The first hurdle

Hubs called it our line in the sand. I equate it with the first big hurdle we need to make it over.

Our 12 week scan is in three days. I’m torn between excitement and abject fear. Charlie didn’t make it to 12 weeks. But 12 weeks was when we found that out. I keep telling myself that everything is fine. I keep logging every pregnancy symptom I’m still having, even though I know that’s certainly not a fail-safe. I keep writing letters to March baby. I’ve told my dad about the new baby; a difficult conversation for us both, but one that I think was good to have had.

I like to believe that I’ve come a long way, fear vs. hope-wise, in the almost nine weeks that I’ve known March baby exists. For most of my days, I’m able to be content in my pregnancy — at least as content as I can be right now. But there’s always at least just a moment, sometimes more, each day where the fear slips in. Where getting to the appointment means knowing something I may not want to know. And I wonder how I would get through losing our baby again. Losing Charlie changed me, profoundly, in ways I didn’t know were possible. What could happen this time?

Now, I try to push the fearful thoughts away, and tell myself it could just as likely be that we get to see March baby lively and active with a strong beating heart. I try to think about October, when we would know whether the baby is a boy or a girl. I try to think about the holidays, when we’ll be preparing for their arrival. I try to think about March, when the baby will be screaming at the cold, harsh air in the hospital room and it will be the best sound I’ve ever heard.

But first, we need to clear the hurdle.

Send us some good thoughts, universe.

Strange new land

The first “official” week back at school (mean the students were in attendance), was so strange for me. It was quiet. I didn’t have 25 small humans around me constantly needing something every moment of every day. I did a bunch of paperwork and made a bunch of phone calls and took a bunch webinars for test administrations. It was so odd. And though I’m grateful, because less hectic = less stress at the moment and less stress = better for the baby I’m trying to successfully grow, part of me was sad. I felt misplaced. I felt like I was supposed to be doing something, being somewhere, but I wasn’t.

Having lunch duty with the seventh graders was the most difficult part of my day. I only have them for half an hour, but they’re just so self-centered. Entitled. I know that partly that’s their age. But I feel like, for better or worse, we need to teach them not only academics but how to be good human beings. Because, at least for my school, most of them don’t really get that character education at home. And I feel like if we send them out into the world knowing Pythagorean Theorem, but being awful people, we’ve failed them in a way. I’m trying to figure out, in my small slice of time with them, how to get through to them (while also making sure they know damn well I will not be taking their shit — they don’t like this about me already, haha).

I’m looking forward to tomorrow, because I get to start pulling the kindergarten students to screen them for ESL services if need be. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been excited to test anyone before. I’m just very excited to when I’ll finally be able to pull small groups and work directly with the students again, and the screenings are the first step towards that.

Also, I’m finding that most people don’t actually understand how much work goes into being an ESL instructor. When I was describing to a coworker everything I had to do before I could even think about beginning the screenings, and then what would need to take place after, etc. she got this astonished look on her face and said, “Oh. So, you’re actually, like, really busy?” Which makes me chuckle, because it’s the same as how most people don’t actually understand what hard work goes into teaching Pre-K or Kindergarten. It’s amazing, really.

 

In the After

Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but After started four months ago.

School started back up for me this past Monday. Just professional development this week, the kids come tomorrow. This week I did test runs with what to pack so I can have quick, small, protein-packed edibles throughout the day to keep the almost-nausea and lightheadedness at bay. Tried to figure out at what points throughout the day I need to make sure I’m ingesting something.

I’m feeling very out of place, lacking a group. As the school’s ESL instructor I’m an island unto myself. Which generally I’m completely fine with, but during PD week it’s like being the new kid in a high school cafeteria. Even though I’m not actually new. And I’m grappling a bit with the differences in this position versus my usual general education classroom role. I’m used to have 25 littles constantly surrounding me all day. Though I still believe this teaching move will be a good one, it’s difficult adapting.

And being back at school, I find I feel a bit like a leper again. Like I’ve got a scarlet M on my chest for miscarriage. The teacher whose pregnancy matched my own is of course in her third trimester. Seeing her is still difficult, but not paralyzing. I even made myself ask if they’d chosen a name and said how lovely the name was. But I got the vibe she didn’t really want to talk to me. Now, of course, there’s my second baby, but no one there (except one) knows about that yet.

