Tag Archive | mountain

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.

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 :)

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!

 

I Survived the Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Connections

I wanted to write this days ago, but life has gotten in the way.  This past Saturday, Hackie and I had the opportunity to go to an event at Children’s Hospital for bereaved parents.  We were nervous as we didn’t know what to expect.  The day was beautiful and we both left feeling so fulfilled.

The day started with a panel of bereaved parents who each shared their story.  They did not all lose babies.  Some lost older children who had been sick or been in an accident.  They each talked about how they cope and there were many things said that Hackie and I both felt we could relate to.  Following the panel, we were put into small groups for table discussions facilitated by the social workers from the hospital.  In our group were two other young couples.  Both had lost infants and one of the couples lost their son just three days before we had Maya.  The six of us clicked almost instantly.  We related on so many levels and I loved hearing about their babies and their journeys through grief.

I want to list some of the common themes of the day in hopes of educating my readers on this world of baby loss.

-There is no right or wrong way to grieve.  Though we would all love to have a manual, there is no guide to navigating this long road.  Those who haven’t experienced loss often have unrealistic expectations as to where we should be in our journey towards healing.  Please don’t judge us.  We have to take what we need and do what we feel is right in order to face life without our babies.

-We LOVE to talk about our babies.  We like to tell our stories.  We like to hear others’ stories.  Please don’t think that asking about our babies will make us sad.  When you ask me about Maya, you are acknowledging her life.  You are acknowledging that I am a mother and that you remember her.  Even if you want to know what happened, it does not make me sad.  I like to talk about my daughter.

-It is beneficial to talk about our journey through grief.  When we ignore it, it gets louder and takes over until we acknowledge that it’s there.  Most of the time, we deal with our grief in the privacy of our own home or car.  We don’t bring it up because we don’t want to make those around us feel uncomfortable.  However, asking sincerely how we are doing and just generally staying in touch goes a long way.

-All of the couples in our small group lost our first, and don’t have other living children yet.  We all agreed that parenting our angel babies is very difficult, but very much desired.  We all believe we are mothers and fathers; however, what that looks like is much different than the traditional understanding of the role of a parent.  We want our babies’ lives to matter.  We want them to be remembered and will do everything in our power to ensure they are not forgotten.  We just ask that we not be judged by those who have not walked this path.

After the morning small group discussions, we broke for lunch.  We had lunch with the same two couples and continued the discussion.  We felt such a connection and it was so comforting.  We had another chunk of time in the afternoon to continue the small group discussions.  I think we could have sat there for hours.  After that, we made a stepping stone for Maya and participated in a remembrance ceremony where we lit a candle for our precious angel.

Often times, this climb feels very lonely.  The world carries on as we struggle to get out of bed and make it through the day.  I left Saturday feeling less alone.  I left with two phone numbers of women who are walking a similar path, and who I feel I can turn to when the road gets real bumpy.

One thing I have struggled with is whether or not it was necessary to transport Maya to Children’s when she had such a slim chance at that point.  The neonatologist said that Children’s could say they did all they could whereas Emerson (without a NICU) couldn’t.  Still, I wondered if it was really necessary to put her and then myself through the trauma that went with being moved.  Now, I understand the purpose.

I continue to believe in fate.  It was fate that she was transferred to Children’s.  Had she not been transferred, we would not have been connected to this hospital.  We would not have been invited to this event, and we would not have met these wonderful and supportive people.  It was truly a blessing to make these connections and I am so grateful.

Before and After

I’m proud to say that I have kept up with CarlyMarie’s Capture Your Grief Project.  It’s been somewhat liberating – a good pictorial release of my feelings and emotions.  I’m looking forward to seeing the finished album of pictures at the end of the month.  It’s also been a great way to connect with other babyloss moms.  Seeing other’s pictures helps me to feel less alone in this journey.

Day two’s theme was a before loss self-portrait.  I chose this picture:

It was the morning of my baby shower.  I was 33 weeks pregnant.  It was 13 days before Maya was born and died.

