#ThisIsInfertility

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*Not our new house. This is Christiania.

Soon, Martin and I will move. We are downsizing to a smaller, cheaper apartment in a northern borough of Copenhagen called Nørrebro. AKA, NørreBronx.

Our week of packing happens to coincide with National Infertility Awareness Week in the United States. The movement — complete with hashtags and extensive social media efforts — has given me time to reflect on the current wave of emotions (read, bitterness) I am feeling right now.

We are moving because I struggle with infertility; my body isn’t working right, and this is my punishment. Losing my home, in hopes of gaining some money. To pay for the children we so desperately want. We will have to pay a lot of money to earn the title of Parents, esq.

I am trying to be less bitter about this fact. But I am. 11 rounds of fertility treatments, and we are back at the bottom of our mountain. Only soon, we are homeless. Uprooted, physically and emotionally. And you don’t have to tell me, because I already know: it’s only money, and it will be the most gratifying, heart-filling investment we will ever make in our lives. Without question.

But I see our move as a huge failure on my part.IMG_5148

We are moving…the wrong way. We are the Jeffersons, in reverse. We are moving on down, to the North side, to a deluxe shanty that makes me cry.  This predicament has upturned the old canard I clung to, promising my ‘upward mobility.’ We are going from spacious and posh and high ceilings, to smaller and dodgier and a single chipped bathroom in that rougher hood across town. The one where the terrorist was shot after his shooting rampage on February 14th.  There is no sparkling pool of self-pity for me to swim in there. There are people there in far worse shape than me.

I would like to not be the sweater-set wearing a$$hole that I am who worries about the square-metres of her new address. We don’t really need a big flat, because we are just two. But where will the crib go, over there?

The moving boxes all over the flat eat me up inside. I mope around the joint, and fill half a box every evening before telling my husband I’m too tired.

I am annoying even myself.

Martin has called in the big guns. His parents. My precious in-laws from the island of Fyn have temporarily moved into the new, bare-ass flat. They brought sleeping bags and meatballs. They wake early every morning, put on their overalls, and get to work, painting it top to bottom (while Martin and I have our butts planted in Danish-design chairs, in front of our computer screens all day).

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Actual photo submitted to adoption agency. 🙂

They’re sleeping on an air mattress every night in order to help us. And I still feel like I am entitled to complain. (I know I’m not). They don’t want to bunk with us at the old flat in order to “give us our privacy.” They get it. They know how our evenings are spent. Emailing adoption agencies in the U.S., fighting back tears.

I tell them, Tak. Tak så meget.

Thank you so much. I slipped into the kitchen during dinner last night to cry into the sink. Because their decency and generosity are things I feel unworthy of._MG_4739 copy

I am so mad at the world, but I love them so much. I love them for being so silent and loving. For helping us out in this confusing time. For making sure my amazing husband isn’t in that flat alone, painting it real nice for his bitter, infertile wife.

#ThisIsInfertility #NationalInfertilityAwarenessWeek

 

A Delicate Post: Dolce & Gabbana & IVF

My favorite underwear to wear when I visit the doctor for IVF treatments are from Dolce & Gabbana. After going through 11 assisted reproductive treatments (ART) – composed of endless shots, ultrasound scans, oocyte retrievals, transfers, 2-week waits, blood tests, and more – you find that even trifle gestures, like picking out undies the morning of an appointment, carry some meaning.

I own 10 pairs of Dolce & Gabbana delicates, and they make me feel good while doing something that makes me feel awful. Going through infertility, I wear a broken heart everyday. My body, in a lot of ways, is broken too. My designer skivvies bring a small piece of sexy to our terribly unsexy efforts to make a family. The family I refuse to give up on.

On Sunday –  my 20th day of a long-protocol of IVF that will be my 5th round in the last year –  I read some words from my favorite designer duo, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana.

They expressed their discomfort with the practice of IVF in an interview with an Italian magazine that has since gone viral: (translated from Italian) ‘You are born and you have a father and mother,’ Domenico said. ‘At least it should be like that. That’s why I’m not convinced by what I call chemical children, synthetic babies.’

