Pink Shoes

The boys needed new shoes. So a few weeks ago we were up to our ears in the shelves at Nordstrom Rack searching for kicks.

Baby Woww chose Tonka Truck shoes. K-Pants had eyes only for the princess rock-star Sketchers.

Pink Shoes. MomsicleBlog

They were the pinkest, sparkliest, most bejeweled shoes in the store. I think I’ve captured their glory sufficiently in the picture. What you can’t see are the lights that blare out of their rhinestone-packed toes when you step—definitely the same lights used at Katy Perry’s Superbowl show.

I was surprised about these shoes.

We let the kids pick their own clothes, and K-Pants pretty much wears sports clothes every day, finished off by a pair of cleats. He wears cleats to the library, to kindergarten, to church.

As we looked for additional shoe options to try, K-Pants became more and more fixated on the Twinkle Toes, and I noticed myself feeling uneasy.

“What do you like about these shoes, buddy?”

“They’re really bright! And I love pink! And Caran has these shoes!”

I paused, What will the other kids think? He’s in kindergarten. Kids are going to say, ‘Those are girrrrl shoes!’”

Fluorescent department store lights don’t make you feel great in a bathing suit: They also don’t leave you a place to hide with your thoughts.

I don’t want the bullying to start now. Will my husband be okay with this? What about our family?

I blamed my reticence on our culture: I only want to protect him from feeling like an outsider so early. People don’t need to judge him now.

My unease mounted, but it started to shift from the shoes to myself. Here I am, letting culture protect me from cowardice. I’m surprised about when and where the rubber meets the road in terms of following my morals as a parent. I often imagine big discussions and decisions, but it turns out it’s in the small stuff where most of our map is drawn.

I shifted from imagining K-Pants’s first day wearing the Twinkle Toes shoes at kindergarten to our dinner table fifteen or twenty years from now.

“Remember when you bought me those pink light-up shoes, Mom?”

“Those things were blinding. You loved them.”

“Yeah, thanks for buying those crazy shoes.”

Even in my fluorescent-bulb-induced daydreaming I realized that there’s little chance of K-Pants specifically affirming my parenting choices, but I’d rather him have the chance, than to be able to look back and say, “It’s too bad you told me kids would make fun of me for wearing girl shoes when I was little.”

So the decision was made.

Plus, I realized I would encourage the Fairy Pig to choose Tonka Truck shoes when she’s older if she wants, so I should encourage K-Pants to stick with what he likes, too.

K-Pants wore the Twinkle Toes to church the next day. He received jovial surprise and admiration. The shoes are so bright that they demand attention, and it was overwhelmingly positive.

Then he wore them to kindergarten. On the way in a friend said, “Why are you wearing girl shoes?” K-Pants didn’t really know what to say, so I spoke up, “We really like pink at our house.” His friend’s mom backed me up, “That’s awesome!”

K-Pants has gotten one or two comments that have bothered him, but without the pink shoes, we wouldn’t have reason to talk about if there are really “girl” or “boy” things, and how it makes you feel when people single you out. Plus, he makes people smile a lot more that I would have imagined.

A Deep and Poignant Response to the Tragic Killings in North Carolina

Reading U.S. and world news feels like rubbing sandpaper on my skin until it bleeds. Raising young kids, my tolerance level for the anger-and-hatred-filled news has gone down to nothing, but important stories still filter through—like the tragic shooting deaths last week of three outstanding Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

But I could only glance at this story of monumental heartbreak. That is, until I read the words of my wonderful friend Tisha, who lives in the Raleigh–Durham, North Carolina area.

Tisha’s kindergarten friend Saba had posted a link on Facebook to a powerful opinion piece from the Chicago Tribune, “Will Muslims ever be part and parcel of America?” In response, Tisha wrote the message below to her friend Saba, and she generously gave me permission to share it.

[Tisha’s mother, a psychiatrist and another wonderful woman, worked with Dr. Abu-Salha, the father of the two young women victims, and Tisha and her mother attended the funeral.]

I truly hope this isn’t insensitive and or inappropriate to write, but this is from my heart. My mom and I were at the funeral yesterday, and I know my life will never be the same after that experience. As I watched the thousands of girls and women walking in with their heads covered, my heart ached as I wondered how vulnerable they may feel in our society. Words cannot express how moved I have been over the past few days by the faith of the family and friends in this tragedy.