We had an appointment for March baby on Monday. Thankfully, the midwife we met with this time was so much better than the nurse practitioner I had at six weeks. More compassionate, less put-out by my mere presence. She swung us an ultrasound, which we were grateful for. We were able to see March baby, watch it wiggle around and wave its tiny appendages. We were told the heartbeat and growth were where they should be.

We were relieved, and a bit elated. But for me, the twelve week scan is the Big One. The first major hurdle we need to get through. We need March baby to still be alive at twelve weeks. But to be honest, with each week that passes I’m letting myself hope a little more and fear a little less. Which is good, that’s what I want. Hubs has started asking more about telling people, which is also positive.

I’m struggling with telling my dad. It’s beginning to feel wrong that other people know now when he still doesn’t, but it’s difficult for me. I know he didn’t mean to cause me more hurt, but when I told him about losing Charlie he first said he was sorry, then said “these things happen”, then asked if it was something I had done. Later, when I was trying to share with him how we were really doing, how talking about it was helping me cope, he seemed more concerned with how I might be making other people uncomfortable. After that, I didn’t try to talk to him about it anymore. I felt very strongly that he was one of those people who would prefer I pretend Charlie never existed. And until recently, I didn’t realize that not only was I hurt, but I was also angry with him. I want to tell him about March baby, but I don’t want to do it until I’ve made perfectly clear that Charlie existed and mattered and I won’t ever pretend otherwise. So I’m feeling pretty stuck by that. I don’t really want to tell him over the phone, because I’m pretty sure I’ll cry. I don’t want to email it, because that’s impersonal. I’m in a quandary.

I’m also trying to figure out what to get my mom for her birthday, and how to go about celebrating hub’s birthday in September since he might be out at a job site.

After is a collective oddity of consciousness sometimes.

 

Hard and holy things

I had my last counseling session this past week. With school starting up again tomorrow, I won’t be able to make anymore appointments without taking time off work (which at the beginning of the year is not something I feel comfortable doing) since my counselor’s hours don’t extend into the evening.

She asked me how I felt about it, and I told her the truth: right now, I feel okay to try it. Of course, my “okay” might get pulverized depending upon the outcome of my next two OB appointments in the coming few weeks. But, for now, I feel like I’m on more stable ground.

I truly am so grateful, though, that I was able to do counseling consistently throughout the late spring and early summer. I feel like it’s been really helpful. That sounds trite, I know, but give me a minute to explain. I don’t open up to many people, and I hate asking for help; I hate admitting that I can’t do something or handle something on my own. Generally, I’m an internalizer — I like to process and work through things on my own in my own headspace. But that doesn’t always work. And Charlie dying was so much bigger than what I could handle on my own.

With the counselor, I believe what we did was referred to as “talk therapy”, and then also two sessions with EMDR. I feel like all of it was vital to actually processing the trauma of what happened, not just on the surface but on the deeper, darker level as well. Surprisingly to me, though I’ve heard that others feel this way, talking to my counselor as essentially a stranger was easier for me than talking to some of my nearest and dearest. Likely because since I didn’t really know her, I wasn’t as concerned about being careful of her feelings and reactions.

She listened and didn’t really comment a whole lot, and many times when she did it was to draw something out of me. She often started these threads with “I’m curious about…”. Internally, I equated that to the stereotypical “How does that make you feel?”, but I appreciated the diversity. Counseling required me to externalize, which I know I truly needed to do, but allowed me pockets during which I could internalize and mull before I opened my mouth. And it gave me space to cry. A lot. So much so that sometimes I felt like all I ever did when I went there was bawl. But I know that that was part of the processing I needed to do as well.

I needed to grieve out loud. I needed to give it a voice. And when I found out about March baby, I needed to grieve AND be terrified AND want desperately to be hopeful. It was a lot, to be honest. It still is. But as I mentioned before, the intensity of these emotions isn’t as extreme now; and though time is naturally a part of that, I really feel like counseling is as well.

I keep thinking about part of a piece written by Ann Voskamp:

“The world has enough women who live a masked insecurity. It needs more women who live a brave vulnerability.”

“The world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs women who know how to do hard and holy things.”

Because going to counseling, accepting that you can’t do it by yourself, exposing your heart and soul to a stranger, trusting them to help you with it — it is a brave vulnerability. It is a hard and holy thing.

