Tag Archive | progress

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.

 

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 :)

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!

Escape Tactics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Unnecessary Inner Turmoil

I experience a lot of inner turmoil on a daily basis.  No, on an hourly basis.  I replay the events of Maya’s birth and death.  I think about what could have been done differently.  I play the “What if?” game constantly.  I think about who knows and who doesn’t know.  I avoid certain situations and people for fear that someone will catch me off guard and ask when I’m not ready to answer.  I cringe when someone casually remarks, “just wait until you have children” or asks how I’m spending the holidays.  I reflect on, evaluate, and reevaluate every Maya-related conversation.  My mind is constantly racing trying desperately to prepare for what might be said or what might trigger my always-present sadness to rise to the surface.  It’s exhausting.

I learned a very important lesson today – it’s not all necessary.

Two days after Maya was born and died, Hackie and I broadcasted the news on facebook.  I was very public about my pregnancy – posting belly photos, nursery photos, and baby shower pictures.  Just two days before I delivered I posted a status on how great my ultrasound went and how big the baby was.  I knew there were many on facebook who would be eagerly awaiting the news of Maya’s birth – so I had to share.  I have often said that I’m grateful for facebook as it allowed me to share the news with most of the people I know while providing an easy method for others to show their support.  I still go back and read the messages and comments we received after posting that devastating status.

After the facebook announcement, there were really only a handful of people who had known that I was pregnant but did not know what had happened.  Most of them I only risk running into and it’s possible that they could hear the news from someone else in the community (I’m thinking mainly of the parents of my students from last year).  There was one person in particular that I knew I’d have to see and have to tell – my hairdresser.

It sounds so silly, but I have spent hours struggling with this.  I got my hair cut on my birthday, which is at the end of May.  I was 32 and half weeks pregnant.  Though I knew I didn’t really need to worry about it until August/September, I started thinking about it almost immediately after I had Maya.  Every time I did my hair I thought about going into the salon and ruining her day with my devastating news.  I thought about how awkward it would be to then have to sit in the chair for over an hour watching her struggle to come up with the right thing to say.  Or avoid the wrong things to say.  So I put it off.  I wanted to grow my hair out anyway.

When I passed the 6 month mark with no haircut, I really wanted to gain the strength to make the appointment and face this challenge.  Today, I was feeling brave.  The door had opened where I felt courageous enough to call, and I knew that if I didn’t jump at the opportunity, the door would close and I would chicken out.  I knew there was risk of her answering the phone, so I prepared myself for that.  I made the call from school so I couldn’t get too emotional.  She didn’t answer the phone.  I proceeded to go through the process expressing that I needed to make an appointment for a haircut.  When asked what day I wanted to come in, I explained that I’d like to see Cyndi.  “Cyndi doesn’t work here anymore,” is what I heard through the phone.  Wow, I thought.  All that worry and inner turmoil for nothing.  Although, I then started to panic as I had so much trouble finding a hairdresser that I liked.  Now what was I going to do?  I asked where she went only to be told that she’s not even cutting hair anymore.

Unbelievable.  For almost 6 months, I worried and struggled and thought about one stupid haircut.  One encounter with one person who I will now never see again.  It was so unnecessary.  However, this whole experience was also very significant.  I made a big step in feeling ready to tell someone who did not know what happened.  Even though I won’t need to have this experience with my hairdresser, I will likely have to have it with someone else at a time when I’m not prepared.  I feel more confident that I will be able to handle the inevitable, “how is your baby?”

I’ve now got an appointment with a friend who owns her own salon, and I can officially put the haircut turmoil to rest.  I’m trying very hard to stay calm and to get less worked up about things like this.  When Maya died, my world shattered into a million pieces.  I didn’t really know where to begin putting them back together.  Slowly, things are starting to fall into place once again.  I have learned that I have to relinquish control and let the pieces fall.  I feel more calm and more open to seeing where life takes me rather than trying to plan my path so specifically.  This time, life took me to a new hairdresser.

