One and Only; One and Everything? (Or, Parenting after Infertility)

First there was Frank Bruni’s NYT essay on the gift of siblings, which was quoted, linked to and shared all over social media. It’s a lovely piece, and one that made me pause and really consider how much of my life experiences were and are shaped by having siblings, in my case, older brothers.

Bruno quotes writer Jeffrey Kluger, who observed that ““Siblings are the only relatives, and perhaps the only people you’ll ever know, who are with you through the entire arc of your life.” That shared history and familiarity can be a tremendous gift, and source of comfort.

Next came Lauren Sandler’s Op-Ed on being an only child and being the parent of an only child, a precursor to the release of her new book, One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One. (It’s next up on my reading list.) In her article, Sandler takes on the misconceptions attributed to only children—that they are spoiled, selfish loners—as well as their parents, who must also be selfish, or care more about money or material goods than parents who have several children. She uses research to beat back these assumptions, and urges readers to consider the numbers:

“In hundreds of studies during the past decades exploring 16 character traits — including leadership, maturity, extroversion, social participation, popularity, generosity, cooperativeness, flexibility, emotional stability, contentment — only children scored just as well as children with siblings….only children are, in fact, no more self-involved than anyone else. It turns out brutal sibling rivalry isn’t necessary to beat the ego out of us; peers and classmates do the job.”

Lately, it seems like conversations about family dynamics and the decisions we make regarding family size are everywhere, and I find them cropping up all over the place in my own life, too. At two and half, my daughter is at the age where many of her classmates and friends now have younger siblings. All her cousins have siblings. Sweetly and innocently, she’s already asked me why she doesn’t have brothers or sisters. “Some families and bigger, and some are smaller,” I tell her. “What matters is that families love each other.”

When we’re in line at grocery stores, when I’m pushing her on the swings at the playground, or chatting with other moms, people ask me if she’s my first, if we’re going to have more. It’s a totally natural question, but if you’re parenting after infertility (and high-risk pregnancies) and/or parenting with chronic illness, it isn’t an easy or automatic question. It’s one I’ve been fielding since I was still pregnant with her. My response then was that I was focused on bringing this baby into the world safely, not future babies.

My response now echoes a similar sentiment. “We’re enjoying where we are right now.” After the long journey to get here, the fact that we have this happy, healthy little girl still blows our minds. Everyone responds to parenting after infertility in different ways. We never thought we’d be here, and some days it feels almost greedy or presumptuous or lacking in gratitude to assume lightning would strike twice like this. That might sound strange, but I wonder if some of you out there can relate.

What is a normal conversation for many other families, what is a natural progression in size for many families, is anything but for families with infertility or chronic illness (not that these are the only variables that make this complicated, of course—these are merely the ones that shape my perspective.) I wish this conversation was different for us, but that isn’t our reality. A few years ago, I wrote that the responsibility involved in making a decision like this—to embark on this high-risk road—was staggering. But really, the responsibility of being a parent in general is staggering, the competing considerations don’t get easier: We owe her the best of us, emotionally and physically. Siblings can be so enriching and wonderful. So are healthy (relatively speaking) parents.

It’s not an either-or situation, clearly, but what our responsibilities are to her as a toddler and young child and what she might want or need later are sometimes hard to navigate.

If she is an only child, I admit I sometimes worry about the misguided assumptions about only children as being spoiled or expecting the world to go their way, but I also know that her friends, relatives, and her experiences being in school, existing in groups, and generally learning to be social and empathetic. We’ve worked consciously to find a community, and communities within that larger community, where she will be supported and where she will feel connected to people beyond just the two of us. She calls her extended family and her gaggle of cousins “my people” and those bonds are incredibly important, and will be her shared history, too.

As I read Sandler’s essay and some related interviews with her, one thing that really struck me were all the negative labels attached to parents with only children—that their choices reflect selfishness or materialism, that they chose a small family so they wouldn’t have to deal with the chaos and inconveniences of more children, etc.

Maybe their choices reflect what is best for their individual family unit, and what allows everyone to thrive. Maybe it has always been their plan, their ideal social, economic, and philosophical situation. Maybe it isn’t their ideal choice, and the inability to have more children is a source of immense sadness. Whatever the reason, I don’t understand or appreciate the instinct to judge this choice, to assume negative motivations behind it, or to question the decisions parents make in terms of limiting their family size.

