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Posts from the ‘Infertility and Pregnancy’ Category

From NOPE to Yes.

My friend Susan is a huge part of the Postpartum Progress group, and on her Facebook feed I saw an article that she had shared.  I like to see what my friends are working in and sharing in and out of the diabetes space, so I clicked.

Reading through the postpartum depression list had me nodding a little bit.  But the postpartum anxiety list had me leaning forward, nervous that I was finding myself in almost every bullet point.

This one in particular:

You are worried. Really worried. All. The. Time. Am I doing this right? Will my husband come home from his trip? Will the baby wake up? Is the baby eating enough? Is there something wrong with my baby that I’m missing? No matter what anyone says to reassure you, it doesn’t help.

After my daughter was born, I did not worry all the time.  I worried in a way that felt normal, about her eating patterns and my ability to meet them, or whether I buckled her in the carseat the right way … that sort of thing.  The worrying started right after she was born and was background noise by the time she was six months old.

With my son, everything was worry.  I worried the whole time I was pregnant, reluctant to get too excited or attached.  I kept thinking the pregnancy was ending, even though I saw his dancing little self on the ultrasound screen every few weeks.  My friends and family wanted to throw a baby shower and I avoiding committing to the idea for weeks, nervous that celebrating his soon-to-be arrival date would somehow make him not come.

After he was born, I worried incessantly about my health, and his.  My second c-section wasn’t as easy as my first, and I recovered slowly.  My son had swallowed some amniotic fluid during birth and he spent the first three days choking slightly and needing to have the fluid cleared from his mouth and through via suction.  We knew he needed assistance when he would gag and cough and then flap his arms because he couldn’t breathe.  The nurses in the hospital told us to push the call button immediately if he did this, so they could come in and help.

“This is normal.  It’s common for babies to experience this the first few days after birth.  He will clear the fluid out and be fine; don’t worry.”

Except I worried.  Like professional grade worry.  I was afraid to leave his side because I thought he was going to choke to death in his sleep.

No one on my medical team was panicking about anything at all, yet I was panicking about everything.  When my son settled into a pattern of waking up every 20 minutes for the first 11 weeks of his life, exhaustion and anxiety dominated my mind.  I wasn’t myself for the first three months.  Which makes sense, considering the little bits of chaos we were managing, on so little sleep.

But around the 3 1/2 month mark, he started to sleep.  And my incision was healing.  And blood sugars were becoming more predictable, even with exclusive breastfeeding. Things should have been feeling better, but I had some trouble appreciating the things that were going right as I was already halfway down the anxiety slide at all times.  I had horrible thoughts all the time, born out of innocuous moments.

Like I’d be pushing the stroller around the neighborhood and mentally picture the stroller tipping over and my son’s body crushed.  Or a big hawk would fly overhead and I’d immediately picture the bird coming down and jamming its beak into my son’s leg.  (Fucking bird.  I had this particular thought often.  Weird shit, the mind.)  The thoughts would come ramming into my brain and I’d immediately banish them, saying, “Nope.  Nope, nope, nope,” to myself and physically shaking them free from my head, but I was feeling anxious regardless.  I had zero desire/thought to hurt myself or my child, but I kept picturing some scenario where he’d get hurt.

I felt like I was in fight-or-flight mode at all times.

Reading that list of symptoms jolted something inside of me.  I showed the list to Chris to see if that list put words to any concerns that he had.

“Seeing this all written down, I do see a lot of these in you,” he admitted.

I called my OB/GYN that afternoon and made an appointment.  After a screening process and a discussion about my concerns (including telling her that I called mainly because a list of symptoms had me nodding “Yes” to almost every single one) my OB agreed that there was some kind of postpartum thing going on.

“You have experienced a few things that would influence this kind of response, like infertility for several years.  And pregnancy after loss.  And then a complicated pregnancy due to diabetes.  And then deciding on permanent sterilization.  And then the sleep issues after birth.  One of those things might be enough to warrant intervention; all of those things definitely might.”

I felt weird that I was experiencing this stuff five months out instead of immediately after birth.  She reassured me that it happens often enough this way.  She made a recommendation for medication, I told her I wanted to try therapy before medication, and she deferred to my requested treatment.

