“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”

Tags

, , , , , ,

I’m back. Finally. For good this time. I hope.

A Tale of Three Nannies: Part One

Childcare has been, hands down, the most difficult part of choosing to have a child on my own. In fact, I could probably drop the “on my own” clause and be left with a statement that even most partnered parents could relate to. The United States does a piss-poor job of providing assistance to working families when compared with, say, every other country in the Western world. But I’ll stick to a less volatile tone here. For now.

When I first set out to make a baby nearly four years ago, I knew childcare was going to be not just an issue, but THE issue, and, because I’m Type A (read: control freak), I knew I needed to have a plan in place before I ever even started trying for one. I live in perhaps the most expensive region in the country. My rent at the time was $3500/month for a modest bungalow-style home. The going rate for in-home care of a single child was about $20/hour. A daycare facility for an infant was about $75/day—manageable, maybe, but I worked nights. A local nightcare facility? I think not. Three 12-hour night shifts a week with a commute on either side and no option for daycare equaled at least $1000 a week in childcare expenses, and that was just covering my work hours without any extra time for sleep. $1000 a week if I never slept again. And at that price, I would also never eat again. Or drive my car. It was impossible.

But I had a secret weapon: the spare bedroom.

Enter the opportunity for an international au pair.

I had it all figured out. For 7K upfront (in 2015) for travel expenses and visas, plus room, board, and a small weekly stipend ($200), I could arrange to invite a young person of another culture into my home. My child and I would have the opportunity to learn another language, new foods, a different set of traditions. And wouldn’t it be just perfect for a foreign twenty-something to be able to live in the Bay Area, just a quick ferry ride to San Francisco, with three solid days off a week?

Oh yes, it would have been amazing!

If it were legal.

Apparently, international au pairs are heavily regulated, which, admittedly, is a good thing. (Welcome to our home, indentured servant! <insert evil laughter here>). They are allowed to work no more than 10-hours in any given day, and no more than 45-hours in a week. I found this out the hard way, when Jonah was only a month old.

”Even if much of their duty-time will be spent sleeping? I work three 12-hour night shifts a week,” I explained over the phone to the prim and proper representative lady.

”Oh! No!” She sounded horrified. “They can work no more than 10-hours in a day, and they’re not permitted to be left overnight with a child without another adult in the home. And that comes down from the State Department, not just our organization. I’m afraid your situation is unsuitable for any sort of international au pair program.”

Well, fuck.

There went Plan A.

”You could always lie about your work hours and bring one in anyway,” a friend suggested. “I know I’d be more than happy living rent-free in the Bay Area, sleeping through most of my work time, and having three days off a week.”

I would, too. But the risk was too great. 7K out of pocket for it to not work out? I just couldn’t.

Enter Plan B: I took an ad out on Care.com for a position that offered free room and board, and the same $200/week stipend an au pair would make, which is how I came to have Marcella*, Nanny #1, in my home.

Marcella interviewed very well, via Skype, which made me nervous, but her interview was stronger than all of the other potential candidates I had met in person. She was 26-years old, and had moved out to California two years earlier to be with a boyfriend, but was forced to return to her childhood home in upstate New York when the relationship didn’t work out. She was looking for a financially feasible way to get back to the Bay Area. Her goal, she claimed, was to attain California residency status so she could attend a state school for early childhood education. She had practically raised her two step-siblings who were 12+ years younger, had nannied for several families with great references, and was quite comfortable caring for all stages of infancy and toddlerhood. When Jonah was just two months old, I invited Marcella and her mother to come out for a five day long “get-to-know-you” trial adventure with the understanding that I would pay to move her out here if we all felt like it would be a good fit.

Her visit was largely positive—she was so enthusiastic. Awkward, to be sure, but very sweet. She seemed younger than her 26 years, yet confident and competent when it came to interacting with Jonah. I also appreciated the dynamic between mother and daughter—they seemed healthy, happy. But I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I had a few concerns. For one, she looked impossibly thin and barely ate a thing all week, claiming nausea from her period. I even pulled her mother aside and asked her if I needed to be worried about taking on a young woman with an eating disorder, but she insisted that Marcella had been a “skinny chicken” all her life and that beyond “period week” her favorite thing to do was eat. Hmm. The other red flag popped up while I was in the middle of cooking dinner on their last day in town. She asked what she could do to help—bonus points. I directed her to a cutting board and asked her to slice a cucumber for the salad. She looked panic stricken and said, “Oh, no. Mom, you better do this. I’ll screw it up.”

How can anyone screw up cutting a cucumber? Or visibly panic about it? Nevertheless, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt, choosing instead to focus on her vivaciousness, and her tenderness with tiny Jonah and my two big dogs.

Marcella and her mother returned home, and as promised, I flew her out mid-July, about a month and a half before I had to go back to work. Jonah was five months old.

I should have known something was up when, only two weeks into her stay with me, she turned orange. When I had gone to bed the night before, she was, well, white. At the very most, peaches and cream. But when she came into the kitchen the next morning, I gasped audibly and blurted, “Oh my god! Why are you orange?” (I was a new mother—I hadn’t yet regained my filter).

To her credit, she laughed and took it in stride. “I’m not orange. I’m tan,” she corrected me.

She was orange. Bright orange.

”I have a date tonight.”

I hope he’s into Oompa Loompas. “Oh, good for you!” Though I knew the look on my face was more WTF?

”I lost my tan when I left New York. I just don’t feel pretty when I’m pale.”