I know firsthand the many benefits of siblings. As a parent in a potential only-child family, I’m hopeful the benefits and opportunities of this path are enriching, too. I appreciate Sandler’s work and that she’s using research to speak back to these stereotypes—I wish she didn’t have to, though.

Changing Spaces

It’s been an intense spring, one marked by necessary cuts. Some are exciting and liberating and others are more raw, but all are ultimately for the better.

Like many of you, I suspect, I often write and blog to process, to work through decisions and reflect on experiences that have already happened. A couple of months ago, when I wrote this post that started as a rumination on the writing and editing process, it really did begin with writing itself, and slowly stretched to ideas about living with illness. Still, it was primarily retrospective.

But I thought about the idea of “necessary cuts” constantly after I posted, and a couple days later, I had a life-altering epiphany. The writing informed the decision, not vice versa.

We should sell our house and move.

A few weeks after that moment of clarity, our house was thoroughly scrubbed, streamlined, and staged, and went on the market. We scoured neighborhoods in new places, comparing schools and commutes and spaces, and driving by listings. Just a couple of weeks later, our house was under agreement, and a few weeks after that, we signed an offer on a house in a much different place.

For the past four and a half years this has been a wonderful home. It’s got character and a good layout, and is in an active area with many urban amenities: public transit, coffee shops and restaurants and playgrounds in walking distance, proximity to highways and hospitals and so much else. Yet many of the things that were attractive to us then don’t necessarily reflect our reality now. Just as suddenly as we fell in love with this place (and it was immediate—we weren’t even looking for a new house), we knew it was time to move on.

For the first time since I was eighteen, I can see myself living somewhere where espresso, Thai food, and the subway are not within steps of my door. There are many reasons to leave that make sense to us, just as there were many reasons to live here when we bought it. But this house, as much as we love it, and the lifestyle this house represents, simply aren’t the right fit for us anymore.

It’s a necessary cut, indeed.

We held our breath a lot in this house, and did a lot of hedging. We were drawn in by the spacious, quirky bedrooms, eyeing the sunny front bedroom as a possible nursery someday, yet in the same breath we told the then-sellers to take their swing set with them because we knew there was a real chance we’d never have a child to push on those swings.

We are living in the after, not the “if,” and we have a lot more clarity in terms of what we want, but more than that, what we need.

Beyond concrete items like the walk-in closet or the updated kitchen, there are many things I will miss about this house. It was where neighbors became friends. It was where a business was launched over tamales and margaritas with friends, and where Supper Clubs were held well into the night. It was the home where an idea for a second book took root, and where, over several years, the stack of books and articles somehow became a cohesive narrative. It was where we hosted Thanksgivings and cook-outs and sleepovers with nieces. Its closeness to Longwood Medical Area meant it served as a home base and staging ground whenever my loved ones (or me) were in the hospital (which was far too often, really. Really.)

Our bedroom is where I closed the door and cried quietly month after month (after month), and my home office is where I got the call that finally brought happy tears after so many years. The sunny front bedroom is where we painted the walls a gorgeous pale blue/aqua color because we wanted our little girl to have something other than pink, and on whose walls we stenciled the words “Dream. Hope. Believe,” scarcely believing this was in fact our reality.

The sunshine that streams through the living room window every afternoon was my constant companion during weeks of bedrest, and the hustle and bustle of cars, trucks, and neighbors connected me to the world outside those four walls. The front door was covered in balloons and Welcome Home signs when we brought our baby home from the hospital, and the hardwood floors and living room rug are where she crawled and walked for the first time.

We’ve had so much joy here, and so much tough stuff along with that joy. Things fell apart and stitched themselves back together—not seamless, but stronger nonetheless.

In a few weeks, we’re off to someplace much different. More land, more green, more (mental and physical) space to exhale. I did not realize how much I was still holding my breath, until I wasn’t anymore. We’re sad to leave the house was truly a home, but we’re even more excited for a better fit, a better life for all of us.

Dream. Hope. Believe.

On Anniversaries; or, What is Necessary

Last spring and summer, before things got more complicated, every time I walked by the baby’s room I would stop and enter. I’d walk in and touch something—the side of the crib, a stack of bibs that had been washed and folded, the small pink bunny we bought at the hospital gift shop the day we found out she was a girl. The room gets a ton of sunlight all afternoon, and that’s always how it seemed to me—quiet, peaceful, and full of streaming light.

