Tag Archive | choices

The Blank Wall

There are many ways the experience of losing Maya has impacted my parenting of Oliver in a positive way.  I am more appreciative of the time I have with him.  I believe my experience with Maya has made me more calm, patient, and level-headed if you can believe that.  Losing Maya has almost had the opposite effect than what you would expect.  Throughout my pregnancy, I was sure I would be an over-bearing, nervous, anxious mother – afraid of germs and always fearing the worst.  And though I still have my moments of irrational fears and playing out worst-case-scenarios in my head… I don’t think they are any greater in number than a mother who hasn’t lost a child.

So far, the decisions we’ve made in regards to Oliver and the transitions we’ve gone through have come very naturally.  We’ve moved forward when it felt right.  For example, Oliver loved being swaddled from day 1 and seemed to sleep best when he was swaddled.  Then, it seemed like he didn’t like it anymore.  We tried to go without the swaddle and it didn’t work – he didn’t sleep well.  Then, he started breaking out of the swaddle so we tried again and it worked and he has slept successfully without the swaddle for over a month now.  Of course with this and many other decisions/transitions, I do my research and talk to other parents.  In the end however, it happened when the timing felt right.

There was one transition that was not coming naturally and I was really struggling with… moving Oliver out of our bedroom.  I started to feel like the timing was right for a number of reasons.  I talked to other moms who reported that their child slept better when in his/her own room.  We experienced nights where Oliver woke up because of our movement or the dog’s nails on the hardwood floor.  In addition, it is only a matter of time before he will outgrow his little crib and I wanted to move him into his nursery in the little crib before transitioning him into his big crib.  And yet, as much as the logical side of my brain knew it was time and knew it was probably best for all of us, the emotional side of my brain couldn’t bring myself to do it.  To top off the dilemma… I couldn’t figure out why it was so difficult for me.  I thought it was my resistance to him growing and getting older.  I do feel sad that he is not a brand new baby anymore, but I’m so excited for what’s to come.

One day, as I continued to perseverate on the issue, I had an epiphany.  I went into my bedroom and looked at his little crib and I thought, “I don’t want to not see it there”.  I thought about why it was that I had this thought about the crib and not about Oliver.  I finally figured it out! … A week before Maya was born and died, we set up the little crib in our bedroom.  For a week, I pictured her in that crib.  I pictured getting up in the middle of the night, tiptoeing around our room, and watching her sleep.  After she died, Hackie came home while I was still in the hospital and gathered all of the baby stuff.  It all got put into the nursery and the door was shut.  When I came home, there was no crib.  In those early days and weeks, seeing that blank wall was so painful.  No crib, no baby, and a shattered future.

My subconscious fear that had finally come to the surface was that moving the crib out and seeing that blank wall would bring back those memories and those feelings of absolute devastation.  I processed this with Hackie, with my mom, and with some good friends.  I thought about it for several days and then I accepted that at no point was this going to be an easy transition.  Saturday morning, I made the decision that I was ready.  I moved the little crib into the nursery early in the day and hours before Oliver’s bedtime so I could get used to seeing the blank wall long before going to bed.  Oliver did just fine.  I was OK too.  Oliver has now spent 5 nights sleeping in his own room and everyone is sleeping better.  I knew that would be the case.

They say there are 5 stages of grief… which I have discussed many times is not linear and never-ending.  So to say there is a “final” stage is bogus.  For the purposes of this paragraph, however, I’ll buy in… The “final” stage of grief is acceptance.  I hated that because I always felt like acceptance meant being OK with something and I will never be OK with the fact that Maya died.  Then I read a different definition of acceptance, which was simply accepting and acknowledging your truth.  I read it as basically being the opposite of denial.  I have come to that place.  Maya died.  My first baby didn’t come home with us.  I am a bereaved mother.  This is my truth.  Though I am over the moon filled with joy that Oliver is here and healthy and perfect and that I get to spend a nice long maternity leave and summer with him, my truth is still there.  Sometimes, the fact that my first baby died and didn’t make it home is going to have a profound impact on my parenting and on Oliver.  Moving the crib was the first time I really felt it.

