Tag Archives: grateful



I happen to think that I picked one of the best men around to be the father of my children.

Side note: I happen to know tons of women who think they picked a pretty awesome guy to be the father of their children and that makes me really happy. I have a lot of gratitude about that, and I think it’s pretty cool that my friends have such great husbands.

Awesome dad exhibit 1: He jumped rope for them.

Awesome dad exhibit 1: He jumped rope for them.

Awesome dad exhibit 2: He wore these bunny ears while feeding the baby.

Awesome dad exhibit 2: He wore these bunny ears while feeding the baby.


Awesome dad exhibit 3: Then he let the kids ride on him – which they do ALL. THE. TIME.

In addition to being an awesome father, my husband also made me feel pretty special on Mother’s Day. Special like, took all three kids to the grocery store on a Saturday morning so he could make me French toast. Then sending me off for a pedicure with strict instructions not to return for several hours. And when I did finally return, not only did he make me chocolate chip cookies, but he also made me scotcheroos. I’ve never, ever, ever had anyone make me chocolate chip cookies. I’m always the one making them for other people – usually my family – and I LOVE doing it. But I would often jokingly complain that no one ever made ME cookies. And then he did. His first time ever. And they were awesome.

So I knew that I wanted to make Husband feel really special on Father’s Day. And I did make him a favorite dessert and get him a cool T-shirt and some of his favorite snacks and a gift certificate for golf. BUT, my favorite parte was something the girls and I worked on over a month ago. I asked them all the reasons they loved their daddy, or things they wanted to thank daddy for, and this is what they came up with.

Daddy …

  1. I want to thank you for making our bunk beds. (Bean)
  2. I want to say thank you for helping me do my best each day. (Monkey)
  3. I want to say thank you for cleaning up our toys downstairs. (Bean)
  4. I want to thank you for getting out our playhouse. (Bean)
  5. I want to thank you for picking up all the sticks in our yard. (Monkey)
  6. I want to thank you for covering us back up with our blankets at night. (Bean)
  7. I want to thank you for making food for us when we’re sick. (Monkey)
  8. I want to thank you for the special Mother’s Day for Mommy. (Bean)
  9. I want to thank you for buying us toys. (Monkey)
  10. I want to thank you for building our wood playhouse. (Bean)
  11. I love it when you give us hugs and kisses at nighttime. (Monkey)
  12. I love it when you snuggle with me at nighttime. (Monkey and Bean)
  13. I love it when you wrestle with us. (Monkey)
  14. I love it when you eat at the table with us and we’re all together. (Bean)
  15. I love it when you give us rides on the lawnmower and let us steer. (Monkey)
  16. I love it when you push us high on the swings. (Bean)
  17. I love it when you help me ride my bike. (Monkey)
  18. I love it that you help me in swimming class. (Bean)
  19. I love it that you help me pick up the apples from the apple tree. (Monkey)
  20. I love it that you help me with puzzles. (Bean)
  21. I love it when you give us horsey back rides. (Monkey and Bean)
  22. I love it when you take our pictures. (Monkey and Bean)
  23. I love it when you give us a bath and you let us throw toys at you and squirt each other. (Monkey)
  24. I love it when you play hide and seek with us. (Bean)
  25. I love it when you hold us. (Monkey and Bean) 

Daddy, these are the reasons why we love you!

I also had the girls answer these fun questions about their daddy:


All About My Daddy

By Monkey (age 5) and Bean (age 3)


My daddy is 17 feet and 40 inches tall

He weighs 40 pounds

His hair color is brown

His eyes are blue

His favorite TV show is baseball

He likes to go to Qdoba

His favorite food is Hello Dolly bars

His favorite drink is soda

For fun he likes to play with us

I love it when my daddy gives us piggy back rides

My favorite thing about my daddy is when he plays outside with us


Father’s Day 2013

Husband they love you sooooo much. They adore you. You are so important to them and this family and I am so grateful to have you as my partner in the most important job of our lives.


They will always be daddy's little girls.

They will always be daddy’s little girls.


Set This Circus Down


It’s hard to know where to start when trying to sum up 10 years of marriage, not to mention the six years of togetherness prior to marriage. Husband and I just celebrated 10 years of marriage a week and a half ago, and our wedding day seems like yesterday.