Orange is the new white.

Later that day the make-up came out: crazy creepy cat eyes, glitter, bright red lipstick, and fake nails. I hadn’t seen this side of Marcella coming—not in a million years. Then the clothing. Or lack thereof. In a matter of hours (and it did take hours) sweet, skinny, homely Marcella transformed herself into an orange-tabby Elvira complete with push-up bra and fuck-me pumps right before my very eyes. For a guy she met on Tinder.

Lord help me.

If she were my daughter, I wouldn’t have let her out of the house—which is an awkward space to be in as an employer, especially when the employee is technically an adult. Fortunately, we had established boundaries even before she was hired on—no men in the house unless she was becoming seriously involved with someone, in which case I had to meet him and approve of him before he could spend the night.

Sigh.

Where there are boys (and I don’t mean five month olds), there is trouble. And Marcella found herself in deep. Though I’m quite sure I don’t even know the half of it.

In the days following that first date, her cucumber-slicing anxiety started rearing its ugly head. I could feel it without even knowing what it was about, though she did let me in on some of it. On Tuesday it was boy trouble. On Thursday it was her relationship with her half-sister and father—both, from the sound of things, somewhere on the spectrum of master manipulation and mental illness. On Saturday it was her whole life falling apart. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I came home from work one morning, nursed Jonah, handed him off to her and went to bed only to be awakened two hours later by his cries.

I listened for Marcella, for the pad of her feet across the hardwood floor, for some indication that she was going to attend to my child and heard…nothing. Nothing but Jonah wailing. I ran downstairs and pulled him out of the baby swing. He was absolutely fine, of course, but Marcella was nowhere to be found. I knocked on her bedroom door, the bathroom door, the bedroom door again, and called and called her name before she finally whined, “I’m in here,” from behind the bathroom door.

”Are you okay? Are you sick? What’s going on?”

”I’m fine.” She sounded like a petulant child.

”Well, you’re not fine because Jonah’s been crying for ten solid minutes and you’re hiding behind a bathroom door like a pouty teenager. Can you come out here, please?” On two hours of sleep, it was all I could do to not completely lose my shit.

The door cracked open and Marcella emerged, her cat eyes rimmed red and running down her face. She was crying opaque tears.

I wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her. But I couldn’t. Instead, I took a deep breath. “Tell me what’s going on.”

”My sister’s in the hospital again. She’s having suicidal thoughts.”

Christ on a cracker! “Oh, Marcella, I’m so sorry.”

”My father says it’s my fault.”

Gah! I felt terrible for this poor girl. And yet, so not in the mood to deal with any of it. But I had no choice. “You know that’s not the truth, right?”

She shrugged.

”Well, it’s not. Whatever’s going on with your father is your father’s. Whatever’s going on with your sister is your sister’s. None of it’s yours.”

”He says it’s because I left.”

I wanted to kill the man. “I thought you told me your sister’s been having issues for years.”

She nodded. “He says it’s worse since I left.”

”Do you really believe that?”

”Well, she’s in the hospital.”

”But she’s been in the hospital before?”

”Yeah.”

”Were you there?”

”Yeah.”

”Was it your fault then?”

She looked up suddenly. A moment of recognition. I thought I even saw a trace of a smile. “Well, he blamed me then, too. I can’t even remember why. And then he blamed me again when I came to California the first time. He kept using her to try to get me to come home.”

“I rest my case.”

“What am I supposed to do?”

”Call your sister and tell her you love her. Listen to her. Let her feel heard even if she doesn’t make any sense. And either ignore your father, or call him and tell him to go to hell.”

She laughed.

”But I’ll tell you what I need you to do here.”

She stared down at the floor again.

”I need you to not fall apart on the job. My family sucks, too. My brother’s a heroin addict. My mother blew her retirement enabling him. I don’t get to walk away from my patient because my mother called begging for money that she doesn’t have because my brother just put it up his nose. I have to take care of my patient. You have to learn to put it away for later. It’s part of being an adult.”

She was sobbing.

”Marcella, I’m sorry, but this is your job. You can’t leave my crying son to go hide in the bathroom to cry yourself. It’s unacceptable. If you’re feeling too upset to take care of my child, you need to call me and tell me to come home from work, or wake me up. You don’t just leave him. Understood?”

She nodded.

I wanted to fire her. But I also felt the need to shield her from the crazy. She had such a good heart.

And I’m a sucker.

A few weeks later she called me at work to tell me her father might have attempted suicide. He had left her two unintelligible voicemail messages and hadn’t come home from work. The police were out looking for him. I left work and headed home.

I was a single parent with an infant son, and now, a troubled teenage daughter.

 

To be continued…

*names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent

“And your skin is smooth and clear, And you have that happy, grown-up female feeling! How lovely to be a woman…”

Tags

, ,

IMG_0016

And now for something completely different…

About six weeks ago, my cousin, Jess, (the only other cousin on my mother’s side of the family to make it out of New Jersey) sent me a bubbly envelope filled to the brim with lotions, potions and samples from her latest endeavor as an independent skin care consultant for a company called Perfectly Posh. Fun, right? Well, sure, but if I’m being honest, I wasn’t particularly interested in trying anything that didn’t come from my own kitchen. For the last several years (ever since I became pregnant with Jonah), I’ve been on a rampage to get all things chemical out of my home. I clean with white vinegar and essential oils. I wash my face with a blend of aloe, Castile soap, and local honey. My facial moisturizer is a homemade concoction of shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, almond oil and essential oils (which admittedly melts to a liquidy mess in warm weather, but who’s counting?), and I gave olive oil and sea salt scrubs away for Christmas. So, yeah, I’m a little particular about my products.

