Tag Archive | strength

The Blank Wall

There are many ways the experience of losing Maya has impacted my parenting of Oliver in a positive way.  I am more appreciative of the time I have with him.  I believe my experience with Maya has made me more calm, patient, and level-headed if you can believe that.  Losing Maya has almost had the opposite effect than what you would expect.  Throughout my pregnancy, I was sure I would be an over-bearing, nervous, anxious mother – afraid of germs and always fearing the worst.  And though I still have my moments of irrational fears and playing out worst-case-scenarios in my head… I don’t think they are any greater in number than a mother who hasn’t lost a child.

So far, the decisions we’ve made in regards to Oliver and the transitions we’ve gone through have come very naturally.  We’ve moved forward when it felt right.  For example, Oliver loved being swaddled from day 1 and seemed to sleep best when he was swaddled.  Then, it seemed like he didn’t like it anymore.  We tried to go without the swaddle and it didn’t work – he didn’t sleep well.  Then, he started breaking out of the swaddle so we tried again and it worked and he has slept successfully without the swaddle for over a month now.  Of course with this and many other decisions/transitions, I do my research and talk to other parents.  In the end however, it happened when the timing felt right.

There was one transition that was not coming naturally and I was really struggling with… moving Oliver out of our bedroom.  I started to feel like the timing was right for a number of reasons.  I talked to other moms who reported that their child slept better when in his/her own room.  We experienced nights where Oliver woke up because of our movement or the dog’s nails on the hardwood floor.  In addition, it is only a matter of time before he will outgrow his little crib and I wanted to move him into his nursery in the little crib before transitioning him into his big crib.  And yet, as much as the logical side of my brain knew it was time and knew it was probably best for all of us, the emotional side of my brain couldn’t bring myself to do it.  To top off the dilemma… I couldn’t figure out why it was so difficult for me.  I thought it was my resistance to him growing and getting older.  I do feel sad that he is not a brand new baby anymore, but I’m so excited for what’s to come.

One day, as I continued to perseverate on the issue, I had an epiphany.  I went into my bedroom and looked at his little crib and I thought, “I don’t want to not see it there”.  I thought about why it was that I had this thought about the crib and not about Oliver.  I finally figured it out! … A week before Maya was born and died, we set up the little crib in our bedroom.  For a week, I pictured her in that crib.  I pictured getting up in the middle of the night, tiptoeing around our room, and watching her sleep.  After she died, Hackie came home while I was still in the hospital and gathered all of the baby stuff.  It all got put into the nursery and the door was shut.  When I came home, there was no crib.  In those early days and weeks, seeing that blank wall was so painful.  No crib, no baby, and a shattered future.

My subconscious fear that had finally come to the surface was that moving the crib out and seeing that blank wall would bring back those memories and those feelings of absolute devastation.  I processed this with Hackie, with my mom, and with some good friends.  I thought about it for several days and then I accepted that at no point was this going to be an easy transition.  Saturday morning, I made the decision that I was ready.  I moved the little crib into the nursery early in the day and hours before Oliver’s bedtime so I could get used to seeing the blank wall long before going to bed.  Oliver did just fine.  I was OK too.  Oliver has now spent 5 nights sleeping in his own room and everyone is sleeping better.  I knew that would be the case.

They say there are 5 stages of grief… which I have discussed many times is not linear and never-ending.  So to say there is a “final” stage is bogus.  For the purposes of this paragraph, however, I’ll buy in… The “final” stage of grief is acceptance.  I hated that because I always felt like acceptance meant being OK with something and I will never be OK with the fact that Maya died.  Then I read a different definition of acceptance, which was simply accepting and acknowledging your truth.  I read it as basically being the opposite of denial.  I have come to that place.  Maya died.  My first baby didn’t come home with us.  I am a bereaved mother.  This is my truth.  Though I am over the moon filled with joy that Oliver is here and healthy and perfect and that I get to spend a nice long maternity leave and summer with him, my truth is still there.  Sometimes, the fact that my first baby died and didn’t make it home is going to have a profound impact on my parenting and on Oliver.  Moving the crib was the first time I really felt it.

I know there will be much more that happens that brings me back to my darkest days.  Realizing that and accepting that as my truth is how I will make it through.  Once I realized why it was going to be so hard to move the little crib, I was able to make the transition.  I’d like to think that Maya has made me a better Mommy to Oliver.  I already know she has made me a better and more insightful person.

18 Months

My Dearest Maya,

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

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

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

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

I love you and miss you always and forever.

Love Love Love,

Mommy

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.

Baby-Loss Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People are Amazing

I have so much that I could write about!  It’s a nice change after two weeks of feeling uninspired/too tired to do anything but stare at the television.  This has been such a good week!  I try to identify the reasons why only to realize that there doesn’t have to be reasons for me to be happy.  I can just simply have a good week and enjoy it without over-analyzing the reasons why it’s good.