Saba, you are the first Muslim friend I had… the first experience I had with the Muslim faith. I am forever thankful for knowing you and your family because I was able to form a true understanding of the real Islam at a young age—an age when my heart was open and untainted by outside opinions. Over the years, as others may [have tried to] taint this idea of what being Muslim is, I always remembered what a beautiful family and beautiful people you and your family are. I vividly remember waiting, listening in your room above the spiral staircase in your house during sleepovers, as your family prayed together, bowing together and honoring God. I remember the feeling that filled in me as a small child. I remember sitting in your basement as you shared with me the Quran and your faith.

The person who officiated the service yesterday did an amazing job explaining the Islamic beliefs and customs and hearing the words and faith of the family members will forever be in my heart.

When this all happened, I kept asking my mom, “How can they go on? How will they cope with such devastation?” Mom kept saying she knew Dr. A’s “practicing faith,” not just faith but “practicing faith,” will carry them through this. I didn’t understand it until I witnessed it in the last few days. Dr. Abu-Sallah called mom a few hours before the funeral and told her (without her saying a word), “I know you are coming today. I know you have been praying because I feel your prayers.”

A Christian and a Muslim can pray together and for each other and respect each other, and these two doctors did just that on a regular basis. Yesterday, I saw a field full of Muslims from countries from all over the world; I saw Jewish people, Hindus, and Christians together sharing the tears and loss of three children of our community: It was remarkable to witness that.

I pray we can one day live in a world that we can truly love thy neighbor.

A simple way to show your support for the victims and find more outpourings of love is to like the Facebook page “Our Three Winners.” You’ll get sucked in by the powerful responses.

Where the Magic Is

I’ve thought a lot about this baby’s story.

It starts by surprise. We were adamantly not trying to get pregnant. I couldn’t understand having more than two kids because my boys were filling life up so completely: My cup was running over into its saucer and onto the tablecloth and dripping onto the floor.

Now that the Fairy Pig is on her way (it’s a girl baby!), we don’t feel any need to hide the surprise in the story. In fact, the surprise is the best part. It’s the magic. Suddenly poof! Out of nowhere there’s this little piggie. She’s a gift from God.

There aren’t many decisions we make in our lives that aren’t carefully considered, or at least somewhat considered. But here we are in a passing dream. Honey, I dreamt last night that we were having another baby. I was really pregnant. It was crazy. This is the dream path. The path we might imagine but then easily let go of.

There were so many things we were about to do on the real path, the carefully considered one.

I had a pitch email drafted, proposing how I wanted to cover Women’s World Cup this summer in Canada. We were going to drive up the West Coast, doing some of Lewis and Clark’s route in Oregon and Washington, then heading to Vancouver British Columbia for games. I had taken photos of our house to list on one of those vacation home swap sites.

I’d started horseback riding again. Horses are better than the densest sourdough bread, the crackliest pizza crust, the lightest macaroon, the most caramel-drenched sundae. I recently went up and rode with our family friend in Hood River at her barn next to their family’s apple orchard. It had been nine years since I’d been in a saddle, but my muscles remembered. Then I was invited to work with an experienced horsewoman from church who lives close by, and to ride her horse through the winter.

But I had this dream about being pregnant. Honey, last night I had this dream. I went to the doctor and she showed me a picture of a little fairy baby wrapped in a great cloud of unknowing. It was crazy.

The baby is due during Women’s World Cup. I’m prohibited from horseback riding. Plans of launching into the real life are dashed.

Instead we’re given new life. And I’m reminded that I am not in charge. The circumstances of my life are here by grace, and I need to learn to let go. The letting go has been surprisingly more peaceful than I’d imagined. I like who I am working on growing into now—after five months of emotional and spiritual exercise and physical changes—more than I like the person whom I saw myself becoming.

And we have this magical story to tell.

At first I was worried, Will this child feel unwanted because we were done growing our family before her? Should we talk about the fact that there is no greater surprise in our lives than this baby? But we realized that the magic is the surprise. God gave her to us with a fierce soul that wouldn’t be deterred by any of our plans, and now she’s working on making us better.

