Archive | December 2012

Can a Single Year Be the Best and the Worst?

I have pondered that question and my last blog post of this year for several weeks.  The answer is yes.

From January to June 16th, almost exactly the first half of the year, I was the happiest I have ever been.  I had an amazing family, a fabulous husband, a beautiful dog, a perfect house, and a baby on the way.  (And I still have almost all those things.)  I was so enjoying preparing my life for a new little baby.  I was so ready for the next chapter.  During this time, we completed some projects on the house, prepared the nursery, each celebrated our 27th birthdays, had a beautiful baby shower, and hosted a lovely Mother’s Day gathering for my family.  I also finished my Master’s degree, which was a huge accomplishment.  It was a happy time.

Though my personal life felt quite perfect, my professional life was anything but.  I was having a miserable school year.  I loved working with my students, but the paperwork and politics that went along with the job made it so frustrating.  I tried so hard to do my best work and to do right for my students.  In the end, I was no longer happy as a special education teacher and I knew I had to find a way out.

I’m declaring June 16, 2012 the best and worst day of my life.  I delivered my daughter – my first born.  I felt the love that every mother describes.  I felt pride and joy over the fact that I had a daughter who could become as girly and artsy as her Mama.  I was excited to go shopping.  On this same day, the worst thing that could ever happen to a person did.  My child died.  I lost my baby and all the dreams and plans that went with her.  I felt emotional pain like none I’ve ever felt before.  I lost a huge part of myself and my world was shattered.  I was forever changed.

Since Maya was born and died, the rest of the year has been a roller coaster.  I have a new perspective on life.  I have developed a true understanding of what’s important and just how precious life is.  When my world shattered, I searched and searched for a way to put the pieces back together, only to realize that it’s out of my control.  When I let go and let the pieces drop back into place, I gained some clarity on my climb up the mountain.

I have reconnected with some old friends and grown more close to others.  I have been the recipient of some of the most beautiful acts of kindness and my faith in humanity has been restored.  I have made new friends, especially in the online world.  There are now people all over the world who know Maya’s story.  I no longer feel like I am on this journey alone.

I have grown closer to my husband than I ever felt possible.  We have both changed, and he has remained strong in these dark times.  I am so blessed to have such an amazing man by my side.

In addition to navigating this road and climbing this mountain called grief, other things have happened this year, and as I reflect, most of them have been good.  I finally got out of being a SPED teacher.  I am in a teaching position that I love and I feel so comfortable in my new role.  My job is my saving grace right now.  I went on some wonderful trips both before and after Maya was born and died.  While some of these trips were for the purpose of healing, they were enjoyable and memorable in their own right.

So yes.  2012 is the year that I lost my baby and felt more sadness and grief than I ever thought possible.  It was and hopefully will remain the worst experience of my life.  However, 2012 is also the year when some of the best things happened to me including the birth of my daughter, the completion of my Masters, a new job, new friends, and a new me.  I am slowly getting to know this new me and I like her.  Would I trade her in for my daughter?  Of course.  But that is not an option.

So, as we move into 2013, I am content with 2012.  I am sad to leave behind the year that brought little miss Maya into our lives.  However, I am entering 2013 with hope, comfort, and gratitude for the life that I have.  I look forward to getting to know the new me.  I look forward to letting go of the control and letting my path lay itself.  I’m not sure what lies ahead, but I am ready and excited!

I wish all of you a Happy New Year!  May 2013 bring you all that you hope for and more!

 

Surviving the Holdiays 2012

**Before I begin this post, I just want to mention that I have updated Maya’s name gallery.  It gives me such joy to see Maya’s name written in creative ways and I am so grateful to those who have taken the time to do it and to share it with me.  Please check out the page!

And now for today’s post…

I knew the holidays would be tough this year.  Last year, I was 10 weeks pregnant on Christmas day.  Hackie and I knew very well that it would be the last Christmas where we indulged each other because this year all our efforts would be put into making the holiday magical for our new baby.  My family celebrates Hanukkah.  When I took the big family Hanukkah picture last year, I mentioned that this year there would be a new little one in the picture and I told my mom that she would get the honor of holding her new grandbaby.  A year ago, we made big plans and had great anticipation for what this year’s holidays would be like.  Today, Christmas Eve, I am not only missing Maya terribly, I am devastated to not be able to see any of those plans come to fruition.  All of those plans, all of that eager excitement and anticipation died with her.

Up until recently, I was comforted with the knowledge that surely we would be pregnant by now.  Surely, the weight of our first holiday season without Maya would be lessened by the hope of a new baby.  I guess I was being slightly naive.  I am not pregnant yet and I am tormented by the idea that if it takes much longer, we may be enduring a second holiday season with grief alone and no living child to share the magic with.

