Friday, September 19, 2014

Blessings on my birthday

 I just celebrated my 45th birthday.  We had cupcakes with candles and when I blew out my candles, Miles asked, "So did you make a wish?"
I lied and said yes, but really, I hadn't even thought about it.  I have nothing, really, that I wish for.  I'm content.  I thought about it and decided that I would take stock of all that I had and all that I was grateful for.  Here's my list:

1-    My body-  I had spinal meningitis at six months old and my mother feared that my body would fail me.  It didn’t, and for that, I am extremely grateful.  I am grateful at 45 years old to have a body that will still run for three miles, hike up a mountain, scale a rock face, play with my kids, dance with my husband, fight off disease, and appreciate so many pleasures of life.  My body has carried babies without too much complaint and performs the duties of modern life. 
2-    My husband, Jeff- I found the right man for the job.  A great father, a great friend, a partner in every sense of the word.  He has supported me in my joys and sorrows and knows how to cheer and comfort.  He thinks I’m more beautiful now than when I was 22.  I am so, so grateful.
3-    Miles- my first born, my beautiful boy, who taught me that parenthood explodes your heart and your world.  He is full of laughter and energy, fantasy and exploration.  He keeps me playing and pretending.
4-    Milagros- my last born, my miracle.  Just when I had given up hope, she came to me.  Headstrong, sweet, adorable and adoring, she adds so much to our family.  Thank you.
5-    All of my wonderful friends, near and far, those who are in contact all the time and those I don’t get to talk with as often as I would like- but especially Leeann Borton-Harvey.  She has been there holding my hand through the best and the worst, my sister-by-choice, an inspiration.  She is nothing less than awe-inspiring.  All her accomplishments make my jaw drop.  And she does it all with grace, humor, beauty, and compassion.
6-    My mom- She taught me how to be human, how to be compassionate, how to be a teacher, a cook, a mother, and a strong woman.  She encouraged my independence, even when it was scary for her. 
7-    My dad- He was a traditional breadwinner of his time.   He provided us with all of the opportunities he didn’t have himself.  While not the super-involved dad my husband is, he was unfaltering in his love for me and let me know it his entire life.  He could fix anything, build anything, and, when I was young, he was my superhero.  I miss him all the time.
8-    My oldest brother, Evan- He taught me how to play softball and touch football, he took me out to the college bars when I was just sixteen, he taught me that I could have a rational, amiable conversation about politics with someone who had a different viewpoint.  He was financially conservative but socially liberal, a kind hearted person who was curious about everyone.  I miss him all the time, too.
9-    My middle brother, Emil- A dry sense of humor wrapped in deep compassion, he is a great doctor, father, husband, and brother.  He is my remaining connection to the past that was my family. 
10-My job- I am so grateful to do something I really enjoy, that betters the world, that pays enough for my family and me to live in relative comfort and to never need for anything.  I also get summers to live my life and enjoy my family and friends. 
11-My great colleagues- I work with some pretty awesome people.  They are dedicated, wonderful teachers; they love their students (most of their students), and are really invested in working as a team.  We have administrators that treat us like professionals and support and value our work.  But most of all, I’m grateful for Sandy Pugliano who is my other half, doing the important literacy work we are both so passionate about.  She has taught me so much about leadership, vision, and organization (yes, really, Sandy!)
12-Being born in this time, in this place- As a white woman in the US, I have freedoms and privileges that are unthinkable in other times and places.  My world is not perfect, but I am quite aware of how blessed I am to be who I am, right here and right now.
13-Coffee- the elixir of the gods.
14-Modern medicine- I’m grateful for antibiotics and x-rays and laparoscopic surgery and C-sections for those who need them and MRI’s and mammograms and immunizations and all the other things that have saved millions and millions of lives.
15-Technology- While much of it is a time wasting pain in the ass, I’m grateful for the tools to keep those spread apart close together and the ability to pick and choose what I want to use to entertain my children and myself when I want to do so.  My cell phone is an extraordinary tool.
16-My ex-es- Yes, I am grateful for them, as they have all shaped who I am and have guided me into my happy relationship.
17-Being burglarized- While I don’t want it to happen again, being burglarized gave me a chance to try on my perspectacles.  Nothing that was taken couldn’t be replaced or given up without too much pain, no one was hurt, and it reinforced my belief that money is best invested in experiences that cannot be taken away from you.
18-Izabelle Rhea- my baby that left too soon.  Another experience that I would rather not ever repeat, she taught me that all people walk around with hurts that we can never know, so be kind.  Compassion and love took on new meaning when I lost her.
19- The ocean- I’m grateful for the life sustaining force that it is.  I’ve always found the ocean very healing and I also have great respect for the danger that is inherent in it.
20-Household appliances- What wonders the washing machine and dryer are to a parent!  What a miracle, the dishwasher!  Even the lowly coffee pot, mixer, and food processor are jaw dropping magic makers!
21- A really comfortable bed- We bought a Temper-Pedic a few years ago.  It’s one of the most expensive things we own and worth every penny. 
22-Music- A good song can turn my mood around.  How do societies exist without it?
23-Inexpensive, widely available books- I love my library but bookstores are my weakness.  I love a new book.
24-“This American Life,” “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” and “The Daily Show.”  Without these, I would have no knowledge of the outside world.  As far as I’m concerned, Jon Stewart is a god.
25-Chocolate- self-explanatory