Sympathetic Pregnancy Hits the Chaos Team

You know about sympathetic pregnancy: It’s when you are pregnant and your partner starts to gain weight or have cravings, too. (It would be hard to watch your knocked-up other half take naps and indulge and not get a share of the action, right?) In any case, it’s an affliction that’s hit the Chaos Team. While their preschool and kindergarten compatriots are dropping like flies with fevers and colds, K-Pants and Baby Woww seem to be pregnant. You would think the things I do to combat nausea—ginger chews, sea bands, special pills—would be pretty boring, but they love the novelty of it all, and the spicy burn of ginger chews.

“Our tummies feel bad. We need ginger chews.”

“Strange that your tummies feel bad every time you see a ginger chew.”

“We just need one.”

The sea bands were a fun novelty.

“We feel like throw up, Mom. We need your bracelets.”

There are far too many turf wars about food. Normally I’m happy to share snacks, but if the only things I can eat are corn Chex and Granny Smith apples, then there’s going to be a rumble.

“We want your cereal.”

“No, I have to have it because that’s all I can eat.”

“But our tummies hurt. Please, please, please. Just a little bit. We want some cereal. We want some cereal. We want some cereal.”

At this point, I’m usually about to cry as I insist, “No. It’s mine. It’s mine.” We are a very volatile team right now. Often it’s hard to tell who’s acting most like a grown-up.

The biggest sympathetic pregnancy battle yet happened in India. You may have read or experienced that constipation is a common pregnancy side effect. Not knowing how I could take in the crazy amounts of additional fiber I currently need while traveling, I packed a bottle of gummy fiber chews. The children will do anything for stuff that comes in gummy form.

“Mom, we need a poop gummy.”

“But they’re for me.”

“But we need them to help us go poop.”

Then Baby Woww would stick out his little tush and go, “Pooooop!” Occasionally I would wear down and give them a fiber gummy, but they wanted them in amounts that would have caused some serious back-end malfunction. I held strong. One day they were very quiet, and then I received this note. Fiber Gummies. MomsicleBlog In case you can’t read the inventive spelling and are confused by the lack of spaces, it says. “We have to eat fiber gummees!” One can only surmise that the drawings are of gummy chews in bottles and strings of healthy colons. The ensuing negotiations were difficult, but I managed to save the chews for myself. We still have until June to travel this path, so if you see K-Pants and Baby Woww looking suspiciously rotund, know that I simply have no willpower left.

A New Kind of Wonderful

South India. MomsicleBlog

We recently got back from India.

As I type this in Oregon the rain is falling and another cold, damp day is about to dawn if the sun can find it’s way up—something the sun seems hesitant about on every Oregon winter day.

But for about three weeks we sat outside in thin summer clothes, shooing mosquitoes, watching giant fruit bats in steady traffic above our heads. At the family home where we were staying terns manically fed in a freshwater valley while herons and egrets patiently waited for prey and Brahminy kites in stunning white-headed, burnt-copper-bodies glided through.

We were in India to see family. Every day they spoiled us with fish moles, chicken stews, bowls of coconut beef, potato masalas, smashed yucca, and biriyani. It’s well known among our family that I love masala dosa. I must have had it ten or fifteen times. Once the crispy dosa were made over an outdoor fire in the traditional kitchen.

We started planning this trip a year ago. I had not planned on being pregnant. In early November before the trip, my morning sickness mounted, and with it my normal anxiety about flying. I used to be a carefree flyer, but so many things have changed since the days when I would cross continents by myself.

Boarding a plane to Asia with the precious cargo of my husband and two children, in the same year that two Malaysia Airlines planes went down, seemed brash. The only thing worse would have been traveling without them. I stockpiled herbal calming remedies, nausea medication, and melatonin in various forms.

My morning sickness started to fade the week before we left. At fourteen weeks pregnant, just out of the first trimester, I was supposed to be feeling better. Each day I was less nauseous for more hours. I could eat some salads, or chicken and rice. I discovered, however, that if anything will bring nausea roaring back, it’s twenty hours cramped in a dimly lit, vibrating space with brittle air and the threat of turbulence. By the time we were crossing the Arabian Sea heading to our final port, I was rocking back and forth with a giant garbage bag in front of me, hoping not to throw up.