But Jess knew what she was doing.  Along with her envelope of goodies, she sent along an ingredient list:

  • Sustainably sourced cold cleaned butters: shea, cocoa, mango
  • Pressed oils: olive, sunflower, almond
  • Essential oils
  • Coconut oil
  • Milk, honey, beeswax
  • Sea salt, cane sugar
  • Activated charcoal

Sound familiar? And then a list of ingredients they don’t use:

  • No petroleum derived ingredients
  • No parabens or paraffins
  • No sodium lauryl or laureth sulfates
  • No lanolin
  • No gelatin
  • No soy fillers
  • No phthalates
  • No talc
  • No tallow

Hmmm.

I’d like to tell you that I placed an order with her out of the kindness of my heart, because I really wanted to be a good human and support my cousin’s new business, but no. I placed an order because I genuinely really liked the stuff. I placed a sizeable order because, well, if you buy five items, the sixth item is free (every time!), and I like free. I also liked the fact that there wasn’t a single item in the catalogue over $25, including all the fancy organic serums and oils that go for $80 per ounce everywhere else on the planet (or at least in the Bay Area).

I loved everything I ordered so much that I struck up a conversation with Jess about what it’s like to be a Posh pusher.

“Um, all I did was send you some samples, and now you’re here. The product sells itself.”

Double hmmm.

As a single parent, I feel like I toss handfuls of $20 bills out in front of me as an offering to the gods of living every day, everywhere I go. If I can make a little of that back from the comfort of my own kitchen table selling something I love, then why not? At best, I make a few extra bucks a month to go toward Jonah’s swim lessons, or his Music Together classes. At worst, my friends get a fun note and bunch of freebies in the mail, no one buys anything, and I write off the postage at the end of the year. I figured it’s worth a shot.

With all of this said, this blog is really about my writing, and I’m planning on keeping it that way. From this day forth, I will NOT be blogging about skin care unless something utterly ridiculous happens that prompts me to say something interesting about it. Instead, I would encourage you to send me a private message with your mailing address and skin care type, and the types of scents you enjoy (or, more importantly, do not enjoy) so that I can send you free yummy things!

Or check out my Posh Pushing website:

https://DanaFreedman.po.sh

A private Facebook Group will be coming soon. Please ask to join me there, or I will be asking you (but not forcing you) soon enough!

Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

” is a river braver than this coming and coming in a surge”

Tags

, , , ,

I am standing in line at my local grocery store, a very small, very organic specialty market less than a mile down the road from my house. It is the kind of place where every single ingredient in every single product has been vetted for purity by vegans, virgins and monks, and as such, nothing comes cheap. I am in line to buy two items: a gallon of milk for $7.79 (which is what it costs at just about any store in the Bay Area, just in case you were wondering), and a package of giant-sized organic cotton maxi pads. Jonah is seated in the stroller in front of me, sipping a smoothie of house-made almond milk, dates, chia seeds, and Peruvian maca powder purchased only moments before at the store’s Smoothie Bar. A woman in line behind me has a large glass plate piled so high with greens that I have to look around it in order to see her face when she chooses to strike up a conversation with me.

She asks, “Have you ever tried the Diva Cup?”

Only in Marin County. Only at The Good Earth Market would a complete stranger in a grocery line choose to engage me in a conversation about menstrual blood. “Yes, actually. I love mine.”

“You shouldn’t need to wear those with one.” She points to the maxi-pads fit for a bleeding sea elephant on the conveyor belt. “Maybe you need a different size.”

Is she for real? “I wouldn’t be buying these unless I needed them.”

“No, I mean the Diva Cup. Sometimes, like after you’ve had a baby,” she gestures toward the stroller, “you need a different size.”

I smile and turn away slightly, willing my two year old to suddenly act out. Please shriek. Please pitch a fit. Please hurl your smoothie at the nice man bagging groceries. But no. He’s perfectly quiet. Perfectly content, swinging his feet and gnawing at the paper straw. “Are you enjoying your smoothie, Jonah?” I ask.

“Yeah,” he squeaks, looks up at me, smiles. I smile in return.

“I pair mine with cloth pads.”

I nod. “Me too.”

“So much more comfortable than those things.”

I nod again.

“Really. You should size up. Ditch the disposables. So much better for the environment.”

The good Dana would simply have nodded one last time and turned her back, humored this young woman with her clanging bangle bracelets, twenty pounds of kale on a plate, and judgey-good intentions. But I am not the good Dana right now. I am Hormona, queen of plummeting progesterone, and Hormona suddenly has something to prove. I turn around fully to face her. “I’m in the middle of a miscarriage.”

Her mouth forms a perfect “O”.

“I can’t put anything inside of me. I have bled through every piece of cloth in my stash, and I can’t possibly do one more load of laundry today, but thank you for your informed opinion.” I turn to face the check-out girl and the bagger, who appear to have missed the drama entirely, or are feigning ignorance well. “How are you two doing today?”

“Great, thanks! And you?” The check-out girl declares.

“I’m great, too.”

Sotto voce from behind. “I’m so sorry,”

I say nothing, buy my milk and pads and roll out the door without ever looking back.

8 weeks, 6 days.

