Tag Archive | healing

It’s Been a While…

Wow.  It’s been quite a while since I have sat down to write.  I’ve missed this space.  I’ve missed bringing my grief to the surface and writing about how much I miss Maya.  I have a lot I want to catch up on and I finally have some time this week.  My goal is to write a new post each day recapping the last 6 weeks or so.  I plan to write about Maya’s garden dedication and birthday, the Compassionate Friends Conference that Hackie and I attended, and the end of the school year.  First though, I feel it necessary to write about why I have been MIA from this blog.

Once upon a time, I worked as a camp counselor every summer.  Starting when I was 19, I worked at three different camps over the course of seven summers.  The most recent was a summer arts program that I worked at summers 07 through 10.  In 2011, I was all set to go back to my beloved summer arts program, but was not given the opportunity.  Last summer I had a baby.  As it became apparent that I was not getting pregnant in time to have another summer baby, I began to think about this summer.  This was back in February.  Actually, that’s not really how it went.  I was working on the show at my school and those around me started to bring up the summer.  The director I was working with happens to be married to the camp director and she basically told me that if I was going to go back, I had to make a decision.  In the end, the decision was made for me.  Between my mother and my husband, I was convinced that I would be crazy not to go back to the summer arts program I once held very near and dear to my heart.  They reminded me how quickly I become bored and that having something to do the month of July would be really good.

I met with the camp director and felt good about my decision to return.  There was a small part of me that wondered if it would be a good idea to return part time as I knew what long and exhausting days I was in for, but I ignored that instinct.  In March, I was asked if I wanted to direct Shrek with the middle school campers.  I was over the moon thrilled.  I saw Shrek on Broadway and fell in love with the show.  I was beyond excited for this opportunity and any hesitation I had about returning full time disappeared.

Time carried on and I made it through the end of the school year.  With so many hurricane/snow days, the end of the school year overlapped with the beginning of camp.  This was a big challenge.  School ended on a Tuesday.  The weekend prior to that I had to be at camp all weekend.  We had the weekend of Maya’s dedication and birthday, a full school week, a weekend working at camp, the last 2 days of school, and then right to camp.  I worked 11 days straight and I was so tired.  It was very hard to have no time off between school and camp.

The program is five weeks long.  I struggled.  The days were longer than my school days and the driving distance was more than double.  I was tired and I was having a tough time connecting with the staff.  I was frustrated with myself because there was a point in time when I loved the program so much I would cry right along with the campers when it was over.  This year was so different.  I was different.  I remembered that it took me about 6 weeks to adjust to being at school again after Maya died.  This was a similar set of circumstances.  It was not a new environment, but I had to adjust to being there as the new me.  I, again, had to figure out a way to function and teach and direct alongside my grief.  Some of the staff knew what had happened to me last summer and some were brand new and didn’t know me at all.  As usual, there were circumstances where it was the elephant in the room.

Week 3 has always been the toughest week at camp, and I think that is the case for everyone.  The fatigue starts to catch up with you and the end does not feel near.  Week 3 was very tough for me.  It was right after the weekend of the conference, which I will write about later this week.  I was in tears just about every morning because I did not want to go.  I couldn’t help but think over and over, “I should be at home with my one year old.  I should not be working.”  It was another test of my emotional stamina and I simply had to wait for the sadness to pass.

This past week was the last week of camp – show week.  There is a different show every night.  Shrek went up Tuesday and was truly incredible.  I worked with an amazing cast of 30 fantastic and talented kids.  I was so filled with pride that everything else leading up to that night went away.  I was so grateful that I had the opportunity and was proud of myself that I accomplished what I set out to do.

Now that camp is over and I can officially say I am on summer vacation, I can reflect on how much I grew these last five weeks.  To go back after two summers off and after losing Maya was quite an undertaking (I realize now).  In the beginning, I expected it to be the same, and I expected to get the same level of fulfillment that I once did.  While camp did not meet my expectations and I had some rough and emotional moments, I made it out the other end.  There is no greater feeling than making it through a tough time and coming out the other side.  This was another steep climb up the mountain that is my journey through grief.  Though I stumbled a few times, I made it up.