K-Pants had already thrown up on our first flight. I anticipated this because he gets motion sick, so we were prepared with plastic bags, towels, and extra clothes. Baby Woww threw up in a car once we were in India, and my morning sickness got bad enough that we went to the doctor (which turned out to be a lovely experience).

Thinking back to travel in my mid-twenties, all this nausea and vomiting and the consequential changes in plans would have made an adventure like this harrowing. But the only word I can think of to describe the trip is wonderful.

South India. MomsicleBlog

This wonderful is equal parts hiccups and ease. It’s filled with the pride that comes from doing something overwhelming, because the rewards were greater than the simplicity of staying at home. We affirmed our core values of family connectedness and adventurous exploration.

And in the wild journey of this third pregnancy, I learned to lean on God even more, because there were so many times when I was not in control while we were gone, and yet everything was wonderful.

Stories of (Dis)Grace

Grace is a sticky something I’d like to live into. In prose, it’s easy to convince you I have it, but grace is mysterious, perceived, situational. I do believe that grace is a gift we all have access to. It’s just that I don’t unwrap it all that often—especially on the freeway. So since some of you were so kind to say that I have handled this crazy, unexpected pregnancy with grace, I would like to prove to you that I haven’t. At least not 100% of the time, or really even 25–30%…


As I checked in for my third ultrasound, the front desk admin presented me with a form: “We need you to decide how you want your ultrasound pictures delivered. Now they can be texted or emailed so that you can easily share them.”

I was not planning on sharing pictures of my hopefully intact fallopian tubes with a list of family and friends. But I’m sure normal pregnant ladies would appreciate the option. I looked at her as if she had said, “We need you to decide whether you’d like to rest your feet in a tub full of bunnies during the ultrasound.” Hmmm… I like bunnies. They’re soft. But will they bite my feet? Let’s skip the bunnies. That’s what it’s like to give this form to a woman who thinks she might have an ectopic pregnancy.

I ended up sputtering, “I don’t CARE,” using my laser eyes as a backup communication method. “Well you can always change your mind later,” she said.

(So watch out for an email with unintelligible black and white photos of my insides! The proper response will be, “What lovely tubes you have.”)

***

One day, in the waiting room, I saw an old college friend of mine. This friend had just moved back to town, very pregnant with her second child.

I really, really like this friend, and she’d clearly just had her baby in the last week or so, and was coming in for a follow-up. This is when you go over and give a warm hug and snuggle the fuzz on the sweet baby’s head.

Asking me to do that would have been like saying, “Honey badger, go pet the baby. Your long claws, hissing sounds, and irrational brain are perfect for the job!” Instead, I used my best friend Hannah, who had come with me, as a shield and remained cowering behind her in a corner until the danger passed.

***

There was only one checkout attendant I would see to schedule follow-ups at the doctor’s office. “Carina’s free,” they would say. “No thanks. I’m waiting for Dena.” Dena saw the weary look in my eyes and went to fetch nurses to ask for follow-up information—something she could have sent me to do.

After they’d seen a yolk sac in my uterus, but before they saw the baby’s heartbeat, I was passed into the stream of normal pregnant ladies and told to make an appointment for a “normal OB workup,” which I guess is the first appointment you would traditionally have when you were pregnant. Apparently only Carina scheduled those appointments.

“Congratulations!” she said. I looked at her with my laser eyes. First I wanted to schedule my last acute ultrasound—the one in which we would ultimately see the heartbeat and feel a palpable sense of ease. “Let’s get that OB workup scheduled. If we don’t pick a date, your doctor could book up and you could miss the chance.”

“I need to schedule the acute ultrasound first.”

“But her dates really fill up!”

I paused to calibrate how to respond in Carina’s alien language…

“I’m overwhelmed. Can we start with the acute ultrasound?”

Carina reluctantly complied, feeling that if she persisted I would scratch her. We got the OB workup in, then she said, “We have a pregnancy and newborns class that all new patients and patients whose youngest child is three or older take. Normally it’s mandatory, but you may choose.”

