Twice I was on the sidelines covering the College Football Playoff National Championship when Clemson won. I’ve had conversations with civil rights leaders, local change-makers, and families who’d just lost a loved one in the kind of horrific tragedy that makes front-page news. I had a newspaper column with my name on it — not that it was any sort of major deal but it was known well enough to garner occasional praise from bartenders and baristas around town as they took my credit card to swipe through the reader.
We regularly had friends over to our house for gatherings around the fire pit. We’d grill dinner, play music, drink beer, and laugh well into the night.
We traveled. We went to concerts — so many concerts.
My life used to be a lot more interesting.
Now, I stay home with my daughter. We spend days going for long walks during which we seek out turtles and squirrels. We are working on visiting what feels like every playground on Earth. We do a toddler version of “ballet” in the living room or in any room where the mood strikes, really. We mold snowman after snowman out of play-doh and have the same back and forth each time one is broken.
“I broke it!”
“That’s okay. We can build it again.”
And we do.
We make a big deal out of checking the mail. We walk with our best buds to drop the older girls off at school as often as possible.
We both enjoy the time spent with them, but only one of us thinks about how before too long we’ll be dropping her off at school and our days won’t be filled with excited squeals about squirrels or requests to listen to “talk about Bruno” one more time.
My life used to be a lot more interesting — on paper, on social media, by most of the usual standards.
Long before I held you on an unusually chilly June day, I knew how badly I wanted to hold you. I imagined you snuggling into my arms late at night and milestone celebrations. I imagined the tears I’d have when you took your first steps and how you might sound when you began to learn your first words.
Livia, I wish you could know how good it feels to be the first person who sees you [almost] every morning. To open your bedroom door and see your mouth turn up into a giant grin that scrunches your nose is to start the day on the absolute best foot.
I know you’re only a year old and there’s a lot of life ahead of you – things that will break you down or hurt your heart – but to me you are pure joy. Truly, I don’t know a happier child, though I’m sure there are many as happy as you and I’m sure it’s my own bias showing when I say that. I don’t care. Parents should be a bit biased.
I thought this first year of your life would change me. I thought maybe I’d feel like a new person. I don’t feel new.
I feel found.
A part of me that’s always been here has truly come alive.
Your dad and I dreamed big dreams of what you’d be like and we’ve quickly learned we couldn’t even imagine the best parts of you – the little things you do every day that are just so you. How would we have known the way exact way you’d bounce along to all the goofy songs we make up or how hard you’d giggle as you walk through the living room holding one of Carter’s toys triumphantly over your head?
How would we have known you’d fall asleep so easily and peacefully at night (god bless you), the way you’d wave at every stranger (human or dog) just late enough that they’d already passed, or how you’d pause breastfeeding to lean into my face for a kiss?
This year didn’t change me or your dad. It gave us new life, not that we weren’t living well before, trust me, we were. But you’ve brought joy in places that felt dark. You’ve helped us prioritize things we hadn’t before. You’ve reminded us again and again how much love we have in this home.
I’ve delighted in all the ways you’ve grown over the past 12 months. I’m not sad you’re not a tiny helpless baby anymore. I didn’t cry putting boxes of baby clothes in the attic. I feel nothing but gratitude that we get to witness your spirit and growth inside our home every single day.
Livy, the fun is just getting started. Here’s to you, sweet girl, and the many years ahead.
We noticed our Christmas tree was dead, dangerously dead, on December 20. Five days to go and we were unplugging the lights. I’ll take the blame. I’m the only person that waters the tree and I’ve done it plenty this year, but I’m also the person who started the small fire in our oven we now believe might’ve sped up the dying process.
The details don’t matter much, but I’ll share a few anyway. The fire was quickly put out and Russ cleaned things up as I got Livy and Carter out of the house for a bit. The tree sits in our living room, one wall over from the kitchen. I have all ideas the smoke helped dry the tree.
It doesn’t matter.
If this were any other year, that would probably be the biggest frustration of the holiday and I’d be wondering if I should remove the ornaments and lights, buy a discount tree and start over. But it feels perfect for 2020.
There’s a branch near the top middle that’s now missing most of its needles. Those left behind are tinged brown. At the end of that branch hangs an ornament that reads Livia’s First Christmas.