Day three’s theme was an after loss self- portrait.  I didn’t have very many to choose from as I haven’t felt very photogenic.  This is what I came up with:

This was the emergency trip to NYC that my mom took me on out of desperation to have something to look forward to and something to do this past summer.  This was about 6 weeks after my loss.

When I look at these two pictures, taken approximately 8 weeks from each other, I feel like I aged 10 years.  In the first photo, I see someone so young, so naive, so happy, so blissfully unaware, so full of hope, anticipation, and excitement.  I see someone who I will never be again.  In the second photo, I see someone who is so broken and struggling to smile.  I see someone with confusion and loss in her eyes.  I see someone whose dreams have been dashed.

Now, this moment, 3 months, 2 weeks, and 4 days after my loss, I don’t recognize either of these women.  I feel much older and wiser than the girl in the first photo-schooled in one of the worst possible things that can happen in a person’s life.  I now know the kind of grief that tears at your soul and finds its way into every aspect of life.  The naivete in that girl’s eyes is gone forever.

The girl in the second picture was in a fog, a cloudy mess of confusion, disbelief, and heart-wrenching sadness.  Now, that fog has lifted slightly.  I have gained some clarity and redefined life, love, and loss.  That girl felt like she had nothing to look forward to, and I no longer feel that way.  I’m beginning to understand how to live life again and how to share Maya with anyone and everyone who will listen/read.  I am able to smile with slightly less effort than what it took in that picture.

This is a journey.  And though, in the grand scheme of life, 3 months, 2 weeks, and 4 days is very little time, I have come very far on this climb up the mountain.  I know Maya would be proud of her strong Mommy.

Taking what I Need

Over the past 12 weeks (is that right?  I’m starting to lose count), I’ve had to learn that life goes on after the world stops.  As I settle into my new routine of getting up at 5:30 and being at work all day, I’m learning how to grieve differently than I did throughout the summer.  Grief now has to have a time and place.  I can’t leave 22 eleven year olds unsupervised so I can go cry and I don’t want to make my colleagues feel uncomfortable.  I’ve started to come up with different tactics for getting through the day.

The car is a great place to cry.  This morning, before I left for work, there was an email that one of the women I was pregnant with delivered a baby girl this past Friday.  I knew she was pregnant and due any day, but I wasn’t prepared for the email (how can you be?).  It hit me hard.  It made me physically ill.  I was supposed to get to send work the “It’s a girl” email and I never got to do that.  Instead, my baby news was shared with the crisis team and at an emergency staff meeting.  It’s not fair.  It sucks.  So, I cried in my car and was able to pull myself together before walking into the building.

I’ve also learned that sitting at my desk and taking a deep breath is a great way to cope.  Even with students in front of me and in the midst of a busy lesson, my mind goes to Maya.  As soon as I have just 30 seconds, I take the opportunity to breathe, think of Maya, acknowledge the grief and go on with the lesson.  So far, this has worked and I am proud that I am coming up with coping mechanisms.

The most important thing that I need is time alone.  I have spent a lot of time reflecting on this.  It takes so much mental energy and stamina to function, period.  Add engaging with eager 6th graders and being “on” for 50 minutes at a time, often three times in a row and I am downright exhausted.  Sometimes, I opt to eat lunch by myself.  I am trying not to be anti-social, but I’m finding that I need to spend those 25 minutes a day thinking about Maya and feeling sad.  I need a break from engaging.

Most people around me don’t want to bring up my loss.  They think I’ve “moved on” or that bringing it up will upset me.  They may also be uncomfortable talking about it themselves for fear they will say the wrong thing.  I totally get it and I have no expectations of my colleagues.  The fact of the matter is, it’s always on my mind.  I try very hard not to bring up my loss at work.  I don’t want to.  It’s a tough subject to talk about and I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.  I need to think about it though and reflect throughout the day – so sometimes, I need to take the time to be alone with my thoughts.

