems in the world right now. It certainly creates feelings of anxiety, wondering when and if any of this is ever going to get better. But just know you’re not alone in those feelings.”
Kid: “Wait what? I said I’m hanging out with Fred. My cat, Fred.”
Me: “Ok, so we’re going to do some fun math problems today, all involving ducks! Because I know how much you love birds. The questions are going to start off super easy, but they build off each other and become more challenging as we go.”
Me: “So first question– there are three ducks. Each duck is 1 foot in length. If the three ducks go swimming together in a line, beak to tail, how long is the duck-line?”
Kid: “Wait, so each duck is ONE foot long?”
Kid: “And there are THREE of them?”
Kid: “Ok let me think.” (starts whisper counting to himself, goes way past 3)
Me: “Woah woah, you’re already counting too high. There are only THREE ducks.”
Kid: “I know I know…” (keeps counting, now silently, but keeping track on fingers)
Me: “This is supposed to the super-easy first problem, it doesn’t really require finger counting.”
Kid: “I’ve almost got it, hold on.”
Me: “Ok I’m trying to help you but you’re not listen—”
Kid: “Shh shhh wait let me finish.”
Kid (finally): “15! The answer is 15 feet.” (crosses arms, super proud of self)
Me: “What? No. Not even close. There are only 3 ducks and they are each ONE foot!”
Kid: “Yeah but you gotta have 6 feet between each duck or they’ll all get corona.”
“Hey, so,” (clears throat, clearly nervous) “I was thinking…and I know this is a little audacious of me to ask, but– would you please consider getting pregnant again? Like, immediately? It’s just– the last time you were pregnant, well, those 9 months were pretty great for me. I finally got to relax and kick my feet up for a bit, you know? Rejuvenate. Catch my breath. Felt like my normal, healthy self again. But I’ve just really been working on overdrive since then. And now with the pandemic and your anxiety and everything…I’m just struggling to keep my head above water here. So you’ll consider it? Pregnancy? It’s really my only opportunity for a break. I know you need me to keep working hard, but I can’t keep going like this without some kind of respite. I’m not a wizard. And, um, I don’t mean for this to sound condescending but– you know you, like, NEED me in order to survive, right? Like I know you understand that in theory but it seems you don’t really follow through with it in daily practice. Ok ok sorry, my bad, I see I’m getting you worked up. I won’t get ahead of myself here. We don’t need to make any permanent life changes. I know that’s hard for you. Let’s just focus on my short-term, 9-month vacation for now, and maybe then down the line we can work on some longer-term goals. Cool?”