May 16, 2003. Bliss.

May 16, 2003. Bliss.

Until I actually flipped through all of our photo albums since we were married … and then it seemed like a lifetime ago.

Ten years. Our wedding day, up to that point, was the happiest day of our lives.

Everyone who came talked about what a fun party it was, and at the gift opening the next day, Husband and I promised that we would renew our vows and have a big anniversary party for our 10th anniversary.

And then our reality happened.

So much for a special "family" celebration on our 10-year anniversary - crabby, hungry kids and screaming baby.

So much for a special “family” celebration on our 10-year anniversary – crabby, hungry kids and screaming baby.

So I guess our vow renewal and super awesome anniversary party will have to wait a few more years.

For our one-year anniversary, the traditional gift is paper, and I had the brilliant idea that Husband and I should forego an actual gift in favor of each writing down our memories of our wedding day (on paper — get it?). So naturally, I wrote down TWENTY-FIVE PAGES of memories — bulleted, single-spaced, 12-point font. And I wrote down my memories not just from the wedding day, but the five days before it and one day after it. Husband wrote down 11 pages worth of memories, double-spaced, 18-point font. I’d say that’s quite an achievement for a guy who doesn’t like to write!

Jen and Eric First Anniversary-3

Reading memories of our wedding day on our first anniversary.

Jen and Eric First Anniversary-1

Going back to the church we were married at on our first anniversary.

First anniversary dinner.

First anniversary dinner. We look like little kids!

A couple of highlights:

  • When I woke up in the morning I said to my cousin (who’s like my sister), “I don’t want the day to start because I know it’s going to be over before I know it.”
  • Making the very short drive to church from my parents’ house felt like forever. There was such anticipation. When we were driving up the big hill into the parking lot and I saw all the cars, I got nervous for the first time and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! People actually came!” I don’t know why, but I genuinely was surprised that there were people there. It finally started to feel real, and not just like a dress-up game.
  • My mom saying, “Well, Jen, I have to tell you — I take back that you’re going to be late for your own wedding, because you’re early!”
  • When we said our vows. We both had memorized them and we were both so confident. I thought I would cry, but I was just so happy.
  • The same cousin (whom I dubbed the “Cousin of Honor” for the wedding) was dying of starvation by the time we made it to dinner. During the entire meal she made food noises, and said things like “Oh, this is so good. Oh yum. Yum, yum, yum. This is sooooo good.” (this still cracks me up)
  • All day long I said to my BRAND NEW HUSBAND, “We have so much to look forward to.” And I wasn’t just excited about continuing our wedding experience by going on a fabulous honeymoon/vacation. I was talking about all the years we would spend together, having kids, watching them grow up, going on adventures, living our lives together forever.
  • My BFF and maid of honor ended her speech by saying, “May your dreams of today be your realities of tomorrow.” This has always stuck with me (and as far as google can tell me, she made that up all on her own).
My grandma made this cake with her own two hands. It's so lovely. I still love this cake.

My grandma made this cake with her own two hands. It’s so lovely. I still love this cake.

What we felt that day is almost indescribable. We felt SO INCREDIBLY LOVED. It was like nothing we had ever experienced before. Every single person who was there, was there for us. We both felt completely honored that people would come and be there just for us.

We had people warn us about how expensive weddings are and how afterward we would wish that we hadn’t “wasted” all that money on a wedding, and instead used it for a down payment on a house. They told us that we would wish we had eloped.

For us at least? Never, ever, ever, ever in a million billion years. We wouldn’t have given up that wedding day or how we felt on that day, for anything in the world. It was exactly what we wanted, and the feeling was more than we could have imagined.


Husband and I got engaged in August 2001, and a few months before that, Tim McGraw released his album, “Set This Circus Down.”

Tim and his wife Faith Hill (I like to think we’re personal friends) have always been two of our favorite artists. For our wedding slideshow, I chose Faith’s song “She’s a Wild One” (one of my faves) to go along with the photos of me, and Husband chose “Indian Outlaw” for the photos of him. For the photos of us together, we chose “Set This Circus Down.”

