The Birth of Henry Elliott Bruno

by Jen on March 31, 2013

Today marks four weeks since I gave birth to the boy that has forever enhanced our lives. Ironically, today is Easter Sunday- the same day we miscarried our first baby and the same day Henry was due to arrive. He arrived four weeks early though, giving us four bonus weeks to spend with him. I’ve been piecing together some of my favorite parts of his story, trying to appropriately articulate how incredible the experience has been. The truth is, I’ll never be able to articulate it as perfectly as I’d like, but yet I never want to forget a single moment. Henry was born on March 3, 2013 at 8:53 a.m. Here is my story of his story.


After a trimester and a half of constant bladder issues, swollen appendages, lack of sleep caused by my baby’s head lodged in my ribs, back pain, and an inability to put on my own socks, I stopped working.  The plan had always been to quit working a bit before the baby was born, tackle some last minute “to do” items that remained dangling in the breezes of my pregnancy fatigue, and try to catch up on the sleep that I missed while going to the bathroom every hour for three months straight.  I’d get my grays touched up, my toenails polished, our hospital bags packed, and our house spotless.

Our due date was March 31st, but our baby’s breech positioning meant we’d most likely need a c section.  I’d spent my entire pregnancy fearing a pre-term delivery, but when our doctor finally scheduled our c section for March 25th, all my fears disappeared.  I’d dreaded a c section. I’d attempted to “turn” our baby on my own by coaxing him south with music and flashlights and body contortions, but no luck.  I’d been looking forward to meeting our child for so long, I didn’t want to be in a surgical fog.  I didn’t want to forget the look on George’s face when our baby was born.  And I didn’t want to be recovering for weeks.  I’d waited for this for too long.  I wanted to be a full-fledged, hands-on mom right from the start.

However, my anxiety leveled when our doctor declared March 25th as THE day.  Having a plan calms me- even when it’s not the plan of my dreams.  Having a date helped me reconcile the stresses of the unknown, and from that day forward, the idea and fear of delivering our baby any day other than March 25th completed faded away.

George spent my entire pregnancy treating me like I was breakable.  He overcompensated for all my inefficiencies, and for that, I felt I owed him something.  I opted to use money from my “final” paycheck to take him out for overpriced slabs of beef and expensive bourbon.  He deserves far more, but I figured that “date” could be one of our last as a childless couple, and the time to throw caution to the wind seemed appropriate.

I dressed up (as much as a you can when you are nine months pregnant) slathered on my fancy lotion, posed for a 36 week pregnancy photo with George, and rode the subway to Union Square.  We walked (George walked and I waddled) six chilly blocks, holding hands and marveling about how we’d not be doing this without a stroller much longer.



We arrived at the restaurant, checked our coats, and ordered food like it would be our last supper.  Before dessert was served, I felt my nose burn and my eyes water as I attempted to tell George all the things he deserved to hear.  I thanked him for all the times he settled my nerves and walked our dogs and did the dishes and mopped the floors.  I thanked him for the countless times he made me feel beautiful and special, and distracted me from worry with laughter.

We had the meaty bones of our dinner wrapped up for our dogs, commenting about how no dog in the world deserved a bone with that type of price tag.  We paid the bill, collected our coats, and stepped out onto the Manhattan sidewalks as the snow began to fall.

It felt magical- like the stage hands producing our evening had saved the light snowfall for our stroll back to the train.  We walked slowly.  I made a point to remember every step with the man and the city who made my dreams come true.  We stopped to watch people dancing in the park for a few moments before hailing a cab and heading home.

I knew the night was special.  I just didn’t know how special until the next morning.

I kissed my husband goodnight, noting the warmth of the bourbon on his breath, wrapped my uncoordinated body around my pregnancy pillow, and drifted off into slumber induced by sheer gluttony.

Predictably, I woke up each hour to pee, but at 4:30 in the morning, I found it impossible to get back to sleep. Henry’s head was pressed firmly into my ribs, compressing my lungs and maybe even my tonsils. Sleep was no longer an option.  I checked Facebook.  I texted with a few of my “late night scandalous” friends, and did my best to go back to sleep.  At just before 5:00 a.m., I shifted positions, and felt a large gush unlike any I’d ever felt. Water???  I’d been concerned I’d been leaking amniotic fluid since we had our amniocentesis in the second trimester, but this sensation seemed to render all other “scares” completely moot. I ran to the bathroom, feeling my heart race.

I wasn’t due for another month, and at the very least, wasn’t scheduled to be induced for three weeks. I’d expected an early delivery. Something in my gut had told me this from the start; however, the day my c section was scheduled, I forgot all about the possibility our baby wouldn’t comply with our “plan”.

I sat on the toilet for several minutes, letting my water escape and my heart rate settle.

I woke George up a few minutes later, asking him to guess whose water had broken.  In a sleepy stupor, he asked “Who?”  After a few seconds of silence, his eyes opened wide and in disbelief he asked, “YOURS?!?!”  It seems I wasn’t the only one who’d have bet the ranch we wouldn’t meet our baby before March 25th.

I called the doctor, assured him Henry was still breech, and he told us to make our way to the hospital as soon as we could get there.  His final words before we hung up the phone?  “Let’s have us a baby today!”

Okay, sir.  Let’s do that. Oh my god. Let’s. Do. That.

We scrambled a bit.  Our bags weren’t packed, although thankfully, our laundry was done.  Our dogs needed to pee (and needed a babysitter.)  And unfortunately, my contractions began soon after my water broke, leaving George to fend for himself.

We called a car service and were headed to Mt. Sinai within the hour.  Oddly, I felt as calm as I’d felt in 36 weeks.  I knew that before the day was over, my guts would be sprawled out on a table in an operating room in New York City, while my OB freed our baby from my body, and the entire idea gave me… peace. I realized I’d not had a moment of peace since miscarrying our first baby nearly a year before.

While I was aware our baby was arriving four weeks too soon (a late-term preemie, they would call him), I somehow knew after all we’d been through to get here, Sunday, March 3, 2013 was not going to be a day of defeat.  On the contrary, I peered out of the car window and on to the East River knowing that this day was going to be the greatest celebration of my life.

We arrived at Mt. Sinai, which, as luck would have it, was not the hospital we were “supposed” to deliver.  Because of the Hurricane Sandy damage done to the Labor and Delivery unit at NYU Langone Medical Center, our OB had been doing his deliveries at Mt. Sinai.  Had “we” waited until March 25th, our OB would have transitioned all his patients back to NYU, thus our son would have been born there. As planned.

Our baby laughs in the face of plans.

I was checked in by about 7:15, and because of the intensity of my contractions, the clinicians moved quickly to get me to the operating room.

Once inside, my OB stood in front of me, bracing me for the spinal block. I closed my eyes and felt a pinch in my spine while the team of medical professionals armed to bring my first born son into the world spoke enthusiastically about child birth and the miracle of their jobs. My anesthesiologist happened to be pregnant, and she distracted me with banter over the wonder of what our bodies are capable of.

I didn’t believe any of them. I didn’t believe that tiny pinch in my spine would render me “paralyzed” from the chest down, all the while allowing me to be alert and present for the entire experience.

They guided me onto the operating table, spreading my arms as if I were being strung on a cross. My world was wrapped in flannel. I was safe. Henry was safe. And even though I knew I probably shouldn’t feel so relaxed until I heard the virgin cries of our baby, NOTHING but positivity ran through my mind.

George entered the room moments later. He was cute. Suited in disposable scrubs, he was smiling and seemingly as relaxed as I.

He took his perch by my side, kneading my hand like dough and kissing me ever so often. I wore glasses with lenses several prescriptions old, and although his silhouette was slightly fuzzy, his smile was in focus.

The physicians did their final “time out” before starting my procedure. They talked me through the entire process, alerting me when I should feel pressure. Truly, I felt nothing. I guess they’d not been lying to me after all. I felt the operating table rock a few times, alerting me they were actually performing surgery, but I felt no pressure. I felt no pain. I felt totally alive.

