The IVF doctor sighed deeply, looked me straight in the eye and said, “You’re very old and you’re quite deformed. There is no point in you having sex anymore.”
Ok, fine. Maybe I’m paraphrasing. It was more like, “Given your age, and the fact that you have only one Fallopian tube, the chances of you conceiving naturally are quite slim.”
But I heard what I heard.
This was back in April 2021, about 7 months after a disastrous ectopic pregnancy that had resulted in a burst Fallopian tube and emergency surgery to remove it and save me from internally bleeding to death.
Eric and I were trying desperately to have one more child (we had always dreamed of two girls, and by we I mean me, and then I convinced Eric it was his dream too) but, given my various mental health issues, I had been staunchly avoiding a trip to the IVF doctor, fearful of what the brutal process would do to me, both mentally and physically.
I have known many brave women who have gone through IVF, and I have always marveled at their tenacity and strength. I couldn’t imagine having to manage the slew of doctor’s appointments, surgeries, hormone shots, side effects, and overall logistics without going completely insane (particularity given that my depressive and anxious tendencies can be triggered by something as benign as a change in routine, or the fact that it’s a weekday). IVF didn’t seem like something I was built for.
But it had been seven frustrating months of natural trying, and while some of you (men. Definitely only men) , might think “Cool! Sex!”, I can promise you that nothing is less seductive than strictly scheduled, position-coordinated sex, followed by obligatory post-coital bicycle kicks (just me, not Eric, although he was welcome to join) in order to get those sperm a swimmin’. All of this culminating in half-upside-down vertical leg-propping on the headboard whilst scrolling social media to pass the 15 minutes those little champions need to find their way to your ancient egg!**
This ritual was not proving successful in making a baby, but while upside-down Instagram scrolling I did come across a useful reel about how to put a tortilla under my nachos as a vessel for all the crumbs at the end, thus creating a bonus burrito. So not entirely unproductive.
The pressure we were putting on ourselves was making us both miserable, and we finally broke down and decided that intervention might be necessary, both to make a baby and to allow us to return to a non-cyborg sex life.
In the weeks leading up to our initial consultation with the IVF clinic, I still held out hope that we could somehow conceive naturally– hope that was immediately dashed when the doctor informed me of the cobwebs in my uterus and the deficiency of my lady parts. Or however he phrased it.
The doctor was confirming my worst fear since the ectopic pregnancy– that getting pregnant again was going to be extremely difficult, and perhaps not possible at all. I could tell he knew his shit (as I like to assume all doctors do), and so I took a deep breath and tried to process the fact that natural baby-making was no longer an option for me.
The doctor walked me through the process. We discussed timelines, hormone side effects, actual chances of conceiving and the likelihood that I would have to go through the process more than once. In more disappointing news, it turned out I would need to have preliminary tests done before even starting IVF, including testing on my one remaining Fallopian tube, which he was convinced was likely blocked with scar tissue from my two previous surgeries, and might have to be removed in order to optimize IVF results. I asked about IUI, a less invasive intervention, but was told that given my ectopic pregnancy, I was a poor candidate. The only way to ensure that I would not have another ectopic pregnancy was to bypass the tube entirely.
Eric rubbed my back as I sobbed.
The doctor was sympathetic and kind, but firm in his belief that we shouldn’t waste time. “Call me on the first day of your next period, and we can get the ball rolling.”
I never got my period.
Instead I got this:
Turns out, I was already pregnant when we spoke with the doctor, but I didn’t know it yet. My one lonesome, rickety tube beat the odds. And apparently, uterus cobwebs are helpful for trapping embryos***.
So for about the 85th time in my life I learned the slightly terrifying (but in this case fortuitous) lesson that doctors don’t know everything– and despite my propensity for skepticism, I had to admit that miracles really do happen.
I said miracle. I didn’t say genius.