This was too much. Dena would never have asked me to take this class. She could read people. She would know by the feral look in my eyes that they didn’t want me around first-time pregnant women. Not now. Not with my crazy story and my wild children. It was better to let others have their innocence and let me have a nap. Dena would have said, “For some patients we offer lobotomies. Would you like one?” And I would have said, “Are there bunnies?”


So you see, using laser eyes as your go-to response isn’t exactly grace-full. Still, after a very intense and unexpected start to this pregnancy, we are dealing with miraculous expansion instead of loss.

I’ve had dear friends deal with infertility and multiple miscarriages, and from them I know that waiting rooms at OB-GYN offices can be treacherous and office staff trying. But I didn’t get it until I sat in the waiting room uncomfortably watching pregnant women parade in and out as I waited to have poison injected into my leg, or to have my tubes checked to see if they might explode.

So I would like to shout out my friends and readers who have suffered loss and had to sit amongst those who appear to be happy, having dreams fulfilled. I know you feel like you haven’t been perfect, but you have been kind to others whose fortunes at times seemed like an assault on your karma. It hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“I Will Give You a New Heart and Put a New Spirit in You”

Author’s Note: This is a long one. Let’s consider it all the blog posts of the last six weeks wrapped into one. I think you’ll understand. Thanks for being here. –Ev

Some things are difficult to write about because they are too tender, too confusing, too personal. This is one of those things. It’s tender and confusing and personal. I don’t shy away from personal stuff, because I think it’s important in a culture of perfectionist parenting to be honest. We wrap ourselves in unrealistic expectations, protecting our image for others, bullying ourselves into pretending everything is hashtag blessed. Sometimes, instead of finding empathy, we look at our peers and think But I won’t be like that. I’ll be better. It makes me think of this passage from Ezekiel that we read in church recently: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

I’d been very sure of myself and my plans for the future—arrogantly so. It turns out that in my planning and my rightness, I’d been coating my heart in minerals. And lately I’ve been trying to find that space, that fleshy soft spot, from which I can peel off the calcified exterior, the same way you press your thumb into the soft whiteness of a hard-boiled egg, getting under the skin to take away the shell.

I got pregnant on ParaGard.

ParaGard is an intrauterine device (IUD)—a long-term, non-hormone contraceptive that’s inserted into the uterus. It’s reported to be incredibly safe and effective. There’s a less than one percent chance of getting pregnant.

The week before I figured out I was pregnant, I had had a familiar conversation with my husband, “We are so done. Why did I ever think I wanted three kids?” I looked at families with three kids and thought, What were they thinking? I saw newborns and my heartstrings were still. I had no desire to touch their soft skin or smell their sweet scent. Looking at a newborn, for me, was like picking up a book written in Aramaic: interesting, but unknowable.

My breasts started to hurt. I started to feel nauseous after breakfast. My sense of smell was deafening. I had strange thoughts filtering through my head: Maybe it wouldn’t be terrible if we had a third. Also, I really, really want tacos for breakfast.

I like to keep some pregnancy tests on hand. Before K-Pants was born I ordered a bunch online for about $1.50 per test, and they’d been helpful in relieving anxiety at various times. Recently I ran out. So one morning, after the I-really-want-tacos thought, I took some pee in a tightly sealed Tupperware, dropped the kids off at school, and headed to Dollar Tree. I had it on good authority from the infertility community and the Catholic moms that the dollar store was the place to get your tests.

I was there before they opened, so I stood outside for a minute with another guy, like a half-hearted October Black Thursday stampede. Luckily he wasn’t headed to the pregnancy tests or there might have been a rumble.

I did the test in the car.

It didn’t say I wasn’t pregnant. You may know that if there’s any sort of second line that appears, no matter how faint, you’re juiced. But I was in denial, and I sat there with the false uncertainty. Luckily I had an appointment with my naturopath right afterward. She did another test: “Looks like you’re pregnant.”

The naturopath suggested I call my OB-GYN right away, which was wise, because when I called they said, “How soon can you get here?”

Looking back on this particular Thursday, everything is slow and focused, as if a gentle snow were falling–quieting everything, allowing me to see only a few feet ahead.

