The Darkness

The Darkness is back again today. I felt it creeping in on me early this morning as soon as I woke up. I went about my morning feeding the cats, making my tea, and getting ready for school. But The Darkness waited, crouching and patient, because it knew I couldn’t outrun it. At the local bagel shop, the owner and I chatted. She asked if we’d found out the sex of the baby yet or planned to. I had to explain our baby died, so there’d be no gender reveal. She felt awful and apologized and I assured her it was fine, she couldn’t have known. It was fine. It was fine. Everything was fine. Fine.

I arrived at school feeling out of sorts and off. The Darkness had found an opening and was working its way back in, invasive as kudzu. I wanted to cry. Can’t cry. No time. Have to pretend and keep going. Slowly, the day started to feel like not my own. The Darkness was in control now. I saw another pregnancy announcement on Facebook. F*#£k them. I blocked them. The Darkness swirled around me even more, pulling me under like a rip tide.

I didn’t want to be alone, The Darkness scares me. It says things to me like “you’re life isn’t worth living”, “you killed your baby”, “you’ll never get pregnant again”, and “only death is inside of you”. Everyone was busy though, so I went home alone. My husband is at work and I’m home alone. Perfect for The Darkness; it loves when I’m alone. I ate dinner, listened to a podcast, and walked the dogs. The entire time I could feel the panic building in my chest, the same response as whenever I remember what’s happened. Finally, The Darkness was too strong. I laid down and let it take me. I cried until I vomited up the dinner I’d forced myself to eat. I cried until my body hurt from the intense spasms. I cried until I was hoarse from screaming out in pain.

The Darkness is like a mass of black, sticky vines crawling up your body slowly until you can’t stand. Then they cover your body as you lie on the ground until you feel like that’s all that’s left. Just Darkness. I could call someone to come sit with me. But I don’t want to be a bother, don’t want to make anyone worry. Not every day is like this, but the bad days are pretty bad. This is depression.

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Freezer Meals

When people I know lose a loved one, I take a freezer meal. Something easy, filling, and made/frozen by me with reheating instructions written on the foil covering. My thought process behind the freezer meals is this: everyone rushes to help right when a tragedy hits, but few stick around to check up on you in the following weeks and months. After our son died, so many people messaged me on a daily basis wanting to know how I was doing and offering to come sit with me while my husband was at work. I greatly appreciate these people, don’t misunderstand me, but in those days right after Sayre’s death I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to be reminded of what I’d lost, I just wanted to pretend everything was normal again. Now, two months after, I deeply need to talk. I need people to make their support known now far more than I ever did at the beginning of this journey.

Sayre was my first pregnancy. I knew a ton about birth and pregnancy from an academic standpoint, but nothing first hand. For example, I learned it was actually pretty common for a stuffy nose to be a pregnancy symptom after I assumed I was coming down with a cold right before I got my positive test. As for what’s “normal” after a miscarriage? I have no idea since this is also my first go around. My first period after the D&C arrived right after New Years. I was hoping we’d managed to get pregnant again right away, but we didn’t. Yet another sign my baby is dead and my body is empty. It was a really heavy period, especially since my periods are usually pretty light and relatively easy. No one prepared me for that. Luckily, I have a few friends who also suffered miscarriages and they assured me that was normal and a good sign that I didn’t have any scarring or anything abnormal. A heavy period was a sign my body was back in good working order they said, but it didn’t feel that way to me. I know those aren’t rational thoughts, but let me tell you, few things are rational in the wake of loss. My brain knows the facts and the data, but my shattered heart doesn’t.

My body is doing so many things it didn’t before pregnancy/miscarriage and I’m left to figure them out on my own. My midwife was on call if I had any questions between the news of Sayre’s death and the D&C and I had a post-op check-up 1 1/2 weeks after the procedure, but who do I ask for help now? I feel like a burden. A sad, confused burden that no one wants to carry because I should be over it all and moved on by now. I’m no longer an expectant mother so I’ve been cut off from the sources I had before and left to deal with it on my own with the help of my husband. I don’t understand what’s happening to my body or what “normal” is for it anymore.