“While you wait on your therapy appointment, I’d suggest that you get outside.  Often. And don’t stay holed up in your house; see your neighbors, call your friends, be as social as you can in efforts to help keep you from feeling so overwhelmed by the worries.  It might help.  And if you feel worse in any way at all, you need to call us,” she said, handing me a card with the therapist group’s number on it.  “This team will call you today or tomorrow.”

It felt oddly comforting to identify what was going on in my mind as something that could be addressed.  That I wasn’t stuck feeling this way forever.  That others have felt this way, too.  That there’s a light at the end of this sometimes dark tunnel that has made me feel so very much unlike my normal self.

And now?  I’m trying to ask for help instead of feeling like I have to shoulder the anxiety and chaos on my own.  My mother has been instrumental in helping me maintain my mental health, coming by regularly to spend a few hours with the baby and help with laundry.  My son is currently at my aunt’s house while I work from a coffee shop down the street.  My husband is quick to step in and make it possible for me to exercise daily.  And my friends in the neighborhood and beyond are vital to my mental health checklist, serving as people I can see throughout the week so that I don’t feel confined to my house. (Working from home with the baby makes for very long and lonely days without much grown-up interaction.)

There’s a network of people I can lean on, helping whittle some of the anxiety off me and reminding me that I’m still here, underneath all these worries.  That it’ll be okay.

And that?  That gets a big Yes, yes, YES.


On the Other Side.

The first time I was pregnant, the physical journey was the hardest part for me.  Building a baby, watching blood sugars, dealing with body changes … the list was long but included mostly body changes, and also a boatload of excitement about crossing the threshold into “parenting.”  Back in 2009/2010, it was inconceivable to me that something “bad” would happen during a pregnancy.  Once you are pregnant, you just stay pregnant and everything is cool, and then the baby is born.  Back then, my biggest fear was the actual birthing of my daughter.  Having never had surgery before, I was petrified of the c-section and everything promised to come along with it.  Looking back, I was grateful that I had no idea what it was like to “try” for a baby, and to spend the pregnancy wondering if everything would be okay.

And even though my first pregnancy was a little chaotic, with lots of doctor’s appointments and a four week hospital stay due to preeclampsia, my worries were somewhat limited.  I just didn’t know any better.  From start to finish, my body did what it was supposed to do, and my child was fine.  My headspace during the pregnancy was also reasonably solid, hormones not withstanding.

But this time was very different.  The birth of my son came after a lot of discussion.  Birdy was about three when we decided we wanted to have another baby, and based on our previous experience, we figured we’d become pregnant right away.  Our experience with “unexplained secondary infertility” was startling.  What do you mean, it’s hard to become pregnant?  We got pregnant right away the first time.  Why are we charting things and purchasing ovulation kits and now our cars are wearing a path between our home and the fertility clinic?

After 19 months of trying, I became pregnant as the result of fertility treatments.  I miscarried around the eight week mark, during a conference in the summer.  There was something highly surreal and emotionally numbing about examining discharge in a hotel room at Disney World at 2 in the morning to confirm that I had miscarried to completion.  It was the first time I’d ever experienced contractions.  It was the first time I’d felt hopeless.  It was the first time I’d ever felt limitlessly sad.

When I became pregnant again, 25 months after hoping to expand our family, the fear was instant, consistent, and did not abate until I heard my son cry in the delivery room three weeks ago.  Physically, this pregnancy was healthy and “normal,” with blood sugars that performed almost predictably, no pregnancy-related health concerns over the 38 week gestation period, and my body actually seemed to like being pregnant this time around.

Emotionally, though, I was unwell for the majority of the experience.  I never felt calm.  Every appointment was something I panicked before and got all emotional with relief afterwards, because that certainty of safety was erased the summer prior.  I didn’t want to tell anyone I was pregnant.  I felt oddly detached for the first few months of pregnancy, afraid to emotionally invest in the child I was growing.  I didn’t want to have a baby shower.  I was scared that if I acknowledged this pregnancy, it would leave me.  When the Braxton Hicks contractions started in the third trimester, I freaked out because contractions, in my mind, were tied to miscarriage.  Pregnancy after loss tripped me out entirely.  And even though there are so many people who have felt these same things and dealt with similar issues, I had trouble finding the support I needed for these feelings.  It was hard to admit that I felt entirely unsettled.  It was even harder to try and mask those feelings with the joy that everyone seemed to expect me to feel.

“Did you want to consider a tubal ligation after the c-section is performed?”