I believe I may have held my breath the entire time. The surgery seemed to last only minutes, and the idea that my insides were resting on the outside never escaped me, but it certainly didn’t concern me. I thought for a moment about the power of the man standing over my stomach- the man with a sharp blade pressed into my abdomen, just inches above my child. I trusted him fully. In a way, this man- this most calming and reassuring OB, had given me the courage to get here. I remember the day I sat on the table in his office and he presented me with a birth plan template and maternity leave paperwork. That day, I smiled and squealed about how I couldn’t believe how I was finally far enough along in my pregnancy to be able to complete such documents. He seemed confused, so I admitted that I never believed I’d make it that far and that even still, I couldn’t believe that I might actually have a baby someday soon.

“You know,” he said, “sometimes good things happen.”

It seemed so simple to him, and for some reason, I believed him above all others.

And now, there he was, sifting his way through my stomach towards my son. He was moments away from putting his money where his mouth was. He was about to make my good thing happen.

I heard him comment about seeing Henry’s butt. Then he confirmed he was a boy, and that was the last thing I heard before an overwhelming wave of nausea rushed through my body. I told the anesthesiologist, who promptly stuck a pan near my cheek as I vomited.

From that moment, time stood still. My body felt sluggish. My mind was unclear. I heard a faint cry from the corner of the operating room, but I wasn’t sure who’s cry it was. Maybe my son? Maybe someone else’s miracle in an operating room neighboring mine? My plan had been for my son to be placed immediately on my skin, but I imagine they took one look at the vomit on my chest and thought better of it. My comfortable flannel world had been replaced by a foggy, medicated one, and the only thing that resonated was when I finally heard George.

“Look over here, Jebbee. There he is.”

I felt my eyes tear as I squinted through my glasses. A nurse held him up for me to see, and oddly, I didn’t feel the way I’d expected to. I’d spent 36 weeks learning and experiencing and getting to know the boy inside of me, and before that, I’d spent a lifetime wondering who he’d be. And now, finally, he was in front of me. His fuzzy image bestowed delicate reddish skin sparsely patched with remnants from his former home inside of me. His gentle eyes were swollen and glossy, his arms and legs scrawny and panicked, and his sweet face smushed from being trapped beneath my rib cage for far too long.

Amidst my medicated haze, I heard someone assure the masses that his face would fill out and his nose would soon straighten. After that, I smelled burning (cauterization, I assume) and drifted into the type of slumber you never expect to wake from.

I awoke in a recovery room later. I was unclear how much time had passed or if I’d dreamt the entire birth. When I saw George’s face, it was clear that some time in the last few hours, we’d become parents. The fuzzy image of my son from the corner of the operating room came rushing back to me, and like a sudden flip of a switch, my cloudy, selfish, medicated brain turned into the mushy, devoted, protective mother I always thought I’d be. I was ravenous and would have clawed through steel to see my baby.

His bassinet was wheeled into the room and my heart raced. And celebrated. And grew larger than ever before. I’d felt shame that our first meeting in the operating room hadn’t been as romantic as I’d pictured, but it no longer mattered. His tiny body was placed in my arms and my entire existence made sense.

I memorized every curve and wrinkle, taking an instant snapshot of our masterpiece that will live in my brain forever. His features, although scrunched from his big day, shined exactly like the features I love in his father. I did not see an ounce of myself in him, but saw a duplicate of the man I will adore forever. His tiny body appeared delicate and frail, but I knew his looks were deceiving. Our boy was strong.

I closed my eyes and inhaled his skin, counted his breaths, and hoped being close to me made him feel safe- made him feel home.

The journey to meet our Henry was long. It was filled with heartache. And triumph. And amazement. Never before had I dreamt of something I never thought actually possible. Once upon a time, our son was the size of a poppy seed. He had a tail and grew arm buds and bones and hair and remarkable features all his own. In 36 weeks, he’d developed into the most beautiful human I could have ever imagined, far more perfect than I could have ever dreamt. He did this inside of me. George and I made a little boy. A most phenomenal little boy. Unbelievable.

George stood over us, involuntarily stroking Henry’s cheek and kissing the top of my head. I could feel him beaming at the family we’d fought so hard to build.

I was proud. Proud of myself and the body I never believed was capable of such miracles. Proud of the perfect little fighter who made his appearance despite unfavorable odds. And proud of the man who never doubted either one of us and believed in this day all along.

The days that followed Henry’s birth were a whirlwind. Against all advice, I didn’t sleep the entire time I was in the hospital. I couldn’t. I was high on life. I could feel the burn of my incision, but it was completely filtered by the electricity of my son. I felt I needed to get to know him. I felt that because he’d arrived four weeks too soon, I needed to provide him with more security than the average baby. The nurses would creep into my room at night, take my vitals, and ask for the hundredth time, “Would you like us to take him to the nursery, so you can get some sleep?” And while I knew it was probably a good idea, I couldn’t part with my new role as his mother.

Breastfeeding was a challenge unlike any I’ve experienced. Our son was born five pounds and 10 ounces- a perfectly respectable size for a boy born too soon. But coined a late-term preemie, the nurses and lactation consultants strongly encouraged formula supplementation until my milk came in. I smirked on the inside. I’d been lactating my entire adult life, and now, while I finally had a purpose for it, my milk seemed to be on vacation. Each consultant assured me that it would take time, and often times, more time with a c section and an early baby. My body hadn’t quite yet prepared to feed him. His neurological ability to suck (and help bring my milk supply to the surface) wasn’t what it should be. So I spent hours in the dark of my hospital room, aimlessly compressing my breasts in hopes of coincidentally nourishing him with drops of colostrum. He was hungry and frustrated, and cried louder than you’d expect from such a tiny thing. On the other side of my room, separated by a thin curtain, I would hear the new baby belonging to my roommate stir. I heard my roommate adjust her hospital bed to a height she was able to lift her daughter from the bassinet, and within seconds, I’d hear the tiny wimpers consoled as her full-term baby latched on and nursed for half an hour. The nurses asked each of us how long our babies had nursed each time they did their rounds. My roommate would sleepily answer with a simple, “She did great. Fifteen minutes on one side and 12 on the other.” Then the nurse would ask me. I had no idea. All things considered, I shoved my boob in his tiny face for an hour and a half and tried to hit the screaming, moving, uncoordinated target with the tiny drips I’d vice gripped out of my nipple. I didn’t know how to answer. We supplemented with formula and each moment I wasn’t feeding him a bottle, I was hooked up to the breast pump trying to expedite the arrival of my milk supply. It seemed an impossible feat, but certainly one I didn’t intend to give up on.

We attended a breastfeeding class in the hospital. I slowly pushed his bassinet to the end of the hallway, shuffling my feet and trying not to jostle my guts. I sat in the classroom with other new mothers armed with chubby eight and nine pounders. Henry looked like a different species. The lactation consultant started the class by having us latch our babies, so she could assess our needs. The other mothers promptly cradled their newborns, guided their heads into position, and within seconds, the room was filled with the sounds of contented swallows. It’s a rare instance I’m not an overachiever, but in this situation, I felt like a total failure. I cradled my son, guided his wiry head toward my body, and instantly, he began to fight and scream. I was jealous. And discouraged. But the lactation consultant was patient and kind and gently explained that my breastfeeding challenges may be a bit different than those of a mother nursing a full term baby. Either way, she assured me we’d figure it out. And I believed her.

After three nights in the hospital, I received the discharge orders from my OB. I was healing well, moving around better than they’d anticipated, and by all accounts, was ready to start my new life- at home- with my miracle boy. It was then a matter-of-fact pediatric resident gave me the news that Henry would need to stay in the hospital under the photo therapy lights for the night. He was showing bilirubin levels that needed improvement, and a night under the lights would most likely resolve all concern. The news hit me like an intersection collision. I had no worries about his health. I knew he was in perfect hands. I knew plenty of babies with jaundice in the early days of their lives. But, I was devastated to leave him alone. I’d been discharged and despite my most tearful pleas, I was unable to stay with him for the night. I pumped breast milk until my nipples felt they might implode, hoping to leave him with as much of his mother as I could for the night. George and I kissed him goodbye and left the hospital without him. I nearly cried the whole way home.