I know there will be much more that happens that brings me back to my darkest days.  Realizing that and accepting that as my truth is how I will make it through.  Once I realized why it was going to be so hard to move the little crib, I was able to make the transition.  I’d like to think that Maya has made me a better Mommy to Oliver.  I already know she has made me a better and more insightful person.

Permission to be Happy

It’s been quite a while since I’ve come to this space.  I haven’t needed to, but I’ve wanted to.  I miss writing.  My goal is to write once a week… we’ll see how that goes.

Life has changed.  Life has really changed.  I have changed.  And here’s why…

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Introducing Oliver Raymond.  He was born on Monday, January 20th (Martin Luther King Day!) at 11:17am.  He weighed 8lbs, 2oz and was 22 and a half inches long.  He is perfect.

In the last 14 weeks, I have felt every emotion you could possibly name.  I think that having a baby is the biggest life-changing event anyone goes through, and it’s impossible to prepare for it mentally and emotionally.  No matter how many babies I have been around growing up, there was no possible way to prepare for having to care for a baby 24/7.  It’s hard.  And with Oliver’s arrival and the immediate adjustment, came a lot of different emotions.

However, this post isn’t about everything I have felt and the roller coaster I have been on over the last 3 months.  This post is about something that I said yesterday during my daily conversation with my mom…

“I am the happiest I have ever been.”

At first, I was a little shocked that came out of my mouth… how could that be?  How dare I?  Shouldn’t I never be as happy as I was before Maya died?  Shouldn’t there be a perpetual sadness that looms overhead?  In that moment, I gave myself permission.  Permission for the above statement to be true.  It is true.  And it’s OK.

In the days following Maya’s death, a dear friend sent me a message.  She had experienced a similar loss one year prior.  She told me that any feeling I had was normal as long as it did not pose a danger to myself or others.  This advice has stuck with me since then and I repeat this mantra to myself nearly every day.  Throughout the process of grieving the loss of Maya, which I continue to do, I would remember these words through bouts of anger, frustration, disbelief, and happiness.  Now, my grief looks different.  I am no longer defined by my loss as I was in the months immediately following it.  The grief, though still with me, has quieted down.  And with that comes feelings of guilt.  I have felt guilty for feeling happy and I have felt guilty for feeling tired and frustrated when up in the middle of the night.

Today, I am liberating myself and will no longer feel guilt.  I am giving myself permission to be happy.  And permission to not be happy all the time.  I am replaying my friend’s words in my head as they still hold true.  What I have realized is that attempting to rationalize my feelings, whether they be positive or negative, is a waste of time.

Oliver is amazing.  He brings me so much joy and hope for the future.  I cherish every day that I have with him and am grateful for what my life has become.

I need to believe that Maya is proud of me.  I need to believe that she is OK with the fact that I do not grieve full time as I once did.  I need to believe that she wants me to live on and be the best Mommy to Oliver that I can be.  I wish she were here… she’d be a wonderful big sister.

 

Big Changes

I’m going to start by backing up quite a ways.  As I’ve discussed on here many times, Hackie and I have been trying to conceive our rainbow baby for quite some time now.  I have thyroid issues as well as irregular cycles, which complicate things.  Since we started trying for baby #2, my thyroid dose has been changed five or six times in both directions.  With each new cycle, I think I’ve got it under control and that this will be the month.  It has been beyond frustrating.  In January/February, I did what I always do – charted, counted days, wished every time the clock read 11:11 or 2:22 or 5:55.  On February 11th, I was home sick with pink eye and a horrid sore throat.  I took a pregnancy test and saw the faintest of faint lines.  This was a Monday.  Tuesday, the test wasn’t any darker.  I didn’t have a good feeling, but I was still hopeful.  I went for a blood test after school and my amazing OB sent me the results later that night… HCG = 10.  Pregnant, yes… but just barely.  That Friday, I started bleeding.  I had a miscarriage, or in medical terms, a chemical pregnancy.  Hackie and I were pretty bummed.  We’ve become pretty resilient though and were able to enjoy our weekend and I was able to enjoy my week off from school that followed.

