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The Third Draft

Musings of a D.C. gal who's had her 15 minutes

  • Writer's pictureKatie

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by my wasted potential.

In my 20s, I had a blog. A blog I couldn't wait to write in. I'd go on dates —

terrible ones — and would start composing full paragraphs in my brain on the Metro ride home. I could feel the words heavy in my mouth as I typed them out. I could practically chew them.

The blog got popular. I got popular. My social circle expanded like a sunrise, stretching as far as the eye could see. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. The more I wanted to produce. My creativity flexed like a muscle and got stronger with each post. People told me I should write a book. I daydreamed about writing a book.

And then... I did nothing. The popularity of the blog led to regular virtual floggings. I didn't have the strength or mental capacity to weather the criticism. And the content of the blog was unsustainable as well. I could either keep writing, or I could get serious about finding a partner and settling down. I chose the latter route.

Believe this: I do not regret this path. I love my husband more than life itself. Even knowing what I know now about what we'd go through — the infertility diagnosis, the IVF treatments, the miscarriages — I would not swap my life with someone else. I love our house. I love our dogs. I love our baby.

But as I sit here tapping away on my keyboard, I feel such... disappointment. In myself. Where did that writer go? Can you call yourself a writer if you never write?

The ease I used to feel putting words down on paper is gone. When I was writing my dating blog, it was like the turns of phrase magically appeared in my brain, almost faster than I could type them out. Writing this feels like slogging through mud. Each sentence gets stuck somewhere. That muscle has atrophied. Perhaps irreversibly so.

I don't think about this very often. Especially over the last few years, my brain has been consumed by the process of creating and caring for a child. You don't miss your creativity when you're strapped to a machine monitoring your fetus's heartbeat. But when it hits me how far I've strayed from that part of my identity, it hits me. Literally a punch right in the middle of my chest, forcing me to suck in air. Where did that writer go?

I could have written a book by now, if I'd had the gumption and self-discipline to work on it. Instead, I've frittered away my talent and time watching TV and playing games on my cell phone. What. A. Waste.

Perhaps my 2022 resolution should be that I write something. I have a partial script and movie synopsis I created around this time last year as part of a prompt for my book club. It's formulaic and designed to be a cheesy Christmas movie, the kind you'd see pumped out as if on an assembly line on the Hallmark Channel. Maybe finishing that is the goal I should start with.

If you see this, please periodically send me messages throughout the year asking how my movie is coming. My muscle is so weak I don't know I can do it on my own.

I think the worst part about how weak this muscle is is that I never know how to end these posts in a satisfying way anymore.

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I'm delinquent at blogging... yet again. But this time, I have a good reason: I'm sitting at my desk in the office in our new house with a 7-week-old baby strapped to my chest. We named her Maggie and she's perfect.

I'm out on maternity leave starting to feel like I've got the hang of things (the first two weeks home were VERY touch-and-go... Maggie's birth was traumatic for me as I had terrible hemorrhaging and nearly died, then left the hospital borderline anemic with a third-degree tear. I've never felt shittier), so while this baby naps and my arms are free I'm forcing myself up from the couch where I've seemingly taken root over the last two months.

Seriously, here's a list of TV shows I've binged completely since her birth:

* Brooklyn 99 (twice!)

* Squid Game

* You

* 30 Rock

* Only Murders in the Building

* Clickbait

And I'm partially through both Castle and My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It's just been really easy to camp out in the living room and do feedings, diaper changes, play time, etc. while the TV is on.

Anyway, I want to write a few things down so I don't forget them/so I'm able to tell Maggie what this time was like. It feels like a miracle that I finally have a child after every painful part of this journey, so I want to commit all of this to memory.

  1. The love I have for you, Maggie, is unimaginable, indescribable. People keep telling me to put you down, that I'm "spoiling" you by holding you so much, that I'll regret it if I don't force you to learn how to sleep on your own in a bassinet. But I can't help but want to cradle you in my arms, kiss your fuzzy little head. Songs with sentimental lyrics come on the radio and it will stop me in my tracks, make me weep with joy while cuddling your tiny little body. I'm just so happy you're here.

  2. Maggie's a pretty easy baby, all things considered. I've heard horror stories from people whose children scream all night for weeks on end. Maggie's had a few humdingers, no doubt about it, but for the most part her crying fits are no more than a few hours and pretty spread out. She's also been relatively easy to soothe. (And thank god for that -- it's nice to have at least one part of this be easy!)

