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Zeke is nine days old today. Four years of yearning have come to a fruitful and blessed conclusion with his birth. I can hardly express how much better it is in every possible way to be able to snuggle with him outside of my body instead of carrying him within. Our lives have changed so much in the past couple weeks that any words I can think of frankly seem inadequate to the task of describing what we’re feeling and have experienced, but–being a writer–I feel compelled to try to come up with those words anyway. So here are a few brief chapters.

I. The Birth Story (only for those who are truly interested)

We checked into the hospital on a Sunday night so I could be induced on the day before my due date because the doctors suspected Zeke was particularly big and might be too large to be delivered normally if we waited until he was late. The clinical term for this, we learned in the hospital, is macrosomia. It turned out that he was not gigantic, or even bigger than his sister was at birth, although he felt much bigger and heavier to me when I was pregnant. And throughout the day I labored, every person who gave me an exam said, “wow, he has a big head.”

But it was definitely the right time for him to be born. My OB showed me after Zeke was born a knot in his umbilical cord. She said it was a loose knot, but a knot all the same. Anyway, mid-morning on Monday they started me on Pitocin. I breathed through the contractions for a few hours. The doctor broke my water. An Austrian anesthesiologist gave me an epidural. Every single nurse I interacted with in the labor and delivery ward was fantastic. They were all professional, knowledgeable, helpful, and kind. In terms of the hospital staff, our experience this time was completely different than when Zoe was born. It was a pleasure giving birth at Virginia Hospital Center.

Sometime in the evening the contractions broke through the epidural, my cervix went from 5cm to 10cm dilated in less than an hour, Zeke’s heart rate dropped, they gave me oxygen, and suddenly it was time to push. I pushed for nine minutes and he was out. It was a great labor and delivery. Thankful and relieved.

II. Best Baby Daddy Ever

IMG_8525I am so thankful for my husband. He was extraordinarily wonderful throughout every moment of my labor and delivery and those first days in the hospital and at home. It has been powerful to watch him fall in love with our son and I have deeply appreciated everything he has done for me, for Zoe, and for Zeke. None of us is happy that he has to be back at work now. All of us are lucky that he is Zoe and Zeke’s dad.

III. Siblings

IMG_8510Zoe loves her brother. This is clear. She wants to assist with every diaper change and every bath and she asks to hold him often. She kisses his head and she says he is the cutest baby ever.

She has also said, “I wish I were Zeke,” and “I wish I could nurse,” and “Zeke’s getting more attention than me,” and there have been more than a couple moments of sisterly anguish. We know this is normal. It is not unexpected. But it is not easy either. It’s hard when it’s my turn to put Zoe to bed and Zeke interrupts us by demanding dinner number two or three. Zoe loves it (as do I) that I can once again snuggle in bed with her without my belly getting in the way, that I can sit on the floor to play with her, and that I am not quite as delicate as I recently was.

But competing for attention is hard, especially with someone who is attached at the breast to your mom for a good chunk of every day and night. She has insisted that he sleep in the crib in their room even though he sometimes squeaks very loudly at night. She has stopped asking to carry him around. She is enjoying the extra attention from her grandparents who are here to help out, and she hungrily soaked up all the extra time with Daddy before he returned to work. It’s a transition and an adjustment for all of us, and we’ve been very honest about that with her.

When she was holding him on her lap, in her bed at bedtime the other night, I asked her how she felt when she held him. “Proud,” she said. We’ll go with that, for now.

IV. Me

IMG_1870My friend Kim says this post-arrival haze is called Planet Newborn in her family. Makes sense to me. Spending hours nursing or just holding this little person who recently lived inside of you is an otherworldly experience. It can be meditative. It can be exhausting. It feels miraculous and at some moments overwhelming. Sometimes you never want to leave, because you know you can’t go back (at least with this baby). Your regularly scheduled existence feels so far away, which may be a good thing, but which you also know is not sustainable. I don’t want to think about the future too much because it kind of breaks my heart, and because I need to be in this Zen place right now to attend to Zeke. But at the same time, I have a kindergartener to whom I want and need to give generous love and attention to right now as well. But I don’t want to think about returning to my work, or making a to-do list, or anything else besides loving my family and providing for some of our basic needs. That’s all I can handle right now, and all that I’m good for.