I then had another change in thyroid dose and another full unsuccessful cycle.  I had had enough.  Something else had to be done.  I consulted with my OB and, with her support and encouragement, searched for an acupuncturist.  I found someone local who practices acupuncture and nutrition and who specializes in fertility and endocrine issues.  It almost seemed too good to be true.  After a quick email, he felt confident that he could help me and I set up my appointment.

In preparation for my appointment, I had to gather three years worth of medical records, which included everything from my labor and delivery.  That was hard to read through.  With everything nicely organized, I went to my first appointment.  He spent two hours with me discussing my medical history and diet.  He confirmed for me that the severe anxiety I had experienced in 2006 was probably the start of my thyroid problems, which I had always suspected.  He also explained that I probably have a lot of inflammation and that my immune system is working overtime.  This is very common with people who have Hashimoto’s which is the type of thyroid disorder I have.  The inflammation and antibodies in my system can lead to a host of various symptoms including irregular cycles, trouble losing weight, fatigue, pregnancy complications, miscarriage, and pre-term labor – all of which I have experienced.  The recommendation was to tackle this problem where is most likely begins – diet.  I was afraid of that…

After this initial appointment, I was feeling quite overwhelmed and bummed out.  It felt like one more thing I had to deal with – first the loss of our sweet Maya, then after a few months the devastation of not being pregnant with our rainbow, and now add to that all of these ailments and isms that I have to deal with.  It’s a lot all at once.  Still, I am determined.  There is one ultimate goal – experience a healthy pregnancy and bring a healthy baby into this world.

What came after my first appointment was a blood test – it’s called the MRT food sensitivity test and it tests about 150 different foods and chemicals and how the blood reacts.  I had to wait a week for the results.  In the meantime, I cut dairy and dramatically reduced the amount of refined sugar I was eating (I have a big sweet tooth).  I had already started to feel better and lose some weight.

My results weren’t as bad as I thought.  I’m most sensitive to spinach (haha) and moderately sensitive to about 20 other foods and chemicals which include cocoa, vanilla, cow’s milk, and cheese.  The cocoa was the biggest bummer as anyone who knows me will tell you that my favorite food is chocolate.  From these results, I was put on a very strict diet of the least sensitive foods.  I’m currently on day 3 of the first phase, which is 12 days.  There are about 20 foods I can eat and I am eating no processed foods.  I’m pretty amazed with how well I’m doing and how quickly I’ve been able to give up so many of the foods I like to eat.  It was a really good thing that I cut gluten about three months ago.  That way, I didn’t have to cut so much all at once.

We grow up in a society where eating is multipurpose.  Food is social, food is celebratory, food is reward.  Really, food should have one purpose – to sustain life.  I’m starting to learn this more and more.  I’m confident that I will be able to stick with this new way of eating and I’m blessed to have the support of my husband and so many other close friends and family.  I’m determined to feel better, have more energy, and again, reach that ultimate goal.  This will work.  This has to work.

Ten Months

My dearest Maya,

I have pondered long and hard on what to write to you today.  Tragedy struck our beloved city of Boston yesterday and I am struggling with what to say to you.  I have been working very hard these last 23 hours since I found out to focus on the thousands upon thousands of people who did good in the wake of tragedy – the people who committed selfless good deeds as they rushed to help.  I have found myself wondering – is it better that Maya is not growing up in this world?  This world that, in our country alone, has seen three heinous acts in the 10 months since your birth and death (Aurora, Newtown, Boston).  My answer to that question is absolutely not.  You should be here.  It is not better.  It is devastating that these kinds of things happen, but what happens after is a true testament to the human spirit.  Love, support, and uniting together in the wake of tragedy is what defines us as people.  I wish you could know that.  I wish you could grow up to feel the pride for Boston that I feel.  Boston is our city.  Boston is where Mommy went to school, where Mommy and Daddy spent so much time together, and it’s where we took you to the circus just about a year ago.  It’s also where Mommy and Daddy held you for the first and last time.  You would have loved Boston and OUR city will prevail and come out of this stronger and more united than ever before.