The song has such a literal and figurative meaning for us:

Sometimes this road it just keeps winding, round and round and back again
But you’ve always kept me smiling
Over every hill round every bend

Baby you’re the one smilin’ with me
When the sun comes up
I got the wheel,
You got the map and that’s enough

And we go rollin’ down this highway
Chasin’ all our crazy dreams
I’ve gone your way and you’ve gone my way
And everywhere in between
One of these days we’ll find a piece of ground
Just outside some sleepy little town
And set this circus down

Sometimes I lie awake just thinking
Of all the horizons we have seen
And as another day is sinking
I thank God you’re here with me

‘Cause baby you’re the one laughing with me
When the sun goes down
Livin’ on faith and holding on tight
To the love we’ve found

And we go rollin’ down this highway
Chasin’ all our crazy dreams
I’ve gone your way and you’ve gone my way
And everywhere in between
One of these days we’ll find a piece of ground
Just outside some sleepy little town
And set this circus down

And set this circus down
Baby, one of these days
Gonna set this circus down
Set this circus down
Baby, one of these days

Two days after we got engaged, Husband and I embarked on this crazy adventure where he literally had the wheel and I had the map. We packed up a tiny U-Haul truck with all our crap and moved to North Carolina for me. He left a secure job, a home and all of his family and friends, for me and my dream.

EXHAUSTED after driving across the country for about 16 hours straight.

EXHAUSTED after driving across the country for about 16 hours straight.

Looking back, I’m not surprised he did it. But I am surprised at how easily he made that decision. It really wasn’t a decision — we were young, we were in love, the world was our oyster and we had no real responsibilities at that time that were holding us to Wisconsin. He came with me and chased my crazy dream, and we always knew that we would come back home eventually to be with our family and friends.

When “eventually” turned out to be six months later, because we (mostly me) was so homesick and my dream job was not all that it was cracked up to be, we packed up and came home — despite the fact that he had just gotten a new job in North Carolina.

On our wedding day, when I kept telling him over and over again, “We have so much to look forward to,” I didn’t really have any specific ideas of what that would look like — what our home would look like, what our kids would look like, or how many of them we would have. I don’t know that I could have imagined anything anyway.

Marriage has been both infinitely better than I thought it would be, and also infinitely harder than I ever imagined. Before you get married you think you know that you’ll have your ups and downs; that you’ll have battles; that you might go through a rough patch or have a crisis or two. But here’s the thing — you don’t really know. You’ve heard all those cliché pieces of marriage advice like compromising and fighting fair and trying not to go to bed angry and yada, yada yada. You don’t really know. You think you know what it means to make a lifelong commitment to someone in good times and in bad. But you just don’t really know until you’re in the trenches, making that decision to be in it, in good times and in bad, every day.

But, like I said, marriage also has been infinitely better than what I imagined, because we have built a life together. I have a partner — in life and in everything — and he is a kind, warm, generous, strong, gentle, funny and selfless man. And despite how very hard it is on some days, we have love, respect, faith, laughter, and this:

What 10 years will bring you. This is our circus.

What 10 years will bring you. This is our circus.

We set our circus down, literally in a sleepy little town just liked I’d always hoped, and my dreams of yesterday have most definitely surpassed my realities of today. I couldn’t have dreamt this. I feel so lucky and so blessed. And while I can’t even fully dream tomorrow, I feel certain that my reality will surpass my dreams.

Husband, like I’ve told you countless times before, as we travel this crazy journey, there’s no one I’d rather be traveling with than you. Thank you for our circus, and thank you for being my partner. I thank God you’re here with me.

10 years later, at the church where we got married.

10 years later, at the church where we got married.


10-year anniversary dinner.

10-year anniversary dinner.

I’m So Glad We Get to Do This Again (and, an explanation)


Blogging has just not been a top priority for me lately — as much as I’ve wanted it to be. Usually I’ll have a story running through my head; a partial post bursting out of my brain; funny or introspective thoughts I’ll want to run by other parents. Normally I’ll be scrambling to get it written down and the words just pour out. But for the past four months I just haven’t had the head space. Not that I haven’t had the constant chatter in my head … because I have … it’s just seemed like an insurmountable task to actually get those thoughts down on paper.