While an amazing, incredible journey, pregnancy wasn’t always comfortable for me, and I am not talking about all the physical stuff of a high-risk pregnancy. I was awkward in maternity clothing stores, awkward about letting people know I was pregnant (if waiting 16 weeks to tell people beyond the inner sanctum is any indication), awkward even saying the words “I am pregnant.”

It wasn’t because I was waiting for something bad to happen, for that other shoe to drop, or anything like that. It was more that it was hard to believe it was really happening, and if I said it out loud, if it became so very real, I would wake up from the dream. So it was a learning curve, letting go of this safely guarded secret, meshing the real world and all the risks and variables with the dream world.

But her room was different. I know many people, those who have been through infertility and loss and those who haven’t, who wait on decorating and setting up just in case, and I totally get it. I was convinced I’d be that person, too. Instead, there was something comforting about getting it ready early, about the trappings of a baby having a place in our home. (Plus, I had a feeling the third trimester would be…challenging, so I wanted to be prepared).

Her room was my compass, my private act of rebellion and hope. Every time I went in there I smiled, every time I rocked in her glider I felt peace. I needed it to remind me everything would be okay, and to remind me it was not just okay to have hope, it was intrinsic to this whole experience.

Now, I walk into her room and there is a peaceful, sleeping baby or a smiling, wriggling baby read to play. The sunlight streams in just like it did last year and I catch my breath as the two worlds collide, the world of waiting and the world of living, and I exhale.

All of this is on my mind a lot as we near the anniversary of the call that changed so much. Of course I know from firsthand experience that such calls do not just happen at 3am; they happen as you are making dinner quite often, they happen as you’re doing errands, they happen as you are about to have lunch, like this one did. We’ve had lots of calls, but this one I remember in visceral detail.

It was this time last year I learned that it is possible to have your heart literally feel like it will stop beating from fear at the same time it wants to explode into a million pieces with happiness. That grief and sadness and joy and gratitude can co-exist—not easily or gracefully, but they can, and we need them to. Becoming a mother will be forever linked with being my mother’s daughter, and there is a lot to be said for that.

Sometimes, it is hard to believe how much has happened in one year, how much life has changed from last summer to this. It is not just good to be hopeful, but it is a necessary part of being.

Why I Hate Push Presents

Parts of this post have been in draft form and swirling around in my brain for months, literally. Sarcastic and quippy wouldn’t cut it. The right jumping off point lest it sound too rant-y or judgmental slipped through my fingers over and over.

And then this: I recently heard about another devastating late-term loss. And it became so clear.

Life, survival, is a blessing, not a guarantee. Motherhood is a privilege.

And besides all the snarky, quippy reasons I absolutely, positively loathe the whole concept of “push presents” this is at the core. The privilege of delivering a live baby? That is the gift, no?

Let me break down my argument a bit. First off, on a semantic level I find the term itself extremely tacky, not to mention offensive. Perhaps I am being contrary me again, but from my perspective, it is exclusionary and implies that only women who have endured childbirth (you know, that process women have gone through since the dawn of humanity, usually without the benefit of pearls or diamonds?) warrant recognition or have sacrificed.

After all, there’s no “You-survived-the-emotional-heart-choke-known as adoption” present, right? Or “your-gestational-carrier-was-successful-in-delivering your child” luxe item?

And as for the mothers who must deliver babies far too soon, or babies who were on time but not okay, I truly have no words because my heart does choke and my stomach coils up involuntarily.

Please don’t misunderstand me. It’s the attitude of expectation that is repugnant to me, not the presents themselves. This isn’t an indictment of people who get gifts for having babies. If someone’s partner or spouse wants to commemorate the miracle of birth with a gift, that’s great—and it’s also none of my business, or my place to judge.

No, it’s when it goes too far, it’s about the build-up around it, the speculation and prolonged discussion over the merits of some gifts over others, and the belief that a woman is “owed” something elaborate for having a baby that can sometimes occur that is problematic.

Again: the ability to conceive a baby, carry a baby past viability and into a safer range, and have both mother and child survive the birth process, that is a gift. And the ability to come home with a baby or child, regardless of what process made that happen, the ability to be a parent and help another human being develop into his or her own person? That is a gift.

