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Sharing is Caring – and a little bit more


With a three year old in the house, I spend a lot of time thinking about sharing. I guess when I went back to work after maternity leave, I assumed one of the benefits of having Ella in daycare full time from the very beginning was that she would be used to sharing with other kids by the time we gave her a sibling.

Imagine my surprise when all that socializing actually produced territoriality instead of generosity! Turns out spending most of her days with kids who are also learning boundaries has made my Junebug a bit fierce about what’s hers.

She loses her mind when one of the cats sits in her favorite spot on the couch. She hoards her toys and treats around younger cousins. And God help anyone who dares to use her special rainbow bath towel.

“Think about how your friend feels,” we tell her. “Sharing makes our friends happy.”

I’m slowly realizing that this is possibly the wrong way to approach it – that our sharing makes other people happy is really only half the story.

I’m a pretty private person, by nature, so it took a lot for me to start sharing my stories online. Then, last fall, I wrote something about my experience of 9/11 and, in a moment of uncharacteristic bravery, shared it.

The response blew me away – not so much the number of views, although that was pretty terrifying to watch, but really the number of people who thanked me for sharing what they’d never been able to, and the number of people who then were inspired to share their own story.

That one little post, written in a frenzy after more wine than usual and shared without much thought for the possible consequences, gave me enough confidence that this sharing idea was maybe a good one. So, when my husband and I reached an unspoken milestone in our effort to have a second child, I felt like maybe, just maybe, sharing that journey was a worthwhile endeavor.

Even though I am private, especially about body stuff. Even though it made me feel pretty squirmy inside to put this out in the world. Even though I wasn’t sure how I would feel about talking, in real life, to real people, about what we were going through.

You guys. The sharing. It is the best thing.

Not only because it lifted a burden I didn’t even really know I was carrying, and not only because people have been so kind in their feedback about my writing.

But because me sharing has made other people share, too. I have been completely humbled by the women who have read my sharing and reached out with their own – in the comments here and elsewhere, over e-mail, in private messages, over coffee.

Things get so heavy when we carry them on our own. Maybe more sharing is really the right idea.

So, I’m pleased as punch that a story I published over at Coffee + Crumbs last week is being shared today at For Every Mom. Welcome to anyone who clicked over from there. I’m so happy to share a little bit of my life with you.

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IMG_4669.JPGI have a story I’m proud of up over at Coffee + Crumbs today. Welcome to anyone who clicked over from there!

Truth is, I have mixed feelings about sharing this essay – Six Days Late, which I wrote about six months ago. I almost didn’t submit it anywhere, because I wasn’t ready to talk about this baby-making business yet. But I figured by the time it was published, I’d be pregnant and it wouldn’t bother me anymore.

I’m not, obviously, and although I’ve lost some of my squeamishness about sharing this struggle, I still have a hard time balancing where I am with where I thought I’d be.

More on this expectation vs. reality balance later, but in the meantime, thanks for reading. I really appreciate it.

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A Hard Time


Once, about a hundred years ago, Jon and I called off our wedding. There was a lot more to it than that, so it’s a story for another day. Suffice it to say, it was a hard time. 

But no one knew. A few months after we’d canceled the venue, photographer, DJ, and more that we’d been so excited about, someone at work asked how the plans were coming. I took a huge swallow of Diet Coke to keep myself from tearing up and casually mentioned that the wedding had been canceled. 

That coworker, an older woman who dealt with me more like a grandchild than a colleague, shook her head and said she couldn’t believe I hadn’t said anything and had been showing up to work with a smile on my face. 

At the time, this was a point of pride for me. I thought it meant I was a tough cookie, that I could just keep moving seamlessly even when I felt like my heart had been torn apart at the seams, the threads that used to hold me together waving around in the wind.

My mother had a heart attack over winter recess one year in college. No one knew. I was the girl whose depression support group called her “the cheerleader” until they found out at the last meeting that I had only recently quit cutting myself to stay alive. 

I’m not able to do this anymore – this smile while you bleed thing. And although I still sometimes feel like I am sacrificing pride, I am starting to see the value of owning up to having a hard time. 

I have been frustrated, over the last two years of trying to make a baby, at people’s insensitivity. But if I keep smiling and saying I’m all right and changing the subject, whose fault is that insensitivity? 

