(Warning, this post will contain mentions of bodily fluid)
How Eleanor Came to Be.
I want to write this all down while I still have child care (grandparents FTW) and it’s still fresh in my mind!
After experiencing a second stillbirth in November 2016, we were done. We couldn’t imagine trying again and ending with such a devastating, traumatic loss.
I started going to my support group again and found an incredible trauma therapist I went to weekly for 6 months. We spent the summer traveling. I wanted to know I could be happy again, have a good life without another baby. It’s not so much I was fixated on the idea of third child as much as I wanted to not end my fertility with the trauma of giving birth to babies who had died. Twice. It was just unfathomably heartbreaking and awful to go through.
I also spent the spring and summer of 2017 getting second opinions. I went to four high risk OBs (MFMs) around New England to get opinions, testing, and thoughts. I mostly heard “There might be a genetic issue with the babies that is undetectable by genetic testing.” It was maddening to think that even though the autopsies revealed no chromosomal abnormalities, there could still be an issue. Come on, science!
In August, the day before our 10th anniversary, we saw a doctor in Boston who told me I might have a clotting disorder that is undiagnosed and she would prescribe an injectable blood thinner. That was my hunch based on the nature of my losses (one healthy child, two early losses, one healthy child while taking baby aspirin, one fetal demise with growth restriction, one fetal demise with normal growth while taking baby aspirin). We decided we’d try one last time while doing the blood thinner.
Two weeks later I got pregnant – the first day of my pregnancy was our 10th Anniversary. Very auspicious, my MFM told me. ;) I said, ” I hope so!”
My Pregnancy with Eleanor.
I was an anxious mess.
Okay, well I had gestational diabetes. I gave myself the nightly shots in my stomach starting at 4 weeks. I found a wonderful OB and MFM at a new practice. I had weekly ultrasounds and OB appointments for much of pregnancy. My OB was incredibly helpful and validating and compassionate. She even texted me when I was having Eleanor at a different hospital! (“I’m still your person. I’m still here for you.”) My MFM emailed me back when I had questions. I got very lucky with fantastic medical professionals.
I didn’t tell many people I was pregnant – I told my parents and siblings halfway through pregnancy when we went home for Christmas, but didn’t tell Gabe till 24 weeks. I didn’t tell acquaintances till well into my third trimester when I could no longer hide under a big hoodie or coat. (I didn’t want to make small talk about pregnancy – too hard.)
I saw a therapist for PTSD – because pregnancy is a form of trauma for me after my losses. I didn’t start to believe it could end in a live baby until about two weeks before she was born. I figured even if couldn’t “enjoy” pregnancy, I would enjoy a live baby if I got one, so I just tried to make through!
Although my “obstetrical history” was “poor”, my pregnancy with her was unremarkable aside from diet-controlled gestational diabetes. Until April 10th.
How Eleanor Was Born.
I was 34 weeks 3 days pregnant and went to bed. I woke up at midnight on April 10th and went to the bathroom. My pantyliner felt wetter than usual, but I’ve had watery discharge before, so no big deal. It was a little pink, so I was slightly concerned and decided I’d call my OB’s office when it opened.
Had a little more discharge and called the on-call OB at 6:30 am. He told me to come in to L&D and get checked. This happened in a previous pregnancy at 24 weeks and turned out to be a harmless infection. Plus, I had TONS of anxiety the whole pregnancy, always thinking something was wrong. It was going to be nothing, but I wanted to be sure.
Gabe and Theo were born at 40 and 41+2 (and I had to have my water broken by midwives in labor), so a preemie wasn’t on my radar at ALL. But, better safe than sorry! My OB and MFM constantly told me to come in if I felt worried – never made me feel like the anxious wreck I was. Very validating, fantastic doctor women.
The on-call OB checked me. She told me that although was the same pH as amniotic fluid, it didn’t crystallize AND they didn’t see any fluid when they did a cervical check. I could go home and see if I leaked anymore or just stay there.
I decided to stay mostly because I knew if I went home, it’d be a bigger ordeal to return. The OB told me there was a “90% chance this ISN’T amniotic fluid.”
My own OB came and I told her I felt stupid and like I was taking up the room for someone who needed it. She told me I could skip my appointment tomorrow, but I said I’d keep it because I had an ultrasound beforehand. I pictured myself going home and being pregnant for 5 more weeks, remembering that silly time I thought I was leaking amniotic fluid.
I took a nap, then started walking laps around the L&D room they had put me in. Little gushes. It felt abnormal, but also…I am a worrier. Especially about pregnancy. I’ve learned to not trust my instinct because my instinct is always “Alarm bells! Something is wrong!!”
