For starters, I’m okay. Truly. This is not my first or second rodeo. It’s my third. I’ve got these down. I’m pretty good at them at this point. Efficient, even. My OB asked me if I wanted to come in to double-check things like hormonal levels and I said “No, I got this. I’m good.”
I often think of the Seinfeld episode from Season 3, the Opposite Side, at the rental car place:
“You know how to take the reservation. You just don’t know how to hold the reservation.”
That said, I am the proud and immeasurably grateful mother of a perfectly healthy two-year-old.
If one Googles miscarriage foods, one is presented with a list of foods that could cause miscarriage. My list of miscarriage foods contains meals that I have found supremely soothing during such times. I have sought them out, had them delivered to me and sent my husband out into the world to find them for me. I highly recommend them.
If you never plan to have children and thus find this subject matter unrelatable, perhaps file it under comfort food during stressful times or consider these if a friend is upset.
I’ve always enjoyed my British friends’ way of saying “tuck into” in reference to a delicious meal. For example, I was sad this morning so I tucked into last night’s leftover pasta puttanesca and chased it with a sleeve of Oreos while watching an interview with Jennifer Garner on CBS Sunday Morning. It sounds so cozy and wonderful, which is, indeed, what the foods in the following list are. That said, double-stuffed Oreos would have been more satisfying. Go big or go home.
Without further ado, my favorite comfort foods during a miscarriage are as follows:
Shake Shack: ShackBurger and cheese fries. Forever and ever amen. The cheese comes on the side in a sizable container, which is nice. One can dip both the burger and the fries in the cheese. One can even lick any remaining cheese from the container, should one be so moved. The whole shebang fits tidily on a traditionally-sized dinner plate on one’s lap, as pictured above.
Cacio e Pepe: cheese and pepper pasta. I first experienced it at Eataly and it was life-changing. I have found a serviceable one here in Philly but honestly, I could probably make it myself with this recipe. Though, does one feel like cooking while miscarrying? No. Seamless, Caviar, Grubhub. These are my closest allies. There should be a checkbox for miscarrying on the Seamless interface. The delivery fee is then waived and a puppy accompanies the food. The delivery person returns in one to two hours to collect the puppy.
Slightly higher end pizza: I am certainly not above a dollar slice or a drunken three dollar slice; however, when miscarrying, I want something a bit fancier. With pesto, perhaps. Now is not the time to count pennies. Treat yourself.
Cheesesteak: onions, peppers, and all the Whiz, thank you very much. The Whiz is critical. I don’t know why. It just is. With waffle-cut garlic Parmesan fries? Don’t mind if I do.
A homemade cheese plate: full of all of the meats and cheeses a pregnant lady isn’t supposed to eat. Bring me your unpasteurized cheeses and smoked meats!
Booze: before my daughter, a filthy Ketel martini with bleu cheese-stuffed olives. Since my daughter: Prosecco or Pinot Grigio. One glass of anything simply won’t do. I have yet to meet an obstetrician who doesn’t encourage drinking during a miscarriage.
Dessert. Perhaps a Concrete (again, Shake Shack). Shake Shack should really have a miscarriage meal. Call it the Number Eight, for eight weeks. A miscarrying lady won’t have to rattle off specific foods while ordering. She says “I’ll have the Number Eight, please” and her order is immediately expedited and an employee brings over a warm compress for her lower back. Pregnant ladies shouldn’t have to wait for bathrooms. Miscarrying ladies shouldn’t have to wait to eat their feelings.
Another nice option is an ice cream sandwich. A Chipwich can be very satisfying.
These are just the initial meals at the onset of a miscarriage. They are followed closely by sushi, Italian subs and other foods one cannot have when pregnant. For if one is going to be sad and hormonal, why not enjoy all the things that one would’ve forgone had the pregnancy continued? I like to think the ladies going full-term would wish that for me.
