My Journey to Conception: Lessons in Letting Go
I thought I’d get pregnant right away.
For one, I’d been pregnant before. And while that is a story for another day, I do recall the wave of relief I felt when I knew it was possible to have found myself there.
Then there were the multiple healers and seers who had confirmed this for me. One was an acupuncturist, an attractive surfer-looking man I visited in the basement of an East Village brownstone. We did some tarot as part of our session (a true Renaissance man!) and he told me that I had a ton of creative energy around my hands and my belly, that I was extremely fertile in many aspects of my life.
My astrologer – I’ve worked with many who are wonderful but this was my OG astrologer from Florida who I’ve seen for over 10 years, who has predicted basically every big life change I’ve had – who told me that I’d be pregnant by the fall of 2020.
And then there was Kit, a psychic I’d done a handful of sessions with over the years, who once was also the go-to advisor to (casually) John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Now Kit, he’s a rather intense man, I don’t know what he looks like as he lives in California and we’ve only met over the phone, but I know him to be an elder, wise in his ways. I say intense because he tells it like it is, no sugar coating – you have to be ready to hear what you don’t want to hear with Kit. I’ve passed him around to my closest girlfriends and when someone says they did a session with Kit, the reaction is always the same: eyes widen, OH. Ready for tears, an epiphany… anything.
This conversation with Kit took place back in the summer or fall of 2019, and as always I was filled to the brim with about a million ideas for my company Salt House, whatever projects I was working on at the time. And after I excitedly went through all of my brilliant plans, I asked Kit what he thought.
“I think you need to stop. Take a break. Stop everything, and just be.”
I politely listened to him go on for a while about how this was what I need more than anything, how I spent my whole life jumping from this to that and did I really even know how to just be?
“Well, but we’re getting married in March, and planning to get pregnant right after that, so with a baby on the way it feels like focusing on work makes more sense right now.”
“Uh huh,” Kit grunted. “And are you sure you need to do that right away? Don’t you want to take some time to enjoy being married?”
“Well, we’ve been living together for a few years. I feel like we’ve already had that time.”
“See this is exactly what I’m talking about. You want to jump from a marriage to a baby without a breath in between. This is how you’ve gone through your life, checking it all off your list. Accomplish, achieve, accomplish. Doesn’t matter you’ve been living together. A marriage is different, it’s a sacred act that deserves more than that. My advice is to take some time to honor your commitment. Take some time to let it breathe.”
“But Kit I’ll be 35, time isn’t exactly on my side here.”
“C’mon Sarah, we both know you’ll get pregnant as soon as you start trying.”
I knew Kit was right, about the way I’d gone through my life. And while I wasn’t quite ready to put down all my work projects and learn to just “be,” I did want to honor our marriage. My solution? Instead of removing my IUD right before the wedding (honeymoon baby?!) I’d wait until afterwards. I wasn’t sure how long after, but anytime after that seemed a good compromise.
Little did I know, there’d be no honeymoon, and actually there’d be no way for me to remove my IUD. For a little while. Because the week after our wedding, COVID-19 happened and the entire world shut down.
After eight weeks of being locked inside our Brooklyn apartment, I started to get the itch. Naturally I’d been thinking about how to best use this time. I was planning to get started on my book proposal, and it also seemed like a good time to start trying for baby.
Problem was, my doctor’s office was still closed. So I found these womens’ health clinics they had opened throughout the city in response to the pandemic, and much to Jared’s dismay, I walked 40 minutes to a questionable location in downtown Brooklyn for an appointment in early May.
Shortly thereafter I went deep into the world of operation prepare for pregnancy. If you know me, you know I love to learn. To research. To throw myself into something and learn everything there is to know about it. Fertility became my passion, my first hobby to save me from the throes of boredom of 2020. (I wrote more about everything I learned here, ICYI.)
Most of my obsession was healthy – I was cooking up organic grass-fed beef liver, optimizing my prenatal vitamins, switching to all-natural everything – but where it veered off was in this idea that my body had to be in perfect condition. Not how I looked, but how things were running on the inside, things like my digestion, or how well I was sleeping.
I was worried about my bladder, because I was having to get up to pee at least once or twice a night, and something just felt a little off, possibly nerve-related. A voice inside told me to try quitting coffee. I realized I’d been addicted to caffeine for, I don’t know, 20 years? Maybe it was time to give my nervous system a bit of a break. Plus the fact that caffeine isn’t exactly recommended as a pregnancy superfood.
I don’t like to feel like something external is in control of me (hence why I never fell into the deep end of addiction as the daughter of two addict parents) so quitting wasn’t difficult. On top of this I was just plain curious: After living on a substance daily for 20+ years, what would happen? Life is too short not to answer such curiosities.
I had a horrible headache for a few days, and then I started feeling better. I will say I don’t know that I ever felt like “myself” again, or at least the caffeinated version of myself that I’d known for most of my life. But all of this felt good, I felt closer to wholeness, a natural human being. Until my digestion stopped working. Now I had a new problem to deal with.
I remember being on the phone with a friend, a mother of two.
“Listen, you’re gonna get pregnant when you’re meant to get pregnant. It doesn’t matter if you’re constipated, if you think you’re peeing too much, it doesn’t matter what’s going on.” And the way she gently laughed off what I was saying, I knew she was right.
I knew I needed to let go, to just let my body be its imperfect self. I wasn’t going to solve all of these problems and I knew the truth: I didn’t need to.
Then there were the moon cycles. My period had been in line with the new moon for months. I would bleed with the new moon, and ovulate with the full moon. This is what’s known as the White Moon Cycle. Because biodynamics have shown that the earth is most fertile during the full moon, this cycle is thought to be associated with fertility.