The next morning, we made our way back to Mt. Sinai to see our baby. When we arrived, we stood at the nursery glass watching our tiny son, in a diaper and tiny “sunglasses” soak up the artificial rays. The bottle of breast milk was empty, comforting me and helping me feel as though maybe Henry had felt me with him through the night. Nurses buzzed through the nursery, burping and feeding and swaddling with finesse, and finally, one of the nurses finished diapering a dark haired little boy and motioned for us to come see our son. She flipped off his photo therapy lights, swaddled him, and brought him into the hall.

She explained they’d tested his bilirubin earlier that morning, but were waiting for the doctor to review it. Regardless, I felt total confidence his results would be perfect and he’d be coming home with us soon. We wheeled him into a waiting room, found an isolated corner, and I cradled him in my arms and attempted another breast feed. Oddly, it seemed things were clicking. We were FAR from “good” at it, but for the first time, I was able to provide a timeframe. Had someone asked, I’d have proudly reported that my son, my brilliant son, had nursed for about three successful minutes. Victory!

Shortly after the worlds shortest, but successful, nursing session, the pediatrician reported his bilirubin levels were within normal range, and we were free to take our new baby home.


Our days following Henry’s arrival in our home have been busy. We’ve lived life in two hour “Groundhog’s Day” increments. We diaper, feed, pump, swaddle, rock, nap, diaper, feed, pump, swaddle, rock, nap. We were fortunate enough to have the help (and company) of both of our mothers and one of my very best friends. And today, on our son’s actual due date, I can report that we are in a very good place. Despite early concerns, he’s gaining weight, my milk came in, our son grasps how to nurse (for the most part), his nose is straightening and showing no signs of impairing his ability to breathe, and our dogs have settled into their big sister roles like professionals.

For years I doubted I’d ever know the wonder of child birth. I feared I’d never feel a baby inside of me, or a baby nourishing at my breast. I marveled at the mystery I would most likely never know. And now, I no longer wonder. I know. I have experienced joy that cannot be described and miracles I cannot understand.

My life will never be the same. And I am eternally grateful.

It is an absolute honor to introduce you to our most amazing son. He was born at 8:53 a.m. on March 3, 2013. Thank you for following his journey, for rooting for his survival, and for being a part of all of our lives.








My George  turned 38 last month.  I uncharacteristically ordered gifts at the last minute, wrapped them the morning of, and failed to write him the long birthday letter I usually tuck inside of his card each year.   Pregnancy has taken a toll on my ability to get things done, to prioritize, and make special the things I used to take such pride in, and I would imagine once Henry is born, it won’t improve- at least not for a while.

But George, years after meeting him, is still more than I could have ever dreamt of, more than I probably deserve, and certainly warrants more than the sprinkles I lazily applied to his half-assed birthday cake.  So, as a do-over for the day I “under celebrated”, I want to tell you about the new George- the one who makes the dream of having a family more beautiful and exciting than I ever imagined.

Infertility is such a challenge.  It’s a personal struggle, a financial drain, and a massive hurdle for relationships.  There were days I turned inside of myself, feeling hopeless and heartbroken.  Sometimes, George could lift my spirits and tell me we were gonna be okay, no matter. And most of the time, I believed him.  But sometimes, his optimism felt belittling and left me feeling invalidated.  I knew this was never his intention, but when I was at my lowest, I wondered how he could hold on to such positivity.  I was the positive one in our relationship, and I found myself crumbling toward rock bottom with each failed attempt to have a child.  The fact that he was positive made me think he didn’t want a family as badly as I did.  I experienced fleeting moments of wondering how two people who did such due diligence prior to getting married could have failed to want the same things with the same exact passion.  My doubts in having a baby would sometimes turn into doubts in our marriage’s ability to survive ten to fifteen years down the road.  I worried I’d forever feel incomplete, and feared I’d struggle with bitterness that would only deplete my value as his wife.  He couldn’t love me if I was bitter and stuck in the past.  He fell in love with me because I was happy and lively and positive about most everything.  He couldn’t love me if I felt something was missing.  After all, he assured me a million times that he was complete with me and me alone.

The doubts about our marriage were always minor, and had nothing to do with him and more to do with the person I knew I wanted to be for him.  Could I be that person without ever knowing the joy of being the mother to our genetic creation?  Would he grow to resent me for allowing myself to be broken by infertility?

And then we found ourselves pregnant in an RE’s office.  The news was so unexpected and so surreal that we floated for weeks.  I knew in that moment the years of infertility weren’t wasted, and that if anything, they’d strengthened our marriage.  I was abundantly reassured that George had wanted a baby as badly as I did, only he’d found the strength to keep his head up while I fell victim to our monthly failures.  He didn’t keep his head up because it was easy.  He kept his head up because he knew I needed him to.

When we miscarried our first baby, I felt heartbreak unlike any I’d ever experienced.  I wore crusty eyes and sweat pants for weeks.  I cried loud, trembling tears in his arms and sobbed about fairness and the bullshit of “reason”.  We shared our sadness, only he did a better job of masking his when I was having a “good” day.

A few weeks after our loss, we stood in our bedroom putting clean sheets on our bed when he shared something with me I never expected.

“You know what scares me?” he began.  “I’m terrified that if we never have a baby, I won’t be enough for you.”

I held my breath.  I felt immeasurable shame and disgusting guilt.

How could I have made him feel that way?!?!

George had saved me.  He’d figuratively picked me up off the floor month after month.  He’d distracted me with sight seeing strolls through the city and sporting events and Broadway shows and deep conversations that kept us up hours into the night.  He’d built a life for me far better than I ever imagined I’d live, and he made me laugh, gave me strength, supported me, and never failed to put his hand on the small of my back at exactly the right moments.
And I’d left him feeling there was a chance he would someday not be enough for me.

Baby or no baby.  Adoption or no adoption.  Surrogacy or no surrogacy.  George was enough.  He’d always been enough.  And I’d been a fool to ever think he wouldn’t be enough for a lifetime.

Today, we are 34 weeks and 2 days pregnant.  In the early weeks, I lost scary amounts of blood.  George took over every chore.  I planted firmly on the couch, getting up for work, for showers, and to pee, and focused solely on carrying our baby.  Just as I began to settle into pregnancy, we received results indicating our son’s elevated likelihood of having a spinal defect.  We clung to optimism we didn’t know we had, and George held my hand while we awaited results of our amniocentesis.  (The results were a complete relief, by the way.)  Again, George took on the load of our lives, while I rested to let my uterus heal.

Because of certain complications throughout the pregnancy, we’ve averaged a doctor’s appointment a week for all three trimesters.  George has rearranged his work schedule to attend nearly every one.  And although I doubt he’d ever admit it, I believe he’s done this because if I ever received bad news, he didn’t want me to be alone.  Sure he’s enjoyed hearing heartbeats and seeing ultrasounds, but I believe he is present for me- just in case.

When I was in high school, I read this story in a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book.  It was about a man whose wife lost her eyesight.  I don’t remember the specifics (and will probably mangle the story a bit), but basically, when the wife decided to get back to her “normal” life after the tragedy, the husband walked with her to the bus stop each morning.  He helped her count steps, developed a relationship with the driver, and guided her onto the bus.  He helped familiarize her with a routine she would one day be able to tackle alone.  After many weeks (or months?), the wife felt confident, and the husband began to taper his assistance- first walking her most of the way, then half of the way, and then finally, giving her total independence.
Months later, a new driver took over the route.  The wife boarded the bus each day with confidence, and one day, the driver asked her if she knew the man who followed her to the stop each day.  He told her the man watched until she was safely on the bus, and then walked away.  Although her husband had given her the gift of independence, he’d kept a silent eye on her from afar the entire time.

That story, of all the mushy love stories in that book, stuck out to me.

I feel, in so many ways, I live that story.

George is there even when I’m too blind to see.