This pregnancy has been much harder on me mentally and emotionally than my pregnancies with Monkey and Bean. I don’t know exactly what accounts for that … except that I know that every pregnancy is different. And I have a sneaking suspicion that it has a lot to do with already having two young kids to take care of. Add to that the overall growing pains of raising a young family, i.e. some terrible two’s, growing independence, and general “WTF am I doing as a parent anxiety,” plus work obligations and ding, ding, ding — you get some major emotional/mental exhaustion which leads to more crabbiness, short temperedness, anxiety. Don’t forget the extra credit — the hormones and physical tiredness and limitations that come with every pregnancy.

I honestly think that the physical limitations of pregnancy sneak up on you so slowly and gradually that it’s almost unnoticeable until one day you’re just SO frustrated that you can’t fit between the bathroom door and the sink to brush your uncooperative 4-year-old’s teeth and you just LOSE it and yell “WOULD YOU COOPERATE SO I CAN BRUSH YOUR TEETH!!?” And then you realize that you just totally overreacted, and yes your 4-year-old is being a pain, but you’re mostly just pissed because dammnit, you cannot MOVE normally.

And as far as the hormones go, all I’ll say is that in the moment your reactions seem rational. And for anyone who’s never been pregnant and thinks that the whole “hormones” thing is just some ploy to act like a crazy person, believe me, it’s not. Because honestly, no one wants to feel like a crazy person.

OH! And the extra, extra credit — being pregnant during the summer of 2012. Do you think that will be a thing that women who are pregnant this summer talk about? “YOU were pregnant during the summer of 2012?? OMG, ME too! That HEAT was just unbearable, and I just didn’t go outside for like three months, unless I could lay in a pool like a beached whale and not move and be jealous of everyone with their fruity drinks, and we kept the air set to 73 degrees, but I was *still* always hot, and it was just miserable, and …”

I think what drove all this home for me (why I’m experiencing this added mental/emotional exhaustion) was being away with my husband for our final “babymoon” this past weekend. We quite literally, did nothing. We ate, we walked, we sat, we walked, we sat, we ate, we slept.” Repeat. No one needed our attention. We didn’t have to follow anyone else’s agenda. We were only concerned about our own needs. There were no stressors or obligations. We watched all the other parents enjoying the three-day holiday weekend with their kids and we were a little sad that our kids weren’t with us, and envious of all the family fun. In the moment, I tried to remind myself how much harder it would be if the kids were with us, how the weekend would not be ours, and that I needed to just relax and enjoy the alone time. I told myself that those kids were probably being pains. But still, I was a tad sad and we were really excited to get home Sunday afternoon.

And then after I got home on Sunday afternoon I wasn’t so excited to be there. Because damn, they need A LOT of attention! And at times they can be pains! And I am TIRED! But seriously. This is what I realized — I did nothing while we were gone. I did nothing except eat, walk, sit and sleep, and I was still physically tired and limited (there was no light hiking as I hoped; baby being in VERY uncomfortable positions made slow walking and sitting the only things comfortable). So take me, already tired, physically limited and uncomfortable, and add caretaking and stressors of everyday life and work, and yeah. I’m kind of crabby! So I guess this weekend made me realize there’s probably nothing earth shattering about why this pregnancy has been more emotionally/mentally draining, except for normal things that have left me with little motivation to tackle extra things.

Hence, not much head space left over for blogging. I guess I feel like I’ve been surviving these past few months as opposed to thriving.

BUT, what I’ve also realized in the last few months, is that I’m so glad we get to do this again.

My brother-in-law is getting married this month to a wonderful girl and in June they asked me to look through my photos to see if I had any of the two of them together. So I started in 2010, the year they started dating and the year Bean was born, and boy. I really started to miss two-year-old Monkey and baby Bean. I may have shed a few tears.

It made me realize how glad I am that we get to have another baby. I can’t wait for the snuggling and the feedings and even the diaper changes. I can’t wait to see how this third person will enliven and enlarge our family. I can’t wait to see what she looks like, and slowly peel back the layers of her temperament and personality. I can’t wait to see Bean in the role of two-year-old big sister, like Monkey was for her. I can only imagine how Monkey will fill her role as biggest sister. She is such a nurturing soul, and already is instructing us about when, how and where she wants to hold and feed her baby sister.