I had discussed ParaGard with my midwife the year before and felt good about it. I was most concerned with lasting side effects on my health, which apparently were non-existent. We hadn’t discussed the fact that, according to the ParaGard site, “Although uncommon, pregnancy while using Paragard can be life threatening and may result in loss of pregnancy or fertility.” That discussion didn’t seem necessary, because chances of getting knocked up were so small.

Intrauterine devices do a very good job of making sure an embryo doesn’t implant in the uterus, which means that if you do get pregnant, there’s a good chance the embryo has implanted in the fallopian tubes—an ectopic pregnancy—which is very dangerous. An ectopic pregnancy is not viable, and will eventually rupture the tube, causing serious internal bleeding that can be fatal if not treated right away. The doctor I saw when I came in that day guessed that the chances of ectopic pregnancy were 85%, although I learned later they were closer to 50%.

Because I caught the pregnancy very early—only four-and-a-half weeks along—hormone levels were the only hard information we could rely on to determine if the pregnancy were ectopic. The hCG hormone is an indicator of placental development, and in a normal, uterine pregnancy the level will roughly double every two days. In an ectopic pregnancy, it will behave erratically and level off. I started Thursday at a reading of 275. I don’t know if that was 275 milliliters, micrograms, neurokilowatts. Whatever it was, it was supposed to double. On Saturday I was on a nice walk with my friend Sara when I got the news that the hormone level had gone up to 750. Looking good.

Two days later my husband and I went in to get the results of the next hormone reading, which should have been around 1500. I saw the numbers on a scrap of paper in the doctor’s hand: 275, 750, 866. Not good: 866 was not good.

My midwife had left the practice, and I didn’t have a rapport with my new doctor. “It’s not viable,” she said flatly. Then she gave us information for a drug called methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug that is designed to stop cells from dividing. It would be administered through a shot to a muscle in my leg, and it would eventually stop the embryo’s growth. The doctor left us with the paperwork. I needed to sign it, get my blood drawn to make sure my kidneys and liver were functioning normally, and then the methotrexate would be set up for that afternoon.

Just the week before this I had been pushed to the brink of sanity by my two boys and was feeling affirmed in the fact that our family was complete. Now I was trying unsuccessfully to stop the flow of tears as the doctor described the lab results and the shot of poison. As soon as I’d seen 866, my heart sank. In the days since we’d found out I was pregnant, I’d felt strangely peaceful, as if fairy dust had been scattered over me to calm the storm.

We didn’t want to expand our family. God changed the plan. I was reminded: I am not in control.

The winds around our house have been strangely intense for weeks. We’re surrounded by unkempt trees, so the winds are profound gnarling through their branches. Our trees are beautiful and beloved; but if trees could be feral, then these would be those wild, frothing beasts. They blow and beat their thin branches along the house. Their more substantial limbs break and thump to the ground or land jaggedly in other trees’ canopies. I’m not in control of any of this wild beauty.

Methotrexate scared me. The shock of needing to have it administered on Monday, the 866 day, was too much to handle. When the doctor left, my husband held me as I cried. “What do you want to do?” he asked. “I want to wait two more days,” I answered. I needed time to adjust to the fact that we’d had some powerful magic appear in our lives, and it was turning black. It seemed logical to do one more hormone reading. The doctor agreed to the plan. “But if your hormone levels were higher, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” she said.

This was Monday. Tuesday my husband was leaving for Thailand on business. The plan to wait longer with my health potentially at risk seemed perhaps ill-conceived, but no choice sounded good.

That night I started to have more intense pain on my right side. I knew the tube hadn’t ruptured because I was told that pain would be very, very intense—unmistakable. But the additional pain scared me, especially with my husband leaving the next day. We had decided from the beginning that my health was the number one priority, and all decisions needed to be made with that in mind. Suddenly I was in increasing pain with my husband going out of town in the morning, and I could have already taken the methotrexate. At least then I wouldn’t be sitting with mounting uncertainty. I called the doctor, and also my friend Karen who is a high-risk OB-GYN. We made a plan for me to go in the next day for an ultrasound.

It turns out I would be at the doctor’s office every day that week.