My high-risk OB/Gyn asked me this question around the twenty week mark of my pregnancy, after they did the big anatomy scan to check on the baby’s development and organs.  I was still all jumbled up, emotionally, but knew for sure that I was not equipped to go through another pregnancy in efforts to have a third child.  I longed for Birdy.  And my son.  And I knew instinctively that they were the limit of what both my body and mind, and our family, were able to manage.

So while we scheduled my c-section date (originally set for August 31st, but that timeframe ended up truncated), I signed the papers for the tubal ligation.  It felt strange to elect permanent sterilization after battling for years to have this baby; the finality of that decision weighed heavily.  But it also felt right, considering my age, health history, and our desires as a family.  After my son was born and we confirmed his health as excellent, the operation was completed and that chapter of my life was closed in full.

When I look at this little man I’ve made (and he sleeps soundly in my arms while I type this), I know in my heart that every decision we’ve made is the right one for our family.  That fourth chair is filled with the result of the hardest work I’ve ever done, and I couldn’t be happier. 

There was always this promise, this question, this gentle hum of you, my son.  We’ve always wanted you.  It just took a long time to get you here.

We’ll take good care of you, I promise.


C-Section Party Time, Hey Hey.

There’s another kid in my house now, and he’s two weeks old as of this afternoon.  But how did he escape, you ask?  Sunroof exit!  Here is some of the how and why my son came a bit earlier than expected.

That Tuesday morning two weeks ago came with the promise of another long drive to Beth Israel hospital in Boston, where another blood pressure/blood sugar/ultrasound examination extravaganza was scheduled to take place.  At 38 weeks and 2 days pregnant, my medical team was keeping a close eye on things but not with a sense of panic, as the baby was full term and my health was good.

But that morning, I had some contractions.  And definitive signs of labor (hello, mucus plug, which is a curious thing that you can go ahead and Google – I will not be adding that to my search return history).  When I left the house to make the drive to Boston, I told Chris to expect a call, because I was pretty sure the baby was coming today.

“Really?!” he asked, placing Birdy’s breakfast on the table (for her to ignore for 40 minutes because she is six years old and food has become The Incredibly Long, Drawn-Out Journey).

“Yeah?” I replied, trying to be all blasé about it but the prospect of major surgery and then – AHHHHHH – a baby! arriving in the next few hours made my head swirl so much that I had to default to a mellow shrug in efforts to keep myself from going off the rails.

At the OB/Gyn in Boston, my labor signs were confirmed, as was a higher-than-normal blood pressure reading.

“Your blood pressure is elevated.  And you’re at 38 weeks, so there’s no reason to delay your c-section when a delay might not be the safest option.  You’re going to have this baby today,” said the nurse.



“Cool, okay so I’ll drive over to Beth Israel and check into labor and delivery?”

“Yes, that’s the plan.  We don’t have you on the books for today, and we need to wait at least six hours before we can perform the surgery, so you’re looking at a 3.30 pm delivery time.  Call your husband.  It’s time!”

“Awesome, okay.”  And, all super chill, I walked out to the waiting room and made my postpartum follow up appointments.  And then walked out to my car in the parking garage.  And dialed Chris.

“The baby is coming today.”

All casual.


“Yes.  I’m aiming for a surgery time of about 3.30 pm.  Can you get up here by then?”


“I’m leaving right now.  I’ll be there in time.”

A whirlwind of activity followed, and I remained unusually calm.  Brought my car to the long term garage.  Wheeled (waddled?) myself and my suitcase up to the 10th floor.  Checked into Labor and Delivery at Beth Israel hospital.  Ended up whisked into a room where I was asked to remove my jewelry and clothes, eventually asked to remove my insulin pump (so that I could be hooked up to the IV insulin drip and the dextrose drip) and CGM sensor (because the sensor contains metal, which doesn’t work out well in a surgery situation), with my blood pressure and blood sugar monitored constantly in preparation for surgery.

Despite a last minute call and a long commute, Chris made it to the hospital about twenty minutes before we were schedule to go into surgery, and that’s when I became nervous.  This was really happening.  In less than an hour, this medical team (of course not the team I’ve been seeing throughout the course of my pregnancy, because they were not on that day, so I had a whole new team of people I’d not yet met) would be performing major surgery on me and delivering my son into the world.