I’ve also spent a lot of time wondering what we would have done today if you were here.  Spring has FINALLY showed up!  We’ve been taking Halee on walks through the woods and I keep picturing your Daddy wearing the baby carrier with you in it.  It’s school vacation week and Daddy and I are both off.  We would have planned our week around you and have probably experienced many firsts together.  First trip to the zoo where we would have met your Mima, first ride on the swings, first picnic… who knows?  We would have taken full advantage of being together as a family and enjoying the nice weather.

I imagine by now you would have been close to walking.  Sure, you would have been just 10 months, but like I said before you would have been very advanced :)  We’d all be marveling at how much you’ve grown and what a wonderful personality you’re developing.  We’d all be wondering where the time has gone.  10 months is such a fun baby age – they all are.  I wish we could have experienced them with you.

Mommy is preparing to make some big changes, which I’ll write more on later.  In a nutshell, the goal is to live a healthier life.  You have taught me just how precious life is and how quickly it can change.  I have to be my best self for you, for your Daddy, and for myself.  I’m willing to do whatever it takes to feel the best that I can and squeeze every ounce of joy out of every day.

We miss you so much, Maya.  I can’t believe 10 months has come and gone.  I want time to stop.  I want to move backwards to the time when I held you in my arms.  I would have held you longer, given you more kisses, taken more pictures, and savored that moment.  I know that I need to move forward in time and continue through life.  I know that’s what you want for Mommy and Daddy.  I just wish you were here.

I love you my sweet angel.  I miss you more today than I did yesterday and I will miss you more tomorrow.

LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE Always and Forever,

Mommy

Doing Your Taxes After Your Baby Dies

I must apologize first for neglecting this blog.  Writing has been so therapeutic for me and I always have the desire to write.  The problem that I am having is that finding the time and level of focus required has become difficult.  I have several posts in my head – they are coming, I promise.

I feel that this post is important for several reasons.  First, I want to get my own thoughts and feelings out on the subject.  Also, I feel this can be one of the most educational posts I write, and I am hoping that at least one other family will benefit from my story.

For our taxes this year, Hackie and I decided to seek the help of a “professional”.  I will  not identify where we went, but it’s a very popular tax-filing business, so to speak.  We sat down with the gentleman and immediately felt uncomfortable.  We explained the changes that took place in 2012 and then dropped the bomb:

Us: “We had a baby.”

Tax Man: “Congratulations”

Us: “She died shortly after she was born.”

Begin even more awkward appointment.  We asked the question – “Can we claim her as a dependent?”  He turned to his trusty book clearly rattled by this unusual(?) set of circumstances.  He quickly told us that he thought we could and nodded in delight of his findings.  Hackie: “But we never got a social security number for her”.  The tax man’s face changed, he slammed his book closed, and stated, “Well that stops us right there.”  He advised us to move forward and try to get a SSN for her.  We could then file an amendment on our return.  I felt very uneasy about this whole thing and frustrated that we were told by more than one person that getting a SSN for Maya was unnecessary.

The appointment proceeded in all its uncomfortableness and we got to the end.  We were told that we owe, AND that if we could claim Maya, we would not owe.  Talk about a punch in the gut.  We were missing some things so we left unfinished and very frustrated/upset.  After a week of putting off the follow-up appointment, we decided to discontinue with awkward tax man and find a different means of filing our tax return.  We also continued to ponder this SSN business.  Something just didn’t seem right to me – get a SSN for a child who lived 9 hours just to be able to claim her on our tax return????