  3. The dogs are curious, but tolerant of this new being in our house. They have both wanted to sniff her to figure out what she's all about. Ginger is content to keep her distance (not shocking), and Ren has been a bit bolder, trying to sneak in a few licks and kisses (also not shocking, given their personalities).

  4. Maggie's meeting milestones pretty much right on time. She started having pretty solid neck control around 3 weeks, and she started looking at things really intently around week 5. Social smiles came around week 6. So far that's about what we'd expect, and I'm happy with that. I just want her to be normal; she doesn't have to be Super Baby.

  5. I started out a nervous wreck, but have gotten a lot better as the weeks pass. When we first brought Maggie home... woof. I mentioned the physical nightmare that was those first two weeks previously in this entry, but it was a mental and emotional nightmare too. I cried pretty much constantly -- not from sadness, but from physical pain as well as stress and fear. I kept envisioning myself falling down the stairs while carrying her, crushing her with my weight and breaking her skull as I hit the bottom. I would stay up all night watching her sleep because I was terrified she was going to stop breathing and die of SIDS. I still have moments where I freak myself out and get up to stare into her bassinet to make sure she's breathing, but I've WAY calmed down about that, and the terrible visions have subsided a bit too. I think I'm always going to be worried about her -- most parents say this never goes away -- but I'm much less focused on her imminent demise than I was.

  6. I don't know that we'll ever try for another child. Almost dying in childbirth -- in a fancy hospital in the year of our lord 2021, no less -- really shook me. While I'm mostly healed from that ordeal, I still don't feel totally right downstairs, and I am not sure that I ever will. I mentioned Maggie has been an easy baby, and I'm scared to roll the dice on another one who could be a banshee when she's been so great. My vanity also compels me to tell you that I absolutely LOATHE my body now. I started out my pregnancy not really exercising because I was worried I'd shake her loose and miscarry again, but then I kept not exercising -- and eating ice cream every night -- because I thought "goddammit, everything has been so hard, just let me have this." Well, the chickens have come home to roost, because my stomach is all stretched out now and the lower part flops over on itself, creating a skin fold that if I'm not careful smells funny by the end of the day. My stomach also sticks out like a gross beer belly when I'm sitting down, and none of my clothes fit except sweatpants. I HATE it, just hate it. We have four more healthy embryos, two boys and two girls. A part of me wants to give Maggie a sibling because siblings can be so great if you're close to them. But I just don't know if I can go through all this again -- all the stress of pregnancy, all the stress of a newborn, all the stress on my body. A part of me is mourning those other children I may not have. The door isn't totally closed on this yet, but every day that passes it closes a little more.

So, that's a brain dump of everything that's gone on in the last seven weeks. Now, I want to jot down a few hopes I have for Maggie and the life she'll lead:

  1. I just want you to be happy. (I almost started out this list with "study abroad," but that seems like a frivolous place to begin.) Seriously, Maggie, I want you to be happy. I see so many parents abandon their kids for being part of the LBGT community, and I want you to know that if you figure out you're one of those initials, I will put on a rainbow shirt and wave a flag with you in a pride parade. I will make brunch for the person you bring home (as long as that person treats you with love and respect). I will encourage you to study hard because being well-educated/able to discuss goings on in the world and understand them in proper context is also a value I hold and something I want for you, but I'm not going to hound you to join 8 million extracurriculars and take a full slate of AP classes in high school so you're overscheduled to capacity and suffer a nervous breakdown at age 16 trying to get into an ivy league school for college. If you're ambitious, great; if not, that's OK too. And whatever else we encounter, we'll figure out a way to get through it together. Life is too short for us to be at fisticuffs, or for other outside factors to make you miserable.

  2. Study abroad! OK, it wasn't worthy of the No. 1 slot, but it is important enough to me to make it No. 2. I didn't study abroad in college because I was so worried I was going to miss something. I'm not even sure what it was I would have missed -- working at the college newspaper? Psh, they kicked me out my senior year anyway. Dating my college boyfriend? That relationship petered out by the time I was 25. Parties? I partied plenty in my 20s and 30s, trust me. But being able to immerse myself in another culture while living on my parents' dime would have been incredible, and it's one of my life's biggest regrets that I didn't do it, especially since my college had a program that sent you to Germany and I really love that country. I believe getting out of your own bubble to be a good thing, and that is what I want for you.