** I consulted an actual scientist who confirmed there is, in fact, no science to this.
So, I have to say– I never in a million years thought I would be that mom who goes to Disney World and experiences that cliched sense of magic upon entering the park with her kids, but we took Nora and Sophie a couple months ago and as it turns out, guys, I was absofuckinglutely right.
From a young age (because I was crotchety wise beyond my years), I swore up and down that once I became a mom, there would be ONE AND ONLY ONE trip to Disney World with my kids, and it would happen when all my children (back then I thought I’d have 4 or 5, because I was very stupid) reached an age where they would actually remember and appreciate the trip.
This would serve two purposes: 1) not blowing a crapload of money on something that wouldn’t even be long-term remembered, and 2) me not having to do that shit twice.
I know I sound like a complete grouch and definitely in the running for non-mom of the year, but guys I’m an introvert and it’s fucking DISNEY WORLD. It’s chaos and noise and the kind of go-go-go energy that makes me want to find the nearest bunker and bury myself beneath a mountain of ammo and canned goods.
So guess who couldn’t fucking WAIT to go?
At some point when I was not around, which is truly when he does his best work, Eric promised Nora that we could do a “quick, easy trip” (no such thing) to Disney World during our 2-week winter vacation in Florida (my parents have a house in Palm Beach. Because we’re basic). I came home one night to Nora spastic-leaping into my arms, psyched as fuck, yelling, “DADDY SAID WE CAN GO TO DISNEY WORLD!!!!!”
I pulled Eric aside for the “I really wish you had consulted with me first” whisper-lecture, the venom in my words masked by a wide, fake smile and sugar-sweet tone, so as not to tip Nora off to the fact that I was going to indeed murder her father in his sleep that night.
But the damage was done. Disney was promised, Nora was beside herself with glee, and I was surely not going to be the grinch who stole Magic Kingdom. I put Eric in charge of all the logistics and planning, and basically took myself out of the entire equation other than promising I would show up (my basic approach to motherhood in general), and I would do it with a smile on my face, no matter how many extra anti-depressants I had to stash in my Minnie Mouse fanny pack.
I bitched about the trip for the entire 2-3 months leading up to it, to anyone who would listen, but it was always met with the same pat response from my friends: “I know, it’s SO expensive and it’s a LOT, but I’m telling you, when you see the look on Nora’s face, it will all be worth it.”
Actual footage of the look on Nora’s face:
And I know what you’re thinking…ok, that’s one photo, you caught her in a bad moment, it’s a long day at the park, etc etc etc let’s defend that innocent little lavender-bespectacled cutie.
No guys. She was cranky as fuck almost the entire time we were there. Here is more actual footage of her “enjoying” the huge parade that, thanks to our “amazing timing, Nora!” started as soon as we entered the park. Literally all her favorite characters up close and in one place.
And that, my friends, is the look of someone who has never been more giddily excited to see anything EVER. But next to Eric is a freaked-out, totally overwhelmed little girl who doesn’t understand what the hell is happening, and wants to cry tears of confusion and overstimulation (which, don’t worry, she promptly did! I harnessed my own tears into a silent, internal soul-weeping, though, because maturity.)
No amount of parental hyping could sway her mood. We tried ice cream (worked for the entire 2 minutes she spent eating it, then immediately backfired in both her mood and pants), we tried stickers (mayhem when they lost their stick– thanks for nothing, Science), we tried reminding her how fortunate she was to live this life she gets to live (weird she wasn’t capable of that perspective, which I gained at approximately age 32).
Nothing worked. This kid was NOT having it.
At some point we came up with the brilliant idea of having her put on her Elsa costume, certain that a little princess flair would cause the tides of rage to turn.
No. But at least we now know what Elsa would look like in a mug shot, still tightly clutching her murder weapon.
I want to say things perked up in time for a festive dinner in the park, but here we are at 4:45pm “happy hour…”
The good news is that when we got to our hotel room, and encountered the awesome bunk beds that Nora specifically INSISTED we pay extra for, she was too scared to sleep in them and instead shared the king bed with Eric, while Sophie and I slept on the couch.