Wow. This got a whole lot more personal and weepy than I originally anticipated. Let me say: hormone shifts are a witch. Yet another thing no one warns you about. Lovely hormone shifts that can leave you ready to raze a city to the ground or bawling your eyes out because a snow/ice front caused your birthday party to be cancelled. Is that normal after a miscarriage? Heck if I know, no one’s told me. I never had mood swings like this before, but my hormones weren’t bottoming out after an almost four month pregnancy before either. This past week was hard because of my birthday and it brought some things up. I know my sadness makes others uncomfortable so I try to hide it or pretend its not there. Unfortunately, that’s not healthy for me.

I guess my point is this: try to be a freezer meal for someone who’s dealing with loss. They may need you a few months down the road instead of right then.

The House of Mourning

The House of Mourning is a strange and dark place. Some rooms are bright and you forget where you’re at, but you always come back to the Dark Rooms that are silent save for your breathing. The marble floors are hard and cold beneath your feet as you endlessly search for the way out. There has to be a window or door somewhere. Somewhere. You stay up all night pacing the floors, searching for the baby your body no longer holds but should. Just when you feel as though you can’t go a single second longer, you stumble into a bright room. Bleary eyed and exhausted, you bask in the light and warmth of this room. Slowly, so slowly, you begin to feel human again. You might even let loose a laugh or two at something. You set out to wander the halls anew because surely the door must be close if you’re feeling this good. Then you end up back in the Dark Rooms. Black marble floors, darkness all around, and no sound except a clock ticking that sounds just like your heartbeat. You can’t speak when you’re in the Dark Rooms. The darkness sucks all of the words from you before they can make it out. Someone asks how you are and all you can say is “Fine” even when the true response is “I am so sad it physically hurts, I want my baby back, I feel broken as a woman, and I feel like a failure as a mother”.  But you can’t say any of that in the Dark Rooms. Sometimes you lie down right there on the cold marble floor and stare into the gloom. What’s the point in going forward when all there is are more Dark Rooms full of silence and cold?

Then you’ll see a brief glimpse of light and it gets brighter. A hand reaches down for you and helps you off of the floor. The Hand wipes your tears and combs your hair. The hand turns into arms that hold you and then they become a person whispering words to you. Words like “we’re here”, “you can be sad, we’ll wait”, “we love you”, “we miss him too”, and “you are not alone”. The person is glowing, they’re made out of light and its warmth feels so good against your cheek as you rest your head on their shoulder. This is what life feels like. You’d forgotten. The Light Person helps hold you steady as you continue your walk through the House of Mourning.

The Light Person walks with you toward yet another room. But this one is different from the rest. It’s not full of light or full of dark; it is full of something else altogether. Inside, there are rows upon rows of women kneeling as you knelt in the Dark Rooms. They are young and old, rich and poor, and every color of the rainbow. They all rise and turn to you. You know without a word being said that they have also walked through the House of Mourning and they’ve come to lead you out. They surround you and walk with you to a door and out into the future.

My walk through the House of Mourning has been hard and there were nights I didn’t think I’d be able to make it. But the Light Person who represented all of my friends, family, and students helped me up when I would have lain there forever. Other women who have suffered the loss of a child came to me and helped lead me to a place where I could move forward. They shared their stories of loss and grieving with me and let me know I wasn’t alone and wasn’t a freak. They honored my son by using his name. My beautiful boy, my darling Sayre. They offered to sit beside me as I passed the time before I could be of use again and they brought food and made sure I ate when I otherwise wouldn’t have. They showed me there is hope in the form of children who came after loss, healthy perfect babies. They came and held me when I tried to run away and hide, suffering alone. I’m not out of the House of Mourning completely, I still walk the grounds, but I don’t dwell inside of it anymore and that is progress.

Crawling.

“If crawling is all you can do, start crawling” ~Rumi

I woke up early, put some makeup on to hide the wear grief has worn on my face, got dressed, and drove to work to get my baby’s ultrasound picture from my office. It was a test to see how I would handle going out into the world again since learning that my child was dead. I managed to walk into the building, climb the stairs up to my office, and carefully take Sayre’s picture down from the wall I’d so proudly displayed it on. Then I had to brace myself against the corner of my desk. The world swam in front of my eyes and I didn’t know if I could make it back down and out before other teachers started arriving. I couldn’t see anyone else. Couldn’t face the looks of pity and condolences I knew would greet me. I had to get out.