And really? We must commercialize our lives so much that even birth has its own subset of recommended gifts? Not surprisingly, I feel much the same way about elaborate Mother’s Day gifts but I am sick of my own soapbox so I will leave you with some comments on Mother’s Day from the infertility trenches. Sprogblogger writes,

“This year, I’m feeling overwhelmed with appreciation – for my own mother and my grandmothers and all of the women who have ‘mothered’ me in one sense or another throughout the years. But do I feel like someone should be appreciating me, and the work I do? Not so much – because I feel like I’m the one who’s been given the gift of being allowed to mother, so wanting a pat on the back for essentially eating a cookie someone handed me just feels like the grossest kind of greediness –the cookie is reward enough, and thank you!”

On Mother’s Day

I wrote recently about chronic illness and parenting and have an upcoming post on certain expectations and attitudes about parenting, but in light of Mother’s Day I want to post something briefly about motherhood itself.

Mother’s Day is an interesting experience when you want a family and do not or cannot have one. It was never a day to fear or avoid, since it was a day to celebrate our mothers, but it was also a day with the capacity to emphasize all that was not there, too.

And here we are on the other side, seven months into the privilege of parenting this little girl. It’s such a fun stage right now, where new skills develop practically every day: clapping, waving, feeding herself, cruising around, imitating us. (I am partial to the fake cough when she hears me cough, or her chuckle when she fake sneezes.)

As a mother, since last Mother’s Day I went from waiting and worrying to watching our daughter grow before our eyes. As a daughter, I saw a catastrophic medical event happen and watched my own mother make it through.

So this Mother’s Day, I am profoundly grateful to be a mother and a daughter, and to celebrate life.

And will be thinking of and supporting all the people out there still on this journey…

On Being a (Chronically Ill) Mother

The next installment of the ChronicBabe blog carnival is all about motherhood and chronic illness, and given my recent post on trying to balance work, parenting, and chronic illness, this theme is certainly on my mind these days.

I’m working on a piece about Mother’s Day, infertility, and parenting, (and hey, did you know this week is National Infertility Awareness Week?) but I think it’s important to look specifically at the chronic illness aspect of things, too…and as the daughter of a chronically ill person, a patient myself, and the mother of a child with some health issues, I definitely have fodder.

The biggest thing that living with chronic illness has reinforced in my parenting is this: trusting my instincts. Our instincts. We bought all sorts of books and guides before she was born, but once she arrived, we quickly realized that getting to know her and paying attention to her cues was the best guide of all. We trusted her to let us know what she needed, and trusted our own intuition, too.

As a rare disease patient with a history of missed diagnoses, I have learned to be an advocate—to speak up when information is incorrect, to ask questions even when it is uncomfortable or awkward, to make sure my voice and my knowledge of my body and my symptoms are part of the dialogue.

As a parent, my job is to advocate for my daughter and to always work for what’s in her best interest. From firing her pediatrician when he continued to ignore her worsening symptoms to fine-tuning the balance between keeping her away from sick crowds during the winter season since she was very susceptible and also allowing her to socialize (she’s an outgoing girl!), I have more confidence saying “I know what is right for my kid”—and, more importantly, “I know when something is not right for my kid”—than I might have had I not lived through 30 years of illness.

I also think we are both more risk-tolerant than we might have been otherwise, especially me. She was such a tough little survivor all the way through this long journey of ours, and through her own health problems (which are under nice control these days), that it is easier for me to let go of fears and anxiety. I joke when I say it, but there is a lot of truth to the fact that if she could survive 37 weeks inside this body of mine, she can handle what the outside world throws at her.

It’s so easy to get bogged down in the labels and categories that come along with becoming parents (and I don’t mean Bugaboo versus Uppababy): Are you an attachment parent? A co-sleeper, a CIO-er, an E.A.S.Y. parent? Are you a breast feeding mama? Do you give your baby a pacifier, do you wear your baby, do you swaddle? Are you a working mom, a SAHM mom, or some variation of the two?

Parenting is never as black and white as these choices. They might contribute to the much larger picture of who we are as parents, but they are only as defining or absolute as we allow them to be. At least that’s how I feel, and how I feel about the possible implications of being a chronically ill mother. Or rather, a mother who happens to have chronic illness. Just as illness was never what I wanted to define my relationships or my career, it certainly isn’t what I want as a defining element of my daughter’s life.

And it isn’t.