It’s poetic (or maybe I’ve been reading too much poetry in quarantine).
Sweet Livy, in a year when nearly everything else sucks, you’re a light. We don’t have anything to compare this first year of parenthood to, but I can’t help thinking we’re getting to experience things in a way we wouldn’t have if you’d come into our lives without a few years of waiting.
I fully understand why so many people are ready to toss this year. It’s been challenging for the lucky among us and devastating or even soul-crushing for many others. I don’t discount anyone’s struggles in this year.
But I’m also distracted by the joy you’ve brought — not just by being here, but also with the peaceful happy personality you carry. You’re so much fun.
You wake up smiling. You giggle very easily. Your babbling is almost always at a yelling volume and it makes me laugh every time it starts. You learned to crawl the week you turned six months old and the moment it became an actual crawl was a tearful one. Your dad and I are saps.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the very specific things we’ve experienced because of this pandemic.
The day you were born, we rushed to the hospital thinking something was wrong. When we quickly found out all was well, it turned into a day of quiet calm playing cards, watching TV and talking. In a weird way, it was kind of our last real date of the year. It hit me the other day how lucky we were to have such a peaceful experience. As much as we longed for the chance for grandparents to be able to meet you at the hospital, there was a magic in the quiet calm before and after you arrived.
Your dad was supposed to go back to work in his office two weeks after you were born. I was set to return after 14 weeks. You’re 27 weeks old and we’re both still home. I left my job and will be freelancing from home, a leap I wouldn’t have taken if it weren’t for the pandemic. As of now, it looks like we may both be working from home for your entire first year of life.
Between the two of us, we haven’t missed a single moment of your first six months of life. It isn’t lost on me that the moment you started crawling could’ve easily happened at daycare. I have nothing against daycare. We had all ideas you were headed there at 14 weeks old. You had a spot reserved. Plans change.
We’ve watched as people who care about you found special ways to show it. You have way too many family members and friends you haven’t been able to meet yet, but so many of them reach out to check in on you. Your New England grandparents video chat with you at least once a week. We know how badly they want to hold you again and see how you’ve grown since they met you in July. We’re so sad they can’t, but we’re more grateful for how engaged they’ve managed to be from more than 900 miles away. Your South Carolina grandparents see you as much as we can make it happen and I promise it’s still not often enough for them. Beyond them, you have cousins and aunts and uncles and good friends who spent six months showing love in pandemic safe ways.
It’s pretty remarkable to see. I don’t know what we expected in this year. I spent a lot of late pregnancy hoping this would all go away quickly and we could celebrate you in normal ways. I still long for you to know the people we love, but you’re young and you won’t remember any of this. The more I remember that, the more I realize the unexpected gifts of meeting you in quarantine.
That’s what I’m going to take from this year — a working knowledge that things going as planned isn’t always the most beautiful option.
Livy is on a really good schedule. She’s a great sleeper who eats every three hours during the day and only wakes up once in the early morning after a 9 to 10 hour stretch. We joke that our hypothetical next child will probably be as difficult as she is easy.
I wake up an hour or so before she does and go to bed an hour and a half or two hours after she’s asleep. The hours in between have us ping-ponging between work, breastfeeding and diaper changes in a pattern that is honestly a helpful way to make the days feel shorter during a pandemic.
There are so many little moments throughout the day when, even after four months, I’m briefly overwhelmed at the fact this is really our life right now.
When I look in the rearview mirror and see her little face looking out the window, taking in her surroundings, I almost feel like I need to pull over. For whatever reason, that particular sight has been one of my greatest sources of joy.
I imagine the next several years of seeing that face in my backseat – as she moves from backward carseat to forward, then a booster seat, then just a seatbelt. I imagine the conversations we’ll have – the questions she’ll ask, maybe even the hard questions I’d rather talk about across a kitchen table. I see her soaking in passing trees and traffic lights and I can see myself explaining these things to an inquisitive toddler.
The overwhelming joy from these little moments comes in knowing I’m not imagining someone I haven’t met yet. I can see that little face and I know the broad trajectory of this relationship. I know, god-willing, she’ll grow up in front of my eyes and we’ll get to have those conversations.
It’s a lot to think about at a red light, but I find myself doing it often.
A friend of mine still in the throes of fertility treatments recently asked me if the grief and anxiety go away once you actually have a baby.
