To the woman at Walgreens…

I was picking up pregnancy tests.

Because I’m a frequent flyer I knew exactly where the tests I wanted were located. Like muscle memory.

You were standing there with your empty basket and I could feel your trepidation.

You had your basket in the crook of your arm and had two different brands of ovulation predictor kits (opks) in each hand. For a split second I wanted to ask you if you needed help.

I wanted to tell you the Clear Blue Digital Advanced are expensive and I’ve found they aren’t as accurate as (what the ‘trying to conceive’ (ttc) and infertile community calls) ‘cheapies’ or dollar store/Walmart (not smart tests).

I wanted to tell you if you went ahead with them you should know you shouldn’t use first morning urine (fmu) even if the directions advise you to. The vast majority of women have their Luteinizing Hormone (LH) spike in the afternoon and early evening.

I could have told you the easiest way to use the test is to collect your urine in a clean cup vs. peeing on your hand, missing the tip completely, or over-saturating the tip (there is such a thing as too much urine in the ttc game).

I maybe should have mentioned the other brand you had in your hand was the Walgreens brand of the more traditional opk – they work similarly to cheapies in that they are not digital – you have to interpret the results on your own. After you take the test you look at the two lines and have to discern if the second (test) line is AS DARK OR DARKER than the control line. As long as it is one of those things, you’re surging which means if the stars (and hormones) align, you’ll ovulate in the next 12-36 hours, sometimes longer – especially if you have certain conditions like PCOS.

I would have suggested you just put everything down and go to the Dollar Tree to get the real cheapies. These you pee into a cup and use a plastic dropper and deposit EXACTLY THREE DROPS OF URINE into the urine slot and wait for the lines.

I would have also had to mention if you went with the Clear Blue Digital Advanced strips – YOU SHOULD NOT READ THE LINES LIKE THE CHEAPIES… they aren’t made to be interpreted that way, just pay attention to whether you have an empty circle, a blinking smiley face, or a static smiley face (indicates you are surging).

Now, dear stranger, the above only applies if you are ovulating. Just because you get a positive opk does not mean you are ovulating properly. An LH surge doesn’t mean diddly if you’re not popping an egg.

Then there are special lubricants if your cervical mucus isn’t up to par.

And sex.

Oh it stops being fun. It stops being spontaneous. You’re either tracking your ovulation and don’t want to waste any precious sperm the day BEFORE you surge or you are ready to baby dance (BD) but you have to cram some PreSeed lubricant into your vagina so the sperm have a better chance of making their journey to your *possible* released egg. Romantic huh?

Add on some medications that aid in ovulating or regulating your cycle! Extra fun.

All of a sudden you’re having hot flashes, you’re bloated, have a pounding headache, and CANNOT stop crying/eating/sleeping. Why are you crying watching your neighbor walk their dog? Why are you randomly crying making tacos?

But you want a baby so you have to BD. And it’s on a schedule. It revolves around your ovulation. 

So let’s say, beautiful stranger in Walgreens – you get to the point where you think you’ve ovulated. You’ve BD’d when you were supposed to.

The next seven days are blissful for some (like me) – it’s too early to take a pregnancy test and you know you’ve done everything you could have done.

I pull out the pregnancy books and add to my baby Pinterest board.

Then you get about 6 or 7 days post ovulation (dpo) and you start testing. You get a (who am I kidding, you buy 6 of those things) First Response Early Response (FRER) because they can detect Human chorionic gonadotropin (hcg) levels as low as 6.3 mIU/mL – the hormone produced after implantation.

If you get a big fat negative (bfn) and you’re like me, you’ll compulsively test for a few days. It will consume you stranger. The desire to see two lines on that damn test will be all you can think about.

There are so many different types of home pregnancy tests (hpts) – all with differing hcg sensitivity. There are the spendy FRERs, there are the even more expensive digital ones, and then there are, of course, the cheapies. I have a hefty supply of cheapies (both opks and hpts) because when I go to the Dollar Store I just buy them out.

I usually wave the white flag about 10 dpo and ask my doctor for a blood hcg test. HCG can be detected in blood before urine. There are two types of hcg blood tests:

Quanitative – which will tell you the exact number of hcg in your system, anything under a 5 is considered not pregnant.

Qualitative – which will tell you yes (or no) if any hcg was detected in your blood.

If you’re lucky enough to get a big fat positive (bfp) hopefully you go on to have a wonderful pregnancy and healthy baby.