On Sunday at All Souls Church, Unitarian, Rev. Rob Hardies preached a sermon based on the words of William Henry Channing, an abolitionist minister who was actually the leader of All Souls during the Civil War and the advice of Unitarian Universalist minister Forrest Church. The theme was “want what you have, be who you are, do what you can.” This is my mantra for 2013.

I have long clung to anxiety so tightly that at times I forget how to relax. I don’t know what to do if I’m not worrying about something. I am always asking myself an unending series of usually unanswerable questions that begin with “what if.” While trying to anticipate my own and others’ needs and always be prepared for what might happen can sometimes be useful, mostly it just makes me crazy.

It happens that things usually turn out ok. And if it doesn’t, there isn’t necessarily anything I could have done to prevent problems. Although there are many glittery and bejeweled wands in our house, I have yet to use one to create actual magic.

Especially when you’re facing a big event such as the birth of your long-awaited second child, there are a lot of unknowns. When will he arrive? How will the birth go? What will he be like? How will his sister react? How are we going to rearrange our house to accommodate another human? Only the last question is one we can actually figure out and deal with. Most of my questions will be answered only in time.

I have never been one to sit well with the unknown. Dealing with fertility issues proved challenging and even once I was pregnant, I didn’t stop worrying. I am all too aware of all the potential dangers and I know a heartbreaking number of people who have suffered losses of all kinds. And this pregnancy has not been easy and I have not felt good throughout it.

But I am thankful every day for the little boy who is now the size of an ear of corn wiggling around in my womb. I would not trade the itching or the heartburn or the discomfort for anything. I am thankful that Zoe is so eager to become a big sister, even though she has no idea what she’s really getting into. I am moved every night when she kisses my belly and tells her brother a joke or sings him a song or tells him she loves him with all her heart.

There are so many things I don’t know, about this baby and about everything else. My worries aren’t going to dissolve. But I know from experience that amplifying them and letting them consume me doesn’t make them go away or solve anyone’s problems. I can clean out closets and register Zoe for camp and make lists of baby gear we will need. That helps. Worrying about when we will do everything will not help. We will do it, sooner or later. People who love us will help when we need it. We are so lucky to have a home and means to take care of a new family member. I know that his early existence will not be the same as Zoe’s–not that it will be worse or better, but it’s guaranteed to be different. So worrying about that will not help. It is what it is. I have a baby coming this spring, and I want it. I am a great mom, and I relish in that role, even though it’s often a challenge and will soon be even more exhausting. And I’m doing the best I can. I care for others and I contribute to the world. I could do more, but I could also do less. I’m doing what I can.

I’m thinking of painting this advice on the wall above my desk. Seems so obvious, but also so wise, at least for me.

Last night when Zoe’s foot was nestled in the small of my back and her elbow wedged into my neck, as we listened to the Banana Slug String Band for the fifth time, trying to drown out the sound of hail on the window and thunder in the air, I was thinking. What else was there to do? Sleep was not an easy option.

Among other thoughts, I was thinking about the appointment scheduled for this morning to begin testing for fertility treatment. After three years of trying to create a sibling for Zoe and only a miscarriage and two D&Cs to show for it, we realized that something needed to change. We didn’t want to give up. But continuing to do what we’d been doing seemed fruitless, and if you’ve ever been down this road, you know the fun diminishes rapidly. I’ve tried acupuncture, herbs American and Chinese, and supplements. I’ve taken all kinds of well-intentioned advice, and ignored some. What clearly worked like a magic charm for everyone else hadn’t done the trick for us.