I somehow managed to get back down the stairs out of the building before the tears threatened to come. I’d promised myself a latte from my favorite local place, Native Bagel, as a reward for putting on clothes and leaving the house. Sayre’s perfect picture looked up at me from the passenger seat. I flipped it over and continued driving. I walked into the bagel shop, ordered my latte, and waited. I read my book on my Kindle app to keep myself from freaking out. Reading and crocheting have been the only things that help ground me. I felt like everyone there knew my baby had died; I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

I blasted the new Taylor Swift album as loud as I could to try to keep myself from feeling the darkness I knew was trying to cloud my mind. I couldn’t care that it was a little after 7 in the morning, I needed the music as loud as possible to drown out my sorrow. The tears started coming as I pulled onto our road. I pulled into our driveway and let them come, hot and fast. I screamed for my child. I screamed for my empty body. I screamed until I barely had a voice. If my tears hadn’t been loud enough to be heard by God, then I’d let Him hear my pain. My mother’s pain poured from me in hot angry tears and guttural screams.

With shaking hands, I picked up my latte and Sayre’s picture, turned off the car, and went into the house. I got the frame Laura had brought and placed his ultrasound in it as I sobbed. Thomas came and held me as I told him it would never be okay again. I felt like a failure on so many levels. I couldn’t keep my baby alive and now I couldn’t even woman up enough to not be destroyed by a 20 minute trip into town with very limited exposure to people. Thomas helped me wash off the now ruined makeup, change into a nightgown, and climb into bed to read.

I channeled my grief into cleaning. I cleaned out my closet and ended up with four large garbage bags of clothes to donate. I cleared off and organized my desk in our bedroom as well as organized my small book shelf by my side of the bed. I moved one of the plants I’d received when my stepdad passed in August to the book shelf where it could get the light from the window and I could see something alive last thing at night and first thing in the morning. Then, because I was shaking, I heated up some leftover dumplings mom made me and sat at the table to eat. I wanted to crawl back into bed, but I made myself sit at the table and put something in my stomach. I don’t care what happens to me anymore, but I know others care. I’m hoping if I go through the motions enough, I’ll start to care again. I’m not okay, but I ate at the table today.

With a whimper.

“So this is how the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.” I read that quote in a play assigned for a college English class, the words floated into my head on the worst day of my life. My husband and I went for our 12 week check-up at the midwife’s office on the Friday after Thanksgiving. We were so excited because we’d hear the heartbeat again, schedule the appointment for next month to find out the sex, then go Black Friday shopping for some maternity pants for me since mine were almost too tight. The nurse tried to find the heartbeat with the doppler and couldn’t, but she said to not worry because at 12 weeks my uterus was barely out of my pelvis yet and it was hit or miss with a dobbler. Next, my midwife came in and tried to find the heartbeat and when she couldn’t she said it was no big deal and that happened at least once a week. She said we’d jus go over to the ultrasound room and do an over the belly ultrasound to see the heartbeat since that’d be easier. The minute we saw the baby on the screen I knew he was dead. I’d been almost 10 weeks when we’d last seen him and heart his strong heartbeat. He’d been bouncing all over the place and posing for the camera. Now he was still and just lying there with his tiny little arms crossed. He looked so much bigger and more like a baby than before. He was beautiful. Noel said the words I’d known were coming, she was having trouble finding a heartbeat. She went and got one of the OB’s to come try, but I knew that was a Hail Mary. Dr. Greene came in and said the words I knew in my heart already: there was no heartbeat, my baby was dead.

The air left the room and I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I needed to vomit but I couldn’t move, couldn’t speak. I cried more tears than even before and held onto my husband as he did the same. Our beautiful baby was dead inside of me. The doctor explained I was having what’s called a “silent” miscarriage because I had experienced no cramping or bleeding. He said the baby probably had a chromosomal defect and that if it had lived it probably would’ve had a very short and painful life. I was told I needed a D&C to remove the baby and the contents of my uterus because my body wasn’t going to miscarry naturally. Dr. Greene assured me the procedure would be done under general anesthesia and I could go home right after. I was put down for a Monday appointment with another doctor in the practice to, hopefully, get me into the OR that day. He said there was no way to get me in that same day because they were already booked for all the OR time. I would have to carry my dead baby inside of me until Monday. When he left, Noel and her nurse took turns holding me as I cried. Noel said I very well cold start to miscarry naturally between then and Monday because now that my mind knew what was happening, it could signal my body to check on the baby and do what it needed to do. I felt like a failure. I couldn’t keep my baby alive and I couldn’t even miscarry right. Noel said that my body was just really really good at being pregnant and was trying to make the baby okay the only way it knew how. That didn’t help.