Honestly, they’re both so excited. Have I mentioned that they both walk around with their loveys stuffed up their shirts and ask me if I want to feel their babies move?

This little girl is already such a blessing to our family and I really feel like she completes us. After being so indecisive about should we or shouldn’t we have a third, I feel so privileged that it was even an option.

With Monkey setting the pace for us, I’m just so happy that I get to experience all these stages again one more time.

I’ve Never Been Pregnant on Mother’s Day Before


Be Awesome on Mother’s Day


I know how Mother’s Day is supposed to go in the United States. If you’re a mom, you’re supposed to get a relaxing day where (hopefully) your husband (or someone else) handles all the tedious and exhausting things about motherhood for the day (wiping butts, washing hands, preparing meals, haranguing naps) while you (the mom) get to kick back and enjoy all the fun stuff your kids do. Basically you get to be the dad for the day.


Seriously, I’m joking. My husband is a super awesome dad and definitely does his share of tedious kids’ stuff.

But, hopefully you do get to relax and enjoy the awesome stuff about your kids. Maybe get a little breakfast in bed, possibly a massage, some chocolates. And if you’re really lucky, a homemade craft that involves a lot of glue and dried legumes.

We do it up big here in the United States.

I don’t know how they celebrate Mother’s Day in other countries (although Wikipedia tells me many other countries do celebrate it), but I do know that for the majority of women in the world, Mother’s Day looks absolutely nothing like what it does for us in the States. According to the World Health Organization, every 90 seconds a woman dies from preventable causes related to pregnancy and child birth. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur in developing nations, predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. For every woman who dies in childbirth, another 30 women incur injuries and infections, which are often preventable. It’s well recognized that these numbers are often under reported.

Let that sink in for a minute.

I know I had some fears about dying during childbirth with my first two children. But only 16.6 women die in childbirth in the U.S. per 100,000 live births (#39 on the list, not great by any stretch compared to No. 1 Italy at 3.9) but can you imagine your risk being 95 times that!?

For these mothers in developing countries, their every day is about finding clean water and food for their children. They’re not concerned about whether they’re getting a massage; they’re concerned about basic survival.

In a very real way, the celebration of Mother’s Day is a first-world luxury.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating moms and giving moms a break. Lord knows, we’re (super)human and we could all use a break. But in case you want to do something just a little bit more, you might consider:

Participating in Bloggers for Birth Kits by donating $10 to purchase 5 clean birth kits for mothers in rural Papua New Guinea where 1 in 7 women die in childbirth. That’s it. It’s only $2 per kit and you could help save a mother and newborn baby’s life. You could make your own if you’re so inclined, or you can just donate.

Donating to Saving Mothers which aims to give women and their health care providers the tools they need to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity through public health initiatives. The organization currently has projects in Guatemala and Liberia. $10 purchases one hemorrhage kit and prevents maternal death from bleeding. $50 transports one woman to the hospital.

Get involved with Every Mother Counts, an organization founded by supermodel Christy Turlington-Burns. Christy hemorrhaged after the delivery of her first child and was fortunate enough to recover. She realized that for many women in the world, such an occurrence is a death sentence.

Every Mother Counts actually has a very comprehensive explanation of the problems with maternal health and mortality, including the five main barriers to care. They also have various options for helping.

All of these organizations have the same common cause: to reduce maternal mortality globally.

Or maybe you just want to give a boost to a mom you know who’s having a hard time, like Momastery just did. I know of a local family who recently lost absolutely everything in a house fire. If you’re interested in donating to them, contact me at jenovotny(at)gmail(dot)com.

Even $5 can make a difference in someone’s life.

Maybe for this Mother’s Day we can do a little more for our fellow mamas who could really use it.

Make yourself feel super awesome this Mother’s Day. It feels great.

What I do you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot do.
The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things.
But we can all do small things, with great love,
and together we can do something wonderful.
— Mother Theresa

A Monkey Turns Four

A Monkey Turns Four

1. What is your favorite color?

Orange and purple

2. What is your favorite toy?

Baby dolls and my strollers

3. What is your favorite fruit?


4. What is your favorite TV show?

Team Umizoomi

5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?