Their pointed words caused a social media ruckus; celebrities started piling on, and I’ll admit, I got riled. Blame it on the hormones, or just being a human being, but the quote stung. I felt singled out. Misunderstood and angry. I shared their thoughts with my husband, who winced. An hour later, all was silent as he stuck a syringe full of Gonal-f into my bruised stomach.

The next day, still smarting, I got my trigger-happy typing-fingers ready to hashtag the #$hit out of their designer asses, invoking the now trending #boycottdolcegabbana. And then I found out stuff about them – a lot of stuff that I didn’t know – gleaned from decade’s old interviews, recent fashion shows, and a host of media scribbles that I could piece together to form a stunning new conclusion. And it hit me. Wait…they love babies. They love family. In their fall show, the models walked the runway with their beautiful wee-ones.

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These two men are like me.

Their words are not full of hate, they are full of sadness because somewhere deep down in places in their soul they don’t like to talk about with journalists from Panorama magazine – they miss the children they didn’t have.

The abrasive words they used about IVF are things I am not proud to admit I have said myself. After going through so many failed inseminations, I was scared of everything IVF involved. Quizzically, I would ask Martin, “Are we really going to make a baby in a test-tube?” In Denmark, the word for IVF is “regansglasbehandling” which translates to test-tube treament. “Are we okay with this?” I’d nag Martin. I’m removed enough now to admit that the whole IVF-affair mildly creeped me out initially. I quickly got over it – as my fear of being childless far outweighed my fear of a few test tubes. But I realized that the people who look down on IVF or judge it the way I once did, and the way Dolce and Gabbana do now – are not the 95% of the population who have never had to use it (those folks think it’s grand); but we – we who hate it – are the ones who drew the short stick and have been forced to examine it, warts and all, as one of our few viable options. Those two men explored IVF. They considered it, and something stopped them.

Do I blame them, judge them or want to boycott them? Absolutely not.

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I feel a deep sense of pain for them if they happen to be another two adults hurting over the children they were not able to have. And though they are too proud and wonderful and subversive to admit it, I think either of them would give their left nutsack to be able to hold their own baby, “synthetically” made or not.

I spy envy. Jealousy, for all the gay and straight men and women who wandered that scary, isolating, taxing path of IVF-babymaking…and came out the other side holding the hand of a child. They didn’t go there, and whether it was out of apprehension, religion, genuine distrust of the science, or fear of breaking with the family ‘convention’ – it has to be okay with me. That is their journey, and I cannot judge. I will offer my love.

Those men, and me, are childless. And sometimes, it really hurts to be childless. Sometimes you mouth off. You make labels – you presume it was “so easy” for everyone else. And you say things that sting others. Slinging words with professorial overtones – like ‘synthetic’  – laughing delicately at others (suckers). You do it from a platform, in the case of Stefano and Domenico.

If they are carrying just an ounce of the pain I feel every day, then they deserve our mercy. To nurture a child is a primal need for all members of our species: male, female, gay or straight. Infertility is a crack in the continuity of life that inflicts a great and silent pain. And whether the infertily is caused by an uncooperative body, as it is for me, or by a person’s homosexuality, I offer my heartfelt love and empathy to anyone who feels shut out.

On Monday, I will take the Metro to the fertility clinic, take off a pair of silk Dolce and Gabbanas, get shot up with morphine and slide into some stirrups. The doctor will take out the four paltry follicles we have managed to stimulate this cycle, and I will start saying my prayers.

That I might one day be graced with a fat little baby who I can outfit in leopard-print onesies from my favorite designers.

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One More Shot

Meet Maya and Noah of Los Angeles. They’ve spent 4 years trying to become parents. They are getting close. So close.  You can find Maya at dontcountyoureggs.typepad.com.  She and I are DOR soul-sisters.

xo

It was one year ago…

IMG_3629One year ago today, I was logging onto Shopbop.com to cancel the order I’d placed days earlier for a gorgeous caftan maternity dress. The day before, the hospital that got me pregnant through a desperate round of IVF was diagnosing my miscarriage. There was no heartbeat, no gestational sack, no nothing. Just two crying adults, holding hands. Feeling so empty handed, again. That night, they rushed me into surgery, for fear that the pregnancy was an ectopic in my tubes.

