Shortly after we married, Ed was ready for The Baby Factory to be open for business.
“I want as many as we can handle,” he said.
“I love the idea of a big family. I feel like I was built to be a father,” he said.
“I’ve been ready for a long time, now,” he said.
I, however, was terrified. I still couldn’t figure out NYC. I couldn’t figure out anything, really. I just spent a lot of time giving a lot of people side eyes, and avoiding aggressive canvassers all day. The last thing I wanted was to come home and think about having more children. We already have one. And, if all goes well with this one, I’ll be done with parenting before I’m 40, be in better shape and have more money? Ch…
Except, as time passed, we’d see ourselves sitting on the couch together, listening to music and cracking jokes, and look out to the floor and envision a couple of little ones throwing toys or pulling books off our bookshelves or trying to play with our shoe boxes, and we’d sigh. Sometimes, a little bit of fear is a good thing—that’s how you know you’re challenging yourself.
We realized we were holding off for nothing. Let’s do it. What was meant to be would be, regardless of how we felt or what we did anyway, right?
We started planning for our little one. We moved to a larger apartment, we scoped out little cribs, toys, and sneakers—of course—for our future little one. We even began training our dogs for sharing the floor with a baby.
Months passed by, and no dice. Months—stressful months—passed by, and nothing. And months eventually turned into years where, instead of it being something we shopped for in excitement, it became something we stopped talking about entirely. Those years were filled with silence; questions swirled in my mind of whether or not I had done something wrong with my body, or whether my weight loss had damaged something, and they stayed in my mind for fear that Ed would hold me accountable and tell me what I’d ultimately need to hear: “Go get checked out.”
Honestly, that’d be what we both needed to do—we both needed to ensure that we were healthy, that we were properly taking care of ourselves, but it would’ve made no difference. It would’ve truly made no difference at all.
What I’d later come to realize, is that stress played a more major role in one’s ability to healthily carry a child to term than I originally knew. My mother, who miraculously survived an otherwise alarming stroke and ruptured brain aneurysm like it was a stubbed toe, had her life turned upside down. My daughter—well, my daughter went through the worst year of her young life. Work was stressful. Life was stressful. Everything was stressful. And, although I was fighting to not return to my emotional eating habit, that left me struggling to do anything else—even the things that were my supposed “saving grace” from emotional eating.
I threw myself into what I do best: my work. I traveled monthly—a new assignment, project, or campaign every month. It was easier to leave behind the pain and frustration, and just dive nose first into my work. I toyed with the idea of writing a book on how poverty impacted wellness, and drafted a massive outline for it. I mapped out an app that I wanted to create for the blog, and started structuring the framework for it. I even envisioned a sponsored HBCU tour where I traveled to different schools and led fitness classes and talks about nutrition and wellness, teaching about the different ways our habits contribute to the most prevalent chronic illnesses.
Ed did the same, except he hated his job. And, hell, I hated it for him. But it was good enough to help us bury our heads in something other than this sadness we both shared about not being able to get and stay pregnant.
Eventually, I became so busy with work, so depressed by our ability to carry a child to term, so frustrated, that I left my gym and stopped my yoga practice. I didn’t pick up my old eating habits again, but all the traveling and work made it easy to begin leaving everything else behind.
Finally, the holiday season arrived. I took off the month of November, committed to just spending time with my family. The holidays, I’d always promised, would be my time to just focus on re-calibrating, relaxing, and reflecting on everything I’d done and where I wanted it to take me. There was lots of wine, lots of quality time at our favorite restaurants, lots of laughter.
The final event I’d done, in late 2014, was the week I spent in Los Angeles with Microsoft and the Mia Hamm Foundation, teaching kids about healthy living with some of my blogging peers. It was a difficult event to do, because I knew that I’d been gaining weight and cameras would be going off at every turn, but I reminded myself that just because I was larger didn’t mean I wasn’t still just as knowledgeable, or just as good at my job. Fertility issues weren’t capable of rendering me mindless, all of a sudden.
But finally, we realized something was amiss. I sat on the bathroom floor, surrounded by pregnancy tests. One after the other, I brought them to Ed—one hand covering my face, the other hand struggling to hold the test steady in my hand. I was shaking, excited, crying, joyful, and scared. What was it that kept us from getting pregnant before? Would it keep us from delivering a healthy little one this time?
For some reason, from the start, Baby Sprout felt different. I stopped with all my work except my writing. Ed left his stressful job for a better one. We took it very easy. I didn’t work out besides a daily walk. Besides, I was downright exhausted. I barely answered my phone, could hardly be bothered to do my work anymore, and spent whole weeks at a time laid in bed, clutching my stomach and reminding myself why I was putting myself through this—all in hopes that we’d be blessed with another child.