Smashed potato (with butter, ham, cheese, peas and corn)

6. What is your favorite outfit?


7. What is your favorite game?

Candyland. And I want you to buy me a Dora game, too. And if you find any Team Umizoomi games

that is going to be super fun, because we love Team Umizoomi.

8. What is your favorite snack?

Cheetos and pretzels and goldfish and strawberries

9. What is your favorite animal?


10. What is your favorite song?

Taylor Swift (Also, on a separate occasion she told me that she wants to play all the instruments that Taylor Swift can play: banjo, guitar and piano)

11. What is your favorite book?

A Team Umizoomi book or a Dora book

12. Who is your best friend?


13. What is your favorite cereal?

Reese’s Puffs

14. What is your favorite thing to do outside?


15. What is your favorite drink?

Chocolate milk

16. What is your favorite holiday?

Easter! And I love Christmas too.

17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night?

Petey and lovey

18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?

Pancakes! And strawberries.

19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday?

Hot dogs

20. What do you want to be when you grow up?

A mama and a girl fire fighter. Can you be three things when you grow up? Then I want to be a mama, and a girl fire fighter, and a teacher.

(sigh) I just love her so much. I’m so proud of the person she’s becoming.

Birthday morning surprise.

She was especially thrilled that the bike had a basket for a baby.

Totally spontaneous smile. Iconic.

Friends party at the Y!

Pure joy.

They love each other so much.

Happy Fourth Birthday, Monkey!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxooooooooooooooo



Probably the least revealing thing about the series of posts I wrote in August about whether or not to have another baby was that deep down, I always knew that I wanted to. I was just scared. Scared that we wouldn’t be able to handle three.

Perhaps this was God’s way of making me feel secure in the decision to have three babies — His way of letting me know that we have enough love, enough patience, enough space and enough money.

I don’t have doubts anymore. I know I would like to have a third baby and I know we’ll figure it out.

My fourth miscarriage made that clear to me.

Even though I went off birth control in July, with the intention of trying in the fall, we (mostly I) still had been so indecisive about whether or not it was the right decision.

As soon as I felt supremely confident in the “yes” decision I would exuberantly proclaim the news to my husband, and then the next day, or the next hour I would have doubts.

In the past I’ve said that I’m incredibly lucky that it only takes me a couple of months to get pregnant. And that held true this time; it only took three tries.

And then nine days later I already knew it wasn’t going to work out. I wasn’t even five weeks pregnant yet.

I got a positive pregnancy test on Saturday, November 19 which was only day 24 in my cycle (for those of you not familiar yet with pregnancy lingo and logistics, that’s REALLY early — I had been having very short 26-day cycles.) That Monday, I called my midwife’s office and she had me start hormone testing right away. My first hCG test was 51, which was indicative of a 3-4 week pregnancy. My progesterone level was 19, which was fine, but a little low. HCG levels are supposed to double every 48-72 hours and progesterone levels should increase 1-3 ng/ml every couple of days. These initial values were my baseline and would be used to compare with the results of tests every 48 hours to see if the numbers were rising appropriately. (http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/earlyfetaldevelopment.htm)


Through early hormone testing when I was pregnant with Bean, my doctor discovered that my initial progesterone level was 28, which was really great. My follow-up test showed that my level had actually dropped to 26, which was still a good number, but your progesterone level is not supposed to drop. My doctor proactively put me on a synthetic progesterone — Prometrium. His theory was that perhaps I was experiencing early losses because my body was not making enough progesterone to support the pregnancy until the placenta takes over and starts making it at 12 weeks. These hormone tests also showed that my hCG level was doubling every 48 hours. While synthetic progesterone exists, if your body doesn’t make the hCG hormone, there’s nothing you can do.

Since I’ve had problems with my progesterone in the past, my midwife had me start taking Prometrium right away as a precautionary measure. My next hormone test was on Wednesday, November 23 and my hCG level was 94. A little concerning because it didn’t quite double. But the nurse told me it was the “gold standard” for hCG to double in 48 hours and that she didn’t think I should be worried. Further research on my own showed that indeed she was right and that as long as the hCG was increasing by 60% in 48-72 hours, the pregnancy was still viable.