It was a tough and terrible time in our lives. My mom flew over from California to be with us. She sat with me on the sofa and cried each time I did. She let Martin take care of the food and straightening up the place, while she kept a laser-focus on my needs. She was so decent and loving — refusing to let me fall into a spiralling pit of despair. The kind in infertility that blocks out any bright spots beneath the thick fog of grief.

You find out who your warriors ours, in times like this. Mom made sure I ate breakfast every morning. And she sewed for me some healing pillows to brighten up a dark nook in our living room. We bought a chandelier from an antique dealer to add some purple Murano glass to light up our darkness.

One year later, I still hurt. That event — that miscarriage — that cruel ‘close, but no cigar‘ (literally) is so rough and raw in my soul. I grieve the baby I lost. I tracked my baby’s journey the entire remaining weeks, until my October due date passed, and I finally felt I could let go. A little.

But it hurts still. And I brace myself for a lifetime where I grieve the little start of a human that was taken from us. Depression is the only new member of our family.

One year later, and 3 more IVF cycles later, we feel so far from having the family we crave. We walk around with heavy hearts on a daily basis. I recently started a long protocol of IVF at a new clinic that takes a more humane approach to women going through this struggle. After nearly two weeks of a nasal spray that has thrown me into menopause, I will be scanned on Tuesday to determine if I am ready to start stimulation through FSH.

We are back in the game again, after a 4.5 month hiatus from treatments. I am awash in fear, but trying to find the hope I once had.

A sad day

Today I wandered the streets of beautiful Copenhagen and encountered so many baby strollers. They seemed to be everywhere, taunting me. One tall blonde Viking wearing his kiddo in a Baby Bjørn, a la Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover, was blocking the stoop to our flat as I feverishly tried to flee the scene around Nørreport.

I’ve entered a new phase in the way I relate to my fertility struggles. This is what my infertility feels like, right now…

Martin and I started trying for a baby some time ago. We were happy. And so damn excited. I have craved a baby my entire life. And I had found the perfect guy who I could make one with. The sweetest soul I have ever met was going to be the father of my babies. I felt stinking lucky.

So Martin and I cleared space in our hearts for the baby that would come to us.

And we waited and waited. And we’re still waiting. But our child hasn’t come home. Sadness overwhelms me because I keep missing my baby.

I feel forever eluded. I feel homesick, sitting here at home on the sofa. Because our child isn’t here. And I don’t like being here with these heavy arms. That have nothing to hold.

Author Marc Sedaka wrote a book that Martin read called “What He Can Expect When She’s Not Expecting.” I love that Marc with all my heart. He gets it. He gets us. Because he shared something that made me feel understood. He said, “Men want children, but women need children. They need a baby like they need oxygen and water.”

Yes. That’s exactly it. Being a mom is not a “nice-to-have” feature of the life I planned out for myself – it’s a need-to-have. I say this with a heart full of love and admiration for women who are Child-Free, either by choice or by drawing the short stick. I sometimes wish I was more like them. But I am wired a certain way – with an aching, heart-tugging need to nurture some sweet little humans. An urging that has only swelled since I identified it at the age of 3. And while the thought may be grotesque to some (and it certainly stung my husband when I said it aloud in a crying fit after my fourth cancelled IVF cycle), but it feels hauntingly true: that I’d rather be dead at 50 than childless at 50. For me, Hammy, a life without children is a life so gapingly incomplete. A life with a huge omission, ungraced by G*d’s promise to me. Yes, Martin is enough – and will always be my everything, but I need to give him a baby. And I need him to give me one. That not happening is the most terrifying thought to grip my brain.

The grief I carry is because I am short on oxygen. I’m lightheaded. And there is a huge hole in my heart.

xo

It’s hard to know what infertility feels like, until you’ve faced it.

It is impossible to know what infertility feels like, until you’ve faced it. Does anyone know why that is? I had the realization a little while ago, and the statement isolates a sad feeling for someone like me who longs to be ‘understood.’ Until a person has been in our shoes, he or she cannot fathom that curious mix of loss, fear, hope, panic, desire and grief that we struggling ones feel.