I was feeling very good about this, even as I got my period for the first time, and then the second. (If you’ve ever tried getting pregnant before, getting your period isn’t usually the happiest moment.) I figured it was good to have the extra time to keep eating well and preparing my body, since everything I’d been learning about said that ideally you should start this preparation process (with the right diet, prenatals, etc.) for at least three months, ideally more like six or even a year out.
All was going well until a day in late July when I got a frantic call from my sister Leah.
A voicemail: “Guys, someone called me and I don’t know if this is for real or not… this woman said she was helping take care of Mom, that she wasn’t well… I’m freaked. I don’t know if we should believe this or not. You need to listen to this message.”
My other sister Jessica and I listened to the message. We concluded that it sounded real.
In less than two weeks, my mother – who I hadn’t been in touch with for over 15 years – would no longer be with us.
To add to the shock of this, it was stage 4 lung cancer, the very same disease that killed my father just two years prior.
It happened so fast, and it was so intense. In the height of Covid, I found myself trying to manage her care with this social worker across the country. She was facing the end of her life, alone, and I hated it. It didn’t matter, what she’d done in the past or what she hadn’t; whether or not she’d been a good mother to me was irrelevant. She was still my mother, and every ounce of my being wanted to be there with her.
I got to FaceTime with her once before she died, and while she had already lost most of her ability to communicate, the only thing that needed to be said was experienced between us: I love you.
Was this the final piece of the puzzle I needed to move forward on my own journey to becoming a mother? I like to think that things are written, to some degree. Looking back, it feels as if this were our fate.
At the time it felt more like a nightmare than anything. How quickly everything had changed. I had just finished my book proposal that I’d been working on for months, a huge and heavy project that basically told my life story. I remember feeling so proud and light, and yet just as I’d started sending emails to potential agents, we got that first cryptic voicemail.
Everything I’d been working toward felt as if it were destroyed, blown into a million little pieces. It would be months before I’d be able to look at my book proposal again. (Still not exactly there yet). And the idea of getting pregnant? Gone, in an instant. I was so deep in grief I could barely get out of bed – if the idea of having an imperfect bladder could have been in the way before, surely this was worse.
But as grief does, it moves. It changes shape and travels through you and eventually, you find your way to the other side.
Part of getting to the other side for me was getting the hell out of the city.
It wasn’t a new feeling, exactly. I’d been craving this not long after the pandemic hit. I wrote more about the story behind our move here, but basically it was in this moment after my mother’s death that my desire to leave the city became necessary to my survival.
I needed space, I needed change. I needed nature.
Thankfully, it didn’t take long for the universe to offer me a concession. We somehow landed upon the most perfect house rental about an hour north of the city in Hudson Valley, in a town called Garrison.
We moved in on October 1st, and I instantly felt at peace.
Clarity was another gift that grief had delivered. For months, I’d been getting closer and closer to letting go of my business, Salt House. This was an incredibly hard decision for me – in years past it would have been impossible – as so much of my identity was wrapped up in what I’d created. I plan to write more about this soon, but I mention it here because it was so intertwined with my decision to become a mother. Perhaps the seed was planted when we first began trying; perhaps this was my own mother’s intuition beginning to develop. Yet after experiencing this loss it became even more clear: I knew I needed to take time to heal, that it was too symbolic to lose my mother on my way to becoming one.
My therapist, who is also a shaman, had suggested to me an idea for a ritual to say good-bye: I could create a prayer bundle for my mother, and then release it into nature. I loved the idea and decided to do one for my father as well, since we did not get the chance to say good-bye on the terms I would have liked.
Samhain, which you might know more commonly as Halloween, felt like the perfect night to do this. Samhain is an ancient Pagan holiday that celebrates the death and transition of the season, as well as our ancestors and loved ones who have crossed over before us. On this night the veil between the dead and the living is thought to be the thinnest, so it is an ideal time to communicate with any loved ones who may have passed.
On that day, I wrote letters to both of my parents individually, sharing only my love for them and positive memories, wishing them well on this next phase of their journeys. The tears came pouring out, particularly as I was writing my dad’s card and got to the part about how I’ll make sure to give our baby lots of squishee’s – this thing he basically branded where he’d lovingly cover a child’s face with his giant hand, squeeze their cheeks and say “squishee!”
Jared went for a hike while I wrote and I asked him to gather some items from nature that we could add to the bundle. He came back with the most delicate, storybook autumn leaves, bright crimson and gold, along with a rock and a piece of tree bark.
I tied everything together with twine into a little bundle, and we set off for the Hudson River.
It was a gorgeous night. The sun was just setting over the glassy water, everything was calm and still and bathed in golden light. I felt at peace and ready for this release. I bent over the rocks and gently placed the bundle into the river.
The next morning, I woke up early and on a whim, decided to take a pregnancy test.
A new life had joined to ours. The test was positive.
I couldn’t believe it. Was this real? It wasn’t a surprise, of course, this was everything we’d been dreaming of! Yet nothing can prepare you for the state of complete shock and disbelief that rises within you once it actually happens.
I was shaking, barely able to control my body movements as I hurried into the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee.
My plan had been to deliver Jared’s coffee in bed with a mug I’d bought that said #1 Dad, but shit! It was upstairs hiding in one of my purses in the closet. Luckily, he’s a sound sleeper. I quietly fished the mug out of my bag and somehow made it back downstairs in one piece.
And thus my vision was completed. I brought him the coffee, and he joined me in total ecstatic shock.
Our miracle was here.