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This resonates. It’s so easy to hate what you think is an insufficiency in yourself. Any other emotion feels like admitting failure.
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Five things

I have a 9.5 month old daughter. Crazy, right? Believe me, I know. As I type she is (hopefully) sleeping off a slight fever. February hit us hard this year, and we’ve fielded vomit, fevers, rash and a truly shocking amount of snot over the past week. Here’s to hoping the end is in sight.

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As Marlowe grows bigger and more capable, I’m beginning to allot myself more space for me in our lives. We’ve experienced the shift from survival back to life, and I am eager to reclaim the things that satisfy my brain.

With that in mind, here are five things that make me happy that I’ve recently picked up again after a lengthy hiatus:

Crocheting. In what now feels like a far-off lifetime, I used to crochet a fair bit. I learned from my mom, and I would spend hours upon hours crafting blankets for my friends and family. I recently found a hexagon granny square pattern I like (thank you, pinterest for the tip), so I’ve been occupying my moments with creating enough shapes to form a blanket. It feels good to create something tangible with my hands. The end result will hopefully look something like this, although with different colors.

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Reading. I used to devour books, reading into the night so I could chase characters through their journeys. And then I stopped. I still don’t really understand why reading became a burden instead of the liberation it had once been. But. I’m retracing my steps, and I have dusted off my goodreads account and even joined a book club.

Cooking/baking. It’s funny, but this is something that near-dominated the first twenty-ish years of my life, and it somehow slipped away from me a bit. And we only reunited when old friends asked me what I’d been baking lately, because they associated me with cooking. And I’d forgotten. So I’ve been combing my brain (and again, pinterest) for inspiration. I’ve mostly been baking sweets, but it feels good to feel my hands remember how to do something I valued for so long.

Letter writing. I’m the fortunate recipient of a weekly letter from my mother, and I used to write weekly letters myself. I haven’t quite got back into this habit, but I’ve written a whopping three letters so far this month. Which is three more than the month before. So progress.

Journaling. I am undeniably obsessed with my own thoughts, and haunted by the idea that if only I consider my worries and problems thoughtfully and thoroughly enough, they won’t be so overwhelming. So I carefully dissect my problems in my (now quite weather-beaten) diary. And it helps. I swear, it helps. Before each entry I write the words, “what would I say if I knew no one would ever see/judge what I have to say?” The reminder and pause before I begin helps me inch closer to feeling satisfied with my own authenticity.

There you have it. Five things. And here are five more that I am hoping to gracefully add to the mix as I continue mapping out my life:

Yoga
Penmanship
Music/playing an instrument
Daily walks
and (ha) blogging on a semi-regular basis
^just jinxed myself, didn’t I.

Update

I had a baby.

Early in the morning, around 2 AM, a couple days before my due date, I began having contractions. Nothing fancy, and not especially painful. But I knew it was a signal that I was going to meet my baby soon. Which was an enormous relief–those last couple weeks of pregnancy were no joke.

I had contractions off and on throughout the day, but with varying consistency and intensity. But 9:30PM the contractions had intensified enough for me to start timing them. And by 10:30PM I had called my FIL to ask for his advice (he’s an OB/GYN) because this felt different. Ben was at work, my mother was asleep, but it was time to get moving.¬†We got to the hospital shortly after 11PM, and by 12:30AM when Ben arrived, I’d got my epidural and was progressing comfortably. The epidural meant that I rested comfortably for 6 hours before giving birth. I could feel the contractions, but no pain. I joke that I¬†hadn’t slept so well since being pregnant, and I was only slightly exaggerating. This photo was taken 2 hours before my baby was born.

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You know how films portray labor and delivery? Totally unhelpful. My water never broke, but around 5:30 AM I was 9 centimeters dilated, so they broke it for me, and 20 minutes after that it was pushing time.

Guys. Again. Epidurals are amazing. Seeing as I’d rested comfortably in the hours preceding delivery, I had plenty of energy when it was time for me to actually do something, and once I got the hang of pushing, everything happened rather quickly. After maybe 20 pushes, spread out over 4-5 contractions, Ben caught our baby girl.

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He cried. And finally we were all three of us connected to each other. Our perfect little circle of a family.

That was seven weeks ago, and now my little girl is growing fat and sassy. My beautiful Marlowe.

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April 2017

I took this photo on Friday. I am 20.5 weeks pregnant, and this was my first, “hey, I’m for real pregnant,” photo.

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So. I’m pregnant.

Now, let’s rewind to a rainy, Sunday morning back in August. August 21st, to be precise.

Ben was at work. I woke up, and made myself a cup of walnut green tea, wanting something soothing to counteract the vague unsettled feeling in my stomach. I sipped it slowly, but halfway through the mug I came to the realization that it was not helping. In fact, my discomfort intensified the more I sipped. I made a mad dash for the sink. Fortunately the feeling passed without more trauma than me gagging temporarily.

After that gnarly moment, I began texting back and forth with my HusBen.