But I don’t think you’d be standing here if you didn’t have a story of your own. So you may get a bfn and the cycle starts all over again…

A year ago I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the difference between opk brands and hcg sensitivity… I didn’t know what fmu, dpo, bfn, bfp meant.

I could have told you all of these things. The reality is – you’ll get there, only if you have to. I didn’t know your story. 

You looked like I did when I bought my first box of opks. Back when I thought my body was doing what it was supposed to do – we just weren’t on the schedule as it was.

I hope I don’t see you again. Especially if you’ve got a big ol’ belly swollen with promise and life.

If do see you again and you have the same look of fear mixed with excitement I will reach out. I’ll welcome you to the club if you’re having a hard time getting, or staying, pregnant.

Until then, dear stranger, I wish you luck in your ttc journey.

MW

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The end of things…

I don’t usually do this, but because of the sensitivity of this post (discussion of my uncle’s death), I’m putting a content warning for my family in case this is triggering.

 

Amanda and Steve.jpg

Technically my uncle Steve lost his battle with ALS – he died from the disease.

Because we don’t live in a die with dignity state (shame on you Minnesota) we have what’s called palliative sedation.

The dying person is given the option to choose a day to die. In my uncle’s case it was to be sedated and then have his respirator removed and he would die from his disease.

I was welcome to be with Steve his last few days. He was uncle Steve. Stoic. Positive. Cracking jokes. Sipping on his gin and tonic (diet Schweppes was preferred).

Things got extremely difficult for Steve over the past few months. Matt and I were doing everything we could. Bringing meals, dropping off groceries, I helped plan Steve’s last birthday party.

He wanted to see our pictures from our New York trip so we went over one evening in May and showed him our pictures. We asked his advice about buying our first home. Caran grilled a pork loin and Steve ‘back seat grilled’ constantly asking if it needed to be turned or checked while simultaneously telling Caran to ‘just keep the lid closed – you’re letting the heat out’. He shared how much he loved Stove Top stuffing. We talked about TV shows.

I had to remind myself he was dying because he just didn’t act like it. He was still uncle Steve.

Since we moved to Woodbury and lived literally down the street from Steve and Caran we ended up spending a ton of time together in the years we have been in our house.

My parents would come down for an occasion and we would invite Steve and Caran for dinner and a bon fire, we dyed Easter eggs, the six of us hunched over several dozen eggs writing dirty words with the clear crayon.

Steve particularly loved my ‘qweef’ egg one year.

We would sit around the fire and he would puff on his cigar.

Then he needed his bi-pap and the fires stopped but we would still sit in the living room and he would puff when he needed some extra air.

We shoveled their driveway the last winter in their house. We set up a Christmas tree and lights with Steve’s kids and grandkids when they were out of town so it would still feel like Christmas.

Then he needed his cane, they moved just across the freeway to Oakdale or as Steve called it ‘North Woodbury’ – he was quickly in his power wheelchair, which he stayed in until he died.

I had built a really close relationship with Steve and Caran and watching what was happening to my big, burly, Real Estate mogul uncle didn’t seem real.

I have always been particularly close to Steve’s daughters – especially Heather because of how close we are in age. I tried to think of how I would handle it if it was my dad. It’s like my brain refused to even let me think of losing my dad this way.

On one of Steve’s last days I had some quiet time with him alone and I asked if he would do two things when he got to where he was going:

  1. Say hi to grandma for me
  2. Find my babies

He promised he would.

He told me to keep trying and we would have our baby. We exchanged I love yous and just a few days later he died.

I was invited to be present during Steve’s death. It was a mix of emotions. I wanted to be there to support my dad, my mom, my cousins, Caran, my cousins, my uncles – I also didn’t want to be in the way or take up sacred space.

I tried to be aware of where I was in space and time and anticipate the needs of my family.

I’ve never been present when someone takes their last breath and transitions from Earth to their next act.

Music was playing softly. He was surrounded by the people who loved him the most.

The bulletin from his service is still sitting on our living room table. His obituary is hanging on my fridge.

He was larger than life.

His death has had a devastating impact on my dad – who like Steve, always tries to be the stoic one. Protecting my mom and I. I see him hurting and vulnerable and it makes my stomach hurt.

You can’t throw a stone in Woodbury without hitting someone who knows Steve Mollner. On my typical Walgreens route there is a house for sale. The Mollner-Brown sign hangs at the end of the driveway and I can’t drive past it without crying.

To everyone who has stayed around to read the end of this – here is my advice. Stop what you’re doing and find someone you care about and hug the ever loving shit out of them. Hug your kids. Hug your spouse.

Love you Steve. Keep my baby safe until a suitable body is ready for them Earthside.