To be honest, they don’t fully go away. I don’t know that the grief ever will, but the anxiety evolves.
It might seem silly to anyone who hasn’t been through that uncertainty, but it’s all-encompassing. It alters your brain, throws a wrench in the expectations you have and teaches you you might not be able to trust the one thing you’re guaranteed to carry with you through your entire life – your body.
When I was still pregnant, but far enough along to reasonably believe she would be okay, the anxiety looked like me randomly worrying that maybe she’d come out missing a limb or her lungs wouldn’t form properly or she’d catch a deadly virus.
In the early days after her birth, it was me worrying that she’d just randomly stop breathing with no warning signs or that her small head wasn’t just a small head like her mom’s, but one that wasn’t growing at all like it should and she would end up with severe disabilities.
There’s a lot of this that comes with the normal new mom territory, but the added experience of pregnancy loss and not knowing if you’d actually be able to have a child amplify the fears. It’s like you can’t quite let go of the nightmare of that uncertainty and realize that she’s here and healthy and your biggest fears of that time can no longer come true.
So when I look in my rearview mirror and see her eyes wide and mouth open as she watches blurry trees rushing by the window, I let myself feel overwhelmed – recognizing the moments of overwhelming joy are quickly overshadowing the once overwhelming moments of anxiety. I soak in the daydreams of watching her grow. I don’t watch her ever-changing face and wish she’d stay little. I relish that I get the privilege to watch her grow.
Six weeks ago we ended up in the hospital in the middle of the night because I couldn’t feel you move – nothing I tried would stir you and I was terrified. We’d passed the pregnancy finish line. You were three days late and counting, but I still couldn’t believe you were really going to be okay.
History made me anxious.
We had no idea I was already in labor.
I woke up around 2:30 a.m. on the morning of June 16 to use the bathroom, because that had become my routine in late pregnancy. I couldn’t fall back asleep right away, so I started scrolling on my phone.
Eventually, I decided to move to the bed in the guest room, but I was only there a few minutes before I realized I hadn’t felt you move lately and became scared. I sat up and rubbed my belly, hoping to wake you.
I went to the kitchen, grabbed a cold water bottle and took several big sips. I was determined to try all the tricks I’d read in the books. I hadn’t had to use any of those through pregnancy. You made it easy on us – no big scares and you moved a lot.
I scarfed down a strawberry granola bar.
I went back to the guest room and laid on my left side, hoping in a few minutes you’d react.
As I sat in bed doing mental gymnastics over whether I should be panicked, I realized I’d never forgive myself if something was wrong and I’d done nothing or if I didn’t at least tell your dad.
He says I busted into our bedroom loudly. I don’t remember it that way, but I’m betting he’s right. I dropped the pillows I’d carried to the guest room back on my side of our bed, sat down and quietly called his name.
“I haven’t felt her move in a while and I’m scared,” I told him, quickly running down the list of things I’d tried that hadn’t worked. My last idea was to take a hot shower “because she always moves for hot showers.”
It wasn’t thirty more seconds before I was under the hot water. I took what would, by anyone’s standards, not be a long enough shower to even apply shampoo, but I didn’t feel you move.
I got out and told him we had to go. In a frenzy, we grabbed our packed bags, threw on something not resembling pajamas and whatever shoes we could find, told Carter we’d be back soon and drove the mile or two to the hospital.
I was walking into the hospital when I felt you give one small kick.
But I wasn’t leaving until we had a chance to listen to your heartbeat.
I never wanted to pick your birth date. It’s a silly thing, but it mattered to me. You were just stubborn enough to almost make me do it. I was scheduled for induction on the night of June 17th.
At 4 a.m. on June 16th, the nurse who greeted us was barely done strapping a monitor on my belly when we heard your heart beating. You were as healthy as you’d ever been. I cried. Listen, that detail will come as no surprise to you when you get to know me.
Moments later, the nurse asked me if I’d felt a contraction. It was mapped on the screen, but I had no idea it’d happened. From there it was a whirlwind – she checked a few things and realized I was already starting the labor process.
You were picking your own birth date like I’d hoped.
The nurse left the room for a quick conversation with the OB on call and returned to get us moved to the room where you’d be born.