We’ve discussed our “plans” in the tragic (and nearly unspeakable) event that something happens to us while our son is young.  I know it is a necessary conversation, but one of the most difficult ones I’ve ever had.  I cry each time, knowing that WE are supposed to raise our son and thinking of any other scenario is unfathomable.  I want to be Henry’s mother until I’m so old I nearly disintegrate, but almost more than that, I want- no I NEED George to be there.  The image of our son inheriting the kind and gentle behaviors of his father inspires me.  A little boy could have no greater example.  And the world shall smile in hopes of a duplicate.

We’ve nearly completed Henry’s nursery.  We finished our childbirth classes.  We’ve read the books.  And we’ve never felt more excited.

Now we wait the supposed six weeks until our son arrives.  Until then, we suck the life out of our final moments alone while we anticipate the arrival of the day our lives will never be the same.

George, your birthday cake next year will be out of this world.  Promise.



31 Weeks and Our Kansas Baby Shower!

by Jen on January 27, 2013

I woke up this morning with an assumed 63 days left in my pregnancy.


Writing about my experiences throughout this process has been so important to me.  I never want to forget how I felt, and I want a permanent record of our fears and celebrations along the way.  But writing has fallen to the wayside a bit, as I’ve become overwhelmed with exhaustion and “to do” lists before Henry arrives.

His nursery is coming together and should be done in a week or two, the laundry has been washed, folded, and put away, and I spend at least half an hour of each day sitting in the glider in the nursery just staring and smiling.

George has begun to have normal conversations with my stomach.  Surprisingly, the guy who is good at everything (except for putting together nursery furniture) was incredibly awkward with talking to his baby in the beginning.  I was taken aback when each time he’d lean in to “familiarize the baby with his voice”, he’d say “Hey bayba” in some strange, deep, radio personality voice.  I didn’t say anything at first, thinking this may just be his way of getting into his fatherly groove, but after a few weeks, I finally asked why he kept talking to him with someone else’s voice?!?  Even with me bringing it up, his Howard Stern impression continued for a few weeks and gently eased into normal conversations spoken with his normal voice.  (I secretly believe that if I’m having a moment of baby meltdown, I may have to get a Sirius subscription so I can calm him with Howard now.)

Our last ultrasound shows the baby is still “head up”.  It is said most babies flip to the “head down” (and proper birthing position) between 28 and 32 weeks, so our guy may be a little late to the party.  I missed two days of work last week because he was sideways in my stomach (head lodged in my right rib and feet apparently smashing something vital).  I was struggling to walk, so I took some time lying on my side hoping to shake him into another position.  By Friday, he was back to normal- head still lodged in my right side but feet back on my bladder.  (Who knew that would become more comfortable than the alternative?)

We’ve not had a growth scan in a while, but literature puts babies at this point in their gestation averaging about 16 inches long and 3-ish pounds.  I’ve got to admit that I’m a bit more wimpy than I thought I’d be, but I do believe our son, even with his fascination with my bladder, takes it easy on me.  His kicks and jabs are relatively gentle, and his sleep patterns seem to coincide with mine- meaning he’s not the reason I’m up at all hours of the night.  That gift is due to my baby-sized bladder, heart burn, leg cramps, and insane carpal tunnel (pregnancy induced, they say).  (Ever tried to take your pants off, wipe, and flush in the middle of the night when your hands won’t bend?  So much fun.)

Two weeks ago, I made my final trip (sans baby) to Kansas.  My cousin, Casey, threw me a baby shower.  First, calling her my cousin annoys me.  Yes, she is my cousin, but she’s more than that.  She’s been the closest thing I’ve had to a sister and has been my best friend since birth.  I’ve tried to come up with a word that defines her better than “cousin/bff”, but my ability to make a “word baby” falls short here.  Second, she threw my third baby shower.  I’m a girl who doubted ever having a reason for a baby shower, and I’ve experienced THREE.  (I will never question how fortunate I am and how incredible people are to me.)

Casey and I are opposites in tons of ways.  She’s reserved.  I’m a blabbermouth.  She’s a TOTAL perfectionist, while I’m a “eh, looks good enough to me!”.  She is organized and planned and responsible, and I’m the dreamer dancing in the corner.  To put it plainly, SHE’S GEORGE!  (How either of them put up with me is a miracle all its own.)

I never had a single expectation for any of the showers I’ve been given, but my friends must think I’m high maintenance, because they pulled out all the stops.

The shower was beautiful and beyond my dreams.  Many of my gifts had been previously shipped to New York, so I wasn’t expecting a big gift haul, but even those who shipped things, still brought other stuff.  I believe all babies should enter this world with the same fan club as our baby.  People have been so generous and supportive from the start.  Blows me away.

My other BFF, Meredith, took over photography duty for the shower, so here are a few photos from the day.

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Casey, you are my parenting and marriage role model, my common sense sounding board, my 6:00 a.m. phone call, my memory when I’m drawing blanks, my greatest secret keeper, and my lifelong friend.  And, you already are the best Aunt a little boy could ask for.  I will never be able to thank you enough for all you’ve done.

I left Kansas feeling satisfied.  Our son was blessed with more gifts than could fit in three giant shipping boxes, my mother got to feel Henry’s squirms for hours, my grandma made fudge and two kushies for the baby (her fudge is perfection and her kushies are legendary), I shared guacamole with my other grandma (a tradition I won’t ever give up on),  I spent much needed quality time with my best friends, I played with Casey’s kids for the final time before they prefer their new cousin over me, and I got to share my joy with the people I love.

Every one of my experiences this pregnancy- even the scary ones, have been ones I have learned from and will never forget.  I am happier and more fulfilled than I’ve ever been, and I couldn’t ask for more. 



The Third Trimester

by Jen on January 6, 2013

Photography has taken a backseat to being pregnant and moving and working and being too achy and tired to lug around any of my equipment, but I hate that.  I get so much pleasure out of reliving memories captured by my camera that it’s a total shame I don’t snap at least one picture a week.  So, in an effort to keep me on task with something I enjoy so much, I’m going to participate in a 52 week photo project with Shutter|bag.  Each week, a topic is assigned and this week’s topic (nothing like getting it in juuuust under the wire) is “Future”.

There are zero requirements for photos.  Use your cell phone.  Use a mac daddy camera.  Use a point and shoot.  Edit.  Don’t edit.  Crop.  Don’t crop.  Whatever.  Just take pictures!  Each week, post your photo to the Shutter|bag Facebook page (or tag it that way).  You can also post to Twitter or Instagram using #shutter52 to join!  In case you are interested in participating, here are the prompts for January.

Today I am 28 weeks pregnant.  I am in the THIRD (and final) TRIMESTER!!! (The sound of checking off milestones makes my heart flutter.)   It is said our son would have a 95% chance at survival (with intense medical interventions) if he were born today.  He lives with a head in my right rib cage and his feet pressing on my bladder.  He is shy in ultrasounds and rarely gives his father much play.  He will be dancing up a storm, and as soon as I guide George’s hand toward the performance, Henry freezes… or falls asleep.  Dude is very tired, you see.

I’m not craving anything in particular, really.  I eat a lot of Indian food and a lot of Mexican food, so spice doesn’t seem to bother him.  My poor burning heart on the other hand?  Yuck.  Otherwise, Cap’n Crunch is my other “go to”.

The third trimester brings about a fatigue similar to the very first trimester.  I’m happy to be in bed by 9:00, as I have lots of peeing to accomplish in the middle of the night!  Last night I managed an entire night’s sleep with only two bathroom visits, but most other nights average about five.

I’m still peeing myself quite a bit and find Poise pads to be my best defense.  (Thank you to my Facebook friends for that advice!)

Henry’s nursery is a mess.  We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, and if I could ever find a few extra hours of energy, I might start whipping it into shape.  Any day now…

I leave for Kansas this coming week!   (It’s the last week my doctor has approved me to fly.)  Casey is throwing a baby shower for me, and I’m ecstatic!  I can’t wait to see my friends and family and talk about Henry until they are sick of the sound of my voice.  Because the next time I return to Kansas, nobody will care to hear me speak at all.  It’ll be alllllllll about my boy by then.  Awesome, awesome, awesome!

Twelve. More. Weeeeeeeeeeks!



