Tag Archive | school

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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Feeling Blessed at Work

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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!

 

Surviving the Holdiays 2012

**Before I begin this post, I just want to mention that I have updated Maya’s name gallery.  It gives me such joy to see Maya’s name written in creative ways and I am so grateful to those who have taken the time to do it and to share it with me.  Please check out the page!

And now for today’s post…

I knew the holidays would be tough this year.  Last year, I was 10 weeks pregnant on Christmas day.  Hackie and I knew very well that it would be the last Christmas where we indulged each other because this year all our efforts would be put into making the holiday magical for our new baby.  My family celebrates Hanukkah.  When I took the big family Hanukkah picture last year, I mentioned that this year there would be a new little one in the picture and I told my mom that she would get the honor of holding her new grandbaby.  A year ago, we made big plans and had great anticipation for what this year’s holidays would be like.  Today, Christmas Eve, I am not only missing Maya terribly, I am devastated to not be able to see any of those plans come to fruition.  All of those plans, all of that eager excitement and anticipation died with her.

Up until recently, I was comforted with the knowledge that surely we would be pregnant by now.  Surely, the weight of our first holiday season without Maya would be lessened by the hope of a new baby.  I guess I was being slightly naive.  I am not pregnant yet and I am tormented by the idea that if it takes much longer, we may be enduring a second holiday season with grief alone and no living child to share the magic with.

I’ve been having good weeks and bad weeks.  This past week was really tough.  In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, I felt quite numb.  When I turned the corner to go down the road to school on Monday, it hit me hard.  Still, the shock of this tragedy came in fits and spurts.  I feel like my body was protecting my brain from feeling the horror all at once.  By Friday, I was relieved to have arrived at the end of the week.  Still, on the day before vacation – a day that since I started school as a child was always so joyous and exciting, I was feeling so sad.  I was not excited for vacation.  I would rather be at work today, skipping vacation and the holidays all together.  It all came out at the holiday concert.  Our chorus teacher announced that they were all going to sing “Lean On Me” dedicated to the families in Newtown.  I made it through about two thirds of the song before I lost it and had to leave.  There were only a few who saw me and, with the help of a caring guidance counselor, I was able to pull myself together and get through the rest of the day.

Yesterday was my family’s big Hanukkah party.  This is the first time we all were together since I had Maya.  The last time we were all together was Mother’s day, when I was 30 weeks pregnant.  While I was looking forward to seeing my family, I didn’t want to go.  It’s the times when the whole family is together that it is ever so clear that someone is missing.  As soon as Hackie and I pulled out of the driveway to head to my mom’s, I started to cry.  When we got to my mom’s and were setting up the room so that all 20 of us could fit in the family picture, I started to cry.  I remembered my Aunt’s tradition – every year since 2004, we have written down what we are thankful for and what we wish for in the coming year.  We put our papers in a little pouch and they are saved year after year.  I’ve always enjoyed looking back and smiling with the satisfaction that my wish came true.  In 2008, I drew a diamond ring hoping Hackie would propose in the coming year, which he did.  I can only imagine what I wrote down last year and the thought of looking at it was too much to bear.  Every time I thought about it, I started to cry.  As my family started to arrive and each of my aunts, uncles, and cousins hugged me just a little longer than usual, I started to cry.  I wondered if I would be able to stop being so weepy.  Eventually, the crying subsided and I was able to really enjoy myself.  I wrote down what I was thankful for and what I was wishing for and stuck it in the pouch with the others.  I decided not to read last year’s paper.  As I always do, I took charge of the family picture.  I placed my Maya Bear (which I’ll have to post about another time) on my mom’s lap – where Maya should have been.  It was a very hard day.  Surrounded by loved ones and comforted with the hope that next year’s party will be different, I survived.