There’s a lot about labor and delivery that nobody really needs or cares to know – frankly, a lot of the day was spent waiting around. I was in labor, but I wasn’t as far along as many women are when they get to the hospital.
A lot of the day really is a blur. I remember little things like it was unusually cold. In fact, Greenville set a record low high of 67 degrees that day. I remember our sweet nurse who left her hearing aids at home and couldn’t quite hear anything we said to her so she kept reminding us to speak up.
I remember the feeling of the contractions and the moment I realized I was ready for the epidural. Then there was the trouble of getting the epidural dose right. Apparently, they dose by height and they weren’t quite sure what to do with your tall mama. Half of my body was numb while the other half felt every bit of each new contraction for about an hour until they figured it out. The adjustments would later mean I didn’t regain feeling in that leg for an inordinately long time, but hey, I had nowhere to be.
Mostly, it was a lot of waiting. Your dad and I watched episodes of Parks & Rec, talked about how our life was going to change and played cards.
We were in the middle of a game of 45s when our nurse rushed in to check on your rapidly dropping heartbeat for the second time. We weren’t alarmed. It’d happened before and you stabilized as soon as I rolled over. But this time she was followed by so many other nurses your dad made a joke about not realizing that many people even worked at the hospital.
The doctor wasn’t far behind. They told me you were ready and asked if I was.
Livy, you only made me push for nine minutes. I’d made a six hour labor playlist and we didn’t get through two whole songs before we saw your sweet face.
By the way, you arrived in this world to the sound of Alicia Keys singing ‘A Woman’s Worth’. I made sure your dad listened to which song was playing so we’d be able to tell you that.
You came out with eyes wide open and you snuggled up to me instantly. I’ve never seen your dad cry so hard and I’ve never felt stronger.
It’s been six weeks and one day since that moment. You’re snoozing on my lap right now and I know I should’ve written this sooner, when I didn’t have six weeks of less than optimal sleep under my belt. I should’ve jotted down more details or carved out an afternoon to write before it became blurry, but I’ve been soaking up the moments with you; watching you grow and learn our faces; listening to you practice your little giggles and learning what calms you when you cry.
Livia, I want you to know, if you ever read some version of this, that June 16th, 2020 was truly the best day of my entire life so far. Every fear I’d had about giving birth during a pandemic washed away that day and what it left us was the chance to get to know each other in your first day of life, uninterrupted, as a family of three. It was an unconventional, but beautiful way to welcome you. Every big and little thing we went through in the years of trying to bring you into this world was worth it in the moment we saw your face for the first time at 2:01 p.m. on June 16th.
We made it. 40 whole weeks of you and me growing together. Facebook memories shows me on this day last year I went for a run – a no doubt frustrating run during which I had to remind myself that I was slow because of all the medicines and shots I’d done and all the time I’d had to take off from my favorite hobby.
But it’s 2020 and on this June 13th I happily wait for you to decide it’s time to come into the world.
You’re squirming in my belly right now. And for every impatient thought I’ve had over the past week – because I really really want to hold you and see that you’re really here and healthy– right now in this moment, I am just grateful and proud.
I’m proud my body was able to bring you all the way to this point. I’m proud of you for being the strong little girl we suspected you could be.
I’m proud of your dad for how hard he’s prepared for your arrival and how much he loves our nightly ritual of reading you books from your little library.
One day, we’ll tell you about the one page in that Dr. Seuss book that makes you kick every single time – and how your dad likes to read it twice or even three times just to rile you up.
It feels so strange to know you yet not really know you. We’ve been calling you by your name for a long time now, but we don’t know what you’ll look like, whether you’ll be a relatively content baby or give us unexpected challenges, or even if that page in that Dr. Seuss book will matter to you when you’re on the outside.
I want to learn all those things. I’m impatient to learn all those things. I’m anxious to meet you. In the past week, I couldn’t imaging how I could possibly wait any longer for you – next week marks three years since we started trying to have a baby – but today, on your actual due date, I feel grateful knowing whatever day you get here is going to be the very best day.
I haven’t sat down to write this yet, because it feels like I shouldn’t. Not that I shouldn’t have the feelings I do, but that I shouldn’t admit that it’s not entirely easy – that my overwhelming joy of being six weeks from meeting our child is sometimes overshadowed by the grief of what we’ve been through and the fear of what we’re living through now.
