NowBlowPoMe: My Sack of Cells.

Emory was conceived a year ago today. I know the exact day almost down the minute for several reasons and I’ll mention a few of them below.

Four months earlier, I had gone to visit my doctor. I had blood work run. She checked for any genetic predispositions. Everything looked fine except that my measles shot had expired. (I wrote a bit about the testing here.) We also discussed ovulation and the possibility of things taking a while based on my age. Now, that doesn’t mean my doctor thought I was too old to conceive a baby. Quite the contrary. She made it abundantly clear that while I may be older compared to the rest of the nation, I was actually younger than the average New Yorker. I felt better and immediately began adding kids to my imaginary family.

She told me that usually a woman must try for an entire year before they start dealing with the possibility of fertility drugs. She told me not to freak out if it doesn’t happen right away.

She went over ovulation with me. We discussed when a woman ovulates and then she told me about those sticks women can buy (and pee on) that let you know immediately.

TobyJoe and I weren’t ready yet. I wanted to make sure I was healthy enough to actually have a baby, that my pipes were in working order, my blood up to par, etc. etc.

Over the next four months, I made jokes to remind him of my intentions.

“What do you want to eat?”

“Let’s make a baby!”

I eventually purchased one of those ovulation test kits. It ran me a small fortune for three sticks and I remember standing in the drugstore thinking that if I had to continue buying them, we might have to take out a loan. I tested myself once, a few days before Emory was conceived, while his father was away on business. I got an idea of when things take place. I was ready for whenever we were ready.

Over the years, many friends of mine (so many, I no longer have enough fingers to keep count) have had miscarriages. Still others spent months and months and months crying and fighting while trying to conceive. I know couples who spent nearly their entire life savings trying to have a baby. I have heard horror story after horror story. And I wish I were exaggerating, if anything, I’m holding back a little bit. But if there’s a point to be had here, it’s that I was convinced, based on what I learned from the people I know, that it would take me forever to become pregnant. And I was even more convinced based on the number of miscarriages I had heard about (seriously, dozens and dozens) that I would most likely experience at least one miscarriage. I was so sure of this, I would have bet money on it.

That’s why, when we got pregnant on the very first non-try, I was shocked, downright shocked. (It was a “non-try” because I had peed on a stick and figured out that I would no longer be ovulating by the time TobyJoe got back from Boston. Oops.)

So, I was pregnant. On the very first try. But I didn’t know it for three weeks and in that time I consumed a couple of glasses of wine here and there all the while my body was creating Emory. I was absolutely certain I had screwed everything up. Of course, as soon as I figured out I was pregnant, I never touched another glass of wine. But I was certain I had ruined everything because of those first couple of weeks. I kept thinking, “You’re going to be punished for this.” Punished by who? For what?

I told a few select friends. I had one rule: I’d share my early pregnancy with any person who I also felt comfortable enough telling that I miscarried. I was so sure that I would miscarry, I told those people that if I do miscarry, I’d like them to carry on about their business. I didn’t want anyone to act sad. I wanted things to go back to normal immediately. I told everyone that I wasn’t yet attached to the “sack of cells” growing inside of me.

8 weeks into my pregnancy, when I saw Emory’s heart for the very first time, everything began to change. It was so tiny! But it was a solid, beautiful heart. And I cried when I saw it.

4 weeks later, I was still pregnant. And we made the announcement to everyone.

For a long time, for almost four months into my pregnancy, I thought of him as a sack of cells. I even referred to him as such. (He later became Ndugu.) He was growing, the pregnancy side-effects were huge, but I kept him far away emotionally. I was still so sure something would go wrong.

I don’t believe there’s a God out there making things happen. And all the prayer in the world couldn’t keep the “sack of cells” alive for my friends. I don’t believe in a higher power calling the shots for us and I tend to put my faith in science more than religion. I know this belief doesn’t exactly make me very popular with the American public, but it’s the truth. I just don’t believe in all of that.


I do believe in the power of retrospect. Like, had this piece not landed on that spot at that particular time, the foundation would have splintered. For example, many of those friends went on to have and adopt beautiful babies, babies they never would have met had things not unfolded the way in which they had.

Now? Now my sack of cells is a babbling fool, a great big beautiful babbling fool that I want to smooch on so hard, my lips hurt yearning for it. And so. I look at the (albeit easy) conception of Emory as something that had to happen for reasons I am unaware of, reasons I may never fully become aware of. For example, we’ve only tried once. Who knows what’ll happen if we try again. Maybe this sack of cells was my only chance. This wonderfully awesome, amazingly outstanding, hilariously incredible sack of cells was my only chance.

(Click the video below. It’s of Emory talking to me. I am on the phone with TobyJoe as well.)

So, yeah, my sack of cells was conceived one year ago today. And the folks who believe that life starts at conception might even call this Emory’s birthday. And I have to admit, now that I know him, now that he’s Emory, I can’t help but think of today as something special.

See what I mean about the power of retrospect?

Part of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), where one writes every day for the month of November, which is easier said than done.