There are 4 weeks left to summer vacation.   I have some exciting trips planned and some much-needed downtime at home.  I worked so hard these last five weeks.  I am grateful that I had the opportunity to go back and I am grateful the program lasts only the month of July :)

Feeling Blessed at Work

For a while now I have wondered if most people see the loss of Maya as old news.  I’ve wondered if people pass judgement on me that I should be “over it” by now.  I’ve wondered if people thought it strange that Hackie and I are having a celebration the weekend of her birthday.  As we approached her birthday this Sunday, I grew increasingly nervous that people would forget or would remember but be afraid to say or do anything to show their support for fear of bringing it up.  I was so wrong.

Today is my last day of work before the weekend.  I took tomorrow off so that I could prepare for Maya’s garden dedication on Saturday.  I came in like I would any other day, not thinking much of this weekend – just focused on getting to this afternoon when I can tackle my very long to-do list.  I went in to see my administrator to ask her a question – she was wearing pink.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her wear pink and I commented that I liked it!  I came upstairs…  another colleague was wearing pink, and then I saw another.  I began to wonder if this was pure coincidence.  I tried to convince myself that surely this was not for me.  Then I stood for my morning duty, which happens to be at the end of the hall.  I looked down – every teacher and staff member was wearing pink!  My heart started to pound, and I started to shake.  I built up the courage to ask the colleague I was standing next to: “Alright, is there a reason everyone is wearing pink?”  She confirmed what I already knew.  I fought hard to hold back the tears.

I found out that my closest colleague and friend, who knows that I wear pink every month on the 16th and that I’ve been wearing pink every day the month of June, had the idea, floated it out to the third floor teachers and received an overwhelming response.  Apparently, the idea trickled down as some of the office staff, administrators, and guidance counselors are also wearing pink today.  Every time I saw someone in pink, I smiled knowing that he or she was thinking of my precious baby girl when getting dressed.

I can’t quite put into words how I’m feeling.  Today, I felt an overwhelming level of joy and comfort.  Today, I felt more proud to be Maya’s mommy than I have in a long time.  I’ve worked very hard this year to keep quiet and function as normally as possible at work.  I have remembered Maya in my own silent ways while at school – wearing pink, a grasp of my necklace… but I have mainly kept to myself.  Today, my colleagues showed me that Maya’s story is not old news.  They remember her and continue to be supportive.  I am so blessed.

A Bittersweet Birthday

Tomorrow is my birthday.  I’m not dreading the day as much as I was a week ago.  It seems as though with every milestone, the anticipation is much worse than the day itself.  I wish Maya were here to celebrate with me.  My birthday has always been a big deal.  I start celebrating the first of May – the weather, the flowers, the summer just around the corner – it all makes me so happy.  Now, this time of year has taken on a whole new meaning.  This is the time of year when I was super pregnant and counting down the weeks until baby arrived.  Mother’s Day, my birthday, the end of the school year, the beginning of summer, and now Maya’s birthday too all fall during this time that I once loved so much.  It’s been really hard.  I want so badly to enjoy this time of year, to look forward to my birthday the way that I always have, but it’s just so bittersweet.

If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m a very reflective person.  That sounds like I can be seen in the dark… haha!  I reflect back a lot.  I reflect on everything – the day’s science lesson, the interactions with colleagues, students, Hackie, family, friends.  I’m always trying to think of what went well, what could have gone better, what I would do differently in any type of situation.  So, on this day, my last day of being 27, I am reflecting.

I’ve thought long and hard all day – would I characterize this year as a good year? A bad year?  Since my birthday is so close to Maya’s, I feel as though 27 will forever be remembered as the year I began the lifelong grieving of the loss of my daughter.  But that doesn’t have to be all that defines this year.  It’s also the year I started teaching science, went to Washington DC with Hackie, and developed some beautiful lifelong friendships.  Most importantly, 27 is the year I became a mother.

I feel like I will always think of my life in two chunks – before Maya, and after Maya.  27 was my first “after Maya” year.  I look at pictures of myself from life before Maya and I see someone so blissfully unaware, so innocent, and so naive.  I have changed.  In a way, 27 was the year of the new me – the new more compassionate, less uptight, more grateful me.  Shortly after Maya was born, I went out to dinner with my mom.  I was having a really hard time.  I told her that I felt like my very strong confident self had shattered into millions of tiny pieces and I didn’t even know where to begin to put them back together.  I learned early on that I have no control over that.  Slowly, the pieces have come back together on their own, and though there are several still missing and many in different places, I like who I have become.

So I will not try to characterize 27 as good or bad.  There were some amazingly wonderful things that happened and there was the worst thing in the world.  As I leave this year behind, I am satisfied.  I played the cards I was dealt, I grew as a person, I was kind, I said thank you, I did my best.