Today, Hackie and I will head to his parent’s to be together.  Growing up, Christmas was always different for me.  Some years, my mom did her best to fulfill my need to be like all the other kids in my class and got us a Christmas tree.  Some years, I traveled to my Dad’s and celebrated the holiday with him and my family out there.  Some years, I hung out with my mom and didn’t do much of anything.  In the last 4 years, Hackie and I have made our own traditions.  I always say that Christmas is his holiday and so I let him pretty much call the shots.  We spoil each other and the dog.  We’ve always gotten a tree and played Christmas music while decorating.  Last year, which was our first Christmas in our new house, Hackie decorated the front of our house and it was so beautiful.  I’ve really enjoyed celebrating this holiday with him and coming up with new traditions for our little family.

This year, we weren’t sure what to do.  I wanted to be supportive of my husband and his favorite holiday so I defaulted to him.  I told him that if he wanted to get a tree and decorate, we would.  If he wanted to do presents, we would.  If he wanted to do nothing, I’d be OK with that too.  It took a while to figure it out, but it eventually became clear.  We purchased a hot pink tree that’s small and put it in front of our Maya wall.  We’ve gotten a few ornaments as gifts and will purchase one new one a year in honor of our angel.  We did not decorate or get a large tree.  We are taking a trip later this week and decided that would be our gift to each other.  We decided not to purchase gifts for others and asked that none be given to us.  Instead, we decided that we would collect donations for Cradle to Crayons, which is an organization we are volunteering at in January.  We will also be purchasing some items that would have been appropriate for a six month old little girl and will donate them in memory of Maya.

We decided to spend Christmas day as just us and Halee.  We need to be home and it’s too hard to host our parents, which was the original plan.  I’m not quite sure yet how we are going to spend the day.  I think we are going to wait and see how we feel and let the day unfold.  We are thinking about releasing some balloons for are angel and we may go bowling in the evening, which is one of our favorite things to do together.  We will survive the day together.

Yes.  It totally 100% sucks that Hackie and I look at this year’s holidays as something to get through rather than enjoy.  However, I have come to realize that traditions can be paused and getting down on myself for not enjoying the holidays this year is not going to do anyone any good.  Next year, the holidays will be different.  I’m not sure how they will look and I’m not making any plans, but I know they will be different as another year will have gone by.

As hard as this has been, I continue to be comforted by the love and support I have received, especially from my husband.  He is my backbone and I am blessed to have him by my side so I do not have to navigate this road alone.

If you are grieving this holiday season, I wish you peace and comfort.

 

Happy 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

Three Months

My darling Maya,

You would have turned 3 months old today!  I’d probably be wondering where the last three months have gone and be marveling at how big you’ve gotten.  I would have learned what makes you happy and your favorite song to fall asleep to.  We would spend lots of time rocking in the glider.  I would have read to you, sang to you, and talked to you every chance that I got.  That glider is still sitting in the box.   I want so badly to really finish your nursery since it was so close to being done.  We have opened the door now, and I don’t want it to look like a storage room.

This past month has gone by very slowly.  It’s been the slowest moving month since we said hello and goodbye.  Daddy and I miss you so much.  We were so looking forward to adding you to our family and raising you.  Now, we struggle with what’s next and what we can look forward to.  I think we’ve found something to focus on for the next month.  For you my dear girl, we will walk in the March for Babies and raise money to help bring more healthy babies into this world.  I’m looking forward to doing this for you and I know you will be with us on that day.

I had to go back to work a few weeks ago.  It’s been really tough, especially this past week.  I’ve cried many tears – I want to be sad whenever I want and be able to cry when I need to, but I can’t.  It bottles up and comes out all at once – life is so hard without you here.  Somehow, I am getting through.  I have felt your presence so often.  You are giving me the strength to get through each day and to foster a love of learning for my students.  I often pause and think about you – that brings a smile to my face.