MW

It’s OK to not be OK…

I don’t get it.

It’s past hurting for us. It’s beyond anger and sadness.

We have nothing left to say to each other.

About this…

It’s a type of numb neither of us know.

Usually I welcome the numb. But.

I’m afraid it will make me bitter.

Allowing myself to step into it is allowing myself to become consumed by it.

The numb.

I’m a fucking robot.

Input and output.

I smile.

I sing.

I workout.

I google how to twerk to keep things interesting.

Everything feels like a deflated balloon.

I’m turning my body over to science because it won’t do what it was meant to do.

I don’t care what they do to me. Just fix me. Make me work. Make my uterus hospitable.

Viable.

MW

It’s late and I’m hurting

The last few days have been hard.

I just want to have a baby.

I’ve unplugged from social media for the most part the last few weeks.

Every few days I torture myself and peek at my facebook and without fail there is an announcement… a squishy baby photo…

Two back to back pregnancies. Lost.

Now I’ve had four cycles, testing for ovulation, tracking cervical mucus, cervical position… I’ve read the books, I’ve peed on sticks – every brand, every color, blinking faces, static smileys… one line darker than the other…

Month after month brings blood, blood brings the tears, sometimes I stand under the shower and turn it from hot to cold… it’s so shocking that for the quickest instant I feel absolutely nothing. Or maybe I feel everything, I guess I’m not sure.

It’s better than other alternatives. Sometimes I just want to be with my babies. But they weren’t really babies to me so it’s this weird juxtaposition of having both empty and heavy arms.

So I eat. And get my eyelashes done. I dye my eyebrows. I wash my face four times a day. I eat some more. I work. I look in the mirror and think ‘bitch has let herself go….’

Everything just feels like a distraction.

We’re coming up on a year since I found out I was pregnant for the first time. I can’t quantify what’s happened in that year.

I went to New York. I went to Chicago.

I think I found a friend who is as weird as I am.

I ran (metaphorically) from one thing to the other. Now there is no travel on the horizon so I’m stuck wondering if this month will be our month.

Father’s Day came and went. It felt empty. We should have had a baby.

I so badly want to parent with him.

If you’ve never met Matt you’re losing out for so many reasons. I wish I could put little pieces of him in an envelope and mail him to you so you could feel him for just a moment.

He is literally the most amazing, cool, real, raw, flawed person you could ever know. Everybody has the best partner – I would be willing to go toe to toe with pretty much anyone. Our kids will definitely have the coolest dad.

Why can’t I give that to him?

After all he has done for me.

I haven’t been to the closet for so long. It’s like pieces of me are giving up. Maybe it’s self-preservation at this point.

I felt like I needed this. Everything is coming out wrong. Everything feels wrong. Because everything is.

MW

 

 

 

 

Transition

So transition is described (in reference to pregnancy) as:

“Transition is the phase of labor just before the pushing stage. At about 6 or 7 centimeters of dilation, some of the symptoms of “transition” appear. During transition, contractions become very strong, and often their duration and frequency are less predictable.

At this stage of labor, the laboring woman may feel confused or even unable to cope at all. Legs and arms may tremble uncontrollably. Belching, hiccuping, feeling nauseated or even vomiting may occur. Most women recall feeling irritable and often become astonishingly rude. The coach will need to be particularly attentive and encouraging at a time when it is not going to be too rewarding to do so. The extreme changes in body temperature will require the obvious treatment of either adding or removing blankets.

Toward the end of this accelerated phase, but often before the cervix is fully dilated, the laboring women may feel the urge to push (or what feels like the need for a bowel movement). A couple of these signs, but especially the urge to push, often indicate transition.” – Linda Jenkins, RN

I don’t know Linda.

I’ve never been lucky enough to experience childbirth.

However, I feel like ‘transition’ has kind of been my mantra the last few days.

I feel like I’m on this precipice, this brink of something new. Maybe new isn’t the right word. Just a page is about to turn in my book.

I’ll be honest – when I think of my losses I don’t think of them as babies. I don’t want to be controversial or political – to me, my losses were the loss of a potential body. My GP helped change my mindset on this. My baby is still out there – waiting for the right body.

Miscarrying is such a weird experience. I found this quote while browsing the web tonight,

“To be told my baby had died was incomprehensible. To continue living when my world was lying shattered at my feet was unthinkable. But I survived it and I promise you my friend, you will survive it too.”

You think you won’t survive it. You think you can’t. Some days it still feels that way. Every pregnancy announcement, every new squishy small human born into this world immediately brings me back to that place of mourning. Then I transition to this bizarre place of being OK?