I find proof of this impossibility to fully ‘grasp it’ within my own history, upon reflecting on how I processed infertility six years ago, when I had a dear friend facing it. I felt sad for her, I felt distressed for her, but I couldn’t always fully understand her. I tried and tried. I really did, but it was always…close, but no cigar. My compassion was not the infinite river it should have been. It flowed freely, but it came clouded with confusion. I was illiterate in her language. So I just couldn’t fathom her journey close enough to truly walk with her.

And I feel very guilty today that my friend had to face people like me, years back, in her hour of need. All these blank faces, with their pity and love and blameless ignorance. Those, on the other side of infertility, often try to be our fixers. Bless their hearts. Our problem-solvers. Our solution-getters. Tossing words out like “relax” and “cheer up” and “strong” and “adopt” that softly cover the receiver in stings. How clueless we are that we are not helping.

I’ve done all that. I think. I can’t remember. The details are fuzzy, but I imagine I may have been deeply incomplete to my treasured, struggling, grief-filled friend.

I know better now.

I entered the secret society of sufferers. We, who are dealing with infertility. We, who deal with people who try to get it – who really do, but can’t. It’s not their fault. We need to love them anyways. And we need to take care of each other. We are the only ones who get it. Who understand each other.

We’re sisters in this fight.

10 Things I Feel Due to My Infertility

1. JEALOUSY

I feel jealous that you have a baby. A beautiful, healthy baby that poops on you and leaves you with dark circles under your eyes. The one you moan about while laughing and flipping your hair. I am uncomfortable at the degree with which I am jealous of you and your perfect bab-y/ies. I’ve always considered myself a kind person. When a friend or family member cries, I hold her hand and join in. I am not a jealous person by nature and my entire life, I have believed that if there’s something another person has that I want then, by golly, I can go out there and get it too! Until now.

Chances are, I probably want to steal your baby. I catch myself lapsing into a Holly Hunter-southern drawl and telling my husband “…to go out there and get me a baby!”

One day, I was even jealous of Octomom. And Kim Kardashian. Seriously? She gets to have a baby right now, but I don’t? Apparently, making a sex tape is the proper prelude to a storybook pregnancy and perfect Vogue-ready baby. I may or may not have Googled “approximate jail sentences for baby-napping.” I’m only kidding. Only the men and women at the NSA know for sure. #Imnotkidding.

2. HEARTBROKEN                

I feel heartbroken. Simply put, I feel sad. And gipped. Seeing a laughing baby in a stroller leaves me struggling to breathe due to the cracks that splinter up my chest. Every morning at 3:07am a crushing melancholy wakes me from my sleep. There’s something about that :07 that taunts me. Seven was once my favorite number. Seven was the total, pitiful follicle count at my last Day 3 ultrascan.

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3. ALONE

I feel alone. I am one of millions of women on Earth right now shouldering infertility. And yet I feel like the only one because this is my problem. I don’t know the other women who also frequent my appointed fertility clinic. I’m unaware of any support groups. I have friends here and there who have been in the same boat, and triumphed and failed through IVF, but our discussions are pragmatic, procedural, about i.u’s and needles. Only a handful of people know the truth of my situation, including my boss (who needed to know why I had to dodge another client meeting in New Delhi due to another doctor’s appointment). Who, consequently, chattered about my problem around the office of our ad agency, thereby reducing all perception of me, my professionalism, and my hard earned Senior title to “poor, pitiful women we should all write off now because her new job is to get pregnant.” “And it’s the most dubious pitch she’ll ever win and the odds are tiny…and she’s As Good as Gone, like that last client who left us.” I cannot control the narrative of my infertility story at work, but I’m pretty sure it’s an unsavory one, full of pity and murmuring distrust, eclipsing the previous narrative of “Girl who used to get stuff done!”

Loneliness over infertility is a thorny kind of bummer that presents few solutions. It’s just not a classy topic of discussion. So I rarely talk about it with anyone in such frank terms. Which is why I’m blogging now. This feels amazing.

4. GRIEF

I feel grief on a daily basis. I mourn the child that is mine that doesn’t exist and maybe never will. I see him in my mind’s eye. The little fat baby that should be in my arms. I miss him every day. I mourn that child.