Anyway listen, guys, this post isn’t meant to be an “I told you so” to Eric (I already did that to his face. Repeatedly). I don’t actually relish being right in this situation. I am in fact very fortunate to be married to a man who is generally optimistic, is a total doer, and is ordered to happy to put in the planning and logistical work to make awesome experiences for our kids. If not for him, we’d end up doing way too much of my preferred activities (sitting; laying).
And at the end of the day, I can only look back and smile. I’m not sure we made the happiest memories, but Disney World turned out to be the location of Nora and Sophie’s first-ever communal nap, which is arguably its own kind of magic.
My youngest brother, Zack, married a wonderful woman named Julie in July 2022. Below is the speech I gave at their rehearsal dinner. It will become quickly obvious why I was not asked to speak at the actual wedding.
Hello everyone, my name is Emily and I am Zack’s older sister. Older, but not old-EST, sister. That would be Steph. Steph is the one who is old.
For further context, my husband, Eric, will be officiating the marriage ceremony tomorrow, and since he has paid the great state of Connecticut $7 in order to obtain a “minister’s parking permit,” I guess that makes me the minister’s wife. Which makes the amount of cursing I’m about to do feel super weird, and I’m sorry.
As many of you know, Zack is the youngest of four children, and for those of you who are familiar with math, you understand that four is a fuck-ton of children.
Four kids is particularly excessive when it’s clear your parents were done, mentally and energy-wise, at two. Mom and Dad were already exhausted when the third, Jeremy, arrived, and by the time Zack was born, they had completely thrown in the child-rearing towel. It’s unfair, though, to say that Zack was raised by wolves, in that it’s insulting to wolves.
If you look back on the huge archive of home videos my parents recorded in our youth, you will see the births, first crawls, steps, words, and generally all major milestones in my, Steph’s, and Jeremy’s childhoods. What you will NOT see is any evidence of Zack’s existence. Then, suddenly, after a long gap in video recording, he makes his home-movie debut, at roughly age 3. What happened prior to age 3, no one knows.
Zack was left to fend for himself, which explains why on brother-sister camp visitation days I’d find him roaming the perimeter of Lake Winnipesaukee in a bathing suit that wasn’t his, wearing one teva, covered in weeks-old temporary body tattoos and smelling like washed up pond scum. It also explains the ‘fro hairstyle he rocked all through high school as DJ Cue, the creepy trunk of worms he kept in our basement, and the fact that he owns nary a shirt with sleeves.
What it does NOT explain is how he landed someone like Julie.
Which leads me to the thesis of this speech– how DID Zack land Julie?
I have a 3 year old at home and, you know kids, how they’re cute but pretty dumb? Well recently Nora heard us talking about “Uncle Zack’s wedding” and she asked me “but who is marrying Uncle Zack?” And please note, Julie and Zack have been together since before Nora was born, stay at our house together often, and one is rarely seen without the other.
“Well,” I asked Nora, “Who do you THINK would be marrying UncleZack?”
“I have NO idea” she replied, echoing all our sentiments.
“Well, who is he always with?” I asked.
“Oh- Aunt Julie!” she answered excitedly.
“That’s right!” I said.
And then, after a long contemplative pause, she asked “But who is MARRYING him??”
Because even this doe-eyed child, at the ripe age of 3, knowing essentially ZERO things about the world, deduced, quite reasonably, that there was no CHANCE her exceedingly normal and lovely Aunt Julie would choose to marry her under-showered, over-tanned, crazy Uncle Zack.
So why DID Julie choose Zack? To unpack this, I’m going to list a few popular reasons why a person would choose to bind her life to someone for eternity, and see if we can pinpoint Julie’s exact mindset when she agreed to marry a man whose feet, on a good day, resemble oven-roasted cauliflower**.
Number 1: Did Julie choose Zack because he’s charming?
To dispute this theory, allow me to tell you the story of how Zack and Julie met. My siblings and I were in the car on the way to our cousin’s wedding when I saw Zack perusing Julie’s dating profile. “She’s cute!” I declared. Write something good.”