My husband and I call ourselves minimalists, which is really an aspirational title when you can consider that we have an almost two-year-old and thus possess an almost two-year-old’s shit ton of stuff. We are open to having another child, which means that we also have most of the clothes and toys and gear that our kid has outgrown. Beyond that, I don’t have a ton of clothes. I don’t even have a proper chest of drawers. I don’t collect shoes or purses or sunglasses or watches. As much as I’ve come to love cooking, I actually lack some of the essentials, like a slotted spoon; however, I cannot and will not resist a practical looking or sounding cookbook. The stack in the image above doesn’t include all of the cookbooks I’ve donated in the past, like the big red Betty Crocker binder or all of the vegetarian books from a phase in the early 2000s. Also not pictured: the FitMenCook and Food Network apps I use frequently as well as all of the battered recipe printouts from sites like Eat Yourself Skinny and What’s Gaby Cooking.
My most recent purchase was Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, which sounded very useful indeed. I love the early chapter about setting up one’s kitchen and how he introduces the basics, e.g., everything you need to know about cooking eggs and their various stages.
My coworker gifted me the most recent addition to my collection, a wonderful tome from 1955, Cooking Magic.
I began my current job three months ago, a week after my family moved to Philadelphia. It couldn’t be more different from my last company. It’s a non-profit and the office is actually a four story row home. The salary is different, the bonus is non-existent and I share an office with one other woman, though I will likely be moving to my own office with a door and a window, likely by the end of the year. I have a key to the side door and a code to disable the alarm. My walk to work is three minutes and I pass a tree that smells of honeysuckle along the way. I received no fewer than five hugs in my first eight weeks there. Of the 19 employees in the company, four of them are men. Four. All of this is a far cry from the NYC private equity firm at which I worked for 11 years and its slick, all-glass high rise office and all-male management team and its cubicles.
Enter Tim, a father of grown children with a fantastic personality. He sits down next to you and asks one question and 20 minutes passes in a blink. I always envy folks with those personalities and inevitably plant myself next to them at social gatherings as though some of that conversational magic will rub off on me. My husband’s an extrovert. My best friend’s an extrovert. Needless to say, I liked Tim immediately.
I went into Tim’s office last week to have him sign a letter. While he reviewed it, I saw these ancient books on his shelf.
“What are these cookbooks?”
“Have a look. They were my mother’s. She had to send away for them.”
“These are amazing.”
I stared at the pages with their comical, dated graphics and the recipes that called for two sticks of butter. The good old days.
“My mom cooked for nine of us. Three meals. Every day. She loved it. It was her therapy.”
“She had two miscarriages, too. It could’ve been eleven.”
“She was constantly buying groceries. She couldn’t keep food in the house with all of those people. There were five boys. She finally got a second refrigerator. And my dad was always entertaining so we were her guinea pigs. She would try things out on us. There were always people in the house living with us. Some stray my mom had taken in.”
“Aren’t those fun? You don’t see cookbooks like that anymore. Do you cook?”
“I do but I follow recipes. It’s not intuitive for me but I love the process. I read cookbooks before I go to sleep at night.”
“Me too! We all cook. My sister’s a chef. My brother runs a catering company. A lot of us ended up in the food business.”
I’m sure Tim expertly shifted the conversation to my family and me because suddenly we were in the middle of talking about how we liked Philadelphia and how we were settling in and where I’m from and how my mom died when I was in high school.
“After college, I moved to London and then to New York because -”
“Because there was no home to return to.”
I left Tim’s office feeling like a million bucks. He called me the next day.
“Can you come in, please?”
I walked into Tim’s office. He pushed one of the cookbooks across his desk to me.
“I’d like you to have this one.”
“It’s just sitting on a shelf here. I know you’ll enjoy it. My mom would want you to have it, too. It’s a little piece of her.”
I thanked him profusely and he handed me a box of tissues because tears welled up in my eyes.
“Some weekend reading. Don’t let your daughter get her hands on it.”
“Can I hug you? We didn’t hug at my last office.”
“Of course. We’re family now.”
Every day, my 19-month-old daughter Layla requests to flip through an old school photo album my dad gave me as a present in my early twenties. He made one for each of his children and each has thirty or so pictures of us at various ages with our mom. Over and over I have told her who is in the pictures, “Granddad, Grandma Wendy. Mommy, Aunt T, Uncle Pete, Grandma Wendy. Yes, Mommy was a little girl once, too.”
Maybe it was PMS, maybe it was the current stress of my job or our upcoming move from our apartment or some part of me wondering how I’m going to explain my mom’s death to my daughter some day, but on February 23, I hopped on eBay and ordered “Vtg 1970’s Estee Lauder Youth Dew Body Satinee Lotion 8 fl oz Glass Pump Bottle.”