On Tuesday the ultrasound showed maybe something in the tubes, maybe something in the uterus. Totally inconclusive: It was still too early. On Wednesday, I was mentally exhausted and ready for methotrexate. The hormone level would come in, I expected, and it would tell us not viable again. But it went from 866 to 2200. “Well, I don’t know what to do with you,” said my new doctor (I had broken up with the first one). “It could be ectopic or it could be viable. We can’t say.”

I had prayed for a miracle. Now this miracle seemed scarier than the methotrexate. My husband was out of town and I needed to wait two days to get another reading. In the meantime, my fallopian tube could potentially rupture. My rising anxiety was telling me I was being cavalier with my health and putting the whole family at risk.

“Do you feel comfortable sending me home?” I asked the doctor. “No,” she said, “but what are we going to do? There’s a chance this is viable, you live close to the hospital, and you have good care set up: You’re not going to bleed to death at home.”

This was vaguely reassuring.

I called my friend Karen. “We have to consider that the 866 reading was erroneous. It wouldn’t be unthinkable to request another ultrasound for Thursday.” She felt like if it were ectopic, something might appear, and if it were normal, there could possibly be a sac in the uterus.

Thursday there was a gestational sac in the uterus. Thursday’s doctor—I’d been put with whoever could fit me into the schedule—was nonchalant. “I would not have recommended methotrexate,” she said. “And looking at your readings, they are potentially normal given that hCG really doubles every two to three days. Come in for your hormone readings tomorrow and Monday, and then another ultrasound a week from now. You could have a normal baby in there.” I was in shock. “Things could be normal?” I asked, “Because on Monday I was told to take methotrexate. Now things could be normal. You could tell me that you’d seen fairies or pigs on the ultrasound and I would believe you.”

She laughed. I broke up with the second doctor and went with this one. Plus, this one had a kickass nurse. I also started referring to whatever was growing inside me as the fairy pig.

Friday I got my blood drawn again. The level had gone from 2200 to 3700, and by Monday it was 9600.

Starting on Tuesday after my husband left, my friend Mana came with me to all my doctor’s appointments. She also talked to an OB-GYN friend of hers, who made it clear that in a situation like this, when you get pregnant on an intrauterine device and discover the pregnancy early, it’s basically a waiting game. You use all the data you can—hormone and pain levels and ultrasounds—to slowly figure out what’s happening. It reminded me that all will be revealed in time. But also you could start to bleed internally and require emergency surgery while your husband is in Thailand.

A week later I was walking around with my fallopian tubes intact, and my husband was home. We went in for the follow-up ultrasound: there was a yolk sac in the uterus, and nothing in the tubes. Two weeks later we had the last acute ultrasound. There it was—a fast little heartbeat palpitating on the screen.

As my husband and I waited after the ultrasound to meet with the doctor we chatted about mundane things, and tears kept soaking steadily into my shirt. The little fairy pig was here, had a heartbeat.

I could start to lightly release the tension on the knobs that had wound the violin strings of my soul to their tautest state.

I am now in the second trimester of this fairy-pig pregnancy. God keeps reminding me that I am not in control.


Last-but-very-very-not-least: I am so grateful…

For Hannah, who was the first person after my husband whom I told I was pregnant, because—as I knew she would—she greeted the news with jubilation and sympathy. And then she came and sat with me at my last blood draw.

For Mana, who rearranged her schedule to come with me to every doctor appointment while my husband was out of town. She knows more doctors and nurses in my clinic than most patients do.

For Leslie and Brita and Vivien, who picked up my boys from school and brought them to their houses whenever I had an appointment.

For my sister Hillary, who changed everything in her life in order to stay with me and organize support until my husband got back.

For my family, who came and helped and brought food and took the boys and did whatever needed to be done.

For Maru and Maddie, who spent nights at our house and played with my boys.

For my friend Lauren, who has an incredible wealth of early pregnancy knowledge and also a humorous and wise take on everything.

For Karen, my friend who is an OB-GYN who specializes in high risk situations. She made all the overwhelming details accessible, and helped guide me through difficult medical questions.

For Brandon, for marrying Karen and setting up an instant conference call when I asked.

For our priest, who prayed with me and gave me the image of being bathed in golden light. That is a powerful image.

For everyone else who offered prayers, empathy, and support along the way.