Hackie turned to his Aunt who is an accountant and with whom we are very close.  He explained the situation and she offered to do some research for us.  Within about 10 minutes she texted Hackie this, which she found on the IRS website:

Born and died in 2012.  If your child was born and died in 2012, and you do not have an SSN for the child, you may attach a copy of the child’s birth certificate, death certificate, or hospital records instead. The document must show the child was born alive. If you do this, enter “DIED” in column (2) of line 6c of your Form 1040 or Form 1040A.

Take that Mr. Tax Man!  My first thought after seeing this was an immense amount of relief.  Hackie and I were very stuck and torn about whether or not to get a SSN.  After relief, I felt somewhat stupid for not doing the research myself.  In the end, this news really lifted my spirits.  Sure, I am happy and relieved that being able to claim Maya will make it so we do not owe the government money.  However, this whole experience and outcome stands for so much more…

Often times I look at my life now and am bothered by how, on the surface, it looks so similar to my old life – my life before Maya.  On a daily basis, I wonder what I would be doing if she were here, how our weekends would be different, and how the daily mundane tasks like running a quick errand would not be the same.  When I reflect on the new normal versus the old normal, I sometimes feel like my precious baby girl faded from our lives.  We planned for her and counted on our lives changing for her, and then she was gone.  The tax ordeal and the thought of not being able to claim our daughter again made me feel like she’s just faded away, remembered by only a handful of people.  Getting the news that we could claim her without a SSN made Hackie and I both feel like she matters.  She matters not only to us and our family and friends, but to the government.

In all the baby loss things I have read and communities I belong to, I have yet to find anything related to taxes.  I’m hoping that someone benefits from reading about our experience.  In 2012, we had a baby.  Though that baby lived for 9 short hours, she was born alive and she lived.  She mattered.  She matters.

Making a Change

I had my annual appointment with my fabulous OB/GYN yesterday.  I was very anxious and emotional.  I thought I would be in there pregnant before being due for my annual.  My doctor was amazing as usual and helped put my mind at ease.  She validated my feelings and concerns around my thyroid and together, we came up with a plan that I feel comfortable with.

One thing she asked me about was my diet.  I threw out the wide range of excuses that I use for not eating well – the main one being that the bad foods I eat make me happy.  (Awful, I know.)  She asked if I’ve ever thought about going gluten free.  Though I’ve thought about it and even tried some gluten free cereals and cookies, I never jumped fully on that bandwagon because many gluten free products contain soy, which is toxic to the thyroid.  She told me that she’s done a lot of research recently and that gluten has been closely linked to decreased thyroid function and fertility.  She suggested I try it, assuring me I would feel better.

I left my appointment feeling reassured and optimistic.  I had a lot to think about.  I told Hackie how the appointment went and we discussed our options.  I told him what my Dr. said about gluten and he jumped on board almost immediately.  I told him I wanted to do more research and really think about what it would mean for us to go gluten free.  We went out to dinner and both ate a lot of bread – perhaps we knew what was going to happen next.

This morning, I got up feeling a sense of enlightenment.  There are lots of things in this world that make me happy.  I do not need to overindulge in food to feel joy and happiness.  I need to eat, first and foremost, to live.  Maya taught me that tomorrow is not a guarantee and that life can change in an instant.  The only way for her to live on is through me, and I need to live the healthiest life I can for her.  I need to feel my best and be my best every day – that’s what she would have wanted.

I started researching and quickly found that nearly 100% of people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis have at least gluten sensitivity, if not gluten intolerance.  My basic understanding is that the gluten increases the thyroid antibodies, which are what attack my thyroid gland and decrease its natural function.  My first reaction upon learning this was to be really pissed.  I’ve discussed my thyroid problems with several doctors and none of them ever recommended I go gluten free.  I feel like I fell victim to western medicine – the idea that a prescription drug will fix everything!  Then, I was pissed at myself for not doing this research sooner.  I am so grateful to my OB for opening my eyes to something so simple that has the potential to make a huge difference.