It was the lotion my mom always had in her bathroom. It had a signature scent. It smelled like my mom. I didn’t even know that was what it was called. I googled “Estee Lauder Green Bottle pump” and there it was. The pale green. The old logo. Your memory changes things over time but this remained the same. It looked exactly the same. I was hoping I could find a newer bottle, perhaps from the early 1990s. The seller’s description relayed that about seventy percent of the lotion remained. That was good enough for me.
The bottle arrived on February 28, in a flurry of other packages. I quickly hid it in the bathroom Layla and I share, in the cabinet under the sink. I wasn’t ready to tell my husband: “hey, I bought some gross lotion from the ‘70s to attempt to feel close to my dead mom.”
I peeked in on it periodically. I got as far as opening the box, taking a quick whiff, and carefully putting it away. It was wrapped in bubble wrap and then a clear plastic bag and some of the lotion had come out of the pump and seeped into the bubble wrap.
I finally opened it on March 5, when I was home sick from work with bronchitis.
I can smell it before I even take out of the box. I wait to take the bubble wrap off. My eyes well up. Is it exactly the same smell I remember? It is clearly close enough.
I open it carefully. I’m treating it like a fossil, something much more fragile than it actually is. A potential tactile connection to my mom, for the first time in 27 years.
I remind myself that this wasn’t my mom’s bottle. Her hands never touched it. This bottle is at least 35 years old. The lotion isn’t fresh but it is enough. I close my eyes and try to picture my parent’s bathroom. No, Mom never did her make-up in that one. She put her red lipstick on in the powder room downstairs. Clinique. With a lip brush, never a quick swipe from the tube. She almost never wore any other make-up. She had olive skin, was never pasty like I am. She had a pointy nose – traces of it can be seen in my profile- and a mole on the back of her neck on the bottom right. Between professional hair colorings, she used Loving Care to hide her greys herself, accidentally adding a fuschia tint once.
Such trivial details! I want so much more. I’ve spent years trying not to think about her, think about how much I miss her and now I want nothing more than to remember it all.
I don’t want my daughter to know her solely from pictures and the odd video from the ‘80s. I sit here crying, holding some stranger’s bottle of ancient lotion and wishing, willing for so much more.
I think about my mom playing the upright Baldwin piano, a gift from my dad on their first wedding anniversary, which my sister and I ultimately played. Mom wrapping gifts, tying her own homegrown miniature roses or snapdragons into the ribbons. Mom kneading dough for potica or pizza. Mom making crafts as thank you gifts for our elementary school teachers. Mom sewing costumes for my many dance recitals or clothes for my sister and me. Mom holding articles or recipes at arm’s length near our sunny kitchen window, her silent refusal to get prescription reading glasses. Mom and I painting with bits of sponge on snow days, AM radio on in the background. Mom thumbing through her small wooden recipe box, which now sits in my kitchen cabinet. I remind myself to find a real place of honor for it in our next home.
At my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday party last April, we sat in my husband’s childhood den and watched a video my brother-in-law expertly assembled with sound bites from all of us. Our favorite memories of her, our favorite foods she makes. Her children apologized for incidents from their younger days that may have upset her. We thanked her for all that she does. What an amazing mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother (“Meemie”) she is.
Afterwards, I cried as quietly as possible in the room in which my husband, daughter and I were staying.
“I’m so sorry, hon. I didn’t realize,” he said.
“Today is not about me. It’s not. I’ll be fine in a few minutes.”
I was so supremely jealous of them. All of their memories. All of that wonderful life. Every milestone that they have experienced with her. Graduations, weddings, pregnancies, children. Even the bad stuff, too.
I take a pump from the bottle. Whatever remains of the lotion is thin and clear. I rub it into my hands anyway. I look around our living room, as if expecting some apparition of my mom to show up. I consider grabbing some actual things of hers, her charm bracelet or a few of her gold rings that I never wear because all of my jewelry is silver. Maybe that would do it. But I feel just as without her as I always do and envy those people who can find or maintain some sort of palpable connection to someone they’ve lost.