I was hoping for better news, but alas, it was not to be. I knew from the beginning that things were not right–first an empty sac where there should have been a baby, then a yolk sac where there should have been a baby and a heartbeat, then finally a baby measuring impossibly small. And then it was over.

I am at peace.

 

 

 

“I get by with a little help from my friends”

Tags

, , , ,

It’s been a while. My apologies. A round of spring colds, a death in our nanny’s family, and a new bi-weekly writing workshop have kept me too busy for words–blogging words anyway. The book, on the other hand, is moving along quite nicely thanks to the added pressure of a deadline.

For those of you wondering where I am in my quest for baby #2, I’m in the middle of another two-week wait. There were two big fat follicles this month so I’m trying to stay positive, positive, positive despite the ever-oppressive fertility-hormones-of-doom. I should have some news by the weekend.

In the meantime, my dear friend Eva Shoshany is holding a fundraiser in honor of my little family!

Holy crap! How lucky am I?

Eva is a fellow memoirist and poet who has taken up the art of garment dyeing in her recent retirement. Using thrift store silks, and leaves gathered from daily hikes with her dog, she has somehow turned a weekend stress-reducing hobby into a full-fledged brand: Re-Leaf Wear. Her shirts, scarves and other delights will be on sale for the next two weekends (or by appointment) from her home in Mill Valley. The proceeds will be divided between the Freedman Family Fertility Fund, and another friend’s on-going life-with-cancer maintenance fund (see the flyer below). Out-of-towners, if you’re interested in seeing some of Eva’s work, give her a call. I’m sure she can get creative over the interwebs!

Eva’s Re-Leaf Wear will be guest-starring alongside the luscious photography of her husband, Barry Toranto. Barry’s work currently adorns my living room and hallway, and someday (when I’m done baby-making), I hope to add more. The two of them, Auntie Eva and Uncle “Beers” (as Jonah calls him–ahem, for his beard, not the beverage!), are essential members of my little village. Their contributions have included (but are not limited to) multiple overnights with Jonah, countless dinners and bottles of wine, regular tech support, a cuppa coffee and an ear, editing, printing, general handyman work, and now…this!

Much gratitude to Eva and Barry for their profound generosity, and to all of you, too, for your exceptional companionship throughout this adventure of mine!

Note: The flyer does not include their address. Oops! Eva and Barry can be found at:

116 Evergreen Avenue, Mill Valley, CA

open studio fundraiser 2017

 

 

 

 

“Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name”

Tags

, , , , , ,

Back in spring of 2014, during those months when I was trying to conceive Jonah, I had a moment in the fertility clinic that I’ve never forgotten. I was sitting in a very crowded waiting area all by myself, anticipating an ultrasound to count the eggs in “my basket.” It was to be my fourth cycle of IUI (intrauterine insemination)–the cycle that would ultimately result in my pregnancy with Jonah. But I didn’t know that then. I was sitting alone, watching the comings and goings of couple after couple and feeling just a little bit sorry for myself. Everyone in the room had a partner–male, female, a mother, a friend.

But not me.

Now, to be fair, my dear friend Kim often accompanied me on these appointments, but she just so happened to be out of town that day, and after three failed attempts at getting pregnant, I just so happened to be feeling a bit down on my luck. I watched as all these women approached the front desk to check in. “Oh! Hi Susan!” Hug hug. Kiss kiss. “How’re you feeling?” “Oh! Hi Fran!” “Oh! Hi _______.” The receptionists seemed to know everyone by name.

But not me.

It was the same with the nurses and techs who were calling couples into the exam rooms: “Hi there, Cindy!” “Martha! John! It’s great to see you again.”

When I approached the front desk I had to give them my full name and date of birth. There was no sparkle of recognition, no broad smile. Don’t get me wrong–everyone was perfectly kind and cordial–they just didn’t know who I was. When it was my turn to see the doctor, the nurse stepped out of the frosted glass doors, called my name, and had to scan the room until I finally stood and walked toward her.

That’s when it hit me: this was not Cheers. This was a flipping fertility clinic! The last thing on god’s green earth that I wanted was to be coming here long enough to be on a first name basis with the staff! The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I shuddered. I followed the nurse into the exam room suddenly filled to the brim with gratitude. No one here knew me. Thank goodness!

As it turned out, I would only return to the fertility clinic two more times–once for the insemination, and a second time, to see a lentil-sized Jonah’s heartbeat flickering with life on ultrasound.

Fast forward to the present.

This past Friday, I arrived at the fertility clinic for an ultrasound to count the eggs in my basket. Sound familiar? For my fourth IUI of this current season, I elected to do a medicated cycle (Letrazole 7.5mg) to help mature more than one follicle, not because I have any interest in twins (heaven help me!), but to give those chilly and sometimes lazy little donor-swimmers greater odds at hitting their target. This ultrasound was to see how many follicles I had to work with after taking the drug (one good-sized follie at 19.5, and one “maybe” at 16.5), and to measure the thickness of my uterine lining a few days prior to ovulation. The idea behind the look-see is to make sure that all systems are go before I elect to thaw $1200 worth of purchased man-goo, and to get the timing of the insemination right when I do. But I digress…

When I walked into the clinic last Friday, the young woman behind the counter beamed at me, “Hi Dana!”

Shit.

Moments later, the phlebotomist popped out from behind the frosted glass doors to greet her next patient, but took the time to come over and say hello to me first. She gave me a hug. “I’m so glad to see you back here.” She was the one who had drawn my HCG (pregnancy hormone) levels last cycle. We watched them rise and fall together. I wasn’t sure then that I’d be back. I am.