Holy shit.  I wanted to throw up.  I didn’t Google anything about the specifics of a c-section before having my daughter, but after she was born, I had convinced myself I was a “one and done” sort of mom.  So I researched c-sections, and confirmed they are not the most lovely videos to watch.  But HA HA I wasn’t ever going to do it again, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong.  Little did I know how hard I’d work to have another baby.  And upon being wheeled into the operating room, I remembered every finite detail of the c-section videos I’d watched years earlier.  My panic was real.

My first c-section was strange in that I felt the pressure of Birdy’s escape and my recovery was uncomfortable (and long), but the surgery itself was uneventful.

My second (and last) c-section was not as routine.  First of all, the spinal block was an issue and it took several tries to get that lined up correctly.  (The bruising on my lower back serves as proof of the five – yes, five – attempts to get that block right.  The surgical write-up described this portion of the surgery as “complicated.”  I describe it as “what the holy fuck painful.”)  Secondly, my son was measuring an estimated 8.5 pounds and 20 inches long, which was significantly bigger than my daughter.  And thirdly, I had decided to have a tubal ligation, which added an extra 10 – 15 minutes to the surgery.

Prior to the surgery, my team monitored my blood sugar to ensure that it was running in the 80 – 120 range, which thankfully was not an issue.  Diabetes was on its best behavior.  Once I was brought into the operating room, I sat on the table and tried to “relax” while they attempted the spinal block.  (“Just relax your shoulders and curl around your belly,” they kept saying.  After the third attempt to administer the block, I was cursing under my breath with some of the basic swear words.  By the fifth time, I’m pretty sure I was making up curse words and may have ended up quoting some ancient incantation.  It took half an hour to get the stupid spinal block in place, during which time Chris was down the hall, all suited up in his biohazard space suit, wondering what the hell was taking so long.

But the block finally took.  My blood sugars were perfect throughout.  My son was delivered after a significant amount of effort (turns out I had cooked up a healthy-sized umbilical cord and placenta, which helped explain why my belly button threatened to pop off in those last few weeks – holy cramped real estate in that womb).  I was pretty spaceshot for the majority of the surgery, reacting slightly unfavorably to the anesthesia and pain killers they were piping through my body, and Chris told me I kept asking, “Is he out yet?  Is he okay?  Am I okay?” on repeat while they worked to get our boy out.

And then I heard him cry.  The medical team said, “Oh, he’s here!  He’s healthy!”  And he was brought over to me, all 8.6 lbs of him, all 20.5 inches of him, all cute and pursed lips and looking so much like his sister but at the same time, entirely like himself.

“I love you so much.”  The words spilled out of me, grateful to finally land in the ears of the baby I waited three years to tell.

The tubal ligation was performed (more on that later this week).  They sealed up all my business (no staples this time around – they used some kind of “glue”) and called it a day.

#week38 #diabeticpregnancy #birthdayboy

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

And we were all brought back to the recovery room, where I was forced to remain on the insulin drip until I was able to keep food down (which was its own challenge, as the surgery meds and I are not friends, and I made use of the little throw up tray several times).  Thanks to a catheter, staying in bed wasn’t a problem, and thanks to what was left of the morphine drip, I was pretty comfortable, pain-wise.  It wasn’t until later that evening that the pain began, only it wasn’t as severe as with my first c-section.  The gas pain was intense but seemed focused on my abdomen instead of all over my lower body.  (I will admit to being a total cry baby every time they came in to press on my abdomen to check on my uterus.  Having my stomach touched was insanely painful and despite a pretty high tolerance for pain, I screamed involuntarily when they pressed on my body.  It took the four full days of the hospital stay to start feeling remotely okay in the abdominal region.  It also didn’t help that I refused the oxycodone because I didn’t like the way it spaced me out after having Birdy, so I was medicating with Tylenol and ibuprofen only, but on that med, I didn’t feel like I could safely hold Birdy, so I didn’t want a repeat performance of that feeling with my son.  This is the long way of saying that recovery fucking HURT and I am glad I won’t be doing it again. More on how I reacted once I saw my body in the full length mirror at home later this week, too. Holy bruising.)

By Wednesday morning, around 2 am, I was able to put my t:slim insulin pump back on (with new, postpartum insulin regimen that was about a third of my pre-pregnancy ratios).  And by Wednesday morning proper, they removed the catheter.  Thursday morning allowed the multiple IV lines to be removed.  And by Friday morning, I was able to walk to the bathroom without bleeding through my clothes.  (That was a lovely upgrade, albeit a graphic one.)  Saturday morning we were released into the wild, with a car that now hosted TWO car seats and TWO children and TWO paranoid/sleepless/euphoric parents.