The on-call OB came to check me again at noon and things flew from there. They quickly confirmed it WAS amniotic fluid and called an ambulance to take me to the bigger hospital with a NICU (they don’t deliver before 35 weeks at my hospital). Then they did an ultrasound and found out the baby was BREECH after weeks of being vertex (head down). I called my parents to come from Ohio, called Mike to come pick up our car from the hospital, I got a big steroid shot in my bum, and a ride in my first ambulance. It was all very dramatic.
I asked about doing a version to turn her, but the MFM told me such a small baby with so little fluid risked a cord prolapse. So! She was born via c-section at 7:15 pm. About 12 hours after I first arrived at the first hospital. No signs of labor and I would have just dismissed it all if I hadn’t remembered my friend saying amniotic fluid is often pink.
The c-section was weird (all these people! in an OR! getting sliced open!) and a bit terrifying (right before they started surgery, the nurse was looking for her heartbeat but couldn’t find one – I was a bit in shock from it all, so life felt like it was in slow motion until I could hear her cry, then I couldn’t stop saying “oh my gosh, she’s alive” over and over.) Recovery hasn’t been too bad.
They whisked her off to the special care nursery and Mike went with her. She was 4 lbs 13.2 oz, 17.75 inches long, and scored 8 and 9s on her Apgars.
I’m so glad she’s here and safe. The doctors told me after 34 weeks the risk of cord prolapse or getting an infection from a torn sac is greater than the risks of babies being born early. She was in the special care nursery for a week to learn how to eat and keep her temps up, but she had no breathing problems and is already up to her birth weight. She’s an incredible nurser – better than my boys were as newborns and she’s so much younger!
We got very very lucky with such a healthy preterm baby. I shudder to think what would have happened if I *didn’t* go in to the hospital even though I felt stupid! I didn’t enjoy my pregnancy at all with her because I was so uncertain I’d get a live baby – so now I get a bonus 5 or 6 weeks with her on the outside.
I went from a “natural” waterbirth on my due date to an induction with an epidural 9 days overdue (plus two more inductions with epidurals for my stillborn babies) to a preemie c-section. To say that priorities and perspective have changed in the past eight years is an understatement.
I feel absolutely no sadness or regret over having a pregnancy with tons of medical intervention and a surgical birth. I did have to deprogram myself a bit from the ways I was brainwashed to think less intervention was better, but I’m so thankful for all the interventions. Eleanor might not be here otherwise. I’m grateful to have had all the experiences I did – though I wish I didn’t have to experience babies dying to gain this perspective, I think I’m a less insufferable person for it. ;)
Walk 6,000 steps a day. // Most days. I missed once a week, so I achieved my somewhat-pathetic-don’t-judge-me goal 80% of the month to be exact. (I use an app to keep track of habits some months. Other months I use a habit tracker in my bullet journal thing). My fitness tracker stopped working this month, which put a huge dent in my progress.
Journal kids stuff. // Yes! 90% of the days. And it was really fun to talk to the kids about as I wrote about their day. (I have one of these for each of them. Previously had filled out about one day a MONTH, eek. Major failure.) I hope to continue this. I have been keeping them on my nightstand or the kitchen table to do in the evenings. It’s so fun to look back on a few months ago already and see what life was like! I’m sure in a few years I’ll be even gladder I wrote in them.
Plan Christmas budgeting and presents. // Cards have been ordered. Gifts have been planned and budgeted for. (I started using a new app for budgeting and it has helped me so much with my spending in general.)
Do YouTube workouts 2-3 times a week. // This week I’ve had an annoying cold and haven’t been able to work out, but I’m hoping to feel better soon! My go to YouTube fitness channels are FitnessBlender, Yoga with Adriene, and BodyFit by Amy. So grateful to live in a time with so many (free!!) options at our fingertips.
No electronics for 2 hours a day. // I tend to have noise constantly. Podcasts. The news. Instagram stories. Thanks to my smart phone, I never have to be bored. But that also means, I never have quiet. I mean, I have two little kids I’m home with almost all the time. So. Not much quiet to be had. But my podcast addiction isn’t helping. I’m going to try to go two whole hours every day with my phone off (or planting a tree). (Podcasts are AWESOME, but I just need a little silence. I even listen to podcasts while I shower. Seriously.) (Ironically, I decided I needed more silence thanks to this podcast episode.)