As things in my life have settled down and some sort of routine has returned to our lives, I’ve struggled to understand my purpose in life.  My routine was supposed to include hanging out with you all day and my purpose was to be your mommy.  I know I am still your mommy and am figuring out what that means for us.  This past week, I received a note from a friend who became a mommy just 8 days before I did.  She explained how much your story has affected her as a mother.  This note made me realize that my purpose as your mommy is to share your story and to help others realize just how precious our children are.  If those who read your story hug their kids a little tighter, spend 5 extra minutes enjoying the nice weather outside, or simply take an extra minute each day to acknowledge the good things in their lives, I will have served my purpose and I will have served your purpose.  Together, my darling Maya, we are helping others acknowledge and appreciate the beauty in their lives.

Oh Maya!  How I wish you were here with me and with your gigantic family!  We all miss you so much.  Continue to smile down on us – we feel your presence every day.

I love you my gorgeous girl!

Love always,

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.

New Job

Let’s start at the beginning.  I decided that I wanted to be a teacher when I was 8 years old – a third grade teacher to be exact.  I spent the rest of my years in school making mental notes of the best and worst practices of the teachers I had.  I entered Boston University as an elementary education major and quickly learned that, with two additional classes and no extra semesters, I could graduate with a dual license in elementary and special ed.  I thought doing this would make me more marketable as an elementary teacher.  The summer after I graduated I sent countless job applications and had very little luck.  I had some interviews but got to the end of August with no job and no plan.  With two weeks left until school started, I interviewed for a third grade position and was very hopeful.  While in the interview, the principal noticed that I was also certified in special ed.  And so it began… I got the special ed. job because they had other candidates for the third grade position and not for their special ed. position.

After a year from hell, the search began again and again, it was nearing the end of August and I had to start applying for SPED positions, which is what I ended up with.  I’ve spent the last four years in the same district, but I’ve been bounced around.  I’ve had three different jobs in two different schools.  Last year I worked with kids with more severe needs and was quite miserable for most of the year.  Looking forward to having Maya was getting me through.  In March, I met with my principal and expressed my desire for a regular ed. job.  I was very honest with him about how SPED was never my intention when I became a teacher and while I was good at it, I was not happy.  A 6th grade math position opened a week before I had Maya and I immediately emailed my principal my interest.  Then I had Maya.  Then she died and my world came crashing down.

One of the first things that came to mind when I was in the hospital was that I had to get a new job.  I realized so quickly how truly precious time is and that I could not spend another year miserable.  At first, I wanted to leave the district all together.  I felt like a fresh start might be best.  After a couple of weeks, I started to realize the benefits of staying put at my school.  Still, I had this burden of wondering if I would get this math position.  I was advised by a colleague to email my principal again as he was hesitant to contact me in my fragile emotional state.  I emailed him, interviewed, and waited.  Ultimately, he emailed me and asked if I would be interested in teaching 6th grade science as a position had just opened.  It took me about 5 minutes to realize that teaching science is easier, more fun, and more creative than teaching math.  I accepted the position and felt a massive weight lift from my shoulders.

I counted the weeks until school was to begin.  Once school started, I felt more anxious than excited.  I finally got to do what I wanted to do and be a classroom teacher.  However, the transition has been bittersweet since I was supposed to be on maternity leave.  It has been a mixed bag of emotions and I have had moments of pure panic wondering if I could really do this.

Then, today, I had a moment when I thought to myself, “I love my job”.  It is the first time I thought this since I did my elementary student teaching in Sydney, Australia back in 2006.  I felt a wave a relief and pure delight.  I remembered why I became a teacher in the first place and I felt excited about the year ahead.  I have started connecting with kids and feel like I can spend my days teaching rather than doing paperwork and supporting students in other teachers’ classrooms.

I can now say I am happy with my new job.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get past the anger and bitterness I felt about being back in school when I was supposed to be spending my days with Maya.  I really wasn’t sure that I could do it.  Now I feel good.  I know that I will still have my days of feeling bitter.  I know that some days will be challenging and stressful.  However, I feel so content knowing that after five years of frustration, stress, and lots of job-related tears, I am in the right place.  In this moment, I feel like being a 6th grade science teacher is what I’m meant to do, and that feels so good.