I’ve been having good weeks and bad weeks.  This past week was really tough.  In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, I felt quite numb.  When I turned the corner to go down the road to school on Monday, it hit me hard.  Still, the shock of this tragedy came in fits and spurts.  I feel like my body was protecting my brain from feeling the horror all at once.  By Friday, I was relieved to have arrived at the end of the week.  Still, on the day before vacation – a day that since I started school as a child was always so joyous and exciting, I was feeling so sad.  I was not excited for vacation.  I would rather be at work today, skipping vacation and the holidays all together.  It all came out at the holiday concert.  Our chorus teacher announced that they were all going to sing “Lean On Me” dedicated to the families in Newtown.  I made it through about two thirds of the song before I lost it and had to leave.  There were only a few who saw me and, with the help of a caring guidance counselor, I was able to pull myself together and get through the rest of the day.

Yesterday was my family’s big Hanukkah party.  This is the first time we all were together since I had Maya.  The last time we were all together was Mother’s day, when I was 30 weeks pregnant.  While I was looking forward to seeing my family, I didn’t want to go.  It’s the times when the whole family is together that it is ever so clear that someone is missing.  As soon as Hackie and I pulled out of the driveway to head to my mom’s, I started to cry.  When we got to my mom’s and were setting up the room so that all 20 of us could fit in the family picture, I started to cry.  I remembered my Aunt’s tradition – every year since 2004, we have written down what we are thankful for and what we wish for in the coming year.  We put our papers in a little pouch and they are saved year after year.  I’ve always enjoyed looking back and smiling with the satisfaction that my wish came true.  In 2008, I drew a diamond ring hoping Hackie would propose in the coming year, which he did.  I can only imagine what I wrote down last year and the thought of looking at it was too much to bear.  Every time I thought about it, I started to cry.  As my family started to arrive and each of my aunts, uncles, and cousins hugged me just a little longer than usual, I started to cry.  I wondered if I would be able to stop being so weepy.  Eventually, the crying subsided and I was able to really enjoy myself.  I wrote down what I was thankful for and what I was wishing for and stuck it in the pouch with the others.  I decided not to read last year’s paper.  As I always do, I took charge of the family picture.  I placed my Maya Bear (which I’ll have to post about another time) on my mom’s lap – where Maya should have been.  It was a very hard day.  Surrounded by loved ones and comforted with the hope that next year’s party will be different, I survived.

Today, Hackie and I will head to his parent’s to be together.  Growing up, Christmas was always different for me.  Some years, my mom did her best to fulfill my need to be like all the other kids in my class and got us a Christmas tree.  Some years, I traveled to my Dad’s and celebrated the holiday with him and my family out there.  Some years, I hung out with my mom and didn’t do much of anything.  In the last 4 years, Hackie and I have made our own traditions.  I always say that Christmas is his holiday and so I let him pretty much call the shots.  We spoil each other and the dog.  We’ve always gotten a tree and played Christmas music while decorating.  Last year, which was our first Christmas in our new house, Hackie decorated the front of our house and it was so beautiful.  I’ve really enjoyed celebrating this holiday with him and coming up with new traditions for our little family.

This year, we weren’t sure what to do.  I wanted to be supportive of my husband and his favorite holiday so I defaulted to him.  I told him that if he wanted to get a tree and decorate, we would.  If he wanted to do presents, we would.  If he wanted to do nothing, I’d be OK with that too.  It took a while to figure it out, but it eventually became clear.  We purchased a hot pink tree that’s small and put it in front of our Maya wall.  We’ve gotten a few ornaments as gifts and will purchase one new one a year in honor of our angel.  We did not decorate or get a large tree.  We are taking a trip later this week and decided that would be our gift to each other.  We decided not to purchase gifts for others and asked that none be given to us.  Instead, we decided that we would collect donations for Cradle to Crayons, which is an organization we are volunteering at in January.  We will also be purchasing some items that would have been appropriate for a six month old little girl and will donate them in memory of Maya.

We decided to spend Christmas day as just us and Halee.  We need to be home and it’s too hard to host our parents, which was the original plan.  I’m not quite sure yet how we are going to spend the day.  I think we are going to wait and see how we feel and let the day unfold.  We are thinking about releasing some balloons for are angel and we may go bowling in the evening, which is one of our favorite things to do together.  We will survive the day together.