But, double shit!

They knew me now. I was officially a card-carrying member of the infertility club.

But was I really?

Things are a bit different this time around. With Jonah at home, and home an hour and twenty minutes away, I’m scheduling as many appointments as I can right after work. Stanford’s fertility clinic is only about ten minutes away from the hospital, so it’s easy to ask for the first appointment of the day, then pop over after working a night shift. But that means I’m turning up for my appointments in a blazing red flight suit. Now, unless one of my 14 other coworkers are holding out on me (Scotty G.?), I’m guessing that I’m the only person in a Stanford Life Flight flight suit coming into the clinic to get knocked up. That might have been the giveaway.

And, I was wearing a name badge…

On Saturday night, I gave myself a trigger shot (to enhance my natural ovulation), which meant that I was scheduled to come in for insemination on Monday morning–a non-workday. I piled Jonah into the car and headed down to Stanford. We counted trucks, blue cars, red cars, A JEEP!, and listened to Music Together CDs along the way, but all the while I couldn’t help but obsess over whether or not they were going to recognize me in my civvies.

We walked through the door and stood in line. Jonah flirted with the women in front and back of us, and pointed out all the men in the room–his latest thing. “Mama, it’s a man!”

“Yes, it is. And a lady.”

“A yay-dee,” he tried out.

At the front of the line, the receptionist called us forward, beaming. At Jonah. “And who is this,” she asked.

“This is Jonah. You guys helped me make him. And we’re here today to try to make him a sibling.”

“He may be the cutest baby I’ve ever seen! Hi Jonah!”

“Hi,” he said shyly and waved.

“And remind me of your name again?”

Hallelujah! “Freedman. Dana. 10/15/74.”

“Oh, of course! Dana! I didn’t recognize you out of uniform.”

Shit.

If only being a “regular” here came with a freebie every once in a while. We’ve got this one, sister! This round of baby-daddy’s on us!

Jonah and I were eventually called back into the exam room where we hopefully made a baby in the good old fash–ahem–totally newfangled way: he sat next to me on the table and snacked on peanut butter crackers while Dr. Baker, the same doctor who successfully inseminated me with Jonah, attempted an encore performance.

“I feel good about this one,” she said.

“Let’s hope!”

On our way out the door, everyone in the clinic was smiling and waving at us. “Bye bye, Jonah! Bye bye, Dana”

“Bye bye,” he waved.

“Did we make him,” someone asked.

“You did!”

“We did! Hooray!”

“Bye bye,” Jonah waved.

It was official. They knew us. A free round of baby-daddy it was not, but it wasn’t the end of the world, either. If I’m being honest, it maybe felt kind of good.

Here’s to hoping that our next visit to the clinic is one of our last. One that involves another glimpse of a glimmering microscopic bean.

I’ll keep you posted…

“The art of losing isn’t hard to master”

Tags

, , , , ,

Friday morning. Early. 4:10am.

“Mama!”

I jolt awake, knocking into my iPad on the nightstand, which immediately bursts into a blue screen of blinding light. A message box appears: “Update Complete,” it says with a patently Apple bleep.

I squint and look away.

“Mama!” Jonah calls out again from downstairs. He’s had a rotten cold for days, with a cough that’s been waking him in the night.

“Mama!” But his voice trails off this time. He is falling back into sleep, which is good, because the unmistakable ache between my low back and pelvis tells me the time has come.

The time for losing.

Only moments ago I was in the throes of a dream, walking up Broadway toward 79th Street, my first New York apartment, with two small cats tucked into my winter coat. What am I going to do with these cats? Tyler (my Siberian Husky in real-time, now) is going to have a fit! How am I going to keep them apart in this tiny little space?

Wait a second. You can’t even empty the litter box. You’re pregnant. 

You’re pregnant!

“Mama!”

4:10am. I jolt awake. An unmistakable ache.

The waiting is finally over.

***

When the news came on Monday I was paralyzed by grief. Mothers, of course, don’t get to be paralyzed so I moved through my day as best I could, allowing the tears to seep out as I peeled and sliced apples, blew on bites of homemade chicken soup, and read Hannah the Helicopter eighteen times in three sittings.

“Mama’s a little sad today,” I explained, “but she loves you. She loves her Jonah so much.”

Monday is the only day of the week that I have built-in writing time. Uncle Jimmy takes Jonah for two hours from 5pm to 7pm so I can work on my book. Or, as in this week, my blog, where I put out my distress call to you.

You answered. All of you. Your stories. Your words of encouragement. They gave me hope.

They readied me for this.

***

Tuesday was the turning point. I went to see my voodoo high prieste–my acupuncturist, Suzanne.

“This doesn’t have to be the end, Dana.”

“But I can’t afford IVF.”

“Why would you think you need IVF?”

The nurse’s voice echoes in my head. We need to talk about your options. “Because this obviously isn’t working.”

“It just did.”

“But–”

“Dana, IVF is for infertility. You’re not infertile. What you have is a sperm problem. You’re trying to make a baby with about an eighth of what most women try with every month. And the cost–it makes this loss that much more painful. But you have to know–80% of women trying to conceive have at least one chemical pregnancy or miscarriage. This was yours. It’s awful. I know. But most of those women go on to have successful pregnancies within six months of the loss. This doesn’t need to be the end for you.”