Time went by quickly. D-day had come and gone, no contractions anywhere. My doctors, knowing that I carried my first child for well over 42 weeks, presumed I’d go through the same thing again, and opted for us to go through a scheduled c-section together. As long as it resulted in a healthy, happy baby boy, I didn’t care. Also? I needed control of my bladder again.
Ed was there every step of the way. Dead silent, cool as a cucumber, holding my hand—and jewelry—every step of the way. And there was no greater joy than the moment I was able to watch him hold that baby boy in his hands for the first time.
Bringing that bright eyed baby boy home was a dream. Every day after hearing his first cry has been a dream. Hearing his giggle has been a dream. At least once a week, Ed and I look at each other and, with a punch in the arm or a pinch on the thigh, say to each other, “Dude, we have a baby!” And, like clockwork, the other replies with a grin, “I knooooooow!”
Mini-me has been the most hilarious of all. Mostly because she was hella-tired of being an only child, she jumped at the chance to read to him, play with him while I worked, even offering to change diapers. She’s slowly realizing the importance of being The Role Model, and it’s changing her for the better.
The saddest part of this all, is that my beloved Sushi passed away during my pregnancy, and never got to actually see the new addition. She broke out of her crate while we were away, and got into some cleaning solution. I still remember that day—I came home, confused as to why she was out of her crate, but glad it seemed like her and the new dog didn’t get into any fights or anything. She laid down next to my feet when I sat down, and passed away right there, not even ten minutes after I’d been home. I love and miss my Sushi every day, and whenever I see Sprout playing with Saki, I wonder what it would look like to see Sushi there, instead. (She’d probably be laying in the corner. She kind of hated everyone but me.)
Sprout is now ten months old. I’ve basically spent the past ten months staring into his face, reading to him, feeding him, and reflecting on how grateful I am for not only his presence, but for a life that allows me to truly sit and appreciate his youngest years. Having him made me thankful for my oldest, who’s now nine, because I look at her and realize how much of her life I missed while I was hustling my ass off making sure we never ended up on the street. I look at her now, and know these years—whichever years they are—go by so quickly, and I should appreciate them as best as I can. But having her, and knowing what I missed, makes me appreciate them that much more with Sprout. I savor every day, because I know how much we thought these days would never come. I tear up at every high-five and kiss he gives, because these are the moments we just knew would never be.
My kids, my family, have sent me into an endless cycle of joy and reflection, and remembering that has been integral to fighting the battle against the post-partum depression (PPD) I’d been experiencing.* Of all the things I expected to sacrifice, my sanity wasn’t on that list, but there it was. Spending day after day in the house, not being as mobile as I’m otherwise used to, getting up and going running when I felt like it, these were soul-crushing to me. Turning to my little one, and remembering how thankful I am for him and seeing him smile every time I said “It’s Mommy!” helped me with the sadness, but it didn’t get rid of it entirely, nor would it, nor should I have expected as much. I’d needed way more weapons in my arsenal against PPD than that and, luckily, I got them.
Where are we now? I spend lots of time reading and writing—for the blog, for the book, for my sanity, for other outlets—and just taking it easy. I’d gained more weight on the quest to get pregnant than I did during my entire pregnancy, which was weird, but I’m not especially worried about that. If anything, I’m pleasantly surprised by how different my body looks at my current weight than it did the last time I weighed this much, because all that strength training paid off. I still have the same c-section scar that, in the words of Warsan Shire, healed into a smile. I look at it, and am reminded of the gift I was given, and am humbled once again.
It’s taken me a long time to write this because I needed help sorting out my head and my heart after so much stress, grief, and sadness. I needed to find the joy, the hopefulness, the empathy, and—most of all—the self-compassion I’d lost in the mangling of my day to day life. I needed to recalibrate. I needed to be able to retell this story from a place of healing, without tears falling on keyboard keys as I typed. I needed to get over the disappointment of infertility and get to a place where I can just be thankful for what I have. Most importantly, I needed to get to a place where I can actually admit to myself that, as long and as painful a road as this has been, not only would I do it again knowing how hard it was, but that I want to do it again after the book is finished. The heartache, the frustration, it doesn’t override the possibility of coming out on top in the best possible way in the end.
I intend to spend the next few months finishing the book, sharing with you here my journey towards reclaiming my fitness now with another little bundle of joy, and being very thankful for each day I have with the wonderful people in my life. My world has changed so much, and I need to allow myself to take the time to truly readjust to it all.
Luckily, I have this little guy’s help to do it.
And all these folks, too. 🙂