Friday, November 1, 2013


Oh, wow!  I just found out that the story I put up on the last post is going to be published in a book called, Three Minus One.  This book is a project that will hopefully help support and be a companion to a movie, "Return to Zero" about stillbirth and baby loss.  Please look for both the movie and the book.  I hope that it will open the conversation about pregnancy and infancy loss.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Turn

One of the wonderful things about being a teacher is summer vacation.  But what many people don't know is that summer vacation is often filled with trainings for teachers.  Often, they are not particularly valuable, but I've just finished a writing workshop institute presented by Columbia University's Reading and Writing Project.  Absolutely fabulous.  While we learned to teach writing, we also had a chance to work on our own.  Here's a piece I wrote during that time.

The Turn
I leaned back on the uncomfortable exam table until I was flat on my back, exactly the position the doctors advise against when one is seven months pregnant.  The technician squirted the warm, viscous gel on my belly and began to move the sonogram wand around.
            “She’s still breech,” she announced. 
            I had been going to yoga class, practically living my life upside-down, trying to get this baby girl to turn head down.  My husband and I had been trying to get pregnant for three years, ever since Izabelle.  After more losses than I care to recall, we finally had a healthy pregnancy that seemed to be sticking.  But she was breech.  And I really didn’t want a C-section.  So I tried everything from inverted moves to playing music to shining a light at my belly. 
            “I know this is going to sound a little crazy,” said Sandy, my doula, “but let me suggest something.  You haven’t done anything to prepare for her.  Maybe this baby knows you’re not ready yet.”
            She was right.  We hadn’t decorated her room or washed her clothes or unpacked the new stroller we bought, even though our son begged for us to try it out.  Some voice in my head told me that if I didn’t acknowledge this baby, I’d be less anguished, less disappointed if something horrible happened. 
            So I invested.  That weekend, I bought a crib and asked my husband to put it together.  We got a changing table and I decorated the walls with butterfly and flower decals.  I washed her newborn clothes and put them in her closet.  As I folded those impossibly tiny pieces of clothing, I began to talk to her.
            “Baby girl, I have a story to tell you.  You had a sister, Izabelle Rhea, who once lived where you are now.  I was twenty-four weeks pregnant when I learned that her heart had stopped beating.  That was the most tragic day of my life and no one can explain why it happened.  I miss her so much but I’m so happy you have come to me.  You are not a replacement for your sister but you do complete our family.  With my age and all of the babies we have lost, doctors told me I’d never have another baby.  And yet, here you are.”  My face was wet with tears as I slowly and methodically ran my hands over my bulging belly.
            “So I’ve decided to name you Milagros Ziva, my brilliant miracle.  I love you so much already.  I’m looking forward to the moment when I can see your face and hold you close in my arms.”
            Something changed that weekend.  I suddenly felt lighter, like I could walk better, more comfortably.  I could also feel her hiccups lower in my abdomen.
            “That sounds about right,” my OB told me at our next appointment.  “Let’s see where she is.”
            And, there, on the sonogram, was my beautiful miracle, head down and ready to go.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Road to a Miracle