I also need to decompress at the end of the day – as do most people.  Sometimes, I cry in the car on the way home.  If I didn’t get enough time to acknowledge my grief throughout the day, it bottles up and comes out on the way home.  When I get home, I talk to my mom since I don’t need to hold back any of my grief from her.  When I get off the phone, I often just sit, stare, and feel the sadness, anger, frustration, or whatever other emotion is present at the time.

Grief is not something you can get past.  It’s something you have to go through.  It’s ugly and unpredictable.  It’s always present but can be louder or softer depending on the hour.  By living through my grief and feeling it with every ounce of my soul, I am acknowledging Maya.  She is with me every step of the way as I climb this mountain of grief and she is helping me through.

Up, Down, Up, and then Down Again

The roller coaster continues… or the climb up the mountain becomes more rocky – whichever metaphor you prefer.  It takes a lot of mental energy to function these days and this week has been exhausting, to say the least.  When I’m the most tired, I’m the most down.  I feel like I have to put so much effort and energy into day to day tasks.  In those moments of extreme fatigue, the sadness creeps in and catches up with me.

Yesterday was a mixed bag.  The school day was fine but as it got to the afternoon I started feeling anxious.  I had my last Maya – related doctor’s appointment.  I was looking forward to seeing my OB because she has a way of reassuring us, but I was bummed because I felt like the door to Maya’s case was closing.  We’ve gotten all the answers there are to get and reviewed the labor and delivery with everyone involved and then some.  She went over the autopsy report with us in more detail.  Basically, Maya was perfect.  Everything abnormal on the report was likely due to her being resuscitated for so long.  I was hoping that talking to the neonatalogist, all the doctors, and receiving the autopsy report would bring us a sense of closure.  Instead, as the door to Maya’s case closes, we are left with no closure and more questions that will never be answered.  It’s so upsetting, frustrating, and painful.

Today was day 3 of school for the kids.  I was feeling good this morning and thought it would be another successful school day where I could function and keep it together – I feel that is what is expected of me at this point.  After lunch, the fatigue caught up with me.  The kids were presenting posters about themselves and I couldn’t stop yawning.  All of a sudden, a thought crept into my head: “Maya will never get to do this.  Maya will never develop a favorite movie.  Maya will never have a first day of school.”  It hurt.  It physically stung my soul.  I could have lost it.  Luckily, I kept it together but the rest of the day was a wash in terms of productivity on my part.  Thankfully, there is no school tomorrow.

I’m so nervous about next week.  As much as I dislike the first week of school, it has been somewhat low key in terms of actual teaching.  Tuesday, I will teach my first science class and then repeat it 4 times.  I’m not nervous about the teaching part – that I can do.  I’m nervous about having enough energy to get through it.  I didn’t think of how difficult it would be to be “on” for three 50 minute classes in a row as 25 eager eleven year olds stare at me.  When I started to try and plan for next week, my head was very foggy.  I couldn’t think straight and I started to feel very anxious.  “What if I really can’t do this?”, I thought.  It’s a roller coaster, for sure.

The unpredictability of grief is very difficult.  I am never sure what will set me off and what won’t.  What sets me off one day may not the next.  In hindsight, I would say the first week of school was overall good.  I really like my students and I’m happy to not be feeling the anger and bitterness I was experiencing last week.  Next week will bring about a new onslaught of challenges as I really get into teaching and conduct my first science lab (we’re making slime).  I know I can muster up the energy to continue to live on, and, when I have my moments, I will take a deep breath, think of my Maya, and proceed as best I can.

Back to School

This is it.  School starts tomorrow.  The teachers will gather and we will kick off another school year.  The kids arrive on Tuesday and I will officially be back at work.  About 3 weeks after Maya died, I counted how many weeks were left to summer – 7.  That’s not so bad, I thought… I could get through 7 more weeks.  I made a bunch of plans and counted down to the end of summer.  I commented that I never wanted a summer to go by so quickly.  What have I learned?  Be careful what you wish for.