Maybe it’s time to let myself be a real mess, so we can all be on the same page. 

When you ask if we are planning to have another child. When you ask if Ella is my first or second, as though a second is a given.

When you jokingly warn me not to have another child. 

When you remind me to have patience and faith in God’s timing. 

When you gently suggest I not plan my immediate future around something that may be an impossibility.

When you try to help me visualize the baby that must be on its way any moment now.

When you tell me it will all work out how it is supposed to, when it is supposed to.

When you say these things, or – ideally – when you are thinking about saying these things but haven’t said them yet, what I need you to remember is that I am not seamless. That the stitches that used to hold me together have come loose and are flapping around in the wind and I am left wide open. 

Sometimes it is fine and I hear you and keep moving. Sometimes I am tired and don’t have the energy to fend off my own reaction. Sometimes you are the third person who has said this kind of thing today and I am out of patience. And sometimes you are the first person but I can already feel the other two in line behind you.

Do you know how many different people have said one of these things – in love, I know – to me in the very few weeks since I started telling people we want another baby? So. Many. People. I presume they all mean well, because they are people who love or at least like me. 

And I’m not exempt here. I’ve said some of these things to women I love and like. I’ve commented on other people’s family planning with little to no context about where they’re at or what their hopes were or how they got here.

Now I know: I am an asshole. I didn’t mean to be an asshole, and I know most people are not trying to be assholes. 

I would like to propose a deal:

If I can remember that you are not trying to be an asshole on purpose, maybe you could try to remember that I am having a very hard time. 

Even if I am smiling, even if it seems like I am managing well. 

I am having a very hard time.

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hands-woman-girl-silver“Patience is a virtue.” It’s something my dad used to tell us constantly when we were kids, to the point that as a teenager I decided I hated both patience AND virtues. As a sort-of grown up, I actually think of myself as a pretty patient person. Patience might be a virtue, but it’s also in short supply for me right now.

I really thought this month was the month.

I had an HSG scan, which, in the words of Janet, the compassionate and well-meaning tech who held my hand through the procedure, uses something like “a cocktail straw,” that takes about 45 minutes to insert via speculum, to inject a dye that “works like drain-o” to flush out your plumbing while a radiologist watches via X-ray to see if anything is clogged.

Apparently this procedure is fairly quick and painless for many women. It was neither of those things for me and had followed a pretty stressful morning (uncooperative toddler, a work emergency I wasn’t able to deal with because of this appointment, unusual traffic, and an incorrect location given to me by hospital staff, all of which made me run late) so by the time I had cleaned myself up and was heading out the door of the exam room to go home, I was in a pretty fragile state. Janet explained the law of attraction to me and suggested I try telling everyone I will have a baby in 2017. I wasn’t sure where to even start with an honest response to that so instead thanked her for holding my hand and left before losing it.

The one thing I kept repeating to myself while trying to hold it together was that this procedure often results in increased fertility in the first month or so after you have it. Between the HSG and some tweaks a urologist had recommended for Jon’s biology, I felt really good about our odds for getting pregnant in March. I even lost a few pounds, which, although I’m not very overweight, I thought might help.

But now it’s time, again, to come to terms with the fact that we are not pregnant.

I don’t know how people do this for years and years. We are approaching the two year mark and I could crawl out of my skin with heartbreak and impatience. And I am ever mindful that I am blessed to already have a healthy, perfect child, and that I haven’t even gotten to the really invasive, disruptive, uncomfortable stuff yet. I am in awe of couples who persevere.

While we figure out next steps, I am taking deep breaths. I am holding Ella close. I am thanking God for what I have and asking his forgiveness for my impatience. And I am trying to give myself the grace to slow down, to rest, and to grieve that there is just no baby this time.

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The Best We Can


I wrote this awhile ago, before I was ready to fess up about our fertility problems but just after the first executive order travel ban was signed. I’m in a better place about all of this now, but I’m visiting NYC today with Ella, and our hotel looks down on the WTC memorial, and I’m feeling this same tension between being so grateful for what I have and so despairing about the damage we humans inflict on each other. Seemed like the right moment to share.