Yes.  It totally 100% sucks that Hackie and I look at this year’s holidays as something to get through rather than enjoy.  However, I have come to realize that traditions can be paused and getting down on myself for not enjoying the holidays this year is not going to do anyone any good.  Next year, the holidays will be different.  I’m not sure how they will look and I’m not making any plans, but I know they will be different as another year will have gone by.

As hard as this has been, I continue to be comforted by the love and support I have received, especially from my husband.  He is my backbone and I am blessed to have him by my side so I do not have to navigate this road alone.

If you are grieving this holiday season, I wish you peace and comfort.

 

Six Months

Dear Maya,

Hi sweet girl!  I’ve felt you hanging around lately.  I was feeling quite sad as the holidays approached and then something shifted.  I was reminded that you have not been forgotten.  I’m continuing to find out just how many people have been effected by you and your precious little life.  More people all over the world are learning your name.  I have felt a virtual group hug by many near and far.  All the while, you whisper in my ear and tell me it’s going to be alright.

I believe you are safe.  I believe you are happy.  I believe you are proud of your mommy and daddy.  Still, I wish you were here with us.  We would have the Christmas tree up.  We would have lit the Hanukkah candles.  I think you would have loved looking at the lights and would have been mesmerized by the flickering candle flames.  We would have spoiled you so much – giving you new toys and books that you would surely have grown to love.  We would have dressed you up in the cutest holiday outfits!

I think you would have been sitting up by now and very into playing and discovering new tricks.  Your hair would have grown so quickly that I’d have had it in little pigtails with bows!  You would have been the center of attention at next week’s big family Hanukkah party!  You would have been showered with gifts and we would have all worked so hard to get you to laugh for the family picture.  Though, I think you would have hammed it up in front of the camera – super photogenic just like your mommy and daddy.  I know you are here with me and helping me move forward.  I’m not as sad as I use to be when I think about what life would be like with you here.  It’s my way of remembering you and thinking about you as much as I possibly can.

I know that you are helping Mommy and Daddy get through the holiday season.  We weren’t sure at first what to do, how to celebrate, if we even should celebrate…  One day, it became clear.  I think you are often bringing us clarity and lighting our path through our new normal.  We decided not to get a big tree.  Instead, we got you a tree!  A bright pink tree that sits in front of your Maya wall:

Do you love it!?  We have two ornaments on there.  The top one was given to us by your Auntie and Uncle and the bottom one we purchased for you!

We will get you at least one new ornament every year and eventually your little siblings will each pick one out or make one.  Your tree will be filled with love year after year!

I miss you so much Maya.  I am wearing pink today.  I’ve decided that from now on, I will wear pink on the 16th of every month.  The 16th is your very special day and for the rest of my life I will honor you on this day by wearing what I believe would have been your favorite color.  I have also been wearing pink to the holiday parties I’ve gone to, and bringing pink desserts as a way to include you!  It makes me feel really good that I’ve been figuring out ways to honor your life, share you with others, and have you with me no matter where I go or what I’m doing.

Continue to sit on my shoulder sweet girl.  I feel you there and I’m so grateful that you have touched so many others’ lives.  In these past six months you have done more for me than I could ever express.  You are simply amazing.

I love you my sweet angel, always and forever.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE,

Mommy

People are Amazing

I have so much that I could write about!  It’s a nice change after two weeks of feeling uninspired/too tired to do anything but stare at the television.  This has been such a good week!  I try to identify the reasons why only to realize that there doesn’t have to be reasons for me to be happy.  I can just simply have a good week and enjoy it without over-analyzing the reasons why it’s good.

As I said, I have many things I want to write about.  Tonight, I’m writing a post that should have been written over a week ago…

Since Maya was born and died, many amazing things have happened to me.  I received a beautiful painting and a memory box filled with wonderful treasures.  I have met some amazing people both in the online world and in person.  I have grown closer to my husband in ways I didn’t think possible.  Still, as we approach the 6 month mark, I was starting to feel like Maya was being forgotten.  First, the pile of sympathy cards that arrived every day lessened and then vanished.  Then the calls and texts dwindled.  The facebook messages and comments are few and far between and usually only appear after I post something.  I started to realize that we were in a new stage now.  The fact that Maya died is no longer new news and the world has carried on.  I was comforted by the fact that I can share her here in this space and keep her memory alive in my own special ways.  However, it saddens me that no one else will get to know her the way that I do, and it scares me that she might be forgotten.