The New Year and Mad Love For Last Year

by Jen on January 1, 2013

It’s been cold and dreary for nearly a week. The sun has hidden behind the haze making New York City gloomier than I prefer. It snowed for about twenty minutes on Saturday, but nothing stuck, leaving damp, salt-stained sidewalks and disappointed school children.

George and I boarded the E train in Queens Monday morning, sandwiched ourselves in between other commuters, and rode 20 bumpy minutes into Manhattan to tackle another day of work- the last day of work for 2012. We emerged from the underground at Park Avenue and 33rd Street to the beautiful view of the Empire State Building, and it dawned on me… I’ve been in New York City for a year!

Our dream of living in New York City came as a secondary dream to building our family. When two years of trying to get pregnant resulted in two years of repeat disappointments, we shifted our focus and finances to the “other” dream. To this day, I can’t really wrap my mind around how perfectly things fell into place.

It started as a pipe dream, and then a hypothetical conversation, and into a “let’s throw something at the wall and see if it sticks” scenario. George applied for a job in the city, got an interview, got a job offer the same day, found an apartment the following day, and moved to New York City thirty days after the fact. It didn’t take months of ignored applications and fruitless interviews. It happened in a nearly effortless instant.

 We rented out our Tallahassee house with ease, sold our cars right away, and before I knew what was happening, we were here- in the middle of our dream.

I got pregnant a month and a half later.

It was the most shocking news of my entire life, and certainly news that led me to believe that New York City was as “meant to be” as sunshine.

That pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, ripping all optimism from my veins and crippling me to the confines of my tiny Upper East Side apartment for what seemed like decades.  Desperate to suffocate our sadness, we proactively began trying for another baby, only to find ourselves pregnant two months later.  That pregnancy failed to survive past five weeks, leaving us heartbroken and questioning our mission once again.  And then, as shockingly as the times before, we found ourselves pregnant again one month later.

And we still are.  Twenty-seven weeks, to be specific.

In 2012, sometime in between gazing at buildings so tall they touch the sky and learning underground transit mazes and soaking in culture deeper than my imagination, my infertile body was pregnant nearly 10 1/2 months.  And if all goes as it should, I will be pregnant three more in 2013.  I thank New York for this.  That probably sounds strange, but I do.  I thank New York for giving me a distraction, for giving George and I a once in a lifetime adventure, for eliminating the stresses of a job I disliked for far too long, for inspiring me, for helping me overcome fears, for helping me heal, and for inadvertently handing me my primary dream while living my secondary one.

The last year has changed me in so many ways.  For one, if I never drove a car again, I think I’d be juuuuuust fine.  And my definition of what is beautiful in the world has shifted a bit.  But more than that, I’ve faced the deepest heartaches and the sincerest moments of happiness of my entire life.  My friendships have deepened, as I found myself pulled from the hells of my miscarriage by the support and know-how of my very best friends.  My marriage, while always solid, feels more unbreakable than ever before.  My dreams of holding my child… our child… have nearly come true.  And I find myself wondering how the hell I got here.  How the hell did I get here? And… how the hell do I stay here?  Forever?

I feel so deeply content, and don’t feel I can expect the same good fortune in 2013 if I don’t profess dire appreciation for the hand I was dealt in 2012.  There were days I thought I’d fall apart, but the days that helped rebuild me were far more frequent.  And far more powerful.

I fell asleep well before midnight last night, only to be kissed by my husband as the ball dropped.  (He’s going to teach my Henry to be such a good man.)

My first day of 2013 marks 89 days until our baby is due to arrive.  That’s pretty bad ass, isn’t it?

Oh, and before I close… we had a 3D ultrasound this week (what a cool experience!).  As usual, our son wanted nothing to do with having his picture taken, as he covered his face with his hands and smashed his face into the placenta to avoid the paparazzi.  (I hope he softens to the idea of having a camera in his face because… well… I’M his mom!)

I didn’t expect to leave feeling like I knew what our baby would look like, but I was in awe over how much I felt he resembled my George.  See that frowny mouth?  That totally belongs to his father.  🙂



Our Tallahassee Baby Shower

by Jen on December 22, 2012

Before the days of failed pregnancy tests, and fertility drugs, and miscarriage, and invasive inspections of my reproductive factory, I saw pregnancy through different eyes.  I saw it as a 40 week celebration of pinks and blues filled with anecdotal food cravings and the occasional bout of heartburn.

But after my struggles, pregnancy feels more like an Olympics training camp.  A 24/7 battle to get to the goal.  No frills.  Just hard work and determination.  A battle of mental and physical wills.  I’ve foregone much of the standard celebrations, as I’ve been busy holding my breath.  I’ve spent the majority of my pregnancy too scared to look at the medal, convincing myself I’d be counting my chickens before they hatched, and then, praying like hell my chicken doesn’t hatch a moment before he’s supposed to.

So when Shayna and Renee offered to throw me a baby shower, it felt strange- almost like I wasn’t supposed to have one.  But I accepted their generosity with enthusiasm and began registering for our baby the same day.  (You gotta be on the ball, you know.)

I flew to Tallahassee for said shower this past weekend.  My shower!   I barely slept the night before, knowing I’d be reunited with so many people I love, who love me, and even more than that, people who LOVE my unborn baby.  I couldn’t wait to show them the belly I’m so proud of, and hoped Henry might even high five a few of them through my skin (although he only performed for my sister-in law, for Shayna, for Amanda Smith, and for my mother-in-law).  Stingy.

Renee allowed me to crash with her, allowing me ample time with my nine month old nephew, who reminded me a million times how much fun is in my immediate future.  That kid does things to my heart I’ve never experienced.  (And for fun, here are a couple photos I was able to capture that will make you fall in love right along with me.)  It’s nearly impossible to imagine how my love for my own son will be even stronger.

I was emotional from the moment I landed.  Everyone was busy celebrating my belly- touching on my stomach, squealing polite “you’re all belly” types of sentiments, and talking to my fetus like he might respond.  Every gesture made me happy.  I don’t have many personal boundaries (shocking, I know), so I accept most all advances with enthusiasm.

I even got to talk “baby” with some of my littlest buddies over stir fry and marshmallow ice cream.

 The experience seemed nearly “out of body”.  I watched the weekend unfold, firmly centered around my baby and me.  The shower was beautiful.  My friends proved how well they know me by thinking of the tiniest details and crafting them in a way they knew I’d adore.

Brightly colored month-by-month stickers adorned a garland of onesies, and my friends all wrote notes for me to open each month of Henry’s first year.  My craft-deficient ass was blown away by the intricate choo-choo train constructed of totally reusable baby items by my friend Betsy of The Booten Family Blog fame (also my Fuzz’s phenomenal daycare provider, and her mother, Beth.)  (Betsy also constructed the diaper babies that decorated the room.)  Impressed?  Yeah, me too.  (She’s also a fabulous photographer and provided some of the photos for this post!)  Shayna put together Sunflower centerpieces to remind me of my Kansas roots and threw in baby’s breath because, um duh, it was a BABY shower.

The menu was thorough.  (Right down to Bloody Marys and Mimosas.) The food was delicious. (I had shrimp and grits.)  And desserts were provided by a good friend of mine, who used to work with me in a boring office setting and now flexes her brilliance in the kitchen by baking some of the best stuff I’ve ever tasted!  (Thank Oprah she didn’t bake often when we worked together, because my stomach knows no limits.)  If you are in or around Tallahassee, I STRONGLY suggest you talk to her about impressing the guests of your next event with her sugar cookies.  Ho-lay mo-lay.  Check out Cakes by Alisha on Facebook!

One of the coolest, most “make me tear up” moments of the shower was the favor cards placed on the table.  In honor of my fight to conceive, Shayna and Renee made donations in lieu of favors to Resolve, The National Infertility Association.  I don’t know if I’ll ever stop thinking of myself as infertile- even when they place my baby on my belly in the hospital.  The fear and pain of repeated failures and never knowing if we’d “get here” is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  Their donations toward helping someone else “get here” means more to me than I can explain.