But some days, making sure that isn’t the case takes more work than others.

There have been days where I have been really sick and run down and couldn’t imagine getting out of bed, but a certain squealing, chuckling little girl needed to eat whether I felt well or not. There have been days, especially earlier on, when trying to be the mother of a breastfed infant with health problems and the daughter of chronically ill parents who had their own needs left me flattened. There have been nights where, after another 18-hour day, staying up most of the night to watch her and hold her upright when she wasn’t feeling well was difficult if I wasn’t feeling well, either. But you do what you need to do in the moment and get through it, like any parent. Her needs come first.

Living with chronic illness already showed me how important it is to ask for help. Admittedly, this is much more difficult with my daughter because I want to be the one to do things for her and with her, but this is perhaps the greatest negotiation of parenting with chronic illness: I can’t be what she needs me to be if I am too sick.

It’s a line I am always balancing, and it took me many months to be able to start to make some of those choices—some days, that means she has to wait while I have my chest PT, some days her father does the morning shift, some days I abandon my word count to get some more rest so that the next day, I can give her all the energy I have.

I’ve come to see that those days where I have to shift things a bit still mean her needs come first—it’s just an alternative way of making sure she has two happy, (relatively) healthy parents who can give her what she deserves.


I do plan to post something coherent about work, chronic illness, and parenting very soon, but right now, while I am limping across the finish line of the semester, indulge me in some more unstructured thoughts on being a parent.

Time. As I taped my daughter’s Easter picture to the refrigerator this week, I realized a few things: this was the first time my own child’s holiday picture kept her cousins’ pictures company up there; this time last year, we already had three (of many) ultrasound pictures up there to greet us every time we went into the kitchen; it was this week last year that I finally went public about being pregnant. A year ago April 16, I felt my daughter move for the first time, and this year, almost to the day, she cut her first tooth and balanced on her own standing up for a few seconds. It is hard to wrap my head around everything that has changed in this past amazing and challenging year.

Relief. I was back at my (our) hospital for an appointment of my own this week. I’ve done my very best to avoid going back there, having spent far too much time there during the pregnancy. Anyway, it is such a different experience evaluating pulse oximeter results and medications without worrying about the impact of the numbers on a growing baby. Knowing her welfare is no longer tied so wholly and viscerally to my own health is reassuring, yet the relationship between my health and what is best for her is still a regular negotiation: to be the best mother I can be for her, I need to feel as well as I can. (See also: upcoming post on balance….)

Gratitude. “Every morning is kind of like Christmas morning.” We agreed about this the other night. It was almost 1 am and we’d both had a very long week, but none of that mattered, or matters. Knowing there is a wriggling, giggling little girl waiting for us every morning often makes it hard to sleep.

And, in lighter terms…
Humility. I was getting a bit cocky last weekend. In one day, I’d managed the logistics of swimming class, a play date, and a birthday party with nap time and meals (and final papers! And work deadlines! And a nasty, plague-like virus thing, oh my!) and everyone was intact and smiling. Clearly, I was too confident.

As I went to fold up the new stroller and head to our final destination, I could not figure it out. Like, 10 minutes into it, sweating and exasperated, I still couldn’t fold it up. I pulled tabs, I pushed bars, I moved wheels. I may have sworn a few times, and I may have even tried shoving the whole thing in the back still upright. With the guy who was waiting for my spot impervious to my motions to move on, I got more flustered and more inept. Eventually, he got out of his car to help me and he couldn’t do it either, but that didn’t make me feel better because I’d had lessons. Fearing a situation just like this, my husband, who is used to the manifestations of my spatial relations problem, had walked me through it several times. Thankfully, a second passer-by, the mother of twins, hopped out of her car and came to our rescue.

So a good fifteen minutes after I buckled my daughter into her car seat and tried to leave the parking garage, I was ready to go. The only upside is that this time, I hadn’t gotten lost actually getting to my car, which is a routine occurrence in parking garages.

So there’s that.

Let’s hope she gets her spatial abilities from her father….

As Long as Everything’s Okay

It’s a cold, rainy March day and I can’t help but think about this time last year. It was right around now that our basement flooded from epic rains, the infection I’d had since January got worse, and I ended up in the hospital for a few days. It was the busiest point of my semester, and it was when I tumbled down the rabbit hole of work and chronic illness.