I let her words sink in.

“So, if you were me?”

“I would keep doing exactly what you’re doing.”

“Letrazole, trigger, repeat,” I groaned.

“You’ll get your baby.”

I sat with the idea some more.

“Can I do something a little different today,” she asked. “I think I can help you manage your stress.”

“Sure.”

She had me lie on my stomach.

“I want you to focus on letting go.” She slipped needles into the top of my head, my neck, my shoulders, my feet. “Whatever it is you need to let go of–you don’t need to tell me–just stay with it here and imagine it leaving.”

So I did.

I bawled my eyes out for twenty minutes on the table, and then, abruptly, the tears stopped. Something shifted. I embodied the calm after a storm. I’ve been this way ever since.

Voodoo magic.

***

Your stories kept pouring in.

Oh Dana. I know. I had one before my first, and then one in between each child. Whenever I think of those losses, I try to remember that I wouldn’t have any of these three perfect babies that I have now if the others had come.

The one last year was the hardest. We didn’t tell anyone. Until now.

***

4:15am

I’m sitting in the bathroom bleeding. I’m alone.

But I’m not alone.

Knowledge is power after all.

If this had happened at 4:10am on a Friday morning and I hadn’t known it was coming–The panic. The alone. They might have ruined me. Instead, what I feel is a sense of relief. I can move forward now.

This awful time is finally passing.

***

4:22am

I climb back into bed. I’m uncomfortable, but not too uncomfortable to sleep. The memory of the dream returns. I realize the cats in my coat are the two little kittens from Goodnight Moon. Mom dreams.

You’re pregnant!

Except you’re not, and somehow you know–it’s going to be okay.

I put the iPad face down on my nightstand and roll over. No more spontaneous blue light interrupting the night.

“Update Complete.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Pray God you can cope. I stand outside this woman’s work.”

I am either about to be very brave, or very foolish. I’m not sure which, but if it’s a little bit of both, I’ll bet the Italians have a wonderful word for it–for brave fool. A word with just as many “R’s” and vowels, but one that rolls off the tongue with a little more grace and elegance than the word I have on repeat in my mind: miscarriage.

Apparently I’m about to have one.

How do I know this?

“Your numbers are falling, not doubling. Be prepared. Call us when you start to bleed.”

“Okay.” But I’m not okay. I’m not not-okay either. I’m numb. And my nipples are on fire and my breasts are huge and I’m queasy as hell. But not for very much longer.

Or so they tell me.

“This was your third try.”

As if I needed a reminder. It was supposed to be the charm. It was the charm. Until now.

“When you’re ready, we should talk about your options.”

Options.

“Come have a glass of wine with me tonight,” my friend Lyza offered.

But I’m just not ready to do that. Numbers aren’t real. Cramping and bleeding. Maybe then it will be real. Right now it’s just an idea I’m trying to wrap my brain around as I try to quell the nausea: I’m going to have a miscarriage. It’s almost as surreal as the way I felt a week ago when I got the first call:

“Congratulations! You’re going to have a baby!”

I liked that call better.

There’s a part of me that doesn’t quite believe it–like the twelve weeks of Jonah’s pregnancy  when we thought he had Down Syndrome. It’s not that I didn’t believe the diagnosis. I took it very seriously and prepared myself to parent a different child than the one I’d always pictured myself with. I was shocked, almost oddly disappointed, when the amniocentesis came back negative. I was ready to parent a special-needs child. I knew all along, no matter what, that everything would be okay. And it was. Just different. And then different again.

I feel like everything is okay right now, too. I feel pregnant. I don’t feel like I’m going to have a miscarriage.

But I am.

Making a baby as a single person is an odd thing. It’s all about timing, of course, as it is with a traditional couple, but the expense is somewhat absurd–$1150 for a single 0.5ml vial of Baby-Daddy, and that doesn’t include the ultrasounds, the drugs, and the procedure cost for an intrauterine insemination (IUI). And you know so much–way more than you would ever know if you were trying to have a hot weekend of baby-making with your hubby. Like, the thickness of your uterine lining–8.9mm on cycle day 14–perfect for the two big fat follicles (eggs) waiting to be fertilized and attached. And you know whether or not you are pregnant exactly two weeks after the insemination. And you know less than a week later that you won’t be pregnant for very much longer.

Is knowledge power?

Right now it has me weak in the knees.

I have plenty to be grateful for. I have a beautiful 2-year old son who is the love of my life. I could easily have stopped with him. Now I may be forced to. The “options” the nurse was speaking of are not really options for me. I don’t have the money for IVF. Even if I did, it should probably go toward something sensible, like paying off my student loans, or putting it toward Jonah’s college education so he never has to worry about student loans himself. But I’ve known in my bones all along that I’ve wanted to give him a sibling. My reasons are two-fold: As an older parent, I want him to have someone else so that he doesn’t have to deal with his batty old mother alone–so that I don’t leave him alone in this world when I go. And because as his mother I know–if something were to happen to him, there would be nothing left to bind me to this earth, nothing at all. It sounds melodramatic, but it’s the god’s honest truth. The love is that strong. It fills me with gratitude every day. And terror.

Why am I sharing this with you? Maybe, if I had a husband, it would be our secret. We would mourn and grieve quietly, and spare those we love (not to mention perfect strangers) our private pain. But I have no husband, and while I have the most amazing friends, I don’t think this kind of pain should ever be a dirty little secret. Women miscarry, or are about to miscarry, every day. It needs to be let out, given some space and fresh air to run around in, taken for a walk, so that it can finally settle down to rest. I know I’m not alone. Every woman should know she’s not alone, that it’s okay to talk about it. All of it.