It's been awhile!
I was just looking at the last post and Miles was such a baby.  Now he is a big kindergartener! 

It's been hard to know what to write about as the hearing issue is now a non-issue and it is hard for me to publicly brag about my family.  But I was inspired by another friend's blog to share my experience.  So here goes.

I posted on the blog about the death of our baby, Izabelle Rhea, stillborn at 24 weeks.  Since then we have had many pregnancies and many losses and I wanted to share my experience to end the silence around baby loss and to provide hope to those who might be going through something similar.

When we were given the green light after Izzy, we got pregnant again and were quietly hopeful.  We did the same prenatal testing that we had done with the other babies and were told at the nuchal translucency that we had a very high risk for Down Syndrome.  We then went ahead with the CVS and the results came back positive. 

What I am about to disclose is not open for comment or debate.  We chose to terminate the pregnancy.  This was not an easy decision for me.  I wanted this baby so very much but I had to think about the effect on the whole family, not just what I wanted.  I knew from experience the amount of doctor time, the therapies, the intervention from a minor disability like Miles'.  I couldn't imagine the chaos that would ensue with a baby with greater disabilities.  And I couldn't face the risk that carrying such a pregnancy might mean- greater chance of stillbirth, greater chance of death during childbirth, greater chance of heart conditions.  And then there was the responsibility I would be asking Miles to take on when Jeff and I die.  So we terminated.  And I grieved.

We decided to take a few months to heal, emotionally and physically, and then try again.  We became pregnant quickly but this time it ended in a miscarriage.

We tried again.  (By this time, I was almost 41.)  All seemed to be going well.  At my 8 week appointment, my doctor didn't find a heartbeat and told me to expect to start bleeding in a week or so.  A week later, nothing was happening and I was just feeling sicker and sicker.  So I called back, went in for a blood test and received some scary news.  The doctor believed it was either ectopic or a molar pregnancy.  I quickly went back and a molar pregnancy was diagnosed.  For those who don't know what a molar pregnancy is, it is when the sperm meets up with an egg that does not have a nucleus.  The sperm then multiplies its own DNA and grows in a grape cluster like fashion.  It can have devastating results.  Once removed, it can grow back in a cancerous form.  Often women of my age are suggested to have hysterectomies.  The doctor who examined me told me that I would never have another baby. 

The surgery was scheduled and the results were good.  I then had to wait one year before I could even think of pregnancy.  Six months later, after reaching a zero HCG without intervention, I did some research and then went to see a fertility specialist about the possibility of another baby.  As I was waiting for her to come into the exam room, I realized it was the anniversary of Izzy's birth.  I was emotional.  After taking a look at my ovaries, she told me there was absolutely no reason I should not be able to have another baby.  She prescribed some progesterone for the last half of my cycle and sent me on my way.  I also decided to start acupuncture again.  I had some set backs- one ectopic pregnancy that was easily taken care of with some methotrexate and two very early miscarriages. 

This post wouldn't be called "Road to a Miracle" if it didn't have a happy ending.  In October of 2011, right after Halloween, we got a positive pregnancy test.  I went in soon for blood tests and then ultrasounds.  I knew not to expect much at 5 weeks but there, on the screen, was a fluttering little heartbeat.  And it was still there at 6 weeks, and 7, and 8.  I was transferred to a regular OB and got some extra screening with the Maternal Fetal Health folks.  Lots of appointments.  Lots of ultrasounds.  I was meeting with the MFH doctor for the first time, when, again, I realized it was Izzy's Day.  We did the AFP and the nuchal translucency.  It came back with 1 in 600 chance of Down Syndrome and 1 in 1000 chance for any other chromosomal abnormality.  Those are excellent for a woman of my age.  We also did an amnio and all came back normal.  Of course, there was drama.  I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, she was breech until 34 weeks, and I had PUPPS, a horrible pregnancy related rash, that lasted the last three or four months of the pregnancy.  It was all worth it.