“I’m just gonna write ‘hey’” he replied, at which point I told him if he wrote “hey,” I would throw his phone out the window to be shattered like the soul of any human who thinks “hey” is a good opener.
After suggesting that I quote “calm my tits,” Zack asked if I had a better idea. We happened to have just stopped in the middle of upstate nowhere and purchased some random roadside dried fruit (hashtag pre-covid), which led to a debate over the all-time best dried fruit. It was a LITTLE out of left field but totally authentic, so I told him to tell her of our argument, and ask her which dried fruit SHE thinks is the best. Of course, this worked like a charm.
And even though Zack weirdly and aggressively declared that her answer of “apricot” didn’t count because apricots are only available in dried form, which is, you know, abso-fucking-loutely not true, it’s this extremely charming little question that sparked their love story.
And it was MY question.
So no. Zack is not charming.
I am, though.
Number 2: Did Julie choose Zack because he’s romantic?
Another story comes to mind. After a long process of designing the perfect engagement ring, Zack finally got the finished product in hand, and then asked my advice on how to propose. At the time, Julie was in Florida with her entire family. I told him it would be awesome if he took a spontaneous flight to Florida and proposed in front of those closest to her. I said it’d be super romantic if he declared that once he got the ring in his hand, he simply couldn’t wait a second longer to start his life with her.
To which Zack responded, “yeah…she’ll know that’s not me. Whatever dude, I’ll just do it in the apartment.”
So no. Romantic he is not.
Number 3: Did Julie choose Zack because he is physically irresistible?
A few months ago Zack texted me, and I quote, “Dude. Be thankful you didn’t get Dad’s hemorrhoid gene. I got a real boysenberry goin here.”
Number 4: Did Julie choose Zack because he comes from a good family?
As you can already tell by how many times I’ve said “fuck” in this speech….no.
Let me tell you a little story which I think perfectly illustrates the juxtaposition between Julie’s polite, sophisticated, thoughtful nature versus our family of straight up bozos. A couple years ago while vacationing with us in the Outer Banks, Julie worked hard collecting a bevy of shells on the beach, which she then meticulously arranged next to the dining room table for everyone to enjoy. We all know Julie’s amazing eye for detail. It was a true work of art.
Later, Julie entered the living room visibly annoyed– which is rare form for Julie, so I knew something must have really pissed her off. I asked what was wrong and she explained that she had laid out all these shells for decor, and then when she left the room, (air quotes) *SOMEONE* (which was Julie’s polite way of saying “Jeremy”) just threw a bunch of empty take-out trash over them. She didn’t see it happen– only walked in later to find her shells covered by a pile of greasy Duck Deli boxes.
It was impossible for her to understand how anyone could be so clueless. I nodded in agreement and assured her of two essential truths– yes, her frustration was warranted, and yes, Jeremy is an idiot.
And I know this may seem like a small, random example of the kind of shit Julie has to put up with when dealing with our family, but I think about this incident ALL THE TIME when I contemplate how Julie is going to survive a lifetime of us.
I also think about it all the time because it was actually me. I threw the boxes on the shells. Honestly, Julie, I didn’t even notice they were there, and then when I saw how upset you were I was too scared to fess up, so I did what I’ve been doing since age 6– I lied and blamed it on Jeremy.
So no– Zack does not come from a good family.
All kidding aside, I’ve known Zack since his first day on earth. And I can assure you, Julie, from the bottom of my heart, that in picking Zack as your life partner, you have made an extraordinarily okay choice.
But no, despite how much I love to mess with him, in reality Zack is one of my favorite people on earth. My first instinct when he was born was to be fiercely protective of him (because, as noted earlier, no one else was), and he and I have maintained a very unique and deeply bonded relationship ever since. I’ve given Zack advice on everything from career (which he ignored, rightfully) to dating (which he took, wisely) and to this day he still turns to me in moments of doubt and paranoia, which for Zack is all of the moments.