Last week, I was snapped out of this fear – very quickly.  It was Tuesday, and I had been having a very tough week/month.  No matter how hard I try to ignore it, the holiday season is staring me in the face, taunting me, and making me feel sick to my stomach.  I got home late from school and there was a package in the mailbox.  Before I go on, I must back up a little…

Six years ago, I had the privilege of traveling to Sydney, Australia for a semester to complete my student teaching practicum.  There were 11 of us in the program and we did a lot together.  The School of Education at BU was relatively small, so I knew the other 10 ladies in the program.  However, I wasn’t close friends with any of them.  While there, we all got along very well and shared many wonderful experiences together.  It’s an experience I hold very close to my heart and will forever cherish as one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.

Though we all went our separate ways after returning from Sydney, I have always thought fondly of the girls who I shared the experience with.  It’s an experience that’s very unique and I shared it with some very special people, which brings me back to the package that I received on Tuesday…. One of the girls has been in touch on facebook and had asked for my address.  I didn’t think much of it.  The package was from her.  I opened it and there was first a stack of cards followed by an envelope.  I opened the cards one by one and read the kind words from each of the girls I had traveled to Sydney with… a stack of sympathy cards.  I cried as I was reminded that Maya continues to touch so many people.  Though they weren’t physically standing with me, I felt like I was in the center of a group hug.  I felt like they all had my back and were there for me at a time when I really needed it.

In the envelope was this:

It came from an artist in Sydney!  I couldn’t believe it!  The following message was included with the necklace:

This precious bottle is a gift from your friends in your study abroad program in Sydney, Australia with an enclosed message reading:

“Maya Francine, Forever in Our Hearts”

The flowers inside are real dried Australian ‘Broom Bloom’ flower blossoms resembling Baby’s Breath.  They are ever-lasting and symbolize the eternal memory of your precious daughter Maya Francine whose soul will live on forever in the hearts of her loved ones.  The gold Tibetan flower charm attached to the rim of the bottle is also a symbol of purity, rebirth and divinity, all sacred elements of her beautiful memory and pure soul.

I can’t quite put into words what this gift did for me.  Of course, many more tears fell, but they were happy tears.  They were tears of joy as I was reminded that there are many kind and beautiful people in this world.  I reread each of the cards and told the story of my new necklace to those close to me.  This is one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received and I love that my experience in Sydney is now forever connected to my precious angel.  I have worn my necklace several times now and have received many complements.  I love it!

Throughout life, I have found myself as a member of many different groups of people.  I think most people could say this.  There are the childhood friends, the high school friends, the camp friends, the acquaintances, the dance class, the marching band, the colleagues, and for me, the Sydney friends.  I feel so blessed to be a part of this group and am so grateful for their generosity and kind spirits.  They helped turn a rather gloomy month brighter and gave me something that will not only help  me to remember Maya, but also all of them and the fantastic experience we shared together.

 

Unnecessary Inner Turmoil

I experience a lot of inner turmoil on a daily basis.  No, on an hourly basis.  I replay the events of Maya’s birth and death.  I think about what could have been done differently.  I play the “What if?” game constantly.  I think about who knows and who doesn’t know.  I avoid certain situations and people for fear that someone will catch me off guard and ask when I’m not ready to answer.  I cringe when someone casually remarks, “just wait until you have children” or asks how I’m spending the holidays.  I reflect on, evaluate, and reevaluate every Maya-related conversation.  My mind is constantly racing trying desperately to prepare for what might be said or what might trigger my always-present sadness to rise to the surface.  It’s exhausting.

I learned a very important lesson today – it’s not all necessary.

Two days after Maya was born and died, Hackie and I broadcasted the news on facebook.  I was very public about my pregnancy – posting belly photos, nursery photos, and baby shower pictures.  Just two days before I delivered I posted a status on how great my ultrasound went and how big the baby was.  I knew there were many on facebook who would be eagerly awaiting the news of Maya’s birth – so I had to share.  I have often said that I’m grateful for facebook as it allowed me to share the news with most of the people I know while providing an easy method for others to show their support.  I still go back and read the messages and comments we received after posting that devastating status.

After the facebook announcement, there were really only a handful of people who had known that I was pregnant but did not know what had happened.  Most of them I only risk running into and it’s possible that they could hear the news from someone else in the community (I’m thinking mainly of the parents of my students from last year).  There was one person in particular that I knew I’d have to see and have to tell – my hairdresser.

It sounds so silly, but I have spent hours struggling with this.  I got my hair cut on my birthday, which is at the end of May.  I was 32 and half weeks pregnant.  Though I knew I didn’t really need to worry about it until August/September, I started thinking about it almost immediately after I had Maya.  Every time I did my hair I thought about going into the salon and ruining her day with my devastating news.  I thought about how awkward it would be to then have to sit in the chair for over an hour watching her struggle to come up with the right thing to say.  Or avoid the wrong things to say.  So I put it off.  I wanted to grow my hair out anyway.