The smallest alarm sounded in my head, but I quieted it with optimism and positive thoughts because my God, it was still SO early. My first hCG test with Bean was when I was 4w3d pregnant and that level was 142. Here I was only 3w6d pregnant and my hCG was 94. Doing the math, I figured that my hCG would be 376 by the time I hit 4w3d with this pregnancy — way ahead of the game!

My next text was Friday, November 25. I took time out of my Black Friday shopping to stop in at the clinic. The nurse called me about two hours later with the news. For some reason, I knew it wasn’t going to be good. My hCG was only 113.

I was so confused. In the past, my miscarriages have always been announced by spotting. My negative association with seeing red spotting is so high that even when I’m not pregnant and not trying to get pregnant, just getting my period makes me fearful and feel like my body has failed. And then I have to consciously remind myself, “I’m not pregnant. This is supposed to happen.”

So the fact that I wasn’t spotting and my hCG level was only 113 was confusing. The nurse said that some women can go on to have normal pregnancies, but it didn’t look good.

All weekend I held onto the slightest possibility of hope. I still didn’t have any spotting. I changed my mental outlook — instead of feeling like the miscarriage was a foregone conclusion like I had all the times in the past, I tried the power of positive thinking. I tried to believe in it, to will the pregnancy into existence. I pictured the number 226 in my head, and thought, even if it’s only 200 it will be okay. I prayed.

By Monday, November 28 my hCG was back down to 51 again.

I didn’t start spotting until Wednesday.

My emotions were all over the place.

I was sad, but not devastated. It definitely wasn’t as heartbreaking as my first two losses before I had any children, before I knew if I could have children.

I was a little jealous of all the pregnant celebrities.

I was immensely thankful for the two beautiful children I have here on earth.

I was very grateful that it didn’t happen later. For me at least, miscarriage is emotionally and physically easier to deal with when it happens so early.

Technically, this pregnancy, like my very first pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage, was considered preclinical, or a chemical pregnancy. A chemical pregnancy “occurs when a pregnancy is lost shortly after implantation, resulting in bleeding that occurs around the time of the woman’s expected period. The woman may not realize that she conceived when she experiences a chemical pregnancy.”

In other words, if someone hadn’t been trying to get pregnant and testing and tracking their cycle, they probably wouldn’t even have known they got pregnant and miscarried; they would have just thought their period was a few days late. But I did know, and even though they were chemical pregnancies, they’re still counted as miscarriages.

The Disappointment

Mostly I guess, I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that this is so hard for me. And hard for everyone, really, who has love to give to a baby. Why is it so hard? It should be so easy. You have love, you want to give love to a baby, so you get pregnant and have one.

Why doesn’t it happen like that?

I’m disappointed because I thought we found the “cure” for my losses. After Bean was born I did a battery of tests that turned up nothing unusual that could be causing me to lose pregnancies. While my doctor could never be 100% certain, we thought my trouble was my too-low progesterone.

So, naively I guess, I thought that taking the Prometrium would mean that loss wouldn’t continue to be a problem for me.

I’m very disappointed that early pregnancy is not filled with joy and happiness for me. When I get a positive pregnancy test, I’m filled with excitement and joy for about 5 minutes. And then the worry, anxiety and trepidation set in because I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Because I know I have to take things one day, one hour at a time — the visits to the lab, waiting for test results, the many ultrasounds.

While I’m thankful for these hormone tests and ultrasounds, because I would rather *know* than not know, ultimately they don’t really help me control anything, which is what I really wish I could do.

The Anxiety

After this last loss I picked up the book To Full Term from the library about a woman’s monumental struggle to bring her son into the world after her first child (a daughter) was born 12 weeks premature, then suffering two miscarriages (one at 13 weeks and one at 8 weeks), and then losing twins at 20 weeks. It’s almost incomprehensible that one woman would be put through so much. Her journey truly is remarkable, not only because it was through her own dogged determination and insistence that doctors listen to her, but because she has now created a resource for other people. A way for women to stand up and fight for their unborn babies and to seek answers after a loss.

I could completely relate to author Darci Klein’s description of getting a positive pregnancy test:

“I should be thrilled. I wanted this. I try to imagine holding a tiny baby in my arms. Awestruck. But my thoughts quickly turn to all those other sticks with two lines, all the thwarted promise.”