 

I’m not sure whether it’s being OK or being numb, either way I think it’s part of this beautiful transition I am going through.

There are still days where I visualize scraping out my insides.

There are also days when I feel hopeful.

I’m transitioning.

I read somewhere (I’m sure it was from the brilliant mind of Ina May Gaskin), when a mother goes through transition during childbirth she leaves her body to collect the soul of her child. Being I haven’t been through childbirth those of your reading this who have are probably rolling your eyes thinking it’s the most rainbows and unicorns thing you have ever heard. I remember when my cousin was telling me her birth story she explained it like, “you just go into labor-land” – maybe that’s the time.

This will keep me going.

This one idealistic thought, that one day I will finally go to find my baby, will keep me moving forward.

Until then BBQ.

Transition.

MW

1:30 a.m. Ramblings…

It always just starts as me not feeling good.

Then it’s 11:00 p.m. – I’m working on a project for work. It’s 12:00 a.m. and I’m telling myself I should get in bed.

I don’t even necessarily not feel ‘good’ anymore. I just feel lost.

I’ve generally felt lost for a few months now. Like I’m not quite where I am supposed to be.

Ever.

Like I’m always just a few minutes too early or a few minutes too late.

I walk into a room and even if it’s in my own house it’s like the air is just a little thick.

Like something big just happened and I missed it.

Like someone I love just left the room, or is still there… lingering. I just can’t see them.

Then it’s 1:00 a.m. and I feel this magnetic pull to come here and spill my guts.

Because the reality is if you called me at 10:00 a.m. I would probably be either cheery and be ‘fine’ or be stressed with work.

I would never tell you how I really feel.

Not because I want to be inauthentic – sometimes I just don’t know what to do with what I’m feeling so why ask you to try to get it.

Plus the usual dollar store dribble about ‘being here for me’ is just something we say to fill a void.

If you wanted to be here – you would.

It’s 2:00 a.m. and I feel like seeking something.

An answer.

I get this sudden urge to empty all of my cupboards and scrub them clean.

Like if my fucking cupboards are clean my brain won’t feel so messy.

I desperately want to blare my music. I need to blast out the sound of your heart beat.

The melody of my womb and the thump thump thump of your small heart.

It plays over and over and over again. Like a carousel I can’t get off.

I haven’t gone to the closet for some time now. I haven’t smelled the shampoo and lotions.

In a way they have lost their comfort. They don’t feel soft and warm any more. They feel cold. My arms just feel heavy and empty after I give in.

It’s 2:30 a.m. and now I’m deciding whether or not I take a few Vistaril to facilitate some sleep.

I have to be up in a few hours to do it all over again.

And I will.

Because it’s what I have to do.

MW

T16 – I was doing so well…

Chromosomes are weird.

The whole process of conception is weird. Amazingly weird. So many things have to match up just right – yet, as a young girl I was always told sex = babies. So who knew staying pregnant would be so hard?

I was doing OK – I hadn’t cried for a few days… I hadn’t snuck into the babies closet to bury my face in the baby blankets I have, touching the clothes I have bought, sneaking sniffs of the baby shampoo and lotions I have…

Then we had our appointment to find out the results of our fetal tissue test.

Our baby had Trisomy 16. I remembered a little about it from my lifespan development course – I knew it typically wasn’t a viable chromosomal abnormality. I knew it was a random event. I knew there was nothing I could have done to change it.

We talked clinically. We talked about the steps we could take. The things we could try. It was trite. It was clinical. I appreciated her candor. I left feeling OK.

I stopped at Walgreens and did what I told myself not to do, and go down the baby isle.

It’s over 12 hours later and I’m still just constantly on the brink of crying.

It’s almost 2:00 a.m. and here I am… sitting on the floor of the babies room, in the dark with just the glow of my computer screen, burying my face into the blankets I have bought, unfolding and folding the little clothes, and smelling the damn baby shampoo. I can do all of this in the almost darkness because I have been here before, and I very well may be here again.

I’m typing this because I need people to know about this. There are so many of us, right now, who are crying for our babies we had to give back. My pregnancies may have only been 12 weeks total – they were wanted desperately.

Hug your local grieving mother.

Hug your local grieving father.

Don’t ask them if they need you – because they will tell you they don’t.

I shouldn’t speak for anyone else. So I’ll speak for me.

I’m raw. I’m wounded. My body is out of my control. I’m having hot flashes. I’m hormonal. My body still thinks I’m pregnant.

I need you. We need you. Collectively.

MW