When I passed the 6 month mark with no haircut, I really wanted to gain the strength to make the appointment and face this challenge.  Today, I was feeling brave.  The door had opened where I felt courageous enough to call, and I knew that if I didn’t jump at the opportunity, the door would close and I would chicken out.  I knew there was risk of her answering the phone, so I prepared myself for that.  I made the call from school so I couldn’t get too emotional.  She didn’t answer the phone.  I proceeded to go through the process expressing that I needed to make an appointment for a haircut.  When asked what day I wanted to come in, I explained that I’d like to see Cyndi.  “Cyndi doesn’t work here anymore,” is what I heard through the phone.  Wow, I thought.  All that worry and inner turmoil for nothing.  Although, I then started to panic as I had so much trouble finding a hairdresser that I liked.  Now what was I going to do?  I asked where she went only to be told that she’s not even cutting hair anymore.

Unbelievable.  For almost 6 months, I worried and struggled and thought about one stupid haircut.  One encounter with one person who I will now never see again.  It was so unnecessary.  However, this whole experience was also very significant.  I made a big step in feeling ready to tell someone who did not know what happened.  Even though I won’t need to have this experience with my hairdresser, I will likely have to have it with someone else at a time when I’m not prepared.  I feel more confident that I will be able to handle the inevitable, “how is your baby?”

I’ve now got an appointment with a friend who owns her own salon, and I can officially put the haircut turmoil to rest.  I’m trying very hard to stay calm and to get less worked up about things like this.  When Maya died, my world shattered into a million pieces.  I didn’t really know where to begin putting them back together.  Slowly, things are starting to fall into place once again.  I have learned that I have to relinquish control and let the pieces fall.  I feel more calm and more open to seeing where life takes me rather than trying to plan my path so specifically.  This time, life took me to a new hairdresser.

 

Happy Birthday Mama!

I have been neglecting my blog, and I really don’t want to.  It’s been two weeks since I last wrote and I’ve thought about writing every day.  I’ve been somewhat uninspired and I’ve also been lacking energy to do much of anything.  Now of course I have about five posts running through my head.  However, today’s post comes on a special day and is for one very special person.  It’s my Mama’s birthday!

My mom is a pretty incredible person.  She is genuinely happy – no matter what.  My happiness at the core come from her.  She raised me to find the joy in a situation no matter how difficult it was.  She taught me how to see things from multiple perspectives, how to give people the benefit of the doubt, and how to remain optimistic in the darkest of times.  My mom puts everyone before herself and values family more than anyone I know.  She is the epitome of gratitude.

When I was in college, I had a rough time.  I often felt like I didn’t fit in, and the typical college lifestyle didn’t appeal to me.  When I started dating Hackie in the middle of my freshman year, I fit in even less because I was in a committed relationship.  Still, I stayed focused and overall pretty happy.  The reason I was there was to become a teacher and I knew I was getting a great education.  It all caught up with me Junior year though when I started experiencing severe panic attacks.  My genuinely happy self hid and I was so frustrated.  I felt like I couldn’t get a handle on my own thoughts and emotions.  I felt completely out of control.  Naturally, it was my mom to the rescue.  She reminded me of all the crazy phases I went through as a young girl and how they were all just that – phases.  She reminded me that this was another phase and that it too would pass.  She reminded me that I did not live in this dark place, but that I was just visiting and, no matter how long it took, I would come out the other end.  When I reflect back on that phase of my life, I think of how calm my mom was.  Her calmness at a time when I was feeling such high levels of anxiety was exactly what I needed to get through and eventually past this phase of my life.

When Maya died, my mom was right there – shocked and devastated just like the rest of us.  However, she was devastated first and foremost for me.  It was probably two weeks before she grieved for her own loss of her granddaughter.  She helped take care of me as I recovered from my c-section and brainstormed things we could do to help pass the time.  She simply made herself available.  We spent a lot of time together and she was, and still is, so strong.  She listened as I talked for hours.  She never judged.  She gave me exactly what I needed without me having to ask.  I would not have survived these past (almost) 6 months without her.

I have said before that my mom’s strength is contagious.  Again, in true Mama fashion, she has helped me remain optimistic in the darkest time of my life.  While some might argue that any mother would be supportive and amazing in a time like this, my mom does it with absolute perfection.  She is and has always been my backbone, and I am eternally grateful.

My mom is so inspiring.  Little girls often say “I want to be just like my mommy when I grow up”.  I still feel that way.

Happy Birthday Mama!  I love you!