And, I was twelve weeks pregnant when I was hospitalized and very worried about the baby, but couldn’t tell you that then.

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but when you go through infertility and loss you don’t look too far ahead. Just let the baby get through this, I remember thinking. Let us make it to the second trimester okay.

I watched her (of course I didn’t know she was a she then) dart around the many ultrasounds I had that hospital stay, eyes glued to the screen while the medicine floor—charged with taking care of my lungs—consulted with my fetal medicine team, who were charged with keeping the baby safe and evaluating which medicines I could take.

When we were several weeks into the second trimester, and I finally came out about being pregnant, reaching viability (or, 24-25 weeks) was the next milestone. Naturally, people asked me if we had a gender preference, which we didn’t. However, people looked at me strangely when I answered “alive” as my preference, so I learned to say “as close to full-term as possible,” and had conflicted feelings about the familiar old phrase, “as long as it’s healthy.” When we had scares at 28 weeks and I went on bed rest, and more scares at 32 weeks with my lungs and 34 weeks with my lungs and pre-term labor, all we wanted was for her to be okay. Every single day she stayed on the inside was a victory for us.

And then she was born, and I could finally hold this tough little girl who did so well for so long, who thrived even when the circumstances indicated she shouldn’t have been. She was whisked away for a (very short) NICU stay, and all I could think of was, just let her be okay. I couldn’t wait to have her in my arms again.

I’ve thought a lot about the whole “as long as she’s healthy” sentiment the past few months. Thankfully her health issues are not serious, and thankfully they have not impacted her development. She’s a strong little peanut—she’s been sitting up unassisted since she was a 4.5 months old, and is ready to take off and crawl all too soon. I joke it’s from all the steroids I took during pregnancy. We call her a little toughie because she rarely complains, even when not feeling well. She’s known as the baby who loves the doctor’s office, and never stops smiling and flirting with everyone, even when they are poking, prodding, and testing her.

One of her doctors is on the same floor as the pediatric hematology/oncology clinic and there is nothing like seeing that sign to make you feel simultaneously grateful your kid is basically fine and also heartbroken for the children and parents going through so much worse.

Way back, when I was a teenager and younger adult and babies were merely hypothetical, it was so easy to focus on the things that don’t matter. I’m competitive, and admittedly I can be an intellectual snob, and I remember thinking how I’d want my kid to do well in school, to go to a prestigious college, etc, etc.

That was before. Before facing mortality more than once, before falling in love and getting married, before 4 years of infertility, before people told me I would never or should never have a child, before loss and grief and hope and joy swallowed me up all at once. It was before I saw a tiny flicker of a heart beat at 6 weeks, before the drama at 12 weeks, before finding out “it” was really “she,” before tiny kicks and punches and more hospitalizations and complications. It was before I discovered cranberry juice made her dance inside me, before I held her in my arms for the first time, before I saw my husband’s face in hers.

And of course, it was before she held my finger while eating, or started my day by squealing and laughing in her crib; before she stopped what she was doing when someone said “Mama” and stared right at me. It was before I experienced how scary it is to see your baby sick, and how reassuring her big smile could be. It was before she learned how to give hugs, and big, slobbery kisses, before I realized that her deep belly laugh could make me laugh harder than anything else, ever.

She will be six months old tomorrow, and I can’t believe that. Honestly, there are still days I am in awe this is our life. In the middle of the pregnancy chaos I wrote about taking it one day at a time to stay sane. Now, I find myself focusing on taking it one day at a time, simply so I don’t miss a minute of this amazing journey, this “after.”

If she grows up and loves school, great. If she outgrows her health issues, absolutely fantastic. But in the end, as long as she is okay, as long as she is happy and knows she is loved unconditionally, that’s all that matters. Turns out the refrain that sustained me throughout our pregnancy–just let her be okay–sustains us still.


In my writing classes, audience is the fundamental principle we keep returning to for each assignment: Are my health sciences students writing to peers in the professional realm? To a scholarly, academic audience? To the general public, or a patient (ie, lay person) audience? Such audience analysis gives way to decisions about scope of content, vocabulary and diction, and overall tone and approach.

You need to know your audience for your message to be successful,” I hear myself saying over and over.

And yet lately, when it comes to my own writing, I seem to be so hyper-aware of audience and more specifically purpose, that it leaves me wordless. (I know!)