We had to go to the hospital for blood work since their tech was out still. I cried all the way there as we called my mom and dad and told them. I cried in the ER where we had to register for the lab. I cried in the lab. Then I cried as they took my blood. All I did was cry the entire rest of the day. I woke up that night after three hours of shallow sleep and couldn’t breathe. It all hit me all over again and I couldn’t lie there anymore, I had to move. I paced our house as I cried out from the darkest part of my soul and cried. I asked God why. I wondered what I’d done to hurt my baby. I wondered why drug addicts and people who didn’t want kids were allowed to carry and birth healthy babies while mine had died. I’d followed all the rules, hadn’t even had caffeine the entire time to lower my chances of miscarriage. I’d failed.

My husband trailed after me the entire night and held me when I’d be still. I wanted to die. I told him I wanted to go with our baby because that’s what a good mommy did. He wouldn’t leave me alone, he was afraid I’d do it. I probably would have. I fell back asleep for an hour once the sun came up. I didn’t move from bed that entire day and I wouldn’t let Thomas open any curtains or blinds. I couldn’t see the sun or the beautiful day when I knew my child was dead. I avoided mirrors and looking down because I couldn’t see my baby bump without falling apart. Our dog, Athena, refused to leave my side. She followed me every step I took, even following me to the bathroom and waiting until I was done which she never does. She laid next to me and plastered herself against me making sure to have my hand over her at all times. It was like she knew my pain and wanted me to know I wasn’t alone.

My doula came to see us that afternoon. She held me as I cried while in bed and told me it was okay to have all the feelings I was having. Laura is a beautiful soul. She brought a basket with a frame for one of the ultrasound pictures, three flameless candles, two journals for us to use during our grieving, a pen, a teddy bear so I wouldn’t have to walk out of the hospital with empty arms, and a full refund of all we’d paid so far. Laura listened as I talked about every emotion I was having, all of my sadness and anger. Her presence was comforting as I allowed myself to voice things I hadn’t even let my mind fully accept yet. I admitted I’d wanted to kill myself and how strong that urge had been and how hard I’d had to fight against it. I told her my fears of my baby being alone and cold after he’d never been alone or felt anything other than the warmth of my body. I showed her the tiny blanket I’d made during the night in an attempt to outrun my thoughts during the dark sleepless hours. I made it for him so he wouldn’t be cold and would know his mommy loved him. I told her how disappointed and angry I was with my body for not telling me something was wrong. When I finally was out of words, I just looked at her through teary eyes. What more could I say?

Laura then told me how my body hadn’t failed me, it had the opposite. My body was really really good t being pregnant and had tried to make my baby live the only way it knew how: by keeping up the same things it’d been doing. Instead of guilting me for my dark thoughts as I’d feared, Laura told me they were completely normal and that she was proud of me for resisting them. She told me I was strong for choosing to stay. SHe touched the blanket I clutch in my hands and told me she knew I was a good mother because I’d thought to make my baby something to keep him warm and remind him of me. She told me I was still a mother even though my arms would never hold my baby. I felt some better after she left.

The next day I took a long soaking bath with lots of epsom salts as a way to say goodbye to my baby. It was almost sacred the way I soaked in the salty water I’d scented with oils and how I anointed my body with lotion and oils afterward. I couldn’t prepare my baby’s body, but I could prepare mine. A friend came and sat with me for hours listening as I cried and holding me. She listened with an open heart and shared my pain of the loss of my child. Her visit helped the most of all because I stepped out of my grief for a brief time to catch up on the world around me.