It’s 8:30pm on Sunday night, and this week has already exhausted me.

It could be because I spent Friday juggling a packed work agenda with a strep-stricken toddler. Days when my professional responsibilities are in direct conflict with what I know is best for my family wear me out like nothing else. Days like Friday make me feel like I am fighting an uphill battle for no good reason at all.

It could be because Saturday we missed a much needed and long overdue grown up night out. No way could we leave a fever-y kiddo for the night, and even when she’s sick I’m happy to have extra snuggle time. But we’d been looking forward to a night out together, to help remember we are still people, and we ended up missing a big family function.

It could be because I spent Sunday celebrating my nephew’s first birthday. This was a happy occasion, and I wanted to be happy, and I was so happy for everyone else. But I also spent the party fighting back panic, trying to convince myself that somehow we are going to have another baby. Even though it’s been so long that we’ve been trying, even though I feel like my body has taken such a beating since we got so easily pregnant with Ella June, even though I feel like I have aged 100 years since then. Please don’t let this be over for us, I kept pleading with God in my head, as we sang happy birthday and ate cake and watched a photo montage of Daniel’s miraculous first year. There is no reason to think we are done having children, and still after a year and a half of trying, there is no baby. I do not know what I will do if I can never be pregnant again.

It could also be that it seems our leaders are hell bent on burning this world down around us. Every time I close my eyes, I see a toddler, like Ella, blue skinned, face down in the sand with the waves washing over him. I think of his mother and father, everyone who loved him. I think of his miraculous life, the one he will never get to live. And I think of what terror he must have felt, slipping under the water alone. Ella is afraid of the noise of the toilet flushing, and I think of this child dying with the sound of the ocean roaring in his ears. It burns me to think of this.

We are inhuman for allowing this. Maybe we should all burn for allowing this to continue.

I stand in the kitchen for a moment, numb with despair and futility, staring at my dark reflection in the microwave door. But Jon calls me into Ella’s room to sing a goodnight song. I kiss my daughter’s precious cheek. And I go back into the kitchen to make her lunches for the week. There’s something comforting about seeing all of her food lined up and ready. And in the end, this is all I can do. Feed my family, love my family, pray for my family and for our human family that everything will be all right. That god, however we understand him or her or it, is with us. That we are doing the best we can, and that somehow it will be enough.

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I have to tell you something.

I have to tell you something.

It’s OK – don’t panic, no one is dying. But I’ve been keeping a secret from you. It’s gone on for too long, and now it is too heavy, and I just need you to know.

For the last eighteen months, we have been trying to get pregnant. And it’s not working.

We don’t know why yet, and maybe no one will be able to tell us with any certainty. I am hopeful that someone will help us find a way forward, even if we don’t really know what brought us here.

I didn’t tell you at first because I thought it would be easy. It was so very easy the last time.

And then I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to feel like a pot, watched carefully for signs of boiling.

And then I didn’t tell you because I knew I would have no patience for your supportive optimism.

And then I didn’t tell you because I couldn’t tell you without succumbing to melodrama and desperation – and, possibly because there is so little dignity to be had in the physical processes of fertility testing and treatment, dignity wherever I could get it seemed paramount.

And now I am telling you because I can’t quite bear the weight of doing this quietly anymore. I am going to have to talk about it, and this is scary for me and possibly uncomfortable for you, and I’m sorry.

Maybe we will all luck out and this will be resolved in a few months and we can all breathe a sigh of mutual relief that we can talk about a baby instead of hormones and eggs and sperm and mucus.

I recognize that eighteen months is the blink of an eye to some people who have struggled with infertility. This is a pep talk I give myself regularly: it could get much harder. Have courage now.

So I am trying, and telling you is part of this effort to have courage. Please have patience with me. This is unfamiliar ground for all of us, and I am continually praying for the grace to navigate the path we are on.

Courage and patience and grace. Repeat as needed.

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We leave Allston because of the bats. Most people leave Allston because they have gotten too old, and we have. But the thing that pushes us out of Rock City is that in the course of two weeks, we have not one but two bats in our apartment, and our landlord doesn’t seem to understand that this is an issue.