To clarify, I would never equate my grief to the ear-splitting agony a parent bears over the death of his or her child. Theirs is the most severe pain a person can possibly endure. I cannot imagine. But my own is a tricky, unintelligible grief as real and soul-scratching as cotton. A grief I never knew existed. It’s unlike the sadness of a break-up, or the grief of losing the family dog. It’s mourning a ghost. It’s mourning thin air. It’s mourning the death of a piece of yourself that never had the chance to be born.

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5. BROKEN

I feel like a broken human being. Human beings with two X-chromosomes are designed to pass on their 23 chromosomes and contribute to the proliferation of the human race. I am unable to do my part. I feel like less a human sometimes – a “break in the continuity of life.” A failure or an aberration that in Darwinian terms render me “unfit to survive” evolution.

6. UNWOMANLY                                                                  

I feel unwomanly. I feel unfeminine. And gross. Back to number 5, I feel as unwomanly as I do broken. My cycle is all wonky and not up to par — my hips are small and not of good birthing proportions. I get good exercise dodging thinly veiled insults from friends and people named Mom who suggest I eat more donuts and put on some L-b’s, even though I’d kill for a donut but we don’t have donuts in Denmark. And they blame my small frame and low BMI, and suggest I brought this problem on myself. “Perhaps all those years in LA…”

There’s that devilish voice in my head accusing me of wrecking my own body – and yet my kind Danish doctors leave me off the hook. “This happens. We don’t know why.”  What I make up for in being unwomanly I compensate for in craziness, which we’ll get to later.

7. SCARED

I feel scared. On round 1 of my many IUIs I shrugged haughtily to my doctor, “I got this!” After the seventh failure and an ambulance ride to the hospital over a feared ectopic, the terror crept in. My greatest fear in life is no longer dying alone, an old cat lady — it is never getting to be the one and only thing I’ve wanted to be my entire life: a mom. But the truth is, I became a “mother” the day my mom handed off my newborn sister to me when I was 8, and I thought Silly Mom was letting me have her. For ever. My little sister took to me like Linus and his blankie. I bathed and diapered her, gave her bottles, cuddled her while reading her The Giving Tree, and I sprang her from her crib every night so she wouldn’t have to sleep alone. I was the youngest, happiest child-mom on the block, raising a kid to appreciate Ricky Schroeder and Eggos with peanut butter, to hold her breath in the pool, to be a kind friend and an unapologetic nerd who embraces sci-fi movies and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman on Saturday nights, who can paint her own nails and fire off quick comebacks to bossy parents. Mothering is encoded in my DNA, and the biggest boast I’ll ever make is that I was Made To Be a Mom.

8. ANGRY

I feel angry that the baby I pray I get to have one day will be made in a lab — and possibly through a genetic donor. It creeps me out a little, if we’re being honest. It feels like we’re dabbling in Frankenscience – and that the Roman Catholic Church that I was baptized and raised in would raise its eyebrow at my choices. embry(Though, frankly, they are in no position to judge). The only thing I am more uncomfortable with than IVF is being 50 and childless of my own accord. So I will keep up the hormone injections, the laser therapy, the oocyte monitoring, the harvestations and implantations, on the hope that a patchwork of atheist doctors can give me a baby, because God doesn’t want to. (Bitch.)

9. CONFUSED                                                 

I’m one confused (non)mother-…. I have friends who have ravaged their body from pills, anorexia, bulimia, booze, and over-indulgent sorority years who got pregnant WHILE ON THE PILL. On a deep and heartfelt level, I applaud their body’s resilience and natural inclination to snap back and procreate! I laughed til I cried when my older, unmarried sister in her late 30s got pregnant by accident. Ooops.

I am awash in confusion, trying to navigate my fertility treatment in a second language. In a country I don’t always “get.” In a nation founded by stoics, where the national anthem is called, “Don’t show your feelings.” Buck up. Be a man.

The only people who probably understand the mish-mash of jacked up feelings described above are other women who have walked in my precious Kron Krons. Kron by Kron Kron

They’ve been there and felt the confusion every time a well-intended friend, relative or stranger glibly tossed out the word adoption, in case we weren’t aware such a thing existed. On the off chance I never got past the word “adaption” while studying the dictionary as a kid. Frustration piles on top of confusion when people offer up their earnest advice along the lines of “I have this friend who has been trying for yearsssss and once they finally stopped trying, voila, they got pregnant! That could happen to you?”