And we’d already consulted a fertility specialist a couple years ago. He was rude and arrogant and supremely unhelpful. So part of me dreaded seeing someone else, given our unpleasant experience. But someone reminded me that our sample was very small. So I made an appointment. Then I postponed it for a week. They sent us a lot of forms to fill out. They asked me to call our insurance company, which covers pretty much nothing. They cover the cost of seeing a doctor to see if something’s wrong with you, and if it is, they will pay to have you fixed. But technically one’s inability to have a baby is not a medical problem that requires attention.

So every step I took slowly and consumed with apprehension.

I felt somehow like going to a fertility clinic was admitting defeat. Saying we’d failed at doing this thing that people are supposed to be able to do easily. This thing that everyone else in the world seems to have no trouble with, at least that’s how it appears when I feel like I’m being assaulted by an army of pregnant women every time I leave the house. I do have a few friends who conceived their babies through IVF. Of course I don’t think that they failed. They did what they had to do. But the fact that we’re at this point where I feel like we have to do something is maddening. I don’t want to have to make this choice. But I want a baby, and waiting around does not improve the odds. As our new doctor (who reminds me a bit of the actor Richard Schiff) reminded us when we met him, you really can’t think about the odds too much, because you’re either pregnant or you’re not. Zero or 100%. But when you’re thinking about treatment, you have to look at the numbers. At my age, the changes of getting pregnant during any given month are only 2%-3%. Turns out every month when you think you’re ovulating, you’re only sending out an egg–or at least a good egg-maybe half or two-thirds of the time. And you have no way of knowing when the good months are and when you shouldn’t bother.

The doctor said there’s no reason we shouldn’t have another baby. The fact that Zoe exists and that she was conceived naturally is the biggest item in our favor. But, as Tom Petty so eloquently put it, the waiting is the hardest part. So the doctor said he recommended IUI, which is a step below IVF in terms of invasiveness and in cost. None of this is cheap, for sure. And it all involves a lot of hormones and ultrasounds and blood tests and all kinds of things that you wish you didn’t have to do.

Which, obviously, I don’t have to do. No one is forcing this on me. But we want a baby. Zoe wants to be a big sister more than anything. She has long been so interested in pregnancy that we’ve predicted she will become an OB or midwife or perhaps a neonatologist. And I loved being pregnant with her. I want to be pregnant again. And I don’t want to be 45 when it happens. At the same time, we have this wonderful girl. As much as we all want a baby, when we are getting dressed at the pool, or going to gymnastics class, or driving anywhere, and I see families with more than one child, I realize how relatively easy we have it. Zoe can feed and dress and bathe herself. She can read. She can swim. We’re in a good place.

I was seven when my sister was born, to the utter surprise and delight of my parents. So I enjoyed being an only child for quite a while, as does Zoe, but I too begged for a sibling. I don’t even know what reproductive technology was available to my parents, but they just assumed they were lucky to have me, and that was that. I know we are spectacularly lucky to have Zoe. I don’t think it’s wrong to want more though. But having to step into this world of unknowns and procedures and calculating the odds seems so forbidding.

I had my appointment this morning. Everything was normal. Which is good. Next test is Friday. I’ve realized that the scheduling of this procedure will depend somewhat on Zoe’s school schedule, because the testing they do is all in the morning, when I am typically driving Zoe to camp. Obviously most people they’re treating don’t have to worry about anyone else’s camp schedule, and would give anything to have such a complication.

From down the hall I hear yet another round of the Banana Slug String Band. Evidently Zoe can’t sleep either. I heard her reading Mouse Tales. I heard her coloring pictures of princesses (ok I couldn’t hear what the pictures were of, but I went to inspect). I don’t know what she’s thinking about. I told her to count American Girls to help her sleep. Maybe I should try that too, or maybe visions of ripe follicles filled with healthy eggs ready to burst forth into fallopian tubes. Or maybe I should stick to sheep.

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