  1. Hurray for happy babbling babies!


  2. That sound you just heard was the sound a a million ovaries, crying out and then exploding from cute overload.


  3. Wow. This really hit home for me. (I’ve been reading your blog for about 3 days now – linked here from dooce – but I think I’m in love! With Emory, of course . . . :)

    I’m in week 15 of my first pregnancy, and every single thing you described is what I’m smack in the middle of. The reason we’re pregnant now is my scads and scads of friends who have struggled for years. We thought – there’s no way we can pregnant after one night. Let’s go ahead! Weee! 6 weeks later when I furrowed my brow, double checked my calendar, and peed on a stick, I was like – you have GOT to be kidding me. One careless night in my entire life and I’m knocked UP??? Looking at my friends, I had myself half convinced that I’d have to come to grips with not being able to be a mother one day. I never imagined it’d be the total opposite.

    And now, I’m in the emotional distance stage. Miscarriages are so real, so prevalent, and I know I’m not totally out of the woods. So I resist the emotional connection. As he gets bigger, though, and I see the ultrasound, it gets harder to push him away. Suddenly, I’m very vested in the health of this fetus. It’s a scary leap to make.

    Anyway. Thanks for sharing. This was a neat thing to read.


  4. Both of my kids were conceived very easily. I’m almost embarrassed about it.

    I have a relative who got pregnant with her first baby about 8 years ago. After the gender-confirming ultrasound, she and a lot of other family members began referring to the baby by name (which was the name of another living relative.) The nursery was very personalized, with lots of monograms and the baby’s name embroidered and printed everywhere. She even made a pregnancy scrapbook. Everything was normal until the delivery, and the baby died from a staph infection and was stillborn. It was very, very tragic. Fortunately, this relative has had two healthy babies since then.

    I had both my kids before this happened, and I never did anything like that. I was like you, a little afraid to get too attached to the “sack of cells.” And maybe I’m more than a little superstitious.


  5. “Emory was conceived while his father was away on business”

    HA HA HA HA.

    Okay, I totally know that’s not how you meant that to read, but I laughed out loud. Sorry, TJ. ;)


  6. He is just gorgeous, Happy birthday to Emory!


  7. Jen! Hahaha! OK, so I added a comma. I think that changes things.

    MJ, I, too, have a similar story about someone that I know. It both haunted me and comforted me during my pregnancy. Long story, but it’s about that whole things happening and then other things happening, etc that brought me comfort. So, yeah. But it also haunted me. I simply cannot imagine losing a baby after actually meeting it. So sad. Terrible.


  8. That kid is so awesome!


  9. i’ve not met Toby Joe – yet—but I suspect he sounds an awful lot like his son… just a hunch…


  10. I only have the one sack of cells, but still, 5 (or 6, depending on how you’re counting) years later, I can’t help but view her as a miracle. Too many things “fell into place” that should have been IMPOSSIBLE, for me not to feel that way. But at the same time, I totally understand where you’re coming from, and you express it beautifully.

    When Bella was 2, I had a seven-week miscarriage. I’d had such an easy, beautiful pregnancy the first time around that I had no reason to believe this wouldn’t be the same. I already loved that baby, had already told everyone that he/she was coming, and had begun the emotional celebration. So had my husband. Just to say, don’t second-guess your early distance.


  11. That was quite the story Emory was telling you. I can’t wait to have my own sack of cells one day.


  12. I think that there is so much focus placed on what could go wrong in life (with just about everything, not just pregnancy and birth) in the media and in our social circles, that’s it’s very easy to fall into the trap of self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness when things go easier for us than for others. And I think that that means we also lose faith in the goodness of life, and in our ability to handle the worst case scenario, should it occur.

    Mihow, you should never, ever make excuses for the fact that getting pregnant (and staying pregnant) was easier for you than for your friends. Your experience is called “normal”, and theirs is called “problematic”. Most women get pregnant within a year and most pregnancies stick, and most children are born healthy. Somehow, those facts get ignored though they shouldn’t be.
    Nor should you say things like, “next time it might not be so easy or even possible”. You are condescending your own experience to make other women feel better about their troubles. Why do that? Believe it or not, despite your good intentions, you’re showing ingratitude for your experience by questioning how you could “deserve” such good fortune. And then you wonder how such luck could be repeated. What are you trying to do, attract problems to yourself so that you’ll fit in with all your friends? Forget it! Be grateful (which I know you are), be happy that you got what you wanted, and don’t expect anything different for the future unless you have just cause!

    I’d like to add that I came across your blog recently and I really enjoy your point of view. That’s the only reason I’m responding so strongly to your post. :)


  13. Hi Michele – I went blog jogging last night and ended up here in your corner of the net (thanks to Dooce) and I stayed because of Emory. What a cutie he is! I had to go back into your archives and read about your pregnancy and all. Then I got sucked further back into your urban NYC hipster days. My, how times have changed! Now you want to move to my neck of the woods. I jest, of course. Few people want to move out THIS far into the wilds of NJ. But it is pretty out here. And no parking tickets just ‘cause you want to sell your car. ;-) I’m adding you to my blogroll. Hope you don’t mind.


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