In the book, Darci describes how she’s told her husband that she’s pregnant with less and less fanfare.

I’ve been there. Not so much with telling my own husband, but how we tell our closest friends and family members. I still have the digital photo of Monkey at 10 months sitting underneath the Christmas tree holding a sign that says “I’m going to be a big sister,” in a hidden folder on my computer hard drive. We had that photo printed and framed and we gave it out to our parents and siblings as a surprise Christmas gift. Three days after Christmas, at my six-week ultrasound, the doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat.

I started crying when I read Darci’s reaction when she started spotting in her pregnancy with her son:

“‘Don’t panic,’ I say aloud. I repeat the words in my head, but my chest heaves from the familiar threat of bright red blood, just like I saw when I lost my first baby at 13 weeks, and later with my twins.”

It’s an all-too familiar scenario for me.

The Stress

Everyone from friends to doctors to co-workers will tell you to relax during your pregnancy because increased stress can harm the baby. But telling that to someone who has experienced a loss is so counterproductive.

“Multiple studies have confirmed that pregnant women who’ve had a loss experience far more anxiety during future pregnancies than those who’ve never miscarried. After loss, women must push aside the constant whisper that things could go wrong again.”

The Fear

It’s funny how quickly you forget how truly hard it was to bring a baby into the world after you have the baby safely delivered in your arms. When Husband and I were embarking on this latest round of trying, we honestly didn’t even discuss the past difficulties.

Those memories all came rushing back for me the moment I saw the positive pregnancy test and started going for the hormone testing and waiting anxiously for the results phone calls. I remembered again how hard it is. And I couldn’t escape it. Every two seconds I would remember that I was pregnant and it affected all of my decisions (don’t have too much caffeine, don’t take any ibuprofen, don’t have any cold cuts or soft cheeses, how much should I exercise?).

To be perfectly honest, part of me is scared to try again. I’m scared I’ll get pregnant and then lose it again.

I can relate when Darci says she wasn’t prepared for the fear.

“I feel almost embarrassed that I hadn’t anticipated the most obvious risk of all: the gripping terror that I may lose another baby.”

Just last week I tried to convince myself that two kids was perfect. I thought about all the reasons my life would be easier with two kids instead of three:

  • No need to worry about fitting two car seats and a booster in a too-small sedan (or the alternative — buying a new car).
  • No worry about having enough space in our house. The girls could share a room for a few years so that we could have an upstairs toy room, and then when they’re older and don’t have so many toys, and more importantly, want their privacy, we can move Bean back into the room she has now.
  • No more struggles with breastfeeding and the internal guilt of having bottle fed my babies for the majority of their infancy.
  • No more diapers since Bean is almost potty trained.
  • No postpartum blues and the strains of only getting 2-3 hours of sleep at a time.
  • No real worries about having enough money to do family trips (at least not any more than it will be for one kid).
  • Not having to deal with one kid feeling left out (as much) because there wouldn’t be a “middle” child.
  • Always having an even number of people in our family, which also makes those family excursions easier (because everything comes in a “family four-pack”).

And then a friend posted a picture of her brand new 15-minute old baby, and I didn’t see the diapers, the breastfeeding struggles, the car seat dilemma, the potty training, the money concerns, the space constraints, or the lack of sleep.

I saw this perfect little creature who had just joined their family. A brand new life. And I knew that I still wanted that one more time. I want to be handed my newly delivered baby and relish in that moment again. That moment when we get to meet the new person we created. I want the newborn yawns and the first bath, the itty bitty clothes and the extra cautious drive home from the hospital.

I’m still skittish though. I don’t know how many more times we can put ourselves through this. I am so unbelievably thankful for the two beautiful girls I have. More than anything, I don’t want to try so hard for something and end up disappointed about what I don’t have, instead of thankful for what I do have.

Part of why I wanted to share this very private personal struggle is because I think many more women in my life than I realize have struggled with pregnancy loss. It’s almost never discussed. And my biggest takeaway from Darci Klein’s book was that we must fight for ourselves, fight for answers, not accept the antiquated obstetrics guidelines that most doctors are so quick to offer, and move beyond secrecy and silence. I plan to write a follow-up post in the coming days with some resources that I found helpful.