At some point, he will realize what the rest of my family picked up on long ago- I know nothing! Zack is, in fact, the one who knows things. And does things. He is the family knower and doer, and believe me, we need one. We honestly could not live without him. And I mean that literally, because we would straight up starve.
But I also mean it figuratively, because he’s proven to be so much more than just the family dingleberry. The truth is, we know exactly why Julie chose you, Zack– you’re hilarious, you’re thoughtful, you’re real, solid, good human to the core. You’re incredibly intelligent but in the least intimidating way possible, and you’re all heart.
And the great thing about you, Julie, besides your warmth, sweetness, sophistication, and just overall incredibly-pleasant-to-be-around-energy, is how you enhance all of Zack’s best qualities. As your partner, he is his best self, but at the same time, and this is what I love most about your relationship– you absolutely allow and encourage him to be 100% himself, in all his absurdity. And of course, he in turn allows you to be YOURself, in all your glorious and endearing nerdiness.
So cheers to this amazing couple– may they double down on their love as consistently as Zack doubles down on butter. May their desire for one another last as long as it takes Zack to get to the point. May Julie love Zack with as much unbridled passion as she loves bricks.
You two just keep doing you. And Zack, my baby brother, from the bottom of my heart, congratulations on landing this most fabulous, gorgeous, kind, patient, phenomenal woman. You will have, undoubtedly, the most beautiful life with Julie.
Just don’t fuck with her shells.
**(It was an unfortunate coincidence that oven-roasted cauliflower was on the menu that night)
Well it took about 74 random password guesses (all incorrect, never should have deviated from my original AOL password, iluvfreddieprinze), at least 5 expletives (which felt great, because 4-year-old Nora doesn’t let me say the creatively coined “fuck word” anymore), banging on the laptop like a feral baboon and chanting a couple Hail Marys (I’m jewish, but I feel like Mary gets it?) to finally figure out how to log back into my blog site.
That tells me it’s probably been too long since I’ve written. Not great, since writing is my therapy, and the state of my mental faculties directly correlates with the frequency of my writing. Well, fuck. *pops Prozac, swallows with cold brew, simultaneously feels in control and on the verge of cardiac arrest*
But here’s the thing, guys, I’ve been realllllly busy.
Truth be told, since the last time I posted, I can honestly say I’ve never been less busy yet more overwhelmed. In this case, I’m defining “busyness” as having an actual, brain-stimulating existence– doing all the stuffs, working all the jobs, partaking in all the adventures, indulging in all the creative outlets.
Yes, I’ve been productive in some ways. For example, I made a human. Her name is Sophie. Eric helped make her, I suppose, so to be perfectly technical, I took what “we” made (a grain of sand– SOMEONE HAND ERIC A TROPHY) and turned it into an actual homosapien with limbs, internal organs, a brain and almost some hair (she’s now 13 months and still quite bald).
I did all this growing-of-the-human by waking up every morning, puking into a toilet, sobbing, cursing, returning to bed with the drama of an Oregon trailer dying of Dysentery, and then promptly puking again. And again. And again. And again! For 20 weeks straight.
There was a lot of moaning (the bad kind), sweating (still the bad kind), waddling (not the cute kind) and fun complications like gestational diabetes, hypothyroidism, and throbbing dental pain (yup, that’s a thing!)
To say that my entire pregnancy felt like an internal battle with Satan might be a tad dramatic, but when the doctors finally managed to wrestle Sophie out of my body with what felt like a jagged crowbar and a Dirt Devil Pro, and she emerged with the tiniest puff of red-tinted hair, was I surprised?
I was not.
So I don’t know, guys. Life is weird right now. Not bad weird, just weird weird, and I think I’m still settling into this suburban mom-of-two-young-kids life and finding my way through the Westport, CT jungle (I know. I’ve been here almost 3 years. For a marathon runner, turns out I’m quite slow).