  3. Find your voice early. I still don't feel like I do a good job fighting my own battles. If ever I'm made uncomfortable, I tend to clam up and smile through it. I want you to be able to tell people to fuck off if they're crossing your boundaries. I want you to be able to say no when you don't want to do something, whatever that is. I want you to stick up for your beliefs when they're important to you.

  4. Read a lot and find joy in learning. Again, part of what I think makes you well-rounded, interesting and able to apply critical thinking in this world. You'll also be better at making friends if you know a lot of different things.

  5. Find joy in physical activity too. This is something I came to too late in life. I don't want you to have my same physical struggles.

  6. Seriously, just be happy. I want us to have a good relationship. I'll support you in whatever you want to do.

I feel like I'm rambling a bit at this point, but like I said, all I've done for seven weeks is think about this stuff while binge-watching television, so it's all sort of tumbling out of me now. Anyway, I love this little girl and I'm so happy I get to be her mom.

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Oh, hey, been a minute since I've been in here, huh? A LOT has gone on since the last time I wrote:

* The pandemic is still raging, though both R and I have now been fully vaccinated (Johnson and Johnson for me; Pfizer for him).

* We went through another IVF egg retrieval. This time, with acupuncture as part of my protocol, we got 25 eggs, which was pretty shocking given my age -- it was MORE than we'd gotten the last time, and you'd have expected we'd get way less. We ended up with the same amount of embryos that were able to be frozen and tested, and ultimately got three totally healthy embryos and one "mosaic" embryo with both normal and abnormal cells. They were all genetically female. *After dealing with an entire summer of nonstop fireworks and street cacophony, including a broad-daylight shooting on our block that resulted in a bullet hole in our car while R was out walking the dogs, we decided to sell our 1200 square foot D.C. rowhouse and move to what can only be described as a compound in Capitol Heights, Maryland. It's a turn-of-the-century farmhouse that, after falling into disrepair, being abandoned and suffering a massive fire, has been renovated with some pretty cool finishes. The house itself is 1900 square feet, and the property is over an acre and came with a whole second building that we're using as a gym, a bar, an office and an extra bedroom. The dogs LOVE the yard but hate the groundhogs that also live on the property.

*And... **drumroll please**... I'm pregnant! We transferred an embryo Jan. 5 -- a girl, and I should note that was the luck of the draw and not anything we specifically requested -- and I'm not sure if it's the adjustment of certain meds (I injected progesterone instead of taking suppositories), the addition of acupuncture (I go either once a week or every other week), or the addition of a blood thinner (another injectable I take every morning in my belly), but things are going well. I'm now 15 weeks, aka solidly in the second trimester, and my risk of miscarriage, while not zero, is pretty low, and the things that will make this a complicated pregnancy have been documented and are being monitored by doctors. I still find myself panicking a little bit -- after multiple miscarriages, who wouldn't? -- and to some extent I haven't let myself fully believe that this is real and that I am going to be a mom in September. But, I've been to a shit-ton of therapy since November 2019, and I have some coping strategies that I can rely on, so every time I start to go off the deep end I'm working on talking myself down. Sigh. It's a process, for sure.

I think the worst part of that last bullet is that people still don't get it, if that makes any sense. Like, this is not just any old pregnancy -- with this embryo transfer, we exhausted our IVF insurance, so if I lose this pregnancy and we decide to try again, everything will come out of pocket. (Not to mention the fact that I'm now 38, and every day that passes makes my chances of carrying a healthy child to term go down just a little bit further.) Also, while I am extremely happy about being pregnant, I think people to some extent are like, "oh, well, cool, now you don't have to be sad about miscarrying anymore!" No, no no no, that's not how it works. Children don't replace other children, folks. I should have had one born this past July, and this should be my second. I also think people in general just do not understand what grieving a miscarriage is like. Recently, I saw another friend who is in the IVF trenches, and we talked about how we had been acquaintances back when both of us were single and struggling with heartbreaks and dating. "This is way worse," I said. "WAY worse," she nodded. I've lost friends over the last year because of how I "acted" during all of that, and it makes me want to bang my head against a wall. How is it possible I've been cast as a villain in this situation? I suffered a loss and clawed my way through it... again, sigh. If you aren't willing to give me grace after that, then you're probably not worth my time.

Anyway, maintaining positivity -- as you can see, sometimes that's hard to do. But on a micro level, 2020 was a good year, and, fingers crossed, 2021 seems like it's going to be OK too. I'll take any prayers you might be willing to send me, though. Let's hedge our bets.

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