Only hours ago I was lying in bed, whispering to my womb, telling this sweet little ball of cells about all the good things to come. Then, the phone call. Now I’m in limbo. Caught between a precious new beginning and a premature ending that doesn’t even feel close to being real. As a critical care nurse, I’m supposed to be some sort of expert in endings, but for this? I’m at a complete loss. Do I whisper now to this tiny being that it’s okay to let go? Because it’s not. It’s really not.

So I wait. And I write.

It turns out that the Italians have two words for brave fool, just like us: Coraggioso sciocco. Pretty. Certainly more beautiful than miscarriage. For the next several days (please god, tell me it will only be a matter of days) I will be channeling coraggioso as I foolishly muddle through the quotidian. Until this baby leaves my body and I can decide what’s next.

Apparently I have options.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“(S)he used to say ho, ho, ho. Now (s)he’s only saying ho, ho–uh oh!”

Santa had every intention of staying on top of the Christmas game this year, especially since little Jonah would be old enough to appreciate a bit more of the joy and toys than his first go round. Last year was all about tearing paper into tiny little shreds and sucking on other people’s ribbons.  But this holiday season, at nearly two, he was really going to get it–maybe not the Jesus-was-born-in-a-manger piece–but certainly the gift-wrapped goodness-under-a light-covered-tree part. As such, Santa really wanted to make it special.

All of the “toy making” for Jonah was done way back in September. His big gift was to be a play kitchen, complete with pots and pans and crates full of wooden food. Jonah has so much fun helping me cook and bake that I thought he should have a work space of his own. And I liked the idea of bending the gender rules just a wee bit. When I found a fabulous navy blue art deco play kitchen on Zullily for $50, I jumped on it. This was in August. When it arrived–in a compact, but immensely heavy box that was a clear indication of some serious assembly required–I immediately tucked it into a closet and forgot all about it. Until December 22nd, when the panic set in. Where in the hell were those Christmas elves when you needed them?

Enter elves…

Well, first I should say “Exit nanny,” because that part is just way too much fun to leave out.

On December 18th, as I was walking out the door to go to work, my nanny informed me that she was going to start looking for a new position for the new year. I was neither shocked, nor disappointed. We, Jonah and I, were ready for a change. “The only thing I ask,” I said, “Is that you give me at least two weeks notice when you find something so that I’m not left high and dry without childcare. I would really like a smooth transition.”

She said nothing.

Until three days later, when she informed me that she had taken another position, and that night, the night of the 21st of December, would be her last shift.

Are you f%ck*ng kidding me?

Ahem.

As I mentioned earlier, enter elves…

The Myers Family took over. Lola babysat for Jonah so I could get my last minute shopping done (and return the nanny’s presents while I was at it). Mama Lyza was Lola’s chauffeur to and from my house, and bartender for Papa Bryan, who really needed a beer or 12 while he and Symon built Jonah’s Christmas kitchen–from the comfort of theirs.

Let me state for the record: I am a lucky woman.

I was a little perplexed when a day later Lyza started praising me “for breaking all the gender rules, all at once. You are AMAZING and I love you,” she said.

Now, Lyza is a woman who used to do things like paint her son Symon’s fingernails and toes when she was giving herself a mani/pedi, and didn’t bat an eyelash when he wanted “to wear a skirt like Lola.” I didn’t really think she would find my choice of a play kitchen for Christmas to be that avant garde–certainly not enough to warrant being repeatedly called AMAZING.

“Look at how cute it is,” she said, showing me pictures of the kitchen in various states of construction, from the gagillion nuts and bolts laid out on a piece of cardboard (a sight that would surely have made me cry if I had to assemble it myself), to the cute little silver nobs, buttons, and doo-dads that made it such a special little piece in the first place. It didn’t really register at first, but by the 4th photo, I looked up at her, puzzled.

“Is that?”

She smiled. Maybe it was a smirk.

“Is that–is it–pink?”

“Mmmhmm.”

“Oh my god!” I burst into a fit of laughter. “It was supposed to be navy blue!”

“I wondered.” Lyza was laughing,too.

“But it’s PERFECT!”

“It is!”

So this Christmas, Jonah’s second Christmas, in the year of we’ll-need-to-see-your-birth-certificate-before-you-can-use-this-restroom, no-we-won’t-bake-your-gay-wedding-cake, and Trump-effing-Pence, Santa brought my two year old son a bubblegum pink kitchen. And I couldn’t be more pleased.

That Santa, she rocks!

(Pics to come, I promise)

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Team by team reporters baffled, trumped, tethered, cropped. Look at that low playing! Fine, then.”

Tags

,

tree-view-408x544

It’s been a while. I know.

I had a jolly old piece about killer trees” prepared to post on the evening of November 7th, but I wanted to give it one more read-through before I sent it out into the world.

And then the election happened.

Suddenly, I didn’t give a shit about my trees anymore. And I’ve been struggling to show up here  as anything less than a snarling madwoman ever since–reason enough to remain silent.

And I’ll be honest: I still don’t know what to say to you.

I am ashamed of my country. Or half of it anyway. I’m angry. I’m afraid. I’m doing what I can to fight the good fight, but I don’t have it in me to fight here.