I woke up after three hours of sleep the day of the procedure. I washed my hair with my favorite shampoo and conditioner, put my favorite body lotion on, and got dressed i yoga pants and a UK sweatshirt. I had spent hours obsessing about what one wore to undergo a D&C for a dead baby and that was the best I could come up with. I called my dad to talk to while I waited for the sun to rise the time to leave to arrive. I knew Thomas needed sleep but I also knew I needed someone to talk to as I waited. Once it was time, I told my dad I’d talk to him later and I loved him and I went to wake up Thomas. My mom arrived and we got into her car for the drive to Lexington. I didn’t talk and neither did Thomas. I cried through the wait in the office lobby, while the nurses took my weight and blood pressure, in the exam room while we waited on the doctor, and the entire time the doctor told me what was going to happen. She gave up her lunch to fit my procedure in so I wouldn’t have t spend another night with my dead child inside of me. God bless that woman.

My procedure was scheduled for 12 and it was already 1o so we went straight to the hospital to register and get prepped. The rabbi from my temple had said he would come when we’d called him on Friday and we called him again to let him know the time and place. I’d prayed all weekend to begin miscarrying naturally so I could have somewhat of a birth for my baby. I’d started cramping Friday night and continued with increasing frequency and strength, but nothing felt painful and there was no blood. I’d somewhat made peace with that as we reached the hospital and began the checking in process. Once they had me back in the pre-op area, the nurse told me to go ahead and get changed into the gown and socks and she’d be back in to get my line and all that started. I stood up and took off my pants and felt a gush of warm liquid between my thighs. I looked down and saw blood running down my legs. My prayer had been answered. I was miscarrying naturally. I was having a somewhat birth and getting to say goodbye to my baby on my terms. I got the nurse and told her tearfully that I was bleeding. She got me a pair of mesh panties, a pad, and wet wipes to clean myself up with. I cried as I wiped away the blood and clear fluid.

The chaplain came in to see me. She was very nice and shared that she’d also suffered a miscarriage. She listened as I told her what we wanted for our baby. The hospital, St. Joseph East, runs a program for miscarried babies where they get a burial in a local cemetery and are prayed over after their arrival. I told her our baby’s name: Sayre Lee Taylor. I wanted them all to know who our child was because a name holds power. I told her about the blanket I was holding and that it was for him to be wrapped in after he’d left my body. She showed me a tiny casket she’d brought with her for Sayre and said she’d make sure he was wrapped in his blanket inside of it. Next, my rabbi came in with my mom and Thomas. He prayed with us and cried as I wept for our child. His wife had miscarried as well and he knew the kind of pain we were going through. He held my hand as I laid in the hospital bed, arm sore from a painful IV insertion and feeling blood coming out of me with every cramp. Rabbi kissed my forehead and told me he’d see me at temple when I felt up to it and that we’d be in his thought and prayers. The nurses gave me a sedative and wheeled me away from my family toward the OR. I told the OR staff Sayre’s name and told them to tell the doctor when she came in because I wanted them all to know who was arriving that day. They’d let me carry his blanket in with me and I clutched it in my hand as they prepared to put me under. I cried hot tears that ran down my face as the kind eyes of the anesthesiologist broke for me and the OR nurse held my hand as the world faded away.

I saw all of my family with a little boy who looked slightly like me and slightly like Thomas. They were all laughing and smiling. My baby was holding my stepdad’s hand and was waving at me and showing me he was alright. I woke up in post-op oddly at peace. I knew my baby was safe and with family, surrounded my love. I asked how long it’d taken and they said only ten minutes and that all had gone well. Once I’d proven I could eat ice, drink water, was bleeding normally, and could pass urine, they let me leave. We got Panera on the way home and I ate broccoli and cheddar soup in one of the recliners downstairs. The cramps weren’t bad, the bleeding was lighter than most periods, and I was sad but felt like I could move forward.

My heart is broken but I don’t want to die anymore.The doctor said we can start trying for another baby as soon as she clears me next week. Everyone has assured me I’ll be able to have another baby very very soon. I hope they’re right. I cannot thank the people who’ve called, texted, and come by to see if I’m okay, Those who brought meals sustained our bodies and spirits. And all of the women who shared their stories of loss with me helped me not feel so very very alone and broken. I still have a ways to go, but progress is progress no matter how small.