I’m not a big baby shower gamer.  The thought of melted candy bars in diapers disturbs me, so instead, we played a Newlywed Game of sorts.  They asked George a slew of baby related questions prior to the shower, got his answers, and then asked me to see if mine matched.  Such. Pressure.  I’m not totally sure how we scored, but George’s answers were perfect.  Por ejemplo:

Question:  What physical quality of yours do you hope the baby inherits?
George:  I don’t know.  My eyes, I guess.

Question:  What physical quality of Jen’s do you hope the baby inherits?
George:  Everything else.  Except for her boobs, because that would be completely unfortunate.

That guy… is the dopest I know.

I spent a couple of hours visiting with friends, opening gift after gift after gift after…  I wasn’t able to fit it all in my suitcase home, that’s for sure.

I can’t begin to thank my friends and family enough.  Some traveled hours to get there, others spent a gajillion dollars hosting the thing and/or buying gifts, and I was even lucky enough to “meet” a blog friend for the first time!  She’s been a loyal blog supporter and follower, and made her way to my shower!  How lucky is this baby?!?!?  Two people I’d never even met gave him a gift!  People are awesome.  And “we” are grateful.

No one will ever convince me that I’m not blessed with the greatest friends in the world.

Shayna and Renee, I wanted to hug you and thank you and cry and vomit emotions of gratitude all over you, but you know me better than that.  The knot in my throat doesn’t allow for me to say all the things I feel sometimes, especially if those things might choke me up.  I’m better when I have a chance to compose my blubbering self and put those feelings on paper.  This celebration of motherhood once seemed like such a distant dream, and you both put your whole hearts in to making my baby shower something beyond what I could even hope for.  I know how lucky I am.  And I love you both.




by Jen on December 9, 2012

Not being religious, it’s often difficult to declare miracles, but pregnancy, whether an act of divinity or biology or luck or a combination of all three, can really only be described as such.

People GROW people!

I swear it.  There is a person who will one day make decisions and friends and love GROWING inside of me.

I promise I didn’t just figure this out, but each day it becomes more unbelievably believable.  Each morning, his movements become more deliberate and profound than the last, and yet I feel more and more in disbelief as the shapes and motions of a real live person form in my imagination.

Yesterday morning, I woke up and rolled from my side to my back and instinctively placed my hand on my abdomen.  My normally solid stomach was mushier than usual setting the perfect stage for me to identify the hard lump amidst the mush as my son’s butt.  Or maybe head?  But I’m going with butt.  Careful not to startle him out of position, I “subtly” walloped George in the head to get his attention.  We both touched on my stomach as if it oozed brilliance, and eventually, our baby repositioned and disappeared into the mush.

I’ve felt his flutters and tickles and even brutal kicks, but I’d never been able to trace an outline of his body against my own skin before.  Amazing.  And one of those things that makes this all so miraculously unbelievable.

He’s approximately one foot long and weighs nearly two pounds.  That’s like a super bulky Subway sandwich!  In my guts!

I’m forever in awe of this experience.

I’m 24 weeks pregnant today!

And despite the magic and wonder of this experience, I’ve started to fall victim to some of pregnancy’s not-so-fun side effects.  My hands and feet continue to swell.  I’m needing a Tums or two each night before bed.  The stretch marks are taunting me.  I got my first charlie horse in the calf that sent me into a loud yelp in the middle of the night.  And the amniotic fluid I swore I’d been leaking has turned out to be pee.  Yep.  Pee.  I’ve been peeing myself all day every day and didn’t realize it because my urine is so diluted due to my hyper-hydrating in an effort to replenish the amniotic fluid I wasn’t leaking.


You have no idea how happy I was to learn I’d been pissing my pants!

Amniotic fluid, you stay put.

My OB instructed me to find a maternity belt to “lift” the pregnancy off my bladder a bit, so after some sound advice from my Facebook panel, I’ve made a decision.

Can’t WAIT for the comfort of a bra for my belly.  Good times.

No matter, I wouldn’t want things to be ANY different!  Growing a person is a privilege.  I am honored to have this opportunity.  Even if it means I pee my pants for the rest of my life.




Give Peace A Chance

by Jen on December 8, 2012

I wrote this in August right after finding out we were pregnant.  Some days this pregnancy feels like it’s flown by, but this post collected dust as it’s been in “drafts” folder for so long.  I’d forgotten all about it until today when I was thinking about how lucky we are to be 24 weeks pregnant tomorrow.  I’d nearly forgotten that my initial blood tests showed hCG levels so low that the likelihood of this pregnancy being “viable” was slim to none.  But as sure as I sit here, the baby inside me is pressing firmly on my bladder and saying, “not viable, my ass”.   

I struggled to stay in bed beyond 6:30 that Saturday morning.  It was the end of my most recent two week wait, and I had to pee.  Badly.  I pulled a pregnancy test from the drawer in our tiny bathroom, peed, and waited on the toilet for three of the longest minutes of my life to pass.

I checked my cell phone to guarantee I’d waited the full time, and with a heart beating like a bass drum, I faced the digital window of the test expecting the worst.


The bitch said “Pregnant”.

Holy super sperm.

I climbed in bed, kneeing huffing wiener dogs out of the way, and slid close to a sleeping George.

“I have something to show you!” I sang.

Without stirring, he sleepily translated my enthusiasm.

“We’re pregnant?”

“Mmm hmmm!”

“You’re kidding!”  He sat up abruptly, studying my face for proof.

After experiencing a chemical pregnancy the month prior, we both knew a blood test was in order before we began to celebrate.

I took the bus to 42nd Street.  It was empty, as it often tends to be at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday.  I walked to First Avenue and 38th Street, where my world of skyscrapers and concrete open up to the blue skies that accompany the East River.  And while the East River may not be one of New York’s most beautiful landmarks, the early morning sunlight made glitter on the water that separates Manhattan from Queens.

“Good morning.” I whispered to my sleepy sister borough.

For a moment, I felt I might be the only person awake in Manhattan.  Just me.  And my maybe baby.

I entered the NYU Fertility Center, rode the elevator to the 5th floor, and offered up a few vials of my blood.

“We’ll call you when we get the results!” chirped the blonde nurse with the ever-cheerful toenail polish that always matched her sandals.

I liked her.  She didn’t fit in.  Too vibrant for a fertility office and far too “neon” to blend into New York City.  Her personality matched her lime toes and strappy sandals, and I always felt lucky when she drew my blood.

I left the doctor’s office with fewer ants in my pants.  I plugged in my earbuds and strolled to the edge of the island to capture a cell phone shot of the dancing water and the Queens skyline.  Music pumped into my ears and through my veins.  The sun touched my cheeks as I stood totally alone staring across the river and hoping that in a few hours, I may receive the phone call that would forever change my life.

Lost in the fantasy of finally bringing a child into this world, I closed my eyes, concentrated on the words of the song in my ears, and held my breath.

And then, someone touched me on my shoulder.

Startled, I whipped around and ripped the earphones from my ears.

I hadn’t been alone after all.

“Do you have the time?” he asked.

He was tall, maybe 6’5″?  And possibly homeless?  His black skin was ashy and cracking.  His dreads were disheveled, and his beard maintained crumbs and fuzz and flakes of skin.

“I’m sorry?”  I stuttered, still shocked to have company.

“The time?”

He raised his arm and pointed to his wrist.

“Oh, ummm, sure.”  I checked my wrist that has been watchless for three years and then rummaged through my bag for my cell phone.  At this moment, I panicked.

Oh my god.  I’m at the edge of the island in a city that sleeps until at least 10:00 a.m. on Saturdays.  I’ve walked off the beaten path to take a fucking picture- a picture that looks like shit for that matter- and this guy is going to rob me, or hurt me, or throw me into the back of that van over there.

My eyes scanned the vacant city hoping to see a morning dog walker, or a runner, or a grumpy cab driver, but we were alone.  Totally alone in the city that I’ve never been alone in before, thanks to the hoards of people who are typically everywhere I want to be.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuuuuuuuuck.  Why didn’t I stay on First Avenue?!?!?  I’m probably pregnant.  This is NO time to talk to strangers.

“It’s…. ummmm…” I fumbled with my phone.  “It’s ummmm, 7:47.”