Hackie and I headed to Trader Joe’s and stocked up.  We both agreed that, to avoid feeling deprived and resentful, we needed lots of foods that we know we will like.  We realized that there is very little that we have to completely give up and that many of the foods that we like are naturally gluten free.  When we got home, we cleaned out the fridge and the pantry.  I threw the half a pan of amazing brownies that were left in the trash and we compiled two bags of food to give away.  Our fridge and pantry now look lighter and healthier.

We were told we would feel better in a week.  I’m looking forward to feeling the effects of going gluten free.  I know it will not be easy and I know there will be times when I am tempted by certain foods.  I am beyond grateful that my dear husband is doing this with me and is as excited (if not more) by the idea of living a healthier lifestyle.  There have been times before when I’ve dramatically changed my eating and it works really well and then I fall off course.  This is the first time Hackie and I are doing something together.  This is the first time we have literally cleaned out the foods that are off limits.  This is the first time it feels like a lifestyle change and not a diet.  This is the first time it will work and it will stick.

I’m doing this for myself, my husband, Maya, and my future children.  I fully believe it will make a difference and can’t wait to come back here and report on my progress!

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.

 

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.

 

I Survived the Weekend

I’ve always been a self-reflective person.  Much of my mind is occupied with replaying life’s events and evaluating.  Did I make the right decision?  Was I productive?  Did I waste time?  Was that worth the effort?  What could I have done differently?  How did it go?  I do this multiple times a day and often reflect on the same thing over and over again.  You can bet I’ve reflected on the days leading up to and the day of Maya’s birth and death thousands of times.  So, this being the end of Thanksgiving weekend, I find myself reflecting – How did it go?

Overall, the holiday and the weekend were fine.  On Thanksgiving day, I spent the morning watching the parade and helping my mom.  When the rest of my family arrived, I felt joy from interacting with my nephews.  It was nice to see everyone.  I sat down for the meal and felt the strength to make it through.  I really wanted to.  My family has a tradition of going around the table and saying what we are thankful for before we start eating.  I pondered this for about a month before Thanksgiving day.  Every time I thought about it, my eyes welled up.  I AM thankful for Maya, but I wish so badly I could be looking at her smiling and laughing as I said it.  We rounded the table and as my turn came up, I started shaking and my eyes welled up.  I wanted so badly to say what I had planned to say without losing it.  And I did.  I said that I was thankful for my family, Hackie, my mom, my dog, my new job, and my little angel that sits on my shoulder and gives me strength to carry on through life.  At that point, I knew I would make it through the rest of the day.

I think another thing that helped was that I was slightly distracted.  I had myself fully convinced that I was pregnant.  Yesterday, it was confirmed that I am indeed not pregnant.  I was pretty devastated.  I cried a lot and threw a nice pity party on myself.  Then I felt guilty that I spent Thanksgiving thinking about being pregnant with my next baby rather than properly grieving the baby I already had who was missing from the table.  It’s very frustrating to have such conflicting emotions, but I realize that grief is complicated and unpredictable.

As I reflect on the weekend, I’ve decided that the anticipation of Thanksgiving was far worse than Thanksgiving itself.  There is so much pressure that comes with holidays – whether you are hosting or not.  Pressure to be happy, pressure to socialize, pressure to ‘celebrate’, which feels impossible at this point.  It was an emotional weekend, but it wasn’t so hard to get through.  I only removed myself from a social situation once and that was mainly because it was getting late and I was tired and needed to wind down.  While it will not go down as the best Thanksgiving ever, it was a milestone in this journey called grief and I am proud of the way I lived through it.

Today, I woke up feeling motivated.  Honestly, I’m pissed that I am not pregnant.  I thought I would be able to get pregnant right when I wanted to and it frustrates me that it still hasn’t happened.  However, there is nothing I can do about that right now.  It’s something we have little control over.  So, I have to keep on living.  I have written down a list of short and long term goals for this month.  I have some strategies for dealing with Christmas and the holiday season.  I’m finding that I’m not as bothered by the music and decorations as I thought I’d be.  I have a feeling of general numbness when it comes to the holidays and that’s OK.