But I’ve tried to share our story with sincerity, so here I am. I’d ask that you read this with the context that we are over the moon excited and in love with our baby girl. Know that we are so full of gratitude we can barely stand it. Know that we realize we could be like anyone else for whom this pandemic has delayed treatments to help them get pregnant and we’re deeply sad for them. Know that we read our daughter books at night and laugh at how she kicks when we do silly voices. Sometimes we cry happy tears sometimes when she’s kicking, because we really can’t believe where we are. The joy is always there, even when other emotions creep in.
It’s terrifying to be pregnant in a pandemic – to receive little or conflicting information about the specific threat to your and your baby’s health and to have to navigate the decisions at hand, trying to determine what is best for your child before you’ve even met her yet.
It’s a scary time and that’s an understatement.
Being pregnant in a pandemic after loss, years of failed attempts to get pregnant and long periods of thinking it would never happen is, at times, unbearable.
Grief doesn’t disappear. I’m not suddenly over the baby I’ll never meet because we have a new one we likely will.
The combination of emotions keeps me up at night. I tear up when I see the note to our first baby scrawled across the small white board in our closet – the note we can’t bring ourselves to erase – “we’ll love you always.” I bawl in the shower because I think of the tiny baby that we now lovingly say was here briefly to make a comfortable space for our little girl.
Loss is trauma.
It shows itself in many ways; in bouts of anger; in worries over things that aren’t a big deal but are more manageable to carry than those that are; in tearing up at little reminders around the house and on dates that should’ve been milestones.
In the midst of a pandemic, with little information about its effect on infants, grief manifests in fears that something will steal this new baby away before we really get to know her.
Any book on miscarriage will tell you it haunts future pregnancies. Even if you have healthy, happy children after a miscarriage, each new pregnancy has the nagging sense that something can steal the joy unexpectedly. It’s a natural part of the process.
And in 2020, there’s a concrete threat – a pandemic that could do a lot more damage than cancelling baby showers.
I’m long past being sad about a baby shower. I’m focused on the final goal of getting her here safely.
I would kill to know the first days and weeks of my baby’s life could be normal. I’d give anything for it to be like it would’ve been if we were able to get pregnant one, two, even three years ago when we first started trying.
I wish she could meet all four of her grandparents the day she’s born. I wish visitors could come to the hospital. I wish we could see a steady stream of our closest friends walk through our doorway to say hello to this girl we’ve waited years to meet.
But that’s not our reality right now. Our reality is that there are restrictions in place and recommendations that force us to make tough decisions.
I won’t pretend it doesn’t suck.
It does. It breaks my heart.
The strangeness of this year is hard for so many of us.
And we face the challenge in different ways. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how lucky I am that this pregnancy has been easy on me, physically. Getting here was hard, but the actual pregnancy hasn’t presented any concerning symptoms or emergency appointments. I wasn’t extremely nauseous at any point and I haven’t had any spikes in blood pressure. I count each one of those things as blessings, especially when fears creep in.
I navigate the weirdness of being a social person stuck at home by preparing for her arrival – I’m nesting, washing clothes, ramping up FaceTime calls, taking more photos along the way than I probably would have otherwise, reading more chapters in baby books than I ever planned to, talking with friends who’ve just had children in the pandemic and listening to podcasts on motherhood.
I’m reminding myself daily that “quarantine” means Russ, the baby and I will have quality time as a family of three that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.
We’re still six weeks out (if all goes as planned) and we have no idea what things will look like when she arrives. Businesses are beginning to open back up around us and people are getting restless about being home. We hope it’s a sign that the world will start to get back to normal and that we’ll do so with a more controlled grip on the coronavirus.
Regardless, our days will stay the same as long as that’s the medical recommendation. We’ll soak in the extra time together and know that being here safe at home, however uncomfortable it can be to miss everyone around us, will be worth it if it means we can contribute to a healthier world for our baby girl.
That phrase gets overused a lot, but it really applies right now.
This is such a strange time.
Some of us are facing terrible difficulties, others are sad about relatively minor inconveniences and none of us are wrong.
It’s okay to be upset that you had to cancel your birthday celebration, just as it’s okay to be terrified of giving birth during a deadly pandemic.
I say that as someone who is the latter.
I don’t mind hearing people worry about their mental state while being stuck in their homes. That’s a real issue and perspective matters.