Existing health habits: 5 minutes yoga, 5 minutes meditation, walk 6K steps
ALL THE CHRISTMAS FUN!! // Go see Santa, go on a lights-and-hot-chocolate drive, make a tree skirt, make ornaments, make a popcorn strand, make a tree topper, watch three Christmas movies a week, go to the library weekly for more Christmas books, making cookies for our neighbors. Gabe is home all month and I’m so excited to spend so much time together with Gabe and Theo preparing for Christmas. I just love this time of year – especially having those two to share it with.
Continue budgeting with Daily Budget. // This app is amazing and I think it’s helping me stem my spending habit I didn’t even realize I had.
Send a newsletter. // Business is slow this time of year, so I find that working on my business helps to keep my brain in the work and my name fresh on potential clients’ minds. (I’m also doing lots of work for the local nonprofit I’m involved with!)
Leave 4 podcast reviews. // I feel guilty because I never leave reviews and they are always asking listeners to. Time to finally write a few.
Hello and welcome to my debbie downer corner of the internet. Want to know why I hate this time of year? Pull up a chair. Let me share. (Or click x and escape the sadness.)
November 15: The due date for my first miscarriage. A tiny, small part of me still thinks “I’d have a four year old.” Even though I have a three year old I am smitten with and who would not exist if had had this first baby. It was a bump on the road to getting Theo.
November 16: The day I couldn’t find a heartbeat on my doppler at 20 weeks 3 days pregnant. The day my anxiety kept me from sleeping. I went in to the midwife after Mike called her, angry they weren’t doing more for this pregnancy and for my trauma. I was texting Mike as he took a bus from work to the midwife. The texts would be heartbreaking to read now. I cry just thinking about them.
The day Theo lay beside me on the exam table while the midwife searched for a heartbeat. The day my boys squished together in a chair in the ultrasound room as the ultrasound tech silently pushed the probe on my belly. The day the midwife shook her head and said, “I can’t believe it. There’s no heartbeat.” The day we left the midwife’s office for the last time and I was equal parts rage and devastation.
The day I learned that lightening can strike twice and that experiencing a tragedy doesn’t protect you from future tragedy. The day my heart was hardened just a bit, but opened to connecting with more human suffering and the reality of humanity. (Not to sound overly dramatic or anything).
November 20 (today): The day I was induced and delivered our tiny, perfect baby. The delivery and birth was scary since I had an incredibly high fever. They pumped me full of IV antibiotics and I was delirious. I was almost afraid my kids would lose their mom the same day I lost my baby. The day I held my baby for the first and last time.
November 27: The start of my pregnancy with Clare. Should be a happy date, not a wistful one. How have two years gone by?
(There is one happy date this month – November 21 was the start of my pregnancy with Gabe. I was at the SOA Protest with a bunch of high schoolers. Happy memories there.)
(And I want to talk about The Election last year and how that affected my mood but that’s another story for another day.)
Your website should be like an extra employee. Who works for free 24/7.
I recently overhauled my site after I realized it wasn’t totally representing what I do well. And that there was the potential to add more helpful information to potential clients. Since I am a referral-based business, not a Google-based business, most people are interested in working with me when they land on my site. The role of my site is to take someone from “My friend said they liked working with Ashley” to “Ashley can totally help me and my business through working on my website.” (You should always know what the main goal of your website is! It will drive all your decisions.)
Here is some of what I did:
Instead of a short homepage with an intro and links to various things to check out, I added a portfolio section (with different types of screens showing my portfolio items instead of the plain old iMac), some more testimonials and benefits of working with me, what I do, and so on. People often scroll and click instead of read, so I wanted to offer plenty of info to consume right on the first page. As well as make it easy to find what they are looking for.
Instead of one static image for each project, I have a gallery of a few screenshots, or a gif of a screencast – it just depends on how the website is best shown. I also have a filterable portfolio now, so visitors can sort by type of project (non-profit, blogs, authors and writers, small business, etc). I added some new projects and removed some projects that don’t represent the kind of work I want to do any more. I still probably have too many items, but it’s so hard to pare down when I do such a variety of work! (Popular business advice is to “niche down,” or focus on a specific market. But one of my favorite things about what I do is getting to work with such a variety of industries and fields – one day I’m doing a church, the next day an author.)
I tried to weave in more testimonials. I know testimonials and reviews often help me to trust a product or service I’m thinking about buying, so I wanted to be sure to include plenty on my site. And not just on the testimonials page. The truth is, I feel very confident in the work I do and my clients always are satisfied and happy with the end product – why not share that? A website can be a big investment for some people, and I’m certain that it’s a worthwhile investment. Which is why I don’t feel too salesy sharing what my clients have said about the websites I create and the experience of working with me.
