This week a photo was used to illustrate some story and it is from a series of photos that have been cropping up over the last five years or so. It is of me sitting outside looking, I think, uncomfortable and with big boobs. I am holding my hands across my chest in a way that reminds me of all of the photos my dad took of me when I was 14, just starting to get boobs, went on a trip with him and forgot my first bra. So every "memory" photo he took of me on that trip, I am using my arms or some kind of prop like a shopping bag or my red-and-white-fake-patent-leather purse to try to cover up what little I had there from showing through my T-shirt or sweater. Anyway, it was that kind of self-conscious pose.
At the time the picture was taken, I was leaving Jane magazine (more explanation on what went down with that in the near future) and the owners asked if I would pose for a photo shoot for a magazine, essentially saying good-bye.
Because of my bustiness, the presumption some people made, and wrote or said to me, was that I'd gotten breast implants or was holding my arms that way to squeeze my chest together to produce more cleavage.
Actually, my boobs were big because I had just had a miscarriage of twins at about 5 months gestation shortly before the photo was taken. If you've ever been pregnant (and I was very largely pregnant), you know what it does to your breasts. Now as I am writing this, it brings up lots of questions for me:
Why had I gone through in vitro to carry these twins (a boy and a girl, looking in every ultrasound picture like they were sleeping in little bunkbeds) when I had thought for years that it was curious the lengths people go to to replicate their own DNA when there are so many kids in the world who can use homes and when all children belong to all of us? Especially because it was a (rare) result of the in vitro with multiples that had caused me to develop gall bladder issues and pancreatitis and lose the twins and then spend eleven days in the hospital, first on life support, then with a 50/50 chance I wouldn't live. (I wasn't bothered by the idea of dying at that point, but my mom, who was there by my bedside, cared a lot.)
The twins were so far along that I had to go through labor to deliver them, in the room adjacent to where I had delivered my daughter a couple of years before. I know some of you have been through miscarriages and stillbirths and know how unfathomably painful it is on so many levels to deliver children you know won't make it on this earth. There was also the point afterward where the nurse/a grief counselor?/someone at the hospital asked me and my wonderful partner Andrew if we wanted to hold the babies, have a funeral to bury them or let the hospital "dispose" of them. This is all really hard to write about. Andrew and I had such trouble talking about it that it caused rifts between us, which I know is also common.
Back to the question: Why had I gone to such lengths to get pregnant with kids that were genetically ours? Part of it was something else that I think is a common phenomenon: wanting to get back something you feel you lost. See, when I was on maternity leave with my daughter Charlotte, I had gotten pregnant again. The due date was Charlotte's birthday, one year later. I could hardly believe my good 40-year-old fortune.
Then at 8 weeks, I was driving home from a friend's house and miscarried all over the seat. It turns out it was a fairly uncommon thing called a molar pregnancy, which meant that I had to start monitoring my hormone levels and wasn't allowed to try to get pregnant for another year after they normalized. What followed that miscarriage was a series of attempts to get pregnant as quickly as possible. I didn't want to wait for nature: insemination tries, a couple of which ended in miscarriages, were followed by our first in vitro try, which was successful in that the two fertilized eggs (a girl and a boy who had already been tested for a multitude of things) implanted. I kept a photo of the eggs, one colored pink and one blue by the fertility docs, by my bed for the next four-and-a-half months.
We had talked about adoption. I've always wanted to adopt and still plan to at some point. Carrying another child was something I wanted to do first, while I still could, and part of the process of, as I said, trying to get back something I felt I'd lost. It doesn't work that way, I know. Everything worked out exactly as it was meant to, I know. My breasts are now on the smallish side.
Navel gazing: I made this video with my daughter a year ago, on the day she learned why my belly-button looks like that and that she almost had siblings.