Tag Archive | hope

18 Months

My Dearest Maya,

You would have been 18 months old today.  I’ve thought all day about what you’d be like.  Walking, talking, set in your ways, and eagerly anticipating the holiday season.  I know you’d have quite the personality and would always keep Daddy and I on our toes.  I imagine we would have filled this month with lots of fun family activities.  You’d be the life of every holiday party.  I picture you looking a lot like Mommy looked at your age – curly hair about shoulder length, chubby chubby cheeks, and an adorable button nose!  Oh how I would love to see your beautiful face!

Even though I don’t write here as often as I used to, I still think about you daily.  I say goodnight to you every night and tell you I love you when I see the gorgeous pink sky.  Any time the clock reads 6:16, I know you’re saying hi.  I miss you so much.  Sometimes, I feel bad that life has gone on without you here.  But then I remember that you are here.  We live our lives the way we do because of you.  You continue to help us understand what is important, especially this time of year.

Your little brother/sister is doing well – continuing to grow inside Mommy’s belly.  I ask you every morning to continue watching over him/her.  I know you are with us.  I know that you have helped Mommy get through this pregnancy.  It’s been scary, but knowing I have my little angel on my shoulder helps the days pass by.  I wish you were here to anticipate the new baby’s arrival.  I wish we could enjoy this baby through your eyes.  But I know that we will be better parents because of you.  I know we will make a conscious effort to cherish each and every moment.  That is how I have approached this pregnancy – every day is a gift and I must enjoy all the time I have with this new little life.

Happy 18 months sweet angel.  Keep watching out for Mommy and Daddy.  Be with us in the weeks to come as we prepare to bring this baby into the world.

I love you and miss you always and forever.

Love Love Love,

Mommy

Hope.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve come to this space.  Why?  I haven’t felt the need, the desire, or the motivation to write.  I haven’t wanted to visit the dark place that I go to when I write about my journey through grief.  For quite some time, this blog was my outlet, my therapy, and my way to network and reach out to others also on this journey.  I don’t need the outlet right now.  I don’t need the therapy.  I am in a good place; so it hasn’t felt necessary to come here.

I decided to write today for several reasons.  I’ve had a post brewing in my head for some time and it’s time to get it out.  It’s time to admit that things have shifted and my emotions have changed.  Today is also the 16th.  October 16th was the first of many significant 16s in Maya’s life.  Two years ago today marked the “beginning” of my pregnancy with Maya.  Today also marks 16 months since we said hello and goodbye to our baby girl.  Whenever I see 16 now, I am happy.  16 makes me think of Maya.  So in sticking with my happiness theme, it is with great joy that I announce to the blogging world that Maya is going to be a big sister!

Yes.  We are expecting our rainbow baby.  I actually already think of Maya as a big sister.  I believe she is watching over Hackie and I and her baby brother/sister.  She is always with us.  We found out this wonderful news 13 days before Maya’s first birthday.  It couldn’t have been more perfect.  As her birthday approached, I really struggled with what comes after the first birthday milestone.  What comes after you’ve already experienced every holiday and milestone once without your baby.  Those two little lines answered that question for us.  Baby comes next, and we are so ready.

To say this pregnancy has been an emotional roller coaster would be an understatement.  However, I knew that going in.  I actually think that I am handling things pretty well.  I acknowledge my fears and move through each day appreciative of the time I get to spend with this little life growing inside of me.  I am working hard to stay busy, while also celebrating and enjoying my pregnancy.  Time will pass and February will arrive as it always does.  There is no use in wishing the time away – we never know how much we are going to get.

As I said earlier, things have shifted and emotions have changed.  I feel as though, in my climb up the mountain, I reached a very tall peak – the first leg of the journey.  There is no top to my mountain.  I will never be done climbing, but I have made a lot of progress.  Now, I focus on feeling hope, joy, and excitement.  I owe it to this new baby to celebrate his/her life and separate those emotions from the sadness associated with losing Maya.

I still miss Maya.  I still grieve.  I miss her every day.  I think about what she would be like now – a little person filled with curiosities and ideas.  She’d be talking all the time and would be at such a fun age.  Now, I think of Maya and smile.  More often, thoughts of Maya make me happy rather than sad.  Though her life was so short, she has made a profound impact on this world.  Because of Maya, I have witnessed a greater level of kindness, generosity, and humanity than I ever thought possible.  She mattered.  I am sure of that now.

I am now on the next leg of this journey, and I am still figuring it out.  I must live alongside my grief while feeling joy for our new baby.  I must acknowledge and move past feelings of guilt rather than trying to justify or analyze them.  I must continue to live as a healthy and productive person celebrating this new life while honoring the life we lost.  I must trust my gut.  There is no manual on how to do this.  Sure, there are books about pregnancy after loss, but we are all so different.

About a month after Maya was born and died, I made a conscious decision to somehow find happiness again.  I wanted to live my life as fully as possible and allow Maya to live through me.  I wanted to find joy anywhere and everywhere I could.  16 months later, I can say that I have done that.  I am happy.  I am living on.  I am finding my way up the mountain and will keep climbing.

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.

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!

Baby-Loss Family

I feel like I must begin this post by acknowledging and showing appreciation for the three Mamas who nominated me and my blog for a Liebster award.  I am honored and touched.  At this point in time, I am not in the right headspace to follow the directions – answering the questions and nominating others.  I hope you all understand and know just how much it means to me to be recognized.

This morning, as I went through my typical morning routine of checking blogs and facebook, I learned that United Through Pregnancy and Infant Loss, which is a community support group on facebook is hosting Baby-Loss Family day today.  I quickly joined the event and scrolled through the stories.  I shared my precious Maya as I will take any opportunity I can to share my baby with the world.  And then, I started to reflect.  After all, it is what I do best.

We are a family.  Ask any of us and we’d take a one-way ticket out of this club if we were given the opportunity.  However, let’s face it, once your in the baby-loss family, you’re in forever.  When Maya died, I felt so alone.  No one else spent 8 months carrying that baby girl, no one else felt her kick and wiggle, no one else tried so hard to get her here safely, and no one else has the permanent scar that reminds me of what happened.  I felt like a failure, I felt disappointed in myself, and I felt so alone.

Almost immediately after arriving home, I had an email from a friend who had endured a very similar loss a year prior.  In a way, she was my gateway into this family.  She pointed me in the direction of online resources, which led me to other resources.  Soon, I was spending upwards of 6 hours a day reading, searching, and hoping to find stories similar to my own.  I had a need to feel less alone.  I needed this new family.

Now, 7 months, 1 week, and 4 days later, I am comforted by the knowledge that this baby-loss family exists.  I have reconnected with friends in real life who have gone through loss or who have been especially touched/affected by Maya’s story.  I have met new online friends from all over the world who read and comment on my blog, and connect with me on facebook.  I have several blogs that I follow that validate my feelings.  I often find myself nodding along as I read a post.  I feel so reassured that what I’m feeling is ‘normal’ and OK.

Thank you to United Through Pregnancy and Infant Loss for hosting this day.  I have been especially sad this weekend.  Why?  I’m not quite sure.  I’ve come to realize that there will be days when I am more sad than others.  I do not have to have a reason or a specific trigger for crying and feeling sad.  My baby died.  That’s enough of a reason.  Anyway, being reminded of this family that I am a part of has helped bring light to this otherwise dark day.  I am grateful that this family exists and that none of us have to feel alone.

To all baby-loss Mamas who I have crossed paths with in real life or in the online world, and to those who may read here that I do not know about – you are not alone.  We will continue to navigate this road together and I am here for you as you’ve been for me.  I believe our babies are now all angel friends – looking down and smiling because we have found each other through this common bond.

If you are reading here and we have not yet connected, I would love to know who you are.  Comment here, connect with me on facebook, send me an email.  We must stay united and continue to support each other.

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.

 

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.