Sometimes it feels like everyone else has a meticulously detailed map, and I’m just plodding along with my 4-year-old’s cracked Magic 8 Ball, kind of making shit up as I go. This is unsurprising, I suppose, because it’s how I’ve always felt in life in general. I guess this is just the Suburban Mom chapter in the bumbling memoir hero’s journey that is my life’s tale.
And none of this is a complaint about Westport (or my kids!! I obviously love the shit out of my kids and am beyond grateful to have them, but also hate that I have to point that out when expressing any weird feelings I’m having about motherhood, but some of you are cray so I’ll go ahead and cover that base– MY KIDS ARE THE ABSOLUTE BEST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME, EVEN WHEN THEY DO THINGS LIKE LICK THE PLUNGER AND THROW UP IN MY CLEAVAGE).
I actually really like it here in Westport– it’s a phenomenal place to live (my kids better appreciate the fuck out of it, which, I understand, they will not), and I have met really great people. I just think that between our abrupt NYC exit, living a couple years in bizarro COVID Isolationville, having a second child who is very much a good baby (because all babies are good, of course! Of courssssssse. Settle down Gentle Parenting mob) but perhaps not the EASIEST baby (very screamy. Not a fan of many things.), and putting my career on pause to care for my kids full-time, it’s been a LOT. A lot of good, yes. But also “a LOT” in the most mind-numbing, tedious, floating-in-the-abyss way imaginable. And it’s left me feeling, at times, a little lost.
And I know one solid way to work through it is to keep writing, but every time I catch a spare moment away from caring for my kids, I find myself wanting to do nothing but zone out– do crosswords, watch The Bachelor, fight the dog for Nora’s remaining grilled cheese scraps, scroll Instagram until my brain cells bleed from my eyes, drink wine(s).
This, of course, feels good in the moment, but does nothing helpful for me long term, which I’m acutely aware of in the rational part of my brain (I call this rational part Anna, named after my therapist, who is responsible for all thoughts contained within it.) So I’m going to start listening to Anna a bit more. She keeps whispering that I should write, and that I’ll feel better if my swirling, shitnadoes of thought are spewed out into the universe, even if they’re messy and at times incoherent and probably not all that interesting. At least they’re mine.
So I’m going to write more. I bought Sophie a nice cage with a water bottle and an automatic feeder, and honestly, she really seems to like it. I figure if I throw her in there with a chew toy and bully stick, I can get a couple hours a day of solid me time.
But in case that doesn’t work out long term, I hired a regular babysitter. Finally. She comes a few days a week in the mornings, and I already feel like a new person. I like her so much that I didn’t even fire her when we were out in public together and someone mistook her for my daughter. She’s twenty fucking four.
Anyway, I don’t have a creative, cohesive way to end this post because as you probably noticed, I didn’t have a creative, cohesive way to begin or middle it, either. This was a bonafide word-vomit, and for that I’m sorry I’m not sorry. It’s been 2 years and just far too many thoughts are wrangling for attention, that simply taking the first step of logging into WordPress and banging the keys felt something like finding myself.
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!!!!”
When I take Nora to the kiddie gym, she insists on using the water fountain and is somewhat obsessed with it. Early on I had to implement a rule that she can have one sip before class and one sip after class (#thisismylifenow ). She’s been shockingly very compliant until today, when suddenly she whined, flailed, and resisted all my attempts to remove her from the fountain…
Me: “Nora, no. We take ONE sip. You know the rule.”
Random Nanny (sitting by fountain, without looking up from her newspaper): “I think maybe she is confused about the rule.”
Me: “It’s been the rule for months, I’ve been very consistent. I don’t know why she’d suddenly be confused.”
Random Nanny: “Because yesterday she was at the fountain for a VERY long time, until her whole outfit was soaked with water.”
Me: “Wait, what?”
Random Nanny: “SOAKED I tell you. Water EVERYwhere.”
Me: “No no, you’re mistaken– I wasn’t even here yesterday!”
Random Nanny: “Yes but Nora was. With your husband.”