Maya should be here to celebrate with me tomorrow.  It sucks that she is not here to greet me in the morning with her beautiful smile and take me out to dinner.  She will be with me in spirit though – because she always is.  Hackie is working hard to make sure that I have a good day tomorrow, and I am now looking forward to it.  I am looking forward to 28.  I am confident many good things will happen and so so so so hopeful that the most wonderful thing will happen and we will take home our rainbow.  I so wish this is the last birthday I have to spend with no baby to spend my day with.

Will it be a bittersweet birthday?  Absolutely.  My birthday means that Maya’s is right around the corner and that’s just hard.  I will make the most of it, as I always do.  I will continue to grow and learn.  I will strive to be better and do better as I continue to live for my precious baby girl.

Here’s to 28 – Happy Birthday to Me.

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

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!

Escape Tactics

I am the first to admit that grieving the loss of my baby girl and living with the pain of not having my baby here to mother is my new reality.  This is my life and I have to live it.  Like any tragedy, we as humans must find a way to survive.  There is no end to this grief.  It will be my constant companion, growing louder and softer throughout different stages of my life.  However, like anyone forced to survive, I have come up with strategies, methods, and mechanisms to help me live on each day and continue to find joy wherever I can.

One strategy is escapism – ways to escape reality for just a little while.  Almost immediately after Maya was born and died, we started planning trips.  It was a way to escape, and a way to survive.  First New Hampshire, then New York City, and then Disney.  Yup!  Hackie and I went to Disney World two months after Maya was born and died.  Were we crazy for going to the one place where there are the most babies and young children concentrated in one spot?  Some may think so.  However, we love Disney and being in Disney World is the ultimate escape from reality.  Everyone there faded into the background, and Hackie and I played.  We laughed, we had fun, we escaped.

Every day when I go to work I am escaping.  I love my new job.  I love my students.  I love the school that I work at.  My work is my reprieve.  It is the place where I can stay busy and focus on being the best teacher I can possibly be.  It is the place where I can interact with colleagues who know what happened to Maya, and treat me just the same as they always have.  It is the place where I can stand in front of students who don’t know my past and be whoever I want to be.  It is a place where I can escape.

When I was really little, I loved to read.  Then, in my middle school/high school years, I didn’t really like to read.  College was the worst.  When reading was no longer required, I found my love for it all over again.  It took me about a month after Maya was born and died to be able to focus and concentrate long enough to be able to read a book.  The first book I read had been recommended to me by a nurse at the hospital – When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner.  This book had a huge affect on my grieving process.  It helped me understand my own tragedy.  It helped me gain clarity on the difference between religion and spirituality.  It helped me understand humanity.  It helped me begin to heal.  And, surprisingly, it helped me escape.

After successfully reading that first book, I decided that I was now at a place where I could focus and concentrate long enough to really enjoy a good book.  A colleague had sent me a novel along with a sympathy card.  The story was wonderful and really allowed me to escape into another world.  I realized that I had found a new survival method – escapism through literature.

I have an advantage in that I like all different types of literature – fiction, memoirs, young-adult novels, etc.  Scholastic had a big warehouse sale back in December for teachers.  I went by myself and had the best time picking out new books for my classroom library.  I got an amazing deal and I mostly picked books that I want to read too.  I came home from that sale in the best mood – I had escaped to shop for books, and the thought of escaping while reading those books made me so happy.

I have set a goal to read 50 books in 2013 – that’s about one a week.  I’m thinking about adding a page here on my blog of books I have read so I can keep track.  Once I’ve started a book, I have no problem sitting down and reading (as long as it’s good).  There are times though when I procrastinate starting a new book.  My strategy for avoiding this problem this year is to always have the next book ready to go.  That way, I’m always looking forward to the next book on the pile.  Currently, I’m in the second book of a young-adult trilogy.  After I finish the trilogy, I plan to move to a book my mom got for me written by an advice columnist.

Sometimes I think of my grief as a person – my constant companion.  Sometimes she’s loud and sometimes she’s quiet.  Sometimes, she jumps out and surprises me out of nowhere.  Sometimes, the times when I’m missing Maya the most, she’s comforting.  And sometimes, I need to hide from her.  Sometimes, I just need a break.  Whether it be on a trip, at work, or lost in a good book, occasionally escaping my grief is a necessary means of survival.

 

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.

 

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!