So, on this night, as I reflect, I am feeling content and pleased with myself.  I made it through the weekend just fine, and I feel excited and motivated for the month ahead.  I’m chugging along as I continue to climb.  I know I will still have my setbacks, but after this weekend, I feel I’ve made some progress.

The Holidays, etc…

These past two weeks have gone by really fast.  They’ve been productive, I’ve been feeling better physically, I’m sleeping really well, and Hackie and I are very much in sync with each other.  Overall, life has been going smoothly and I think that helps time move.  However, I’m not all that thrilled at how fast these past two weeks have gone.  I feel like the holidays are fast approaching and I’m not ready.  I feel like I’m in a car, driving head first into Thanksgiving, trying desperately to come to a screeching halt and realizing that my brakes don’t work.  (If that doesn’t paint you a visual picture of how I feel, I’m not sure what will.)

Before I get to and then get through Thanksgiving, I have to get through tomorrow – I’m dreading it.  Tomorrow is the 16th and Maya’s 5 month birthday / angelversary.  It also marks one year since my positive pregnancy test.  For the past two weeks, I think at least once a day “at this time last year, I was pregnant but I didn’t know it”.  Starting tomorrow, I will think about what it felt like to get the positive test, to know that I was growing a human, to get excited about telling our parents and friends, to know that my life was changing forever.  I remember that day so well – it was busy, but so exciting.  Now, I will spend my days thinking, “at this time last year, I was pregnant and so eager and excited”.  I will remember how naive I was at this time last year.  I will think fondly of all the memories that go along with my pregnancy.  I will reflect on how different I am now and obsess over how long it will be before I can feel that level of joy and anticipation again.  Tomorrow will be a tough day.  I know that.  Having to work will help – I think.  Knowing that the day will end will help.  Hackie and I have planned a date for tomorrow night so I’m hoping that will make it a little easier to get through.

Thanksgiving is heavily weighted and I’m not quite sure how I’m going to do.  First, it’s my favorite holiday.  It sucks because I’m not looking forward to it and I can’t get excited about it this year.  I’m actually dreading it and trying to figure out strategies for getting through it.  Last Thanksgiving, we told everyone close to us that we were expecting.  We started with my parents, then Hackie’s parents, and then the rest of our families and closest friends.  Everyone was so excited and we were thrilled at how well our plans of telling everyone went.  Thanksgiving day, I woke up to my mom on the phone with the hospital – my grandfather had fallen in the middle of the night.  He hadn’t been doing well and had been in and out of the hospital.  He died that Saturday.  He was 88 and his body was failing his brilliant mind.  Still it was a great loss for our family and I was so sad that he wouldn’t get to meet his great-grandchild.  The roller coaster of emotions that weekend was hard to bear.  However, I was glad that I could tell my family some good news in a time of such sadness.  My cousin put it best when she wrote, “when one door of happiness closes, another opens” – Little did we know…

I remember making a comment last Thanksgiving of how excited I was that there would be another little one joining the table in a year.  This would have been Maya’s first major holiday, and I would have shared my excitement with her.  She would be at such a fun age, and it would have been so fun to watch everyone in the family ooh and ah over her cuteness.

My positive pregnancy test and announcement.  The death of my grandfather.  Our first major holiday with no Maya.  It’s going to be very hard.  I know that.  I do not know how I will feel that day.  Hackie and I will be at my mom’s and my step–siblings and nephews will be there too.  I have already told my mom that I reserve the right to not sit at the table.  I have learned that in this journey called grief, I cannot predict how I will feel and I need to take what I need.  The last thing I want to do is ruin everyone else’s holiday and/or make anyone uncomfortable.  I refuse to sit at the table sobbing while everyone looks at me with pity.

I will get through tomorrow.  I will get through Thanksgiving.  It’s a process and if I’ve learned anything in these last five months, it’s that I cannot plan and I cannot prepare.  I need to live through it and intend to do the best I can.