Tonight I will set my alarm for 5:15 for the first time since June 15th – the day I went into labor.  The day before I said hello and goodbye to my precious baby girl.  June 15th was the last day of innocence, the last day I will ever believe that once you hit 34 weeks, 5 days pregnant, nothing can go wrong.  June 15th was the last day that I taught – even though I didn’t do much teaching that day.

Now I have to face it all over again – only this time, it’s so different.  The beginning of a school year is like a new year in the life of a teacher.  So, in a sense, tonight is my New Year’s Eve and I find myself pondering my New Year’s resolutions.  I will still pick out my clothes for the week.  I will still make my lunch every evening for the next day.  These two things make the early mornings more manageable.  My resolutions for this year are as follows:

1. Move up my morning routine by half an hour so I can be at school earlier and get some work done in the morning.

2. Maximize my prep. time, limit the unnecessary conversations with colleagues, leave by 3, and take home as little as possible.

3. Take the dog for a walk as soon as I get home.

4. Read more books.

5. Eat a healthy dinner at the table with my husband and do not turn the TV on until after the kitchen is cleaned up.

This new year marks a fresh start in my career.  After five years of struggling as a special ed. teacher (something I never really wanted to do), I am now teaching 6th grade science.  I’ve always wanted to be a classroom teacher, so I’m looking forward to this experience.  I’m hoping that these resolutions will help me to feel satisfied at the end of every day.  Satisfied with my work, my family, and my health.

As much as I was looking forward to the new school year (especially after receiving my new job), I am now dreading what tomorrow will bring.  Today has seen a lot of tears and upset.  I do not want to go back to school.  I do not want to spend my days with other people’s children when I am supposed to be spending them with my own baby.  I am nervous about the welcome breakfast and seeing all the staff from the district – Who will say something?  What will they say?  Who will act like nothing happened?  I am so nervous for Tuesday – a new group of 11 year olds.  My first homeroom.  My first class led by me.  Establishing classroom routines and expectations.  I have so many decisions to make in the next 36 hours and my head is so foggy.  One of the many side effects of losing a child is the inability to think straight – this has hit me hard and I am terrified that I won’t be able to teach effectively.  None of these students know my story.  None of them know me.  I can be whoever I want and whatever kind of teacher I want, but I don’t know what I want.

No matter how much the thought of it makes me physically ill, the alarm will go off at 5:15 tomorrow morning signifying another school year.  I have to find a way to face it.  I’m trying very hard, with every positive bone in my body to have a good attitude and it’s just not there.  I hate the beginning of the school year and I was so looking forward to not having to deal with it this year.  During my pregnancy, I thought about the first day back and that Maya and I would be carrying on with our well-structured routine while I thought of my colleagues returning to work.

The only way I can face tomorrow is to move my grief, sadness, and anger off to the side and face the day head-on knowing that 2:15 will come and the day will end.  Tomorrow signifies a turning point in this journey.  My life now consists of more than just the fact that I lost my daughter.  It also now consists of the fact that I am responsible for educating other people’s children.  I know I love teaching and I now get to do what I always wanted as a classroom teacher.  I am hoping that, with time, I will find the passion again and feel less angry and more grateful for my job.  I am hoping that I will grow to enjoy my weekly routine and that time will pass a little more quickly.

Going back to school finds me at the base of another steep incline as I continue this journey up the mountain.  I know I can start the climb.  I know I have supportive colleagues and I want to believe that as soon as I see those eager 11-year-olds, I will become “Mrs. Warrensford – science teacher extraordinaire”.  I know she’s in there hiding behind “Annalee, grieving mother”.  I know I can be both.  By the end of this week, I am hoping I have figured out how.