 

I Survived the Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stupid Thyroid

Originally, this post was going to be called ‘Stupid Halloween’ and was going to be about how upset I was that I couldn’t dress Maya up and post cute pictures of her on facebook.  Originally, I was going to write this post yesterday.  However, yesterday was really hard – as in ‘I really couldn’t stop crying’ hard.  Because of the hurricane, school was canceled for three days.  Spending days alone in the house is not good for me.  I need my routine, and when I have the time for my brain to take over, it’s sob city.  So, needless to say, I couldn’t write yesterday.  And now, a rant about Halloween seems silly.

So instead, I will rant about my thyroid.  However, in the interest of keeping this interesting, I decided to let my thyroid tell its side of the story first… (excuse me, I’m feeling creative/silly this evening).

Hello!  I’m Annalee’s thyroid.  I’m not very effective.  It all started in February of 2010 (except not really).  Annalee went for a routine physical and was lectured about being overweight.  Now, with her wedding only 6 months away, I knew she was trying to lose weight, but I was making it difficult -haha!  On a whim, the doctor tested me and found that I was being slightly lazy (read underactive).  Annalee went on meds, felt better, lost some weight, got married, and lived happily ever after!  And I was off the hook… whew!  Well, not really.

Fast forward to June 2011.  Annalee had been off birth control for about 9 months and started actively trying to get pregnant.  Little did she know that I was mad about the changes in hormones and became even more lazy.  After a 72 day cycle, a trip to the endocrinologist, and some more blood work, we found out that it’s not my fault after all!  Annalee has antibodies that don’t like me and attack me (read Hashimoto’s).  It’s not very nice and it makes me under-perform.  A change in dose, a few more months, and Annalee is pregnant!  Woohoo!!!!

Throughout her pregnancy, I did pretty well.  There was one adjustment in the beginning and then I was perfect!  It’s been made pretty clear that I am not in any way responsible for what happened to Maya.

Thanks thyroid.  I’ll take it from here.  (I hope that wasn’t too corny).

My original plan was to keep this blog more as an emotional outlet, rather than writing about my physical ailments.  However, this is so much a part of my life right now and I need to get it out of my brain!

Typically, after a pregnancy, the thyroid dose is decreased.  However, Hackie and I are hoping to get pregnant again soon (there I said it), so I thought that I could just continue on my ‘pregnancy’ dose and be fine.  How naive and stupid of me.  After some longish cycles, I started to think that something was up with my thyroid dose.  I actually thought that I didn’t have enough in my system as the symptoms were similar to those I had last summer prior to the increase in dosage.  My hair has been coming out in clumps, I have been very tired, and I’m struggling to lose the rest of my baby weight.  I gave in and got my blood work done.  What was found was that my dose is too high and I am now overmedicated.  All of the symptoms I was having coincide with having too much thyroid hormone in my system, including long cycles.

So, I’m back to my pre-pregnancy dose and I’m hoping that within the next month or two I will be feeling better.  Like I said, I hesitated to write all this here and reveal so many personal details about myself, but it plays a huge part in my life.  I also remembered reading some other women’s blogs that reference thyroid disorder and pregnancy.  I found it so comforting and educational to read about others’ experiences.  Perhaps someone will benefit from reading mine.

Personally, I think that thyroid disorder is overlooked.  Doctors won’t test it until you complain of symptoms and even then it’s not consistently measured.  Mine probably went undiagnosed for at least 4 years, if not more.  At this point, I have come to terms with it and understand that there are much worse things that a person could be diagnosed with.  I am grateful that mine was caught when it was and is fairly under control.  I have learned that I need to trust my doctors and trust my body, rather than trying to self-diagnose.

There are days when I feel like my thyroid condition is yet another thing in my already massive pile of crap that I am dealing with.  I then remind myself of what I do have – a loving husband, a beautiful house, a gorgeous dog, a precious angel, and the ability to go to doctors, get the medicine I need, and live an overall healthy life.  For all of that, I am 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.