Introducing Milagros "Millie" Ziva, born July 28, 2012, one and a half months before I turned 43.  Milagros means miracles and Ziva means brilliance.

Because of my gestational diabetes, the doctors told me they would induce labor if I didn't give birth before her due date.  Though I was having contractions, I ended up being scheduled for induction just as she hit 40 weeks.  I asked if the doctor would start with breaking my amniotic sac to see what would happen and, since I was about 3 cm. dilated already, she did.  Almost immediately I was in full labor mode.  Jeff called my doula and I was laboring in the tub by the time she got there.  Soon I felt like it was time to check how dilated I was.  A nurse checked and I had one more centimeter to go.  They told me not to push but that was incredibly hard to do.  When I got the go-ahead, I tried one push lying on my side but that didn't work for me so they got me up and onto the birthing stool my doula, Sandy, had brought.  Once I was there, with gravity working with me, Milagros came right out.  The labor took three hours from when they broke my water until they pronounced the birth.  6 PM on the dot.

Millie is now 4 and a half months old and a wonderful baby!  She is smiling and laughing.  Miles is a very proud big brother and liking her much more now that she can interact with him.  She's crying less which he also likes.

Friday, July 29, 2011

And Finally...

Some more cute photos and video from the summer:

Digging in the Garden

My husband was also productive this summer.  Mostly, he was working on his online program (, a music theory and ear training program, but he also dug up all the ugly stuff in the garden and planted pretty new flowers, an herb garden and tomatoes.  We got a new gas grill and got rid of the small climber that Miles never used anymore.  Miles had a great time getting in on the digging.

The Summer of Ignored Promises and Other Ways of Being Productive

At the beginning of the summer, I swore that I would make full usage of my gym membership, blog more and get back to my love of cooking.  Well, I did none of those things and yet I feel like the summer was a success.  Instead, I got back to my love of rock climbing, cleaned out our garage and did a lot of bodywork (acupuncture and massage).

Miles was also a terrific reminder of so many fun things that I had put to the side when I got married and had a kid.  He saw a video of scuba divers and wanted so much to be able to do that.  I told him that he was too young as of now (he's not even really swimming yet) but that we would get some snorkeling equipment and he could do that.  Getting him his own equipment inspired me to get out my old scuba gear.  I showed him how to swim down with the snorkel and clear out his breathing tube.  He really took to it and is very comfortable floating with his face in the water, breathing through the snorkel.

He has also shown interest in rock climbing.  When we go anywhere that has an easily climbable rock, he is quick to want to scramble up.  So I made plans with a rock climbing friend to take him to the gym and give him his first experience with all the gear.  I'm really excited!  I hope he loves it!

We had our first camping expedition to Big Basin Redwood State Park.  Miles has been wanting to go camping since he first read "Fred and Ted Go Camping" over a year ago.  We planned just one night so that if he liked it, we would leave him wanting more and, if he didn't like it, we wouldn't be tortured by an unhappy child.  The results were fantastic.  While he really didn't like the windy drive to the park, he loved the whole camping experience, including hiking/biking the trails, making a campfire, toasting marshmallows and wearing glow sticks at night.  We are planning to go again before the summer is over, maybe even bringing along a friend and his family.

As we got to the park and were heading to the park headquarters to check in, something prompted Miles to say, "Mommy, I love you so much."  Of course, I told him how much I loved him.  This interchange was overheard by a woman walking by who turned and said, "Oh, that is so cute!"  I could only nod my head.  That's my boy.