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I had taken a pregnancy test two weeks prior when I first missed my period, but it was negative. Which I confidently attributed to my tonsillectomy back in July. I assumed that my surgery had thrown my body out of it’s habits, and I went my merry way. Which explains why I was wholly unprepared to discover two lines on that frail stick. I had intended to take the test to show Ben that I was legitimately sick so I could justify lounging about all weekend. Ha.

Ben couldn’t get away from work for another hour or two. I sat numbly in my apartment for about ten minutes¬†when I was seized with anxious energy that propelled me to a nearby park. It was raining outside, but I walked for over an hour, listening repeatedly to this¬†song¬†my friend Myrill had played for me the day before. It seemed fitting, and the sound of the piano helped me center my thoughts.

All I could think was that everything was different. My life would never be the same. Hell, maybe one year from this exact moment I would be back at this exact park with a kid. My kid. I cried. And it was about 50/50 happy and sad.

There have been a select handful of moments in my life where everything felt so sharp and clear that I could almost hear the gears of my life shifting as the planet tilted on its axis to send me in a different direction. Meeting Ben was one of those moments. And this was another.

Ben finally came home. We both felt shaken and strange. And excited? And wigged out. We decided to treat ourselves to lunch out. As we walked out to the car, I found this penny heads up in the parking. “Huh,” I thought to myself. “This must be my lucky day.”

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Poor Ben was so tired. He had worked a 24-hour shift, but I guess this was enough of a jolt to keep him conscious for a couple of hours. I kept thinking, “am I supposed to do something? I feel like there is a step I’m supposed to take? Do I call somebody?” So in my desire to do something appropriate, I said, “hey–we better take a selfie.” It seemed like a good idea at the time. And I’m glad I have this photo now. Look at us. Such a pair of babies ourselves.

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Now. I’m going to talk pretty candidly about my pregnancy experiences in the next following paragraphs. And it isn’t pretty. So. If you want to go on thinking that pregnancy is blossoms and cotton candy, I’d close this tab and¬†peruse this¬†instead.

The following weeks/months after my initial positive pregnancy test were pure hell. Never in my life have I felt more utterly helpless than I felt during weeks 7-19 of this pregnancy. I threw up every few hours for the first couple weeks. Finally got some zofran. Took it every 6 hours. That cut the vomit down to maybe twice a day. It didn’t diminish the nauseated feelings, or the constant hiccuping/burping from feeling ready to hurl, but it got my through work every day. I began taking zofran during the day and diclegis (another anti-nausea medication) at night. That got me down to hurling once a day. A welcome relief. Of course, the anti-nausea medication caused pretty considerable constipation. Huzzah.

What’s worse, is that the nausea didn’t even care if I’d eaten supposedly offensive food items or not. My body would wake itself up at 2AM to vomit the water and saltines I’d sampled before bed. Or stomach bile. Body didn’t care. Up, up, and away. Or I’d throw up the zofran I’d taken minutes before leaving for work. Goody.

It was around this time that I realized how much I hated being pregnant.

I know those words are strong. And they might cause uncomfortable feelings. But I mean them. I hated being pregnant. I hated feeling so helpless every day. I hated that my bladder control was evaporating. I hated that I couldn’t enjoy the foods that I like because somehow my body had decided that eating them would cause a gastrointestinal rebellion. I hated feeling embarrassed and undignified when I’d cough or sneeze and pee myself.

Worst of all, I hated feeling so consumingly guilty for how much I hated what was happening to me. I felt like I was losing myself to a disease, and there was no cure except some far-off delivery date in April. Of course, as well-meaning individuals kept reminding me, that was when my life would really get rough.

There was one especially dark day during week 17. I was actually sitting in the same exact spot I am now: at my kitchen table, facing the glass doors that look out over the forest by my apartment. I had just thrown up a handful of lays potato chips. And I thought to myself, “if I was a dog, and if I demonstrated every symptom I’m currently experiencing without the knowledge that I am pregnant, they would put me out of my misery.” And I believed it. I¬†felt like I was simply surviving, minute to minute. I couldn’t enjoy food. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t appreciate the things that used to bring me joy. My entire purpose had shriveled down to supporting an invisible being that was wrecking havoc on my health and happiness.

Eventually (as in around weeks 16-18) I got good at predicting the difference between, “the vomit is coming–prepare yourself,” and, “you have about 30 minutes to do damage control before this gets serious.” I drank a lot of flat ginger ale during this period. And I ate numerous small meals throughout the day–careful to avoid foods I really like so that I wouldn’t be tempted to overeat and then get sick.

I am very fortunate that I had an incredible handful of friends throughout this bleak period, each of whom I owe a specific debt of gratitude. Having people I could safely vent to made a considerable difference to my sanity. I don’t think I can ever repay any of them, or even adequately communicate how much their support¬†saved me.

Finally, on November 16th, I had my first ultrasound. This was the day the tide turned.

I am young and healthy, so I had foregone any genetic testing/sonograms during my initial visit (I was afraid they’d cost money), so this was the first time I would actually see anything of the Fetus costing me my bladder control.

Ben took the whole day off of work that day. I took a half day. Finally we drove together to the hospital. All of my appointments were at one specific clinic that Ben hadn’t seen before. It was a funny role-reversal having him follow me through¬†the hospital halls, trying to keep up with my confident pace and not knowing where exactly we were headed.