What details will my daughter associate with me? My hair, my watch, my engagement ring, the bracelet my mother-in-law gave me with my daughter’s name that I never take off? Most mornings, I buckle Layla into her carrier on my torso and talk her through my make-up routine while my husband gets dressed. I never really had the opportunity to get ready with my mom. Will Layla and I do our make-up together when she’s older? Is that something moms and adult daughters do?
Sugarcube. When I was a little girl, my mom called me Sugarcube.
The bottle is heavy. I turn it around. The description on the back makes me smile.
Youth Dew Satinee is the perfect adjunct to your bath. It satin-smoothes every inch of you as it wraps you in the all-over aura of the hauntingly beautiful Youth-Dew fragrance.
I’ve wanted to write the perfect post. About how my birth plan went to absolute shit. About being induced without warning and having a C section at the final hour. About how supremely terrified I was on our first night home with our daughter. About how truly awful those first eight weeks were. About how my life has forever changed.
But perfect is a ridiculous concept these days. I’d settle for mediocre. I feel quite mediocre. I’m still 15 pounds away from where I want to be, with the bulk of my muscle tone, after almost three years of lifting weights, gone. My maternity clothes are too big but my regular clothes are, well, it’s a 50/50 shot if they’ll fit or not. Suffice it to say, my regular clothes are working quite hard. I went back to work last week after twelve weeks of maternity leave. I used to work 50-60 hour weeks, often working on weekends. Those days are long gone. I have to cram as much focused, productive, streamlined work into the usual 9 – 5:30pm work day. I haven’t even gotten to the gym yet – and will I be able to rationalize an hour and a half in the middle of the day when I’m leaving comparatively early to what I used to do? I think I’m doing extremely good work in those hours – but the volume is substantially decreased.
And comedy. I’ve been on stage twice since I’ve had my daughter. How will I fold stand-up back into my life? I have ideas. A handful of shitty premises. It’s a start.
I’m forgetful and even when reminded, it’s often as though I’m hearing the information at hand for the first time, like a constant blackout drunk. Friends text me and check on me. I’m not sure I always ask how they are doing.
Here’s what’s not mediocre. Not even a little bit.
That angry baby up there? She’s also this goofy, precious, beautiful wonder who farts all the time.
I love her so much that it hurts. All of her firsts. I cried the first time she truly giggled (in response to me singing, in my godawful singing voice, the Doors’ “Hello, I Love You.”) These days, she sleeps through the night and wakes up smiling. And my husband? My kind, loving, thoughtful, silly husband is a great dad. He’s a natural. I watch him with our daughter and it’s almost as though he was always a dad waiting to happen. People say that Layla is special. Calm, laid-back, happy – and that that’s because of us. Our days are chaotic and short and far too quick. But life is good. Life is great. And decidedly not mediocre.
This past Saturday, my sister and her daughter, my in-laws, and my sister-in-law’s family threw Steve and me a lovely brunch (for many reasons – not the least of which was my mom’s absence – the traditional all-female at-home baby shower didn’t make sense for us) at 44 1/2 in Hells Kitchen. Almost all of Steve’s family attended, as well as my dad, my sister and niece and around 20 of our closest friends. It was such a lovely event. Below please find some of our favorite moments and details from the day. Because I don’t like to assume that folks are comfortable with pictures of themselves or their children on the internet, I’ve focused on including elements here while respecting folks’ privacy. Thank you so much to our families and friends for their generosity and helping us prepare for this huge milestone!
In an effort to make some space in our one-bedroom apartment before our little lady arrives, the husband has been researching storage facilities. We loathe throwing money away like that so, after sleeping upon it, I did yet another purge of our apartment. We schlepped a few bags down to Salvation Army (again) and I took everything out of my dresser. If I couldn’t wear a given item RIGHT NOW, it went into one of two suitcases I store in our closet. Sadly, that included my favorite bras but mission accomplished. I now had a ton of space for maternity clothes as well as the various maternity-friendly gear I can wear post-baby.
To be honest, it’s not super easy feeling sexy right now. Feminine, yes, but more like the way a female cow is feminine. I had a leftover Victoria’s Secret gift card from my bachelorette party and bought some new thongs (yep, I still wear them through pregnancy, they naturally ride low and are thus super comfy) and a couple of sassy black bras in my new size (34DD) and added them to my rather basic maternity lingerie collection. It’s not much but it’s something.