That Escalated Quickly

I took a dollar store pregnancy test one Thursday night in September on a whim. My period was about four days late, but because I’d taken a test a week earlier and it had been negative, I fully expected this one to be negative too. Imagine my surprise as I watched a second pink line form where there had never been one before. I quickly got dressed, drove to Walmart, and bought a two pack of ClearBlue digital pregnancy tests that read simply “pregnant” or “not pregnant”. I wanted something foolproof since the two line test could be misread, plus I’d convinced myself I must’ve messed the first test up. So back home I went with my two new tests and a bladder quickly filling back up. I read the instructions through three times to make sure I didn’t make a mistake, kind of difficult with this kind of test, and proceeded to pee in a cup yet again. I dipped the test in for the specified length of time and watched the built in timer as it counted down to the verdict. Five…four…three…two…one…pregnant. Nothing has ever made me doubt my understanding of the English language like this one word did.

I sat down right there in the middle of my bathroom floor and processed what that meant. Pregnant. One had was still gripping the test but the other went to my still flat stomach and I couldn’t believe I could feel so normal but be making something to big and life changing. My husband and had been trying the previous month, but had decided to take a break until after my two week Disney World/Disney cruise vacation with my mom in October. Because I obsessively track my period with an app and track my fertility using ovulation test strips (I like to know what’s going on with my body), I knew exactly when I ovulated and had taken measures to not have a baby that cycle. Well, turns out those strips can vary about 24 hours or so because I must have ovulated early. Whatever happened, I was now cooking a tiny pinprick of life no bigger than a sesame seed inside of my uterus.

Probably the most confusing part for me was my lack of symptoms. I had noticed breast tenderness and cramps but they began during the time I was due to PMS so that’s what I thought it was. I had also noticed a feeling of being overly tired and a slightly stuffy nose, but I’m a teacher so I thought one of the many school bugs had finally gotten to me. No nausea, no overt mood swings, nothing that would scream “PREGNANT”. My husband FaceTimed me from work as I was still sitting in the bathroom floor processing what I’d learned. I didn’t want to tell him over the phone, something this big should be done face to face, so I played it off like I was sitting in the bathroom painting my toenails. I had to tell someone though, so I called one of my good friends who has a six month old baby boy and told her. It was awesome to have someone to bounce the news off of and tell my excitement and fears with, especially because I knew she understood completely.

I arranged a baby picture of my husband and one of myself, a onesie, a pair of UK baby booties, a note from the baby to my husband, and the digital test on his nightstand next to the bed and set an alarm for fifteen minutes before he’d be home from work. When he arrived home, I’d barely been to sleep and was waiting anxiously for him to come upstairs to discover the news. When he finally walked into the bedroom, I waited for his eyes to go to the nightstand where I’d left a light on. Thomas didn’t believe me at first, I had to tell him that was the second test I’d taken and both were positive ad my period was late. He was so happy and excited but still wanted me to take the other digital test to make sure. Men. Obviously, that test was positive as well. We agreed we’d only tell parents and close friends at first until the first ultrasound where we’d see the baby and find out if everything was alright or not.

When I called my midwife’s office the next morning before the first bell rang for classes, they said they didn’t see patients until at least eight weeks and I was only four. That meant I had a month of anxiously awaiting the time I’d first see my baby. Mom and I also had our Disney vacation that would take me way from home during my sixth and seventh weeks of pregnancy. Let me tell you this: Disney World in the first trimester is completely exhausting. Also, a cruise while pregnant isn’t super fun. The movement of the ship and the smell of food constantly around killed me. I don’t have nausea, but I do have very strong food aversion with meat being the main one. Yay.

The day of my first appointment came and I was floating on cloud nine, so excited to see the baby for the first time. Thomas had the day off so we went to the midwife together. My midwife high-fived me when she came into the room after I’d left a urine sample. She’s an amazing woman and I’ve been with her since I was 23. She told me there’d be no ultrasound that day since the first visit at their practice was just to confirm pregnancy with a urine test (positive again!) and make sure the mother was on prenatals (I was) and cover the basics like don’t drink or do drugs. I was very disappointed, but Noel assured me she’d get me in first thing on Monday to have my ultrasound and all the blood work and stuff like that. It was a Friday afternoon so Monday didn’t sound too bad. Thomas and I walked out with an appointment for Monday to have an ultrasound and blood work. I swear, that was the only time I’ve ever looked forward to a Monday before in my life.