As I said, I have many things I want to write about.  Tonight, I’m writing a post that should have been written over a week ago…

Since Maya was born and died, many amazing things have happened to me.  I received a beautiful painting and a memory box filled with wonderful treasures.  I have met some amazing people both in the online world and in person.  I have grown closer to my husband in ways I didn’t think possible.  Still, as we approach the 6 month mark, I was starting to feel like Maya was being forgotten.  First, the pile of sympathy cards that arrived every day lessened and then vanished.  Then the calls and texts dwindled.  The facebook messages and comments are few and far between and usually only appear after I post something.  I started to realize that we were in a new stage now.  The fact that Maya died is no longer new news and the world has carried on.  I was comforted by the fact that I can share her here in this space and keep her memory alive in my own special ways.  However, it saddens me that no one else will get to know her the way that I do, and it scares me that she might be forgotten.

Last week, I was snapped out of this fear – very quickly.  It was Tuesday, and I had been having a very tough week/month.  No matter how hard I try to ignore it, the holiday season is staring me in the face, taunting me, and making me feel sick to my stomach.  I got home late from school and there was a package in the mailbox.  Before I go on, I must back up a little…

Six years ago, I had the privilege of traveling to Sydney, Australia for a semester to complete my student teaching practicum.  There were 11 of us in the program and we did a lot together.  The School of Education at BU was relatively small, so I knew the other 10 ladies in the program.  However, I wasn’t close friends with any of them.  While there, we all got along very well and shared many wonderful experiences together.  It’s an experience I hold very close to my heart and will forever cherish as one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.

Though we all went our separate ways after returning from Sydney, I have always thought fondly of the girls who I shared the experience with.  It’s an experience that’s very unique and I shared it with some very special people, which brings me back to the package that I received on Tuesday…. One of the girls has been in touch on facebook and had asked for my address.  I didn’t think much of it.  The package was from her.  I opened it and there was first a stack of cards followed by an envelope.  I opened the cards one by one and read the kind words from each of the girls I had traveled to Sydney with… a stack of sympathy cards.  I cried as I was reminded that Maya continues to touch so many people.  Though they weren’t physically standing with me, I felt like I was in the center of a group hug.  I felt like they all had my back and were there for me at a time when I really needed it.

In the envelope was this:

It came from an artist in Sydney!  I couldn’t believe it!  The following message was included with the necklace:

This precious bottle is a gift from your friends in your study abroad program in Sydney, Australia with an enclosed message reading:

“Maya Francine, Forever in Our Hearts”

The flowers inside are real dried Australian ‘Broom Bloom’ flower blossoms resembling Baby’s Breath.  They are ever-lasting and symbolize the eternal memory of your precious daughter Maya Francine whose soul will live on forever in the hearts of her loved ones.  The gold Tibetan flower charm attached to the rim of the bottle is also a symbol of purity, rebirth and divinity, all sacred elements of her beautiful memory and pure soul.

I can’t quite put into words what this gift did for me.  Of course, many more tears fell, but they were happy tears.  They were tears of joy as I was reminded that there are many kind and beautiful people in this world.  I reread each of the cards and told the story of my new necklace to those close to me.  This is one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received and I love that my experience in Sydney is now forever connected to my precious angel.  I have worn my necklace several times now and have received many complements.  I love it!

Throughout life, I have found myself as a member of many different groups of people.  I think most people could say this.  There are the childhood friends, the high school friends, the camp friends, the acquaintances, the dance class, the marching band, the colleagues, and for me, the Sydney friends.  I feel so blessed to be a part of this group and am so grateful for their generosity and kind spirits.  They helped turn a rather gloomy month brighter and gave me something that will not only help  me to remember Maya, but also all of them and the fantastic experience we shared together.

 

Happy Birthday Mama!

I have been neglecting my blog, and I really don’t want to.  It’s been two weeks since I last wrote and I’ve thought about writing every day.  I’ve been somewhat uninspired and I’ve also been lacking energy to do much of anything.  Now of course I have about five posts running through my head.  However, today’s post comes on a special day and is for one very special person.  It’s my Mama’s birthday!

My mom is a pretty incredible person.  She is genuinely happy – no matter what.  My happiness at the core come from her.  She raised me to find the joy in a situation no matter how difficult it was.  She taught me how to see things from multiple perspectives, how to give people the benefit of the doubt, and how to remain optimistic in the darkest of times.  My mom puts everyone before herself and values family more than anyone I know.  She is the epitome of gratitude.

When I was in college, I had a rough time.  I often felt like I didn’t fit in, and the typical college lifestyle didn’t appeal to me.  When I started dating Hackie in the middle of my freshman year, I fit in even less because I was in a committed relationship.  Still, I stayed focused and overall pretty happy.  The reason I was there was to become a teacher and I knew I was getting a great education.  It all caught up with me Junior year though when I started experiencing severe panic attacks.  My genuinely happy self hid and I was so frustrated.  I felt like I couldn’t get a handle on my own thoughts and emotions.  I felt completely out of control.  Naturally, it was my mom to the rescue.  She reminded me of all the crazy phases I went through as a young girl and how they were all just that – phases.  She reminded me that this was another phase and that it too would pass.  She reminded me that I did not live in this dark place, but that I was just visiting and, no matter how long it took, I would come out the other end.  When I reflect back on that phase of my life, I think of how calm my mom was.  Her calmness at a time when I was feeling such high levels of anxiety was exactly what I needed to get through and eventually past this phase of my life.