My Husband

As I’ve mentioned in just about all of my posts so far, my husband is pretty awesome.  He’s not just awesome.  He’s amazing, talented, sensitive, funny, wonderful, caring, kind, and just plain incredible.  His name is Hackie (yes, that’s his real name) and he is truly my best friend.

When I was in elementary school, I wasn’t well-liked.  I was weird and not very good at making friends.  In junior high, I became friends with a great group of girls who I am still friends with today.  We were not popular by any means.  We were weird but we had each other.  By the time I got to high school, I was pretty sure of who I was.  I was strong-willed and confident (and still a little weird).  I had a handful of really good friends and got along with most everyone else.  Still I wondered if I would ever meet a man who liked the person I had become.  Would I find someone who loved me for me as well as be willing to handle my big personality?  Would I ever find someone with similar goals and values?

My concerns were laid to rest when I met Hackie.  I found him!  Not only did he love me for who I was, but he quickly became my best friend.  We were both almost 19 when we met and have truly grown up together.  We navigated “real life” as a pair and found success together.  Hackie and I genuinely enjoy each other’s company.  I believe we have the perfect relationship.

Hackie is a special person.  He is family oriented while maintaining his individuality.  He is so supportive and makes me feel so good about myself.  He makes me laugh, eases my fears and anxieties, and makes me feel so loved.  Together with Hackie, I live life to the fullest.  We have had so many new experiences together.  We work hard and relish in the wonderful life we have created together.

Hackie is also incredibly talented.  He works in the technology field so he’s good at anything having to do with computers and electronics.  He’s also very artistic.  I mentioned here that he painted a beautiful mural for Maya on the nursery walls.  If that wasn’t enough, he’s a great cook (making 99% of our meals), very athletic, and he’s completed numerous household projects (he’s building shelves as I type this).  He even reupholstered a couch!  Yup!  I’m bragging, but he is so worthy.  I am so blessed and I work very hard to not take my man for granted.  Grateful does not even began to describe how I feel about my husband and our marriage.

Hackie was very ready to become a dad.  After seeing him with my niece and nephews, I was so excited to see him with our own children.  He’s so great with kids and they all love him.  When Maya was born, I sent Hackie to see if she was a girl or a boy (we didn’t know, but thought we were having a boy).  When he came back to the operating table and said “It’s a girl!”, the next thing out of his mouth was, “I’m going to go to all of her dance recitals”.  She was instantly a daddy’s girl and he had so much pride in his daughter.

I hate that Hackie does not have the chance to be a dad and to raise his daughter.  I know he would have done so well and would have been the best daddy ever – just like he’s the best husband ever.  I hate that father’s day weekend will forever be tainted by the memory of what happened.  Hackie’s first father’s day should have been spent with his one day old little girl.  Instead it was spent sobbing and asking the question, “why us?” over and over again.  Ten days after Maya died, Hackie got her footprints tattooed over his heart – a permanent reminder of his beautiful daughter, now an angel.  The fact that he needed this tattoo so quickly is just another indication of what an amazing and devoted father he is.

A tragedy like this rocks any relationship right to its core.  We grieve differently.  He went back to work.  I didn’t.  This could have torn us apart.  Luckily, it didn’t and I can safely say, it won’t.  Hackie and I are both very strong.  We are relying on our love for each other to carry us through and so far – it is.  I am forever grateful.

Someday, I will get to see Hackie be the amazing dad I know he is.  Someday we will raise a family together.  I am so looking forward to that day.  Until then, I will cherish the time we have together.  This extra time with just the two of us and our dog is a gift from Maya.  I will enjoy every second of it because time is precious.  This journey is so hard and the climb up the mountain is so steep.  Hackie has stayed by my side through it all.  I could never get through this on my own.  My strength is reflective of how strong our relationship is and how deeply rooted we both are in our love for each other.  I am forever grateful for my Hackie – my best friend and soul mate.

 

Hackie started his own blog to document his journey as a grieving dad.  You can find it here: Daddy of An Angel