People talk about falling in love at first sight or upon hearing the baby cry for the first time, but I already had space cleared out in my heart for this little one, even before I saw his face. We were ready for this little guy.  His safe arrival was the period at the end of a four word sentence:  This is my family.



Dear Baby Boy,

Hey, you.  You came into the world at just the right time.

There’s a lot to say about your arrival – the path paved by infertility and issues, the details of a diabetic pregnancy, the specific chaos of the c-section surgery that brought you into the world – but those moments are so ten days ago.  There’s plenty of time next week to write about that.  Today, we are celebrating YOU.

It’s funny how much it feels like you’ve always been here.  I think it’s because the promise of you has been orbiting our brains for years.  Actual years.  I remember sitting with your dad at a restaurant three Christmases ago, clinking glasses to the agreement that our family wanted one more friend.  (Yes, we officially cheers’d to the idea of you.  It was a contract, sealed with a grin and some Riesling.)  We had no idea what was to come for the next few years.  There are elements we’ll never discuss again comfortably, as it picks the edges of a wound that may never fully heal.  But we move forward, grateful for you.

You’ve made me a mother for the second time, your dad a daddy for the second time, and your birth gave Birdy a new name entirely:  big sister.  The tectonic plates of our family heaved and shifted to make room for a little boy who would make us complete, despite any tremors of adjustment.  (Like when you peed on Birdy while she was holding you.  “He’s so cute and he’s holding my finger, Mom!  Look, he’s … AHHHH HE PEED ON ME THERE’S PEE ON ME FROM HIIIIIIIM!”)

Love. No filter required. #siblings #diabeticpregnancy

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

And now I’m raising a little boy instead of a little girl.  But there’s no real difference, despite the slight fear I had upon learning your sex.  “What do we do with a boy?”, but hearing your cry after they pulled you from my body answered the query definitively.  What do we do with you?  We love you.  Intrinsically.  Without fear.  (Okay, with some fear. Babies are a little scary.)  We love you unconditionally, just like we do with your sister.  We’ve loved you for years, only we didn’t quite know who you were yet.

Now, you’re this tiny, wiggly little brown haired biscuit who lives in our home.  My abdomen remains tender from your exit, but that fresh pain is the only reminder that you haven’t been here forever.  What do you mean, it’s only been ten days?  You’ve only been here for ten days?  It’s only ten days of holding you?  I feel like you’ve been pressed against my heart for years.  Strange to think that I first held you in my arms just a few days ago.

I love you.  And for a long time, I didn’t think I’d ever have the chance to hold you.  I feared you were going to be a lingering promise, a hope, a “maybe” for the rest of my life.  Your cry pierced the air of the operating room at the same time it did my heart, and I’m realigned, rearranged, revised, refined, fully realized forever.

I was waiting for you.  You, you, you.  Kid, telling you “I love you” doesn’t even begin to touch how much I feel for you.  You fill the fourth chair.  You filled that place in my heart that opened up three years ago.  My family feels complete, as does my life.  Tough times are behind us, and I’m sure there are equally-as-tough moments ahead, but we’re in this for the long haul, and our family is stronger, better, solidified by you.

Even when you’re angry at me for not letting you have the car keys (or the self-driving car codes?  I have no idea what we’ll fight over in The Future …), you’ll always be my chubby little tomato, snuggled close at 3 in the morning, burping directly into my face and then smiling.

Welcome to the family, little one.  You were missed.


Four Chairs.

Our kitchen table has four chairs, and for several years, we had our family of three at the table for four.  But three chairs filled felt right at the time.

Except when it didn’t.  A few years ago, that fourth chair became this thing for me, like it should have A Person for it.  There was a feeling that someone was missing nagged me through many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.  Someone was supposed to be there.  I had no idea who, but I knew someone was missing from our lives.

The empty chair started to hurt to look at, especially during the years of negotiating infertility.

But last week … on August 23, after two years of trying for a baby, after 38 weeks and two days of pregnancy, after staring at that fourth chair for all of those days and wondering if anyone would ever claim it, we finally found Our Person to fill the seat.

(His bum is very tiny at the moment, but he’ll grow into the chair eventually.)

Welcome to the world, my sweetest little boy.  We love you in ways and for reasons too numerous to count.


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