And I stare back blankly and practice my pageant smile, keeping my tongue still. Because my chances of getting pregnant naturally are not slim to none, they are none to none. They are zero point zero percent. They are as zero as zero times infinity, and if it does happen naturally, I will have some ’splaining to do.

10. CRAZY

I feel crazy often on account of the ungodly amount of hormones I must inject into my abdomen to prepare for in-vitro fertilization. These hormones are bananananananas and make the sanest, saintliest of woman a complete cuckoo-bird who belongs in Honey Boo Boo’s family. I explained it to my sisters like this: Every month a woman releases 1 good egg from her ovaries, while several other smaller eggs hang back (it’s not their time yet). Then there’s the chance that one “æg” will meet a good spermy swimmer and a baby will form. But for me to get pregnant, they need to harvest from my womb a whole $hit-ton of eggs — like a baker’s dozen — so that in an upcoming month, I don’t just cook one good egg, but maybe ALL my good eggs that the embryologists can futz with and freeze. So imagine the annoying mood swings you get before that Time of the Month to get your one good egg — I will have 10 times that surge due to the many days of follitropon-beta hormones being blasted into my belly.

Of all the inconvenient feelings I admit to in this list, the one that makes me the most uneasy is The Crazy. I’m already a preternaturally “passionate” woman who features a carefully managed, yet ever-present crazy streak. BUT. Here’s the thing — I spent my entire 20s and early 30s learning how to Not Be Crazy to such a degree that I now ooze a calm, omm-y vibe that would make the Dalai Lama jealous. I don’t cry very much. I don’t get blue. Don’t mope or wallow or get all “emotional.” Not because I’m not sensitive and emotional — I have the most acute batch of over-abundant feelings, constantly flapping around on high alert, ready to feel something. But I have trained myself to take no shit from no one, including my feelings. I taught myself to toughen up. I credit the many self-help books, the LA-canyon spirit-warrior workshops, the chats with God, the soul-searching, the Oprah, the many fetal-position/carpet-sob-sessions, and the impressive number of payments to Dr. Grenner — Therapist to the Stars! for making me the happy-go-lucky nontrainwreck that I am today. I am a sensitive, dramatic creature who for 15 years has managed her condition by wearing a shiny armor of steel, impenetrable by no force of evil feeling or wrecking, except for hormones.

My protective layer of outer badass isn’t tough enough to withstand a few thousand i.u.’s of gonadotropin apparently.

So I go from calm, strong, unflappable, poker-faced Friend/Wife/Sister/Coworker, to vulnerable, sad, weepy, moody, bitchy Drama Queen in about 24 seconds, whilst on hormones. Makes me mad.

I realized my bitchiness had reached new heights when the world’s sweetest intern at my work, Christoffer, asked me to grab him a bottle of water after I announced that I was headed to the kitchen to fetch water. And I huffed, “You’re the Intern! YOU should be getting the water!” as I hobbled down the hallway. He froze. My colleagues gasped. And a thousand Jiminy Crickets descended on my limp left-brain, scolding me for my nastiness to sweet Saint Christoffer. And I apologized to Christoffer a few hours later with tears running down my cheeks, and he smiled and said “No problem!” and I shared the whole story with my husband that evening while adding “But I was sort of right, right?! HE should be getting the water.”

needleAnd husband kissed my forehead, nodding, before brandishing another dripping needle in his quivering hand that he would lodge into my tummy. My punishment.

That’s what we’re talking about when it comes to women on hormones. I often wonder if I should wear a flashy, TGIFridays-style pin on my shirt that warns my coworkers, “It’s not you! I’m just on hormones! :)” Smiley face! Flair! But again, I can’t do that. Because no amount of spirit fingers will make this topic any less uncomfortable to discuss.

SO THOSE ARE THE 10 FEELINGS

…the 10 feelings this sad, grieving, crazy, scared drama queen feels at any given moment due to my fertility struggles. This is my life. And it’s a big, hilarious, tragic mess. It’s where I need to be for some reason, and I’ll never know why.

I just pray it ends in a baby.

xo