I’ve mentioned having trouble with balance since going back to work full time with a baby, and have also said I’m trying to get back into a groove. And while part of that does mean simply carving out the time to post with regularity, to comment on the posts I read (because I still read them—it’s something I can do one-handed while nursing), and to engage more fully in this online world, that is only part of it.

I need to find my content groove again, too. So often I have concrete ideas, ideas that won’t go away and keep percolating away until they threaten to bubble over, but then I stop short of executing them.

I want to write about aspects of parenting that are enlightening and humbling, like breastfeeding.

(But this isn’t a parenting blog, so stick with issues of parenting and chronic illness, like knowing when to fire a pediatrician, says the little voice.

I want to write about being a parent after infertility, since I never expected just how much that journey would inform my worldview and my thoughts on this joyful little girl I get to wake up to every day.

(But think about the people reading this who might still be going through the infertility nightmare, cautions the little voice.

And I do want to write about finding balance, and feeling like I am falling down the rabbit hole of work again, except that while there is a lot of pressure right now with work-related stuff, there is so, so much happiness and fulfillment and joy with my daughter that I am worried I will not strike the appropriate balance, one that shows how much my heart and mind have stretched and changed and re-prioritized in the midst of the same old problem.

(But can do you that in a way that is accessible?, queries the little voice.

And as cognizant as I am of what I set out for this blog to be a few years ago, and trying to stay true to that, I am even more aware of how much of what is really at the core of where I am right now is not necessarily my story to tell.

(Just because you’re a writer doesn’t make all your material fair game, chides the little voice, a point that speaks to me more strongly than ever.

I feel myself pulling inward. I do think there are ways to discuss parenting and still relate it to chronic illness, and I want what I write to reflect the huge shift in my life, but I also want to protect my daughter’s privacy and not put too much out there about her. You won’t see her name here, or details about her health, but perhaps there is more room for a little window into our lives with her.

There have been so many changes in the lives of people close to me over the past several months, and the repercussions of those changes affect me every day. But other people’s illnesses are not my illnesses, and though we are all connected, I am drawn by the urge to protect the vulnerability I see.

And here we are. The days are getting longer. The snow banks are melting a little bit. I survived the bulk of winter without getting too sick or going to the hospital. There is a happy baby chattering away in her crib right now, thrilled to be awake and content to tell secrets to herself for a few minutes. And, I have stories to tell. I just need to get out of my own way.

(You’ll get there.)

2010 in Review: The Year of the Baby

Leslie’s Patients for a Moment prompt for the last edition of the year is a good one: recap the year in posts, or pick a favorite post from the past year.

Indulge me while I do a little of both.

Clearly if you read this blog regularly you know 2010 was the year of the baby here on A Chronic Dose. After talking a lot about chronic illness, pregnancy, and parenting over the past few years, I kicked off 2010 all riled up about the insensitive attitudes and assumptions people have about adoption and parenting with chronic illness. Reading it over, I still get a little red in the face and animated, and hope to continue those kinds of conversations in the near future.

It was a long, stressful, and secretive winter and spring, but the post I am most proud of on this blog and probably more proud of than anything else I’ve written is when I finished the rest of the story of children and chronic illness in April, the backstory that I’d largely kept off the blog for much of our four-year journey towards being parents. I’ve never drafted and re-drafted a piece more, and even though it is a bit longer than normal I think everything is relevant. It represented everything that is part of a journey like this: hope, sadness, forgiveness, frustration, and most of all, thankfully, joy.

Wow, a lot has changed since I “came out” with that post, when I was 16 weeks pregnant and still holding my breath a little bit. When I talked about a high-risk pregnancy by trimester I had no idea I’d go on bed rest shortly after, that my loved one would suffer a catastrophic medical problem, that I’d be in and out of the hospital quite so many times, that I would go into pre-term labor and hold my breath yet again at 28, 32, and 34 weeks.

I’d rather skip ahead to my favorite post of the year, when I could type the words here at last and finally, we exhaled and focused instead on falling in love with our little girl.

Since then we’ve adjusted to being parents and juggling illness and work, and can’t wait to spend out first holiday season with our daughter.

So much has changed in twelve months. I am excited to leave at least some of the medical complexity and anxiety of 2010 behind us and focus on living our new life. 2010 gave us the most amazing, incredible experience so despite the ups and downs, that’s the note on which I am happy to end the year.