I signed in. We waited. They called my name, and we were led into a dim little room. And that is where I saw my baby for the first time.

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Ben immediately teared up as soon as he saw baby Cragun. It was so small. And so wiggly. The ultrasound tech had me rolling back and forth like a Lincoln log, trying to get all the anatomical measurements because Fetus wouldn’t stay still.

Ultrasounds aren’t the most detailed pictures into the uterus, but being face to face (in a manner of speaking) with this baby changed things for me.

I won’t lie–being pregnant still feels like the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I won’t be forgetting the distress and frustration I felt for almost 4 months straight anytime soon. But seeing the vulnerability of the product of my pain and sacrifice was a game-changer. This was honestly the first time I felt even faintly connected to the child I have been carrying since July. And it still isn’t the magical bond my pregnancy books promise. But it’s better than nothing. So I’ll take it.

23

My birthday was last week. We celebrated with sushi, to Benjamin’s chagrin. But luckily they had a steak roll, so he¬†survived.

It’s funny…I don’t feel any different. Not sure why, but every single year I somehow expect this year to be different, as if I’ll magically feel my soul shifting as I lean into a new year…but no such experience has hit me yet. Oh well. Maybe next year.

We went to Detroit on the Benjamin half of birthday week (mine on Monday, his on Thursday), and we caught some staggeringly good concerts: Andrew Bird on the 14th, and Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals on the 15th. I can’t even begin to describe my emotions as I contemplate those concerts. Seeing Andrew Bird was like having an organic high–I honestly haven’t felt so trance-like since my last benedryl episode–all the colors melted and life was perfect. And Ben Harper–I can’t even. What a man. And his band is so beautifully legit. And he picked a fiiiiiiiiine opener. Andrew Bird’s opener kinda sucked, but Ben Harper had this dude called Christopher Paul Stelling, and he was pretty cool.

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Anyway. Those concerts got me thinking. I should share my concert bucket list, and then I can cross each one off as I see them?

Yeah. I like that.

Bold = seen.

Alabama Shakes

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Andrew Bird

Arcade Fire

Avett Brothers, The

Band of Horses

Ben Harper

Beck

Ben Folds

Ben Kweller

CHVRCHES (seeing them in September)

Death Cab For Cutie

Decemberists, The

Flaming Lips, The

Flight of the Conchords

Jack Johnson

Josh Ritter

Jukebox and the Ghost

Local Natives

Lou Doillon

M83 

Macklemore

Ok Go

Paul McCartney

Punch Brothers

Purity Ring

Radiohead

Ray Lamontagne

Regina Spektor

Sharon Van Etten

Shins, The

Sufjan Stevens

Vampire Weekend

Xavier Rudd

Weepies, The

Meh. That’s enough. I already feel super overwhelmed that I maybe won’t ever be able to see them all <tear leaks from corner of right eye>

OH WELL. I’m twenty-three now, so the world is my oyster. Boo-yah.

Pittsburgh

So.

Pittsburgh.

Benjamin and I have lived in Pittsburgh for just about two years now. Two whole years! Golly. The time has slipped away. And truth be told…we love it.

Pittsburgh has everything we want in a place to live, minus one¬†very important thing: proximity to family. It has A M A Z I N G food, museums, an international airport, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, a couple skyscrapers and pretty cool concerts…but we are 5 1/2 hours away from family. And I know that isn’t too much of a distance, but sometimes it feels like an ocean.

I was always so certain that I’d never live far away from my Taylor clan. I imagined that we’d all at least¬†live in the same state. Except now each of us is spreading out across the country, and I feel helpless and angsty.¬†Which is ridiculous¬†because duh, everyone gets to figure out their path themselves.

Another worry is this: I’m afraid that I’ll quite fall in love with Pittsburgh, but that Benjamin’s work will uproot us again, and I’ll have to start rebuilding a life again. And let me be quite clear–starting fresh somewhere new is not my favorite.

Chances are, we will have one more big move before Ben’s education is quite complete. After residency, we will move on to Fellowship, and that could take us just about anywhere. But not likely nearer family.

So yeah. Today I have the sad because I’m afraid of what the future will hold for me. I recognize the insanity of letting these worries possess me–everything is quite out of my hands and I should just enjoy this lovely spring evening. But it is so much easier to type those words than to actually relish how serene my life is right now…<sigh>

So I don’t quite end on a morbid note, here is a list of my favorite PGH-ish things thus far:

1. Kennywood.
2. Walking along the strip district and discovering new shops and food vendors.
3. Lush, beautifully maintained city parks.
4. Library system.
5. Duquesne Incline.
6. R E S T A U R A  N T S (Guacho, Park Brugge, Il Pizzaiolo, Burgatory, Franktuary, etc,.)
7. Museums–Art, Natural History, Andy Warhol, etc,.
8. Friendly people.

There is still so much of the city I have yet to explore. The National Aviary is on my list, as well as Phipp’s Conservatory. Luckily I still have three more years to enjoy every single bit of this wonderful place.