When Maya died, my mom was right there – shocked and devastated just like the rest of us.  However, she was devastated first and foremost for me.  It was probably two weeks before she grieved for her own loss of her granddaughter.  She helped take care of me as I recovered from my c-section and brainstormed things we could do to help pass the time.  She simply made herself available.  We spent a lot of time together and she was, and still is, so strong.  She listened as I talked for hours.  She never judged.  She gave me exactly what I needed without me having to ask.  I would not have survived these past (almost) 6 months without her.

I have said before that my mom’s strength is contagious.  Again, in true Mama fashion, she has helped me remain optimistic in the darkest time of my life.  While some might argue that any mother would be supportive and amazing in a time like this, my mom does it with absolute perfection.  She is and has always been my backbone, and I am eternally grateful.

My mom is so inspiring.  Little girls often say “I want to be just like my mommy when I grow up”.  I still feel that way.

Happy Birthday Mama!  I love you!

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.

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

The Holidays, etc…

These past two weeks have gone by really fast.  They’ve been productive, I’ve been feeling better physically, I’m sleeping really well, and Hackie and I are very much in sync with each other.  Overall, life has been going smoothly and I think that helps time move.  However, I’m not all that thrilled at how fast these past two weeks have gone.  I feel like the holidays are fast approaching and I’m not ready.  I feel like I’m in a car, driving head first into Thanksgiving, trying desperately to come to a screeching halt and realizing that my brakes don’t work.  (If that doesn’t paint you a visual picture of how I feel, I’m not sure what will.)

Before I get to and then get through Thanksgiving, I have to get through tomorrow – I’m dreading it.  Tomorrow is the 16th and Maya’s 5 month birthday / angelversary.  It also marks one year since my positive pregnancy test.  For the past two weeks, I think at least once a day “at this time last year, I was pregnant but I didn’t know it”.  Starting tomorrow, I will think about what it felt like to get the positive test, to know that I was growing a human, to get excited about telling our parents and friends, to know that my life was changing forever.  I remember that day so well – it was busy, but so exciting.  Now, I will spend my days thinking, “at this time last year, I was pregnant and so eager and excited”.  I will remember how naive I was at this time last year.  I will think fondly of all the memories that go along with my pregnancy.  I will reflect on how different I am now and obsess over how long it will be before I can feel that level of joy and anticipation again.  Tomorrow will be a tough day.  I know that.  Having to work will help – I think.  Knowing that the day will end will help.  Hackie and I have planned a date for tomorrow night so I’m hoping that will make it a little easier to get through.

Thanksgiving is heavily weighted and I’m not quite sure how I’m going to do.  First, it’s my favorite holiday.  It sucks because I’m not looking forward to it and I can’t get excited about it this year.  I’m actually dreading it and trying to figure out strategies for getting through it.  Last Thanksgiving, we told everyone close to us that we were expecting.  We started with my parents, then Hackie’s parents, and then the rest of our families and closest friends.  Everyone was so excited and we were thrilled at how well our plans of telling everyone went.  Thanksgiving day, I woke up to my mom on the phone with the hospital – my grandfather had fallen in the middle of the night.  He hadn’t been doing well and had been in and out of the hospital.  He died that Saturday.  He was 88 and his body was failing his brilliant mind.  Still it was a great loss for our family and I was so sad that he wouldn’t get to meet his great-grandchild.  The roller coaster of emotions that weekend was hard to bear.  However, I was glad that I could tell my family some good news in a time of such sadness.  My cousin put it best when she wrote, “when one door of happiness closes, another opens” – Little did we know…

I remember making a comment last Thanksgiving of how excited I was that there would be another little one joining the table in a year.  This would have been Maya’s first major holiday, and I would have shared my excitement with her.  She would be at such a fun age, and it would have been so fun to watch everyone in the family ooh and ah over her cuteness.

My positive pregnancy test and announcement.  The death of my grandfather.  Our first major holiday with no Maya.  It’s going to be very hard.  I know that.  I do not know how I will feel that day.  Hackie and I will be at my mom’s and my step–siblings and nephews will be there too.  I have already told my mom that I reserve the right to not sit at the table.  I have learned that in this journey called grief, I cannot predict how I will feel and I need to take what I need.  The last thing I want to do is ruin everyone else’s holiday and/or make anyone uncomfortable.  I refuse to sit at the table sobbing while everyone looks at me with pity.

I will get through tomorrow.  I will get through Thanksgiving.  It’s a process and if I’ve learned anything in these last five months, it’s that I cannot plan and I cannot prepare.  I need to live through it and intend to do the best I can.

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.