So maybe I’ll try to pretend that everything is normal, even though nothing could be further from the truth.

I’ll stick to trees. For now.

******

Earlier this month, I learned that I have quite a bit more property than I initially believed I had when I purchased my home about a year ago. It was brought to my attention the hard way, by the good Town of Fairfax, when I received a letter stating that a tree that had fallen in the first round of storms–the same tree that I glanced at and breathed a sigh of relief over when I saw that it was all the way down at the bottom of my street–is, in fact, my tree.

Wait. What?

That tree was clear across the street and 500 feet down the road. How could it be MY tree? In answer to the question, the letter read “see attached,” which I did. Lo and behold, there it was: a schematic of property lines and, highlighted in fluorescent yellow marker, the sum total of my kingdom, including the useless extra parcel, complete with downed tree.

It was my responsibility to remove it.

Sigh.

Lucky for me, I happen to know a strapping lad with a chainsaw (thank you, Justin!)

This was not the problem.

The problem was the rest of the trees on that useless piece of, ahem, I mean, that glorious strip of land, which is essentially nothing more than an easement separating a bend in the road.

Since the letter appeared in my mailbox, I’ve been lying awake at night thinking about my “killer trees.” There are several–five or six–each with multiple trunks, hulking limbs, and vast spans of foliage weighed down by creeping tendrils of ivy, leaning precariously, menacing the road and the houses across the street.

Something must be done.

Now, I am someone who prides herself in being a good citizen and neighbor. As such, I would love to take care of these trees immediately so that I can rest easy knowing they aren’t going to take out a car, a roof, a wandering mountain lion, a pack of coyotes and/or schoolchildren on bicycles, all of which make regular appearances in my neck of the woods. But I can’t afford to. Really. I just can’t.

I’m a single mom. A nurse. Every dime I’m making is going to my ridiculous Marin County mortgage, childcare, not to mention my godd@mm*d m$th*rf&ck#ng student loans.

Ahem. Excuse me.

To add insult to injury, about a week after I found out the offending tree was mine, I also learned it had knocked off my neighbor’s chimney on its way down.

Of course it did.

And not just any neighbor’s chimney–the crazy neighbor’s chimney.

Of course it was.

This was the neighbor who, when I introduced myself to her for the very first time, yelled, “Is that car gonna go screeching up the driveway every morning at nine because it’s waking up my whole house!” Not even so much as a hello.

“Nice meeting you,” I said in return. “Have a great day.” Oy.

She caught me off guard with the news of the chimney while I was busy raking leaves from my driveway. There was an awkward monologue on her part about how “she thought it was the city’s tree but just learned through a letter that it was mine and she was going to call me or write me a letter but anyway I owe her at least $400 and she doesn’t think I should put it through my homeowner’s insurance because it will take too long and it’s not that expensive but if I insist she’ll call them and who is my provider and what’s his phone number?”

Really? Settle down lady.

But she couldn’t settle down. I finally figured out why. In the middle of our conversation, it hit me. “Where are you from?”

“What?”

“Where are you from? I hear east coast in your voice.”

“New Jersey.”

Ding ding ding! “I thought so. Where in New Jersey?”

“Clifton.”

“I’m from Paramus.”

She ain’t crazy. She’s from Jersey. It’s been smooth sailing ever since.

As for the trees, I decided to take my little problem to my community via the website Nextdoor. I posted an ad: “Desperately Seeking Benevolent Lumberjack”

In truth, I was seeking a “benevolent arborist” but it didn’t quite have the same ring to it. In return for a tree consult, I promised fresh baked cookies, dinner for the whole family, free medical advice, and 50% of the profits when I finally have the money to erect the “Fairfax Flatiron Building” on the useless strip of land and rent it out on AirBnB. I did make it clear that I had no intention of cutting the trees down (so I could forever be known as “she who caused the great Fairfax mudslide”)–I just wanted to give them a little haircut to make them safe.

I received any number of frantic Fairfaxian freak-out responses from those who read the title but not the actual ad: IT IS ILLEGAL TO CUT TREES WITHOUT A PERMIT!!! DO NOT CUT THOSE TREES!!!!!

I also got a number of fun Oh my god! I wish I could help you! You’re hilarious! Can we be friends? kind of notes, which was nice.

But the official answer to my problem came a day after I posted the ad. Jonah and I stopped mid-walk to watch the town street sweeper go by. He’s a truck-obsessed toddler these days, so he was filled with  “ooooos and aaaaaahs,” which were audible even over the din of the machinery. Much to our surprise, the street sweeper stopped and shut down right in front of us. “Mama! Truck! Wow!”

The driver rolled down the window. “Hey, are you the young lady who posted about the trees?”

“Young lady? I wish. But yes, that’s me.”

“I just wanted to let you know–I’ve been working for this town, looking at those trees on Tamalpais for the last twenty years. The one that came down? It’s been threatening to go for a while now, but the rest of those trees are fine.”

“Really?”

“Really. They’ve looked like that forever. They’ll be like that forever. They’re fine. Probably for a long while.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously. If you want to do anything, maybe cut the roots of the ivy growing around the bases, but otherwise, you should be good. They aren’t going anywhere.”

“Okay. Thank you!”

“You’re welcome. Really. Don’t worry. You’re good.”

I’m choosing to trust him. Twenty years of looking at those trees trumps my three weeks of panic any day.

If only he could do something to quell the four weeks of panic I’ve felt since we were Trumped. That would really be something worth writing about.