You all know, I believe choice should be a thing. My mother, for years, has been encouraging counseling for me. Growing up with her alcoholism, all the of family skeletons she threw out of the closet, emotionally distant dad, horribly damaging relationship in my early twenties, etc. I always knew that therapy could hold value, she wasn’t wrong. But I also always felt that it was less encouragement and more of her pushing it on me. I had made a good life for myself despite all that crap, and I didn’t feel enough of a need to pursue therapy, and I quite frankly wanted her to leave me the eff alone about it because it should be my choice! And again, I’m not a big sharer.

But when hubs suggested counseling after Charlie, it kind of felt like a life preserver. Because I felt like I was somehow surviving underwater. And I’m just so grateful. To him, for suggesting it. To myself, for pursuing it. To my counselor, for the difference it made.

Towards the end of that last session, my counselor said to me: “I know that I only know you *this* much, but I love how your mind works. The way you think about things. I can just tell, that you love your people well.”

And I was flabbergasted. I had no idea what to say. I finally stammered out an “I try” and “thank you.” And then I thanked her for all she’d done throughout our time.

But honestly, it meant a lot. Because she didn’t know me well. And because she was an objective person and through all of my crying and trying to figure shit out and figure out how to get through, that’s what she’d keyed in on. Once again, I was grateful.

So for now, I’ll be stopping counseling, but hopefully not stopping what I gathered from it. And if I need to go back, I know that I can. Brave vulnerability and hard and holy things don’t have to just happen once.

“Expecting Sunshine” + some real talk

chute

Photo source: Amazon

Last week, I finished one of the books left over from my beach book list. This one was a memoir, entitled “Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing, and Pregnancy After Loss”.

When I found out I was pregnant again, I went in search of a book that would help me in this next phase like “Empty Cradle, Broken Heart” had helped me at the beginning of the summer. Somehow, I caught a line on this book (by Alexis Marie Chute), and decided to try it. I am so glad I did.

Though our personal stories are different, there was so much in this book that I was able to relate to — that I felt “finally, yes, that’s what it feels like!” To give a brief overview: Chute was 25 weeks pregnant with her second child, a son, when they discovered that her baby had a condition that would cause him to be stillborn. Afterward, she throws herself into any distraction she can find to help her get through the first year after her son’s death. The book picks up at the end of her “year of distraction”, and goes through the entire nine months of the pregnancy that follows (her third baby); it shows her grappling with the grief of losing her son, in addition to her fear of what could happen with the new pregnancy (and throw in there that she’s also trying to parent her daughter — y’know, NBD).

As you all know, I found out at 12 weeks that my baby had died. Because Charlie died prior to 20 weeks, it was considered a miscarriage (a missed miscarriage, in my case). I’ve found that for the general public, miscarriages don’t hold much weight. But lordy do they hold weight for the parents of the baby. What I’m getting at, is that to the people who love their baby before it even “gets here”, it really does not matter what embryonic/fetal/whatever stage the baby was technically in. This really stood out to me when I was reading this book. So much of what Chute describes thinking and feeling, I felt a personal connection to.

At one point, Chute describes how shortly after the death of her son, Zachary, she and her family were visiting her mother and stepfather. Her husband had to go back to work, and she was struggling with needing him with her and feeling abandoned while trying to cope with the grief. She describes finding a golf tee in the garage, and jamming it in to her hand (her family discovers this and helps her find a counselor, and also brings up the potential that she may be going through PTSD). Now, I know this may be difficult to hear, and part of your brain probably jumps to self-harming as destructive. Which it is. But I think what she was trying to describe is that after going through this kind of loss, you have so much inner turmoil, so much pain inside of you that no one can see or seem to understand, and you just want some kind of physical pain, some kind of physical manifestation, to almost combat what you’re feeling inside. Almost like a balance. At least, this is what I inferred while reading it. And again I thought, yes.

I did not harm myself physically during my grief, but I understand about the forcefulness of inner turmoil. I understand having an amount of pain take you over, with a magnitude that you didn’t even know was possible. I get what she meant. I started counseling pretty soon after we lost Charlie, and I took steps to take care of myself even when it felt almost ridiculous to do so. Like Chute, I attempt to distract myself by jumