Tag Archive | joy

Heading Back to Work Guilt-Free

It has been exactly 31 weeks since I gave birth to my amazing little man.  Hard to believe it’s been that long.  Almost every waking hour of each one of those weeks, I have spent with Oliver.  The main thing on my mind morning, noon, and night has been his needs.  I have been blessed – he’s an easy baby.  He’s a really easy baby and he’s so filled with joy that the payoff for all the hard work (because, I am the first to admit… being a Mommy is really hard work) is bigger than I could ever describe or imagine.

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Tomorrow, I officially return to work.  I have been so blessed to be able to take an extended maternity leave, and though I can’t honestly say I have loved EVERY minute… I have loved most.  Had you asked me two weeks ago how I was feeling about going back to work, I would have welled up.  The thought of not being with Oliver every day made me sad.  He is at an age where he is discovering new things at a rapid pace and I don’t want to miss anything.  He plays more independently and yet interacts with me all the time (and almost always with a big smile that just melts my heart).  It will be hard to not be with him every day, but I’m ready.  And that’s OK.

Perhaps I made this up in my head but I feel like there’s an expectation of Mom’s who have lost a baby to want to be with their living children all the time.  I lost one so I should spend every possible second with the one I have here on Earth… I think I put that expectation on myself in the beginning.  I fear being judged for needing time away, for needing time for myself, and for needing to work.  I then realized that suffering a loss does not make parenting and being a Mommy to a living child any less hard.  I still had to get up in the middle of the night, I still struggled to be successful with nursing, I still struggled to find time to take a shower, and I still felt the level of exhaustion only Mom’s can understand.  All while I continue to grieve my precious Maya.  I have a profound appreciation for my beautiful boy.  I say every day how truly blessed we are.  I can be happy and feel blessed while also feeling stressed and overwhelmed and tired.  And I will feel all of these things guilt-free because I am human.

I will also return to work guilt-free.  I am absolutely meant to be a Mom and I really do love being Maya and Oliver’s Mommy.  But I also love teaching.  Last week, I went into school to begin setting up my new classroom and it felt so good.  I started to feel pieces of my old self return.  I realized that though it’s been 7 months since I’ve taught, it will all come back to me.  Just as being a Mommy came (mostly) natural to me, so does being a teacher.  It’s what I’m meant to do, and I believe that being back in the classroom will make me a better Mommy.

So, on this last official day of my summer vacation/maternity leave, I am focusing on being grateful rather than sad.  I am grateful that I had 7 months where my only job was to take care of my sweet baby boy.  I am grateful that he is going to a wonderful daycare and will be well taken care of.  I am grateful that he will have the opportunity to make friends and socialize.  I am grateful that I have a job to go back to that I love.  I am grateful for wonderful colleagues and friends that I have missed seeing every day.  I am grateful for my amazing husband who has been so supportive and sensitive during this transition.  I am grateful for my precious Oliver who makes every day more exciting than the last and whose glorious smile makes every day bright.

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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.

 

What’s In a Name

I decided to link up with the journey over at Still Standing today.  I haven’t really written about Maya’s name so I thought this was a good opportunity to share.

Hackie and I started talking about our future children’s names within the first year we dated.  We were 19 and clearly both looking forward to having children.  Over the years it would come up every once and a while.  Once we decided to start trying we decided on a boy name right away, which is still our boy name.

When I got pregnant we felt a sense of urgency at finalizing our name choices.  We still both loved our boy choice but could not come to a consensus on a girl name.  Since we wanted the gender to be a surprise, we had time to figure it out.  Still, I was very anxious and pushed to finalize our choice.

We constantly went back and forth suggesting and vetoing each other’s name choices.  Since I teach, there are many names that get thrown out right away because of name association.  Also, with our names being so unique, there was a certain level of pressure to choose names that weren’t the most common.

After much debate and many lists, Maya was the only name we both liked and we kept coming back to it.  It went well with our boy name – both very classic, not too common, but not too out there.  We had known all along that her middle name would be after my mother (Francine) and we both loved the sound of Maya Francine.

We’ve found sources that claim Maya was the name of the mother of the Buddha, and that it means princess. According to Baby Center, Maya means “divine creative force in everything”.  I think this is the most fitting.  Everything I do now seems driven by my darling Maya.  Life now has a greater purpose because of her.

Maya’s middle name was easy.  My mom and I are very close and I owe so much of who I am today to her.  As I thought about becoming a mother, I was comforted with the knowledge that I was raised by the best there is.  I was so excited to be able to honor her with Maya’s middle name.  It kills me that Maya does not get to grow up knowing that her middle name is the same at her Mima’s first name.  I know it would have made their connection that much more special.

Maya Francine Warrensford – a classic and beautiful name for a little girl who will always be my baby.  I say it daily.  I try to work her name into conversations and refer to her as often as I can.  I will not get to call to her that dinner is ready or that it is time to leave for dance class.  I will not get to write her beautiful name on Kindergarten registration.  So, I will say it as often as I can.  The best thing anyone can do for bereaved parents is say their baby’s name.  We love to hear it.

I Used to Like Roller Coasters…

Yup!  I used to love the thrill of being whipped around, feeling weightless, strapped down, and completely out of control.  I used to love roller coasters – until I ended up on this one.  This one never ends.  For the last 7 months and 4 days, I have been on a roller coaster with no end in sight.  No place to catch my breath and stop screaming for just a short period of time.

I’m so tired.  The constant shift of emotions does not stop.  I have bad days and better days, good weeks and weeks that seem like they will never end.  I perform a 6 hour production every day at school.  My students have no idea what goes on inside my head – and most of my colleagues don’t either.  That’s how it should be.  At this point, I should be able to function effectively and do my job well – and I am.  But it’s so exhausting.

Back in December, Hackie and I took our dog, Halee to the vet for her annual check-up.  She received several routine vaccinations that she had gotten before.  Almost immediately, I knew something was wrong.  Halee became very lethargic and though she never lost consciousness, she was unresponsive (wouldn’t look up).  She was having an allergic reaction.  After some antihistamines and about 10 minutes, she was wagging her tail and on her way to acting like herself.  In those 10 minutes, I spiraled into panic and extreme upset.  Thank goodness my husband was there.  All I could think of was that I couldn’t handle another loss.  I needed my dog.  It was awful.

I’m on my way to understanding that grief is a roller coaster and that it will never end.  I get that there will be ups and downs, long climbs and sudden drops.  I will forever live with the pain of losing my daughter.  When it gets unbearable is when the roller coaster jerks unexpectedly.  You know the sharp hairpin turns that you don’t see coming that leave you with awful whiplash?  That’s what the vet visit was – an awful unexpected jerk that was just plain horrible.

Traveling the road to another baby has been a roller coaster in and of itself.  Each month hopeful.  Each month convinced that this month will be it.  Each month new symptoms that surely mean it’s happened.  Each month extreme disappointment when I realize my hopes and dreams will have to continue to wait.  I’m so tired.  Again, the roller coaster of emotions – fear, eager anticipation, frustration, and then guilt.  Guilt that perhaps I am too focused on getting pregnant again and not properly grieving the loss of the baby I already had.

I have come to realize that the more time that passes, the more unpredictable my grief becomes.  My sadness can be triggered in the most unexpected moments.  It used to be that I would replay the events of my labor and delivery in the car on the way to and from work.  Now, it does not follow a pattern.  It usually plays through my head once a day – but I never know when that will be.  My sadness is now connected to a feeling of disappointment.  My life is not what I want it to be.  It’s not what it is supposed to be.  As more time passes and the length of time between Maya and baby #2 increases, I grow more and more disappointed that I don’t have what I want and that it’s not in my control.

In the past month, Hackie and I have done some traveling.  Just after Christmas, we went to Washington DC for 4 days.  Hackie had never been and I hadn’t been in a long time.  We had so much fun.  Our days were packed with activities and we ate some amazing food.  We talked about Maya and about our future – fantasizing about traveling with our children.  We returned feeling refreshed, recharged, and ready for the new year.  We were also in the “convinced I’m pregnant” stage.  When we returned and found out I was not, the high I had been feeling shifted to a low.  I went back to feeling tired and disappointed.

Last weekend, Hackie and I flew down to Florida.  My parents are there for a few weeks and we needed a dose of warm weather.  The weather was gorgeous.  We had a wonderful time sitting on the beach, swimming, going to the aquarium, and enjoying my parents’ company.  We wrote Maya’s name in the sand and fantasized about coming back next year with a little baby and taking pictures on that beach.  I came back with a nice sunburn, a fresh batch of vitamin D, and a lot of energy.  Being in Florida made me realize that I probably have a case of the winter blues.  This is probably why I’ve been so tired.

So, Florida was an up, Washington DC was an up, getting unexpected gifts from friends is an up, having a great day with Hackie is an up, getting a look from Halee where it’s clear she is saying “I love you” is an up.  I feel them all and I try so hard to soak up the moment and to milk every ounce of joy that I can out of the feeling.  The lows are less predictable and are often hard to get past.  Walking by the empty nursery, seeing an infant car seat base in the car parked next to me at work, watching the young couple play ‘pass the baby’ while they take turns bowling.  Most of the time, the low moments are caused when I’m reminded of what I do not have.

Currently, I grieve two losses.  I grieve the loss of my precious Maya, which is something I will do for the rest of my life.  I also grieve the loss of the life I had envisioned for myself.  A life where taking care of myself and Hackie comes second to taking care of our child.  A life filled with sleepless nights, dirty diapers, tons of laundry, and most importantly lots of love and laughter.  I will never get my Maya back.  I know that.  However, I will get that life I had envisioned.  Someday I will take care of my child here on Earth.  Someday the grief of losing my baby girl will sit elsewhere in my brain as my primary role shifts from mourning the loss of my angel to caring for new life here on Earth.  Someday the roller coaster will feel different.

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!

 

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.

 

Happy Thanksgiving Maya

Dear Maya,

You get an extra letter this month!  Today would have been your first big holiday.  We’re here at Mima’s and you would have been here with us.  Everyone would have been so excited to see you laugh and smile.  Since you died, I have spent a lot of time thinking about all the things that you won’t get to do.  It’s painful.  As I dig today and reflect to identify what I’m thankful for this year, I find myself thinking about this time last year – the start of my pregnancy with you.  We did many wonderful things together throughout those 8 months.  So today, I’m going to share what I’m thankful for – our time together.

November 2011 – I found out you were growing in there.  We told our family and close friends.  We celebrated Thanksgiving and entered the holiday season so happy and so excited.  You were with me and gave me the strength I needed to say goodbye to your Great-Grandfather.  You gave our family hope for a bright future in a time of such sadness and loss.

December 2011 – We decorated the house and the Christmas tree.  We went shopping and bought gifts for Daddy and all our close family and friends.  We celebrated the holidays and talked about how excited we were to share this holiday season with you.

January 2012 – We were elbow deep in thesis writing!  I was rounding the corner and approaching the finish line of my graduate program.  You kept me company as I worked hard and produced a thesis that I was so proud of.

February 2012 – We finished up that thesis!  You were there with me when I presented my project and I was so proud!  I’ll never forget bringing the final product to the post office.  I felt so relieved and so excited to have accomplished a lifelong goal of getting my Master’s degree.  You were with me the whole time.  This month, my belly grew too and you were officially showing yourself.  We had our anatomical scan, and then another one because you weren’t very cooperative.  You were dancing away and it was so fun to watch you moving around in there!  We celebrated Valentine’s Day and then Daddy’s birthday.  We went bowling – I think you would have loved learning to bowl from your Daddy.

March 2012 – Always a tough month at school.  It was so busy and I was very stressed.  I’m sure you knew how I was feeling.  The show we were working on performed and was wonderful!  It was fun to have you with me while working on that show.  Daddy continued to work on your nursery and we started to feel you move around – that was so fun!  I was very tired, but excited for springtime.

April 2012 – Your first trip NYC!  Your Mima took us to NYC to see some shows, shop, and enjoy the city that I love so much.  We saw Newsies and you danced along with the music.  We saw Once, which was so good!  The last show we saw was War Horse.  It was a very sad story and I was very emotional when it ended.  I remember thinking that it was the last time I would take a trip like this with my mom, but then looked forward to the first time we got to take you.  We also walked around the botanical gardens and I took lots of pretty pictures of flowers.  It was a perfect trip and I am so grateful that I got to share it with you.

May 2012 – This was a busy month!  We hosted the family Mother’s Day gathering.  It was the first time in a while that our family got to see my big belly.  I was glowing that day.  Your nursery was done and we got to show off Daddy’s beautiful mural to your family.  It was so fun to celebrate Mother’s Day knowing that I would soon be joining the group of Mother’s.  The following weekend, you walked with me as I graduated from Lesley and received my Master’s Degree.  Whenever I look at the pictures of me in my cap and gown, I see you there with me and I am so proud that you got to share that moment with me.  At the end of the month, we celebrated Mommy’s birthday.  You really loved that ice cream cake.

June 2012 – This month started with my baby shower.  You received so many wonderful things and it was so nice to see everyone who was so eagerly anticipating your arrival.  It was a beautiful day and so much fun.  The following weekend, Daddy and I bought some more things for you.  Your crib arrived, your shelves were filled with books, and your changing table (made by your Grandpa) was in place and ready.  We went and bought a fuzzy green rug and laid on the floor dreaming of having you in that room and playing with you.  The day before you were born, we bought your glider – the last big piece of that beautiful nursery.

On this day of giving thanks, I am so thankful for the time we had together and all that we got to do together.  You were a huge part of our lives long before you physically arrived in this world.  I am thankful for every kick and punch you gave me to remind me that you were with me.  I am thankful for the strength you provided me to get through a tough school year.  I am thankful for the experience I had with the doctors throughout my pregnancy and delivery.  I am thankful we had the time that we did.

It takes a little more effort and energy to be thankful now that you aren’t here.  However, I am able to be thankful for some things.  I am thankful for your Daddy.  Without him, I’d be so lost.  I am thankful for your Mima, who has been so strong and who’s strength is contagious.  I am thankful for your big sister Halee.  She has been an absolute joy and sometimes lays in my arms like a baby and looks at me reminding me that everything will be OK.  I am thankful for friends and family who have been supportive and continue to remind us that they will never forget you.  I am thankful for my new job, which provides me with joy and something to look forward to every day.

Finally, I am thankful for you, my precious Maya.  You have taught me that life is a gift.  You have taught me what’s important in life.  You have taught me to find some kind of joy in every day.  You have taught me to love life and be grateful for all that I have.

Thank you Maya.  I love you always and forever.

Love and gratitude,

Mommy

Maya is Home

A lot has happened this week.  And I feel different.  Things have started to shift.

We decided to do the March for Babies, which helped me release some of my guilt and regret.  Last weekend we received our touched-up pictures from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, which is an incredible organization.  Since Maya had tape across her upper lip holding her breathing tubes in place, she has a very red bruise across her upper lip in all of our pictures.  The photographer who donates her time to this wonderful organization touched up these photos so our baby’s face is just perfect.  Once we got the pictures, we created our Maya wall in our living room:

It gives me so much pleasure to have these pictures finally displayed.  I feel like she is now more a part of our home – her home.

As I mentioned previously, we put off purchasing Maya’s urn for a long time.  Originally, we didn’t think we’d get one and thought we’d mix her ashes in with the soil that will be used to plant her tree in the spring.  We asked the funeral home to hold onto them.  Right around her due date, I changed my mind and we started looking at urns.  It didn’t take long to find one we liked.  What took a while was mustering up the strength to purchase it.  I found every excuse in the book and put it off for weeks.  It felt so final and I didn’t want to admit to myself that, at 27, I needed to purchase an urn for my daughter’s remains.  Then, I started to feel guilty.  When it arrived, it took another week to call the funeral home and inform them that we were ready to have Maya home.  Yesterday, she arrived.

I thought I would be more sad.  I thought I would cry.  Instead, a feeling of comfort and contentment came over me.  Maya is now home.  I look at her urn and smile, knowing she is here with us.

I mentioned that things have started to shift and that I feel different.  About a month ago, CarlyMarie posted a project that involved making prayer flags for a candle lighting that would take place on the same beach where Maya’s name was written in the sand.  I thought it was a beautiful idea, but could not find the motivation to participate.  Yesterday, that changed, and I decided that I needed to make a flag and I needed to do it right away so it would get to Australia in time.  Hackie and I went to the fabric store and I was up until after midnight (very late for me) making this:

I wrote the poem, I hand-stitched the fabric, and I thought of my Maya the whole time.  This morning, it got sent to Australia and I am so happy that I found the strength to participate in this wonderful event.

With all of these things, I have felt very different in this journey called grief.  The foggy haze that I have felt myself in for the last three months has lifted slightly.  Someone at the hospital told us that we will somehow figure out a way to make meaning out of this horrific tragedy.  I’m starting to understand what that means.  Physically and mentally doing things for Maya – the walk, our wall, her flag, and having her home has helped me make meaning out of her life.  I feel motivated to go forward and I’m eager and excited to do as much as I possibly can to honor my little girl and keep her memory alive.

Better Days and a Lovely Surprise

Before I had Maya, I knew myself pretty well.  I knew what would make me happy and what would set me off.  I was able to anticipate my emotional reactions to things and I usually knew how long it would take me to get over something upsetting.  Now, I have no clue.  I thought getting back to school was going to be really hard.  I thought I would feel resentful and angry when my alarm went off in the morning.  I thought I would spend my day in a bitter mood.  The anticipation of all this as I discussed in my previous post was terrible.  What have I learned this time?  The anticipation of the tough day is often worse than the day itself.

Yesterday was the first day for teachers.  As much as I was dreading it, I was grateful that we are able to ease our way back in and are not faced with kids on the first day back.  I did go to the welcome breakfast though I stayed close to some colleagues who know my story well.  It was shocking to be back and surrounded by everyone from the district – many of whom I do not know.  I felt very small and insignificant in that moment, but I was OK with that.  With all the sorrow, and empathy I am the recipient of (and very grateful for), moments of insignificance provide a feeling of relief that life does and will go on.

The day was long.  Meeting after meeting after meeting.  I had lunch with some colleagues who I’m friendly with.  They listened to parts of my story and I sensed they were comfortable with me talking about it.  I’m never sure, but it’s so much a part of who I am now that, in certain situations, I will take the risk.  Once all our meetings were over and we had a good plan for the week, I went to work in my classroom.  I was putting names on the desks, which I never had to do before as a SPED teacher.  All of a sudden, an overwhelming feeling came over me.  It was a feeling of warmth, comfort, and confidence.  In that single moment, I thought to myself, “I can do this, and I can do this well.”  I swear Maya came to visit in that moment.  I felt her presence and her strength.

Just shy of 12 hours after I had left my house, I returned home exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally.  There was a box on the table.  From a distance, I thought it was one of the posters I had ordered for my classroom.  When I moved closer, I saw that it was from a girl I went to high school with, Melissa.  I was never close friends with Melissa.  She was a year ahead of me and good friends with my best friend.  We are friends on facebook but I have never really been in touch with her so I was surprised to be getting a package from her.  This is what was in the box:

Melissa is obviously an incredibly talented artist who was touched by Maya’s story.  She sent me the painting in hopes that it would bring me hope, comfort, and a smile.  It did so much more than that.  At the end of a very long day in which I put forth a great effort to keep it together, I was moved to tears.  And, for the first time in more than 10 weeks, these were happy tears.  In a single moment, I felt comfort, hope, joy, and pride in my baby girl who has touched someone else.  For however long it took Melissa to create this masterpiece, she was thinking of my daughter and that means so much to me.  I will never be able to thank Melissa enough for what she has done.  Hackie and I will cherish this painting forever.

Melissa owns Lisscat Creations.  She does beautiful work and donates a portion of all her sales to charity.  Please check out her page and like her on facebook.

Unlike many of the teachers I work with, I was able to sleep very well last night.  I went to bed looking forward to this morning and woke up feeling refreshed and ready to face these kids head on – all anticipated anger and bitterness out the window.  I looked at my new painting, thought of my Maya, and left the house with excitement to meet my new students.

Again, the day was long.  There is no way to ease into this dramatic change of pace.  I loved reading off my homeroom list and being the lead teacher.  I loved supporting all the kids and not just a select few.  The kids were wonderful.  I was reminded today of why I decided (when I was 8) to become a teacher – it’s those kids.  I want to make a difference in these students’ lives.  I want to be remembered.  It’s going to be a good year, and I know that I am right to anticipate that. :)

Struggling

Today has been hard.  After a summer that I strategically filled with distractions, reality has hit me right between the eyes.  With NH, New York City, Disney, and then trips down to RI in the off weeks, I didn’t have to face my reality head on.  Sure, it was there and there were certain things that reminded me of what my life now consists of.  But I had enough going on to occupy my mind and time that I had some respite from real life.  Now, with little to look forward to and school starting in a week, reality is rearing its ugly head loud and clear.

I went into school to work on setting up my new classroom.  I got a new job, which I’ll blog about later.  It’s a welcome change and I thought another good distraction.  However, I wasn’t supposed to go back to work until after Thanksgiving.  There’s that phrase again… “supposed to”.  I say it so often now because life was supposed to be so different from what it is.  I counted down the weeks until school started.  I never wanted a summer to pass by so badly.  I thought having something to do and a solid routine would help pass the time.  Now that we’re less than a week away, I want nothing more than to crawl into a hole and hide.  Anger is a part of grieving and today, I felt angry.  I don’t want to set up my classroom.  I don’t want to deal with the beginning of the school year.  I don’t want to teach.  I want to mother, and I can’t.

My fabulous OB called today.  She got the autopsy report, which I’ll also blog about later.  It’s nothing all that conclusive, and she only went over it briefly.  It left me feeling sad.  I’m sad about what happened to Maya.  I ask over and over again, why her?  I’m also sad because the autopsy report was the last piece to this puzzle before the door closes.  I don’t want the appointments and the contact with my doctor to end.  I don’t want the door to close because I feel our time with Maya getting farther away.

Right now, reality sucks.  It’s so hard to face each day and to wrap my head around a new school year.  I am in such a fog and I can’t think straight – how am I supposed to teach?  I am so tired.  During the weeks leading up to Disney, I was running on adrenaline.  Adrenaline to get through the summer and get to our trip.  Now, I have nothing left.  Functioning every day is exhausting and I am nervous about what September holds.

My mom assured me that having a tough day today does not mean that I am back where I was in June.  Between spending an extended period of time at school and hearing from the doctor, there was a lot on my plate today and it broke me and brought me back to the dark place.  She reminded me that today will end and tomorrow can be better.  As much as I want to feel the low moments because they allow me to grieve my loss with every ounce of my soul, I am so uncomfortable in that place.  I feel like it’s a setback in my healing and I get frustrated and confused.

I am putting so much pressure on myself to be as close to the old me as I can.  I’ve convinced myself that if I can be the old me, interactions with other people (especially colleagues) will be less awkward.  The truth is, I have changed and haven’t quite figured out who I am now.  There are glimmers of the old me but I will never be the same and I don’t want to be.  This new finding of identity is hard and tiring.  I’ve learned that interactions with other people are awkward no matter what because there will always be an elephant in the room.

Getting back to school feels too much like the old normal.  One of the common phrases in the babyloss world is finding the “new normal”.  Hackie and I are slowly learning what that means.  However, the new normal feels too much like the old normal and I don’t like that.  Being back at school at the start of the school year is just another reminder that the world around me still goes on while I look backwards, trying to climb up the down escalator.

Today reminded me that grief and healing are not linear.  Though I feel I have made progress, I can still go backwards.  I can feel relief and joy one day and anger and sadness the next.  I can go days without crying and then lose it out of nowhere.  This is a never-ending process and I am only at the beginning.  There will be setbacks and there will be milestones.  There is no right or wrong way to travel on this journey.  I am doing the best I can.