I also changed the overall color palette slightly to be a little more modern and less cute, as well as fonts, logo, etc. Lots of subtle changes to overthink about. It was a good practice in taking myself through the process I’ve taken so many clients through – and a good reminder of how hard it can be, but how rewarding the end product is!
Yesterday I talked about the BIG where to live. We are here in Massachusetts, but deciding where to live once we landed here was difficult. We spent a year living on the edge of a rich suburb a few miles from Mike’s school. We had nothing to walk to and it was fairly dull. We found that the city everyone said we would love? We did. So we moved here after the first year.
We love, love, love our little city. It’s perfect for us in almost every way. We love our little townhouse. We love being able to walk to restaurants, a library, a discount natural foods store, a small indoor mall, a park, and plenty of coffee shops that make fantastic lattes.
It’s most of the things we need to be happy: Walkable! Accepting/progressive! Full of good food! Safe! Nice people!
The only shortcomings are: Winter. Cost. Diversity.
I may have made peace with the weather, check back in a few months to see. I would prefer to not be freezing for so many months. But investing in good boots, a coat, and a treadmill so I can stay active indoors even when it’s cold has helped. (The winter’s project: get good gloves and hat!)
The biggest drawback is the cost. We cannot really afford to buy a home here, they are just SO out of budget. We have saved a lot for a downpayment of a huge house in Ohio, but the housing prices are sooooo much higher here. We could move outside the city to the more rural areas, as many people do, but then we’d lose everything we love about living here. Plus, have to get a second car and drive anywhere we want to go. Driving downtown and paying for parking any time we want to go out to eat. And still have a commute for Mike.
And the area we live in seems to be only truly vibrant, walkable area in western Massachusetts. It’s all so frustrating! So, we continue to be grateful to have an affordable, comfortable townhouse to rent.
Diversity is the final sticking point for this area. I grew up overseas where my classmates were from all over the world. Even when I lived in the States, I never heard anyone talk about “bad” or “good” areas in my town (often just code for “poor and not white” and “wealthy and white”). I’m a firm believer in not isolating ourselves. It feels especially important for my kids. I want them to grow up going to church, school, the library, grocery store, etc with people who don’t look like them. It’s so much easier to “other” the other when you don’t live and work and study with them every day.
A few years ago, I had a young relative of mine who lives in a white, rich suburb. I was driving him somewhere that took us through a poorer area with more minorities. He made some comment about how unsafe it seemed and I was like, “You mean because there are poor people and brown people walking around?”
Our perceived safety is affected by the people we live around – so if we are never exposed to those who look and live differently, we *feel* less safe around them.
Anyway. So it’s a big value of mine, and something that proved incredibly hard to find in western Massachusetts. I’m not sure if it’s a New England thing or a western Mass thing, but it’s very segregated here.
In Ohio, we lived in an incredibly racially diverse neighborhood. I know it’s possible! I really hope we can land somewhere like that again.
(PS: These are just our values. No judgement on anyone with different values or who chooses to live somewhere isolated and drives everywhere! I’m only interested in living in alignment with our own values, not judging the actions of others. You do you, sister.)
It’s been two years since we moved from Ohio to Massachusetts. I have found a few incredible friends – supportive and kind and funny. But they all are from here and have deep roots and extensive support systems. Meanwhile, I️ feel like I’m cobbling together a tiny handful of people to be a support system.
I️ worked hard to reach out when we first moved, but that petered out after I️ went through a traumatic pregnancy loss. Now my new friends are all “grief friends.” Which sounds more depressing than it really is.
I’m really proud of myself for being able to reach out and cultivate new relationships, especially when it’s been such a difficult, tumultuous time for me. I went through life-upending loss and grief within my first year of living in a new state. Which is no small feat to survive, let alone come out with relationships. It brought me closer to some people, but more distant from others.
One of my biggest dilemmas lately is how to share the reality of my history with new people in my life. If I don’t know how to tell a new friend about my losses, I feel like they don’t fully know ME and I can’t be as close to them. But I️ can’t figure out how to share it. I️ suppose if I️ was on Facebook again that might do the telling for me?
Anyway, I’m lucky to have made a few friends here, but I also really really miss my old friends in Ohio. Two years and 600 miles apart makes relationships hard to mantain. I wish I could go back to Ohio more. I wish I could afford to fly more. I wish a job didn’t have to dictate where we live.
I love where we live and I love Ohio and I just wish everything could be in the same place. I distinctly remember having this same feeling when I was living in Thailand in middle school – I just wanted to mash up Ohio and Thailand and have all the people and places I loved in the same place.