One night on the couch, Jon jokes that we should move, so we plug $1500 into the maximum rent search field on Craigslist, just to see what will come up. We don’t think to filter by location, so what comes up is a second floor apartment in a historic home on a quiet side street in Salem. It’s one of those fancy houses with the little plaque showing the date it was built and the builder’s name. 10 minutes’ walk to downtown, the listing says. The photos zoom in on an antique staircase, wide planks of original pine flooring, and two working fireplaces – one of which includes a brick oven for bread or pizza.

“This is too good to be true,” we tell ourselves. But we decide it might make a nice day trip.

I respond to the posting and the landlord calls me back while I am trying on sweaters at the GAP.

Walter, the landlord, tells me this house was actually built for his ancestor and has been in the family for more than a century and a half. “It’s special to us,” he says, “and we only want to rent to people who will take care of it. We want it to be special to our renters, too.”

I tear up, because I have not had a real home in a long time.

We end up chatting for a while – long enough that someone knocks on the fitting room door to let me know there is a line and could I please hurry up with my phone call.

That Saturday morning, Jon and I take the “scenic” route up 1A, past the airport, through Chelsea and Lynn. We laugh the whole way there, because of course we’re not moving up here. But then we turn onto the road that leads us through downtown, and it’s a game to shout out the earliest years we see on these beautiful houses with their date stamps.

North Salem, where the apartment is, is a little rough around the edges, but the street we’re looking for is lined with sugar maples just starting to turn their colors. Walter meets us out front, and I see how impressed Jon is with his beard and his knowledge of historic restoration carpentry.

Walter gives us the tour, but we keep raising our eyebrows at each other behind his back. We already know. If he’ll rent it to us, this is going to be our new home.

We give the commute a cursory rehearsal before we commit, but a week later Walter cashes the check that gets us the keys. We break our lease, and we leave Allston behind.

Our first morning on Buffum Street, we wake up early because we haven’t remembered to put the shades down, and the master bedroom is flooded with light. Outside, the sugar maples are on fire with October orange.

“I can’t believe this is our home now,” I tell Jon, and he kisses me, all wrapped up in fresh sheets.

This was nine years ago yesterday. Since that morning, we put down roots in Salem. And then we left.

Now, two years after abandoning Witch City for country life in Bolton, I am still not at home. We left because we needed more space. We thought the schools would be better in a more affluent area. We hoped our new location would be more convenient for our parents and siblings. We imagined we would settle in.

The truth is that we don’t. They aren’t. It isn’t. And we haven’t.

We miss the cozy, quirky apartment, where we grew up, where we threw a boozy cookout the day after our wedding, where I labored all day to give birth to our daughter, where Ella fell asleep on the rug in front of the fire the day we brought her home from the hospital.

We miss our friends, the amazing intergenerational circle of people I met at church, the badass women from my prenatal yoga class, the guys Jon played music and drank beer with, the kindred spirits who moved in downstairs and made the house a little community.

We miss the restaurants where we had become regulars. I have a picture of Ella, just a week old, in her car seat, perched on the big orange couch at the Gulu-Gulu. The waitresses who watched my pregnant belly grow were so excited to meet her in all her newborn glory.

We miss the city itself, the paths with the best views to get downtown, the alleyways with hidden shopping gems, the likelihood of stumbling on an outdoor concert or a magic show outside Old Town Hall, the bench behind the Peabody Essex Museum where Jon proposed on a muggy summer morning over ham and cheese croissants from A&J King’s Bakery.

We miss the North Shore, the sea breeze, the easy drive up the coast to Newburyport where we were married, the state park where we tramped through the snow for a winter picnic, the local birth center where we received such patient care during my pregnancy.

I know I am a large part of the problem. I never meant to leave New York permanently, and I still miss it like there’s a hole in my heart. Salem helped fill that hole. And out here in apple country, I feel an abyss of loneliness and of not-belonging in my chest.

I am grateful for our house. We are lucky to have found it, we are luckier to be able to afford it. We are lucky we are in such a privileged town, the town we thought would be perfect for us. I am grateful for our kind neighbors. I am very grateful for the wonderful school and amazing teachers who have taken Ella to their hearts here.

We aren’t unhappy, really. Not all the time. But if I am being honest, most days I still find myself thinking that I want to go home.