Monday morning, the office called and moved my appointment up two and a half hours which left me feeling rushed as a made sure I could leave school early and get to Lexington in time. Once we finally got back to the exam room (the place was hopping that day), I was so tired and ready to settle my nerves. The doctor who did the ultrasound had delivered the babies of some of my friends and was a very nice older gentleman who made the appointment fun, even making sure Thomas had his phone out and ready to take pictures/videos as he began the ultrasound. I’ll never forget that first moment of seeing my baby. My belly had started to round slightly by then and I felt (and still feel) very tired all of the time, but seeing that tiny person inside of me made it all real for the first time. The baby was facing away from the camera at first, but almost as if they sensed the limelight, they flipped around to give the most beautiful silhouette view. I have that picture hung up in my office at school because you can clearly see the head, torso, arm buds, and leg buds. The doctor told Thomas to put his phone on video and he let us hear the heartbeat. I bawled. The strong and steady beating of my child’s heart was the best music I’ll ever hear. The beats measured out at a whopping 170 beats per minute, the doctor told us that was perfect and baby was the picture of health and growing very nicely. I play that video at least once a day.

Now everyone knows we’re expecting and it’s nice to have people understand I can’t do some of the things I’d like to (like going to the high school musical production at 7pm at night) because I’m so tired all of the time. Baby hates the smell of meat, so I’m mainly a vegetarian now as well as an avid lemonade lover. I come home from school and pass out right after I take my makeup off and change into pajamas. I’m grateful I don’t have morning sickness, but the extreme fatigue is beginning to get to me a little. I remind myself it’s just baby growing super fast and that I should get some energy back in a few weeks when I hit the second trimester. For now, I’m happy to watch my growing belly (it is becoming a small baby bump even though my uterus hasn’t come up out of my pelvic bone yet) and take all the naps I can.

The History Under My Feet

My husband and I live on a 10 acre farm that was a piece of my maternal grandfather’s much larger farm. Our house was built by my parents the year before I was born and I grew up being able to look from our front window across the road to where my mother grew up. The area has changed a lot, most of the land my grandfather once grazed horses and cattle and planted hemp, tobacco, and corn on has been built up with houses. The spot where his barn stood is now the site of two houses and his old tobacco field fell to the same fate. Our house is on a piece that was previously wooded, a place my mom used to play when she was growing up. All of the houses near us were built in my lifetime, reminders of the slow creeping of time.

There’s a place in the woods behind our house, half way between our neighbor’s land and ours where the foundation of an old log cabin can still be found. The family who built it didn’t realize the bottom they built on flooded readily during the spring, summer, and fall so they didn’t live there long. What drove them to move on and find better land to build on is the same thing that preserved the only reminder of their former presence. It wasn’t a big cabin, most in those days weren’t, roughly the size of our guest bedroom. The people who built it dug down into the ground and put the foundation logs on top of which the entire structure would be put, those are the only pieces that remain.

The culvert we drive over every day was put in when my mom was about 8 months pregnant with me. The old one had washed out in a bad winter storm and my parents, the only people living past it at that point, were extremely nervous I would decided to come before they could get a new one installed. One of the men who’d built our house found an industrial gas tank and cut the top and bottom off to make a huge culvert that wouldn’t wash out except in huge storms (you can’t control water). That’s what my parents drove over when the time came and when they brought me home from the hospital.

There’s a house built on the other hill on the site of where my favorite clearing used to be. The clearing was circular and full of wild flowers in the spring and summer and there were always tadpoles in the puddles on the path leading to it. A man decided to build a big house right in the middle of the wild flower clearing; I cried when they put gravel down over the tadpole puddles. That hill hasn’t shimmered with nature’s magic or beauty since.

A lot of people ask why I didn’t leave my home town or the house I grew up in and I shake my head. There’s no answer that will make sense to them because to ask that question proves they can’t understand the draw of living on land you can tell the history of. My children will play in the creek and woods and know three previous generations of their family have walked the same earth. Maybe they’ll find all the fairy houses  I used to love to build on the bans of the creek. Or maybe they’ll stumble upon the old log cabin foundation while out playing and think it’s as magical as when I first found it. There’s something to be said for history and knowing the who’s footsteps you’re walking in.