In sum, moving is hard and stupid and isolating, but there are lovely people everywhere.
We are homeschooling Gabe again this year for first grade. (Though most homeschoolers seem big into not labeling grade levels and just learning whatever is appropriate, I try to keep an eye on first grade standards and use mostly first grade books because I want to be sure he doesn’t fall behind.)
He started a two-day-a-week intentional learning program for homeschoolers. It’s sort of waldorf-y, sort of montessori, and only a two minute walk away. So: PERFECT. We continue to be a one car family and Mike commutes 40 miles each way to work, so having an educational enrichment opportunity so close to home feels like a jackpot. The program won’t be in that building forever, so I’m not sure we’ll get to stay a part of the community if the logistics don’t work out. But while it lasts? I’m totally loving it. The leadership is nurturing and holistic and it’s just been a fantastic growing opportunity for Gabe.
I have a lot to say about parenting this particular child and how to make the best decisions for him, but now that he’s getting older, I no longer feel comfortable sharing lots of details about parenting him publicly. Which is SUCH a bummer because I’m sure you all would have incredible insight and wisdom. And I have some things I WANT TO TALK ABOUT. But, alas. A public forum is no place to do that with someone else’s problems.
I’ve been thinking a lot about homeschooling and the pros and cons. With any schooling choice, you’re making sacrifices and enjoying perks. Here is my pros and cons for us for homeschooling: (I thought I’d share since I love getting a peek a good pro/con list)
No hectic mornings or alarms or waking anyone up
Flexibility as a family – we can go where we want when we want without telling anyone. Family in town? Take the day off! Want to go on a trip? Let’s go!
I don’t have to drive him to and from school every day and wait in pickup/drop off lines
Gabe feels confident in his abilities (and is a bit of a perfectionist, so he’d totally be the kid who’s hard on himself if he’s not THE BEST in the class)
So much family time. For Gabe and Theo, for all of us. We spend a lot of time together.
Less free time for me
Worrying about being different/blaming any shortcomings on our schooling choices
It’s a little extra work for me
Might be harder to make friends for both us (I hear that a lot of people make friends through school?)
For the first time, we did a family costume! It was so incredibly fun to have a family project. The boys and I had read The Wizard of Oz as a part of our morning chapter book couch time (it was…unexpectedly dark and scary. And so different from the movie!) Then we watched the movie. They became obsessed with all the songs and wanted to rewatch the song and dance numbers over and over.
We had discussed doing a family costume and they were firm: we would be the Wizard of Oz! Mike would be the Scarecrow, despite his PhD-quality brains. Gabe the Tinman, despite his huge heart. Theo the Cowardly, despite being more courageous than any of us. The irony. :)
It was a giant family project that took a month and was really fun.
To be totally honest, I think expecting to have a new baby last Halloween (Clare was due September 2nd) and then again this Halloween made me want to kind of go all in. I just…wanted to have FUN instead of thinking about who we were missing and how we didn’t seem like a complete family. So, family project ahoy!
Dorothy (I sewed instead of glued mine): T-shirt, basket, and shoes from the thrift store, fabric, elastic, glitter, and Modge Podge from Jo-Anns.
Scarecrow: Pants and shirt thrifted, raffia and felt (for hat) from Jo-Anns.
Tinman(we spray painted cereal boxes instead of getting dryer ducts to save a little money and weight): Spray paint and funnel from Target. Cardboard, cereal boxes from the recycling bin. Old shoes spray painted.
Cowardly Lion: Once Upon a Child! I figured a lion is a super common kid costume and easy to find and I was right. $8 for two costumes (the body came without a head, and the head came on a costume for a 12 month old, ha) Face paint was my eyeliner.
The most fun was how delighted everyone was. It was like being a super popular person – walking down the street and having everyone gasp, “Oh! Look at them! It’s the scarecrow! And the tinman! And Dorothy! And the LION!!!” Even the homeless folks downtown were stopping us to tell us they loved our costumes. They aren’t even amazing costumes! They are hot glued and my dress looks like an apron and is the wrong fabric!
But it was fun to feel so celebrated for a night. I think the ubiquity of the Wizard of Oz is what made it fun – 2 year olds and 80 year olds alike knew who we were and would get excited when they saw us. A few little girls waved and yelped “Hi, Dorothy!!” And again, I didn’t even look that much like her! I can’t imagine how it feels to be a princess at Disneyworld. :)
I can’t seem to find 2011 or 2013, or their real costumes from 2014. I want to print them all out and put them out in frames every Halloween! I think that would be fun to look at and remember.