He nodded, thanked me, and turned to walk away.

I exhaled, feeling relief.  I’d been spared.

I walked away as quickly as I could, deciding that I needed all my senses and music would have to wait until I was back to a crowded street where there would be witnesses.


He was behind me.  He’d decided I was worthy of being thrown in the back of a van so he could make a skin shirt out of me.  I regretted being plus-sized more than ever.

Don’t turn around, idiot.  Keep on walkin’.

“Ma’am.”  He tapped me on the should again.


I turned around, accepting my fate.  I’d already made the mistake.  Might as well face him head on.

“Wanna know my name?” He smiled.

Is that his “I’m going to eat your skin off.” type of smile, or his, “I want you to call me by name when I’m raping you” type of smile, or his “I’m a lonely man looking for a friend” type of smile?

I looked confused.  Paralyzed and confused.

“Okay, I’ll give you a hint,” he continued.

He spread his arms, closed his eyes, and began to sing, grooving his shoulders and head, and snapping his fingers to the beat.

“All we are saaaaaaying, is giiive peace a chaaaaaaance.”

He opened his eyes, “Can you guess now?”

“Ummm…. John?”  I played along.

“Yes!” he clapped.  I’m John!”  He smiled, revealing a mouth of sparse teeth and swollen gums.  His eyes sparkled, absorbing all threats I saw in them a few minutes earlier.

“And you are a Mets fan?!?!”

“Huh?”  I was still confused.

“Your shirt.” He pointed.  “You like the Mets?”

I looked down to the shirt I’d slept in the night before.  I’d been too excited about having blood work done that I’d failed to change.  “Shea” spread across my chest.

“Oh, not really.  It’s my husba…”

“Would you believe I used to live in Flushing not TWO FEET from Shea when I was a boy?!?!” he rambled.  “Ooooh weeee!  Those were the days!”

We began walking together, partially because I was still hoping to make it back to witness territory, and partially because we happened to be heading in the same direction.

“You ever been to Shea?”

“No, just to Citifield.” I answered.

“Shame.”  He shook his head.  “Nothin’ like Shea.  I miss it.”

He was silent for a moment.

“Wanna hear another song?” he asked.

“Uh, sure?”

With the same soulful groove, he began to sing another John Lennon song I didn’t recognize.

“I don’t know that one.” I admitted.

He put his hand to his heart and gasped.  “What?!?!”

“What is it?”  I smiled.

“It’s my favorite one of all.  My favorite one of all.”

The M15 slowed into the stop.

“That’s my bus.” I nodded.  “It was nice meeting you.”

“You too, baby!  You too!”

I stepped onto the bus and slid into a window seat and watched as my friend, John Lennon, continued down the street.  As my bus passed him, I saw his eyes were closed and his shoulders were swaying, and I imagined he was singing “Give Peace A Chance” at the top of his lungs.

It’s hard, I think, balancing caution and warmth.  I was scared of John Lennon.  I was.  My instinct was to be friendly, but my gut told me to run.  I was sure he’d tie me up in a basement and feed me mouse sandwiches and urine, but he didn’t.  He did, however, sing me two songs- songs of peace, no less, and tell me a story of when he was a little boy.

Maybe there will come a day I regret not running, a day I will regret entertaining the banter  that lands me in a dangerous situation, but for now, I believe sometimes people simply crave a connection and have a burning need to tell their stories.

I came home, told George his story, waited for the doctor to call, and added a few John Lennon songs to my favorite playlist.



I’m not sure who LL is talking about.  I know few people raised in Brooklyn, and I am by no means fit to represent Queens- still I find myself singing the “Doin’ It” lyrics pretty much every time I walk the dogs.

We are moved.  Settled, but not “finished”.  A sea of boxes remain shoved in the room that will soon become our son’s.  You see, in Manhattan, we had about four pieces of furniture because… well, that’s all that fit.  Part of our stuff was in a storage facility in Harlem and the rest of our stuff was crammed to the gills in our four pieces of furniture.  Now that our square footage has nearly doubled, we decided to end our storage contract and find room for it in our new apartment.  Soooo, four pieces of furniture no longer sufficed.  We bought a few new pieces (our moving budget blown, of course) and are now in the process of organizing what goes where.

The main problem, as I see it, is that I have about half the energy to complete these tasks as I did prior to getting pregnant.  My pregnancy has been “easy” (if you forget about the hemorrhage-like bleeding, barfing at the bus stop, spina bifida scare, and amniocentesis), but I’d underestimated my ability to not overdo it with the move.  George and members of his New York family saw to it that I didn’t lift a thing, but just the simple tasks of bending over to unpack boxes and crouching to organize cabinets seem to unexpectedly exhaust me.  There isn’t a box in the world worth getting my fetus in a tizzy, so I’ve become a bit more relaxed and if it gets done today, great.  If it gets done next month, so be it.

I am 23 weeks pregnant today.  TWENTY THREE!

That means he has a slim, but fighting chance of survival if he was born today.  Unbelievable.  Certainly I want him to cook for as long as he needs, but knowing he’s nearly developed makes me proud.  The odd thing is, I graduated into the second trimester and started to calm down a bit about things going wrong, but in the last couple of weeks, my nerves have started to take over again.  I have this overwhelming feeling that things are too good to be true, and I can’t seem to shake it.  I would imagine this is a normal side effect of pregnancy, but it’s certainly one I wish I could ignore.

I can feel his gentle kicks on the outside of my stomach now, and George has felt him once.  He sleeps mostly all day and wakes up when I get off work and seems to “play” until after dinner.  Every movement makes me so happy.  I talk to him all the time and feel like he gets excited along with me.  It’s the first time in my life I’ve been incapable of being alone, and I love it.  Henry might be the only person on the planet I wouldn’t mind sharing every minute of my life with.  (That’s gonna change when he’s an energized, two year old, isn’t it?)

The negative side effects have been few, but as of last week, I parted with my wedding rings.  It was a sad, sad day.  I love them.  They would be loose in the mornings and almost impossible to take off after work.  The swelling in my hands and feet is pretty intense at the end of each day, and I feared having to get those suckers surgically removed.  So, I’ve placed Sparkly and Stedman in a safe spot and plan to meet back up with them after I’ve birthed them a baby.  To boot, not having a ring on will really step up my playa status.  Because as I’m sure you know, men are DYING to hit on pregnant chicks.

Last Friday, the wonderful people I work with threw me a surprise baby shower!  I was caught completely off guard.  I realized, as I was walking into the room that I was experiencing something I really never thought I’d be able to.  All of these milestones have been amplified by the worry that I’d never reach them.  Infertility is a sucky beast, but it sure makes the miracle of fertility, and all that goes with it, more special than I’d even imagined.  So often I feel overwhelmed by the support and encouragement we’ve received through this entire process, and being celebrated by a group of people I’ve worked with for less than half a year, made an impact that I won’t ever forget.  The shower was a Baby Basics shower- meaning we got diapers and wipes and other essentials necessary to survive.  I loved it all, and am so grateful to work with such caring, special people.

Tomorrow I have an ultrasound to measure my cervical length.  Because of my previous Leep (cervix surgery), my cervix may not be strong enough to hold in a pregnancy.  So, as an extra precaution, the doctor will take measurements every two weeks to determine my risk for going in to labor early.  The upside?  I get to see my boy!  I have been so busy since our last ultrasound that I forgot to share pictures.  Here he is at 21 weeks.  The first one, a head shot.  The second, a thumb’s up telling us to leave him alone and that all was good in the hood.  Amen, my sweet Henry.  Amen.



Motherhood In Manhattan

by Jen on November 18, 2012

They say if you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere.  I’ve never tried to live in Baghdad or Pakistan, but I would say that when it comes to living domestically, that statement is probably true.

As a New Yorker, things are hard.  And awesome.  And grueling.  And beautiful.  And ugly.  And convenient.

And a total pain in the ass.

To start, I’m not even supposed to refer to myself as a “New Yorker”.  I’m not yet worthy.  It’s a title New Yorkers believe you earn.  It is said that you are not a “real” New Yorker until you’ve survived the concrete jungle for ten years or better, and I’ve yet to complete my first year.  (Although my first 11 months have been incredible, and make me feel like I could sign up for a lifetime of urban dwelling.)