I can’t fully understand a tragedy someone else has been through if I haven’t faced it myself. I don’t see this situation as any different.
My heart aches for the people who have lost their entire sources of income. I’ve only lost a few weeks of mine, so I can’t say I know how that feels, but I can feel empathy. I can wish none of you were facing what you’re facing.
I have a handful of friends who’ve lost loved ones in the weeks since this all began. Not one of them has been able to properly honor their loved ones life in the traditional sense. In fact, they’re navigating grief by themselves or away from most of the rest of their families and friends.
I haven’t lost anyone during this time, aside from our dog Sophie. And that was hell, but it was expected and I wasn’t deprived of the traditional grieving.
I held her and petted her and told her how much I loved her repeatedly as she went calmly to rest. And I’ve been able to talk about her and share that love for her with people right around me, the people who also knew and loved her. That’s how that grief would’ve looked even in a normal time.
But that’s not how it usually looks for human loss.
I can’t imagine how it feels to not have those first few days when you’d normally gather with family and share stories and memories – laugh and cry. When I’ve lost loved ones in the past, those moments have been what pulled me through the initial onslaught of sadness.
Everywhere you look, people’s hearts are heavy.
They’re scared or anxious.
They’re wondering if they’re doing enough to protect themselves and the people they love.
They’re wondering how they can help their favorite small business that might not make it through the economic disaster that’s accompanying all of this.
They’re feeling things and they should be allowed to – whatever that looks like.
Sure, there’s a lot of good. And I suspect most of us spend a great deal of time watching for it – seeing who is helping and how we can make the best of the situation.
But we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves or others when we’re struck by the tougher feelings.
It really is okay.
And hopefully one day not too long from now, everything will be okay.
You can’t hear me when I tell you I love you anymore, so I try to show you in as many other ways as I can — by carrying you from room to room, because your legs don’t work well anymore and standing outside while you roam around the backyard in the dark, because I don’t want you to look back toward the house and think I’ve left you.
You’re 15 now and it’s been an incredible decade and a half.
I’ve learned so much, often from my own mistakes. I know there are times I could’ve paid you more attention. I could’ve gone out with friends a little less or taken you for longer walks. But you never quit on me.
Even when your legs barely worked, you’d still follow me from room to room like a shadow.
I’ve loved a lot of pets, but never one as much as you, Soph Bear.
You’re complicated, sassy and downright mean to just about everyone but me by then end, but you earned the right to be a little cranky.
You’ve been with me since high school – through that lonely first apartment in Mississippi – through all the long drives we took back to the Carolinas over those 19 months – through the move to Greenville – through bad dates and good – through marriage – through fertility treatments and loss and now through 2/3 of pregnancy.
I know you were in pain, frustrated and anxious. I know you were tired and confused.
I know you were still here in the end because I still needed you to be here while I prepared to say goodbye.
And I know I had to quit being selfish.
I will love you forever, Soph and I’ll miss you in this home. I’ll miss our quiet mornings together before the boys wake up and I’ll miss getting out of the shower and finding you waiting for me on the bath mat. I’ll miss sharing popcorn with you and watching you roll your white fluffy body all around in any dirt you can find.
Thank you for the unconditional love and for teaching us how to provide around the clock care for a tiny, helpless creature – even changing diapers – right before we welcome our daughter into the family. I promise we’ll tell her about you and show her photos. One day, maybe she’ll ask for her own dog – just like you were mine. I can’t think of a better gift.
We’re almost 25 weeks into this pregnancy and I’m feeling incredibly lucky and grateful.
I went to the doctor this morning — the very first appointment I’ve gone to alone. If that sounds crazy, just know that Russ has tagged along at every appointment because a) he wants to see and hear that she’s growing as much as I do and b) my anxiety was through the roof for a long time.
But today, I was only mildly nervous before the appointment. By the time I was stepping on the scale, those nerves melted away.
Our baby girl is growing exactly as she should. My belly, which I’ve heard from a lot of people looks small (it doesn’t to me!), is exactly where it needs to be and her heart continues its strong beat.
It’s hard to believe we are approaching the third trimester together. I can’t wait to meet our baby girl. I hope it’s evident to her, on a daily basis, just how much we wished and hoped and prayed for her healthy arrival.