Commuting is a beast.  In many ways, the subway is my greatest friend.  It’s relatively reliable.  It’s quick, easy, and cultured.  It is a shelter from crummy weather.  It’s an escape from sitting in traffic.  And it’s a sensory delight.  But there are days… boy, there are days… There are days when the trains are backed up or delayed.  There are days when you stand on the platform while three trains go by and no matter how hard you suck in, you just can’t fit on.  There are days when there is a police investigation taking place at a station three stops ahead of you, causing you to sit on the tracks for an eternity.  There are days when it rains and all the commuters are wet and sweaty and create an underground steam vessel that’ll make you insane.  There are days when you feel trapped in a hell of body odor, and bad attitudes, and motion sickness.  There. Are. Days.

And the bus?  Can be great.  Sure, it’s not as reliable as the subway, but it has its advantages.  Some days you might be lucky enough to find an empty seat, where you can sit in peace and answer e-mails on your phone and text your friends and admire the city from a window.  Yes, you might sit in traffic for a bit, but does that matter when you’ve got headphones blasting your favorite songs and a cell phone equipped with unlimited games of Boggle???  Nosireeebobsky.  Unless….

Unless you can’t get a seat and you are nearly cheek to cheek with a stranger who left all her manners at the bus stop.  Unless you have several bags to balance on your arm while trying not to topple over every time the bus driver slams on his brakes to avoid clipping a death-defying bicyclist.   Unless the bus is filled with passengers with suitcases and baby strollers and golf bags and rolling grocery carts that take up twenty-seven times more room than one person “should”.  On those days, I want to cry.

So when the city’s metro system gets me down, I say “screw it” and opt for the rich man’s means of transportation.  Heyloooooo taxi!  Does it make sense to pay $13 to get to work when I already pay $104 a month to have unlimited access to the bus and subway systems?  Nope.  (Especially not to my George who has concrete in his wallet.)  But whatevs.  When a girl is at the edge of her sanity, she’s got to do what she’s got to do.  What’s better than doorstep delivery anyway?!?!?  I step outside of my building.  I raise my hand, and sometimes, as if summoned by the heavens, a shiny yellow savior slows to a stop, invites me in, and delivers me to my desired destination within minutes.

But that is only sometimes.

Other times, I stand on a curb for what seems like an hour, hailing and hailing and hailing, and never getting one single bite.  With as many cabs as there are in New York City, I always assumed one would show up the instant my arm went higher than my shoulder.  WRONG.  And if it’s raining?  You better just head for the subway.  Trust me, the cabs are already occupied.  Annnnnnd then…. If you are lucky enough to get one, you will most likely get the driver with a foul odor and a death wish.

My point?  The perks of living in New York City come with challenges.  The beauty and culture and options of the city FAR outweigh the negatives in my virgin New York opinion, yet there are days I wanna curl up and hide.

All this happens without being pregnant or having children.

So, as you can imagine, the thought of tackling the subway with an eight month pregnant belly in tow intimidates the snot out of me.  And that is mild compared to what it will be like to navigate a child and a diaper bag and a stroller down (sometimes) three flights of stairs to the trains.  I’m not kidding, when I watched our friend Penny heave her son and briefcase and diaper bag and stroller down just ONE flight of impossibly crowded stairs, I thought she might actually be Hercules!  There she was, this tiny woman who’d perfected the art of balancing nearly 50 pounds of awkward “stuff” on her own while not a single soul offered to help.  In fact, when George and I offered, she turned us down as her method was fluid like dance choreography.

Y’all?  I’m clumsy and kind of exhausted with one bag and a latte!

And then, if I take the bus, I’ll be that person taking up twenty-seven times more space than I “should” by lugging my stroller aboard.

And then, if I cab it, I have to hail a cab, snatch my baby from the stroller, close the stroller with whatever free hand, finger, or elbow I can muster, toss it in the trunk, and then worry about my child being carseatless (or carseat baseless) while I cross my fingers my cabbie isn’t one of those thrill seeking types.

I found out I was pregnant the first time only two months after moving to the city.  I was terrified.  Thrilled, but terrified.  I remember telling everyone I knew that I only knew how to parent with a three bedroom house and an SUV (and even then, I didn’t “know” how to parent).  I had no idea how to parent in New York City, where babies live in kitchens or nooks or closets and take public transportation to their well-baby check-ups.

We considered leaving.  We considered throwing in the towel and moving back to the safety of suburbia, but decided that we could do it.  We agreed it would be a challenge, but in the end, it would be worth it, and awesome, and maybe slightly insane.

And then after we miscarried, I gained some confidence in my ability to navigate the city and am far better prepared this time around.

I met a woman on the bus the other day.  (It was one of those rare, pleasant bus experiences.)  She was the wife of a Pulmonologist at Mount Sinai, and we discussed the magic of the city for 30 bumpy blocks.  She’s a lifer.  A REAL New Yorker.  Been here for an eternity.  She raised four children in the city (who are now raising their children in the city), and when I told her I was expecting in March, her eyes went dreamy and she put her hand on my arm.

“There is no better place in the world to raise your children than New York City.”

I could tell she meant it.

“Really?  But isn’t it harder than it has to be?” I asked.

She smiled, “You won’t even notice it.  You’ll be so in love with watching your baby take in the sights that it won’t even feel like extra work.”

She told me that her daughter’s nap time was spent at Bryant Park under a tree nearly every day of her first year of life.

“I never read more books than I did that year.” She reminisced.

She told me about the cultural privileges that only a child of the city could enjoy.  She told me her kids were never sick because they were exposed to the “city grit” early and their immune systems were strong as steel.

I was happy to have met her.  But regardless, I imagined her life to be a bit different from mine.  Her husband, a Pulmonologist, probably brought in the big bucks meaning her children had “real” bedrooms versus cribs in the closests.  She probably had a nanny (or two?) and probably came from old New York money and never actually had to lug strollers on to a bus.  She probably lived in a fancy elevator building with a door man who helped her with her packages and shopping bags, leaving her hands free to cradle her babies and unlock doors to her spacious penthouse apartment with a view of the majestic buildings I strain to see from the sidewalk.

Stereotype much???

Okay, so I doubt this woman lived the precise Charlotte York image I painted in my head, but still, her version of parenting in the city was a romanticized history that took place over thirty years ago.  I’m sure she had her moments of wanting to pack it in and move to the ‘burbs.
George and I don’t plan to live here forever.  For now, the thought of not having a back yard for my four year old to escape to (or burn off the energy that grates on my nerves at the end of one of those loooooong days)  makes me itch.  Maybe we will be here for a couple more years, or maybe we’ll never leave, but either way, I’m aware things are going to be different from what I’d ever pictured.

So, we decided to find a happy medium.  After a million conversations and creations of “pro & con” lists, we are saying goodbye to Manhattan and moving to Queens.  Forest Hills, specifically.  It’s a 20 minute express train commute to the heart of the city and still maintains many of the “city” qualities we’ve come to rely upon.  There is a Starbucks within a stone’s throw of… everywhere.  There is a subway stop a block from our apartment.  There is culture and buzz and action and noise and grit.  And the best part?  There is a TWO bedroom apartment just waiting to be our little boy’s first home (aside from my belly, of course).

We are set to move in completely next week, and even though I will miss a few of the massive headaches I’ve grown to love, having some extra space that we can *hopefully* afford feels pretty liberating.  I wouldn’t say our apartment is “affordable” by normal world standards, but it’s doable by NYC standards, and we hope I won’t need to return to work immediately after having the baby.  Fingers crossed.

Today we began the first phase of moving.  I hate that part.  I like starting over fresh and new, but moving?  Suuuuuuuuuuuuucks.  Hard core.  I am beyond grateful for our awesome cousin and uncles who helped make it as painless as possible.  I didn’t have to lift a thing.  I shall be pregnant the next time we move if it means I get off this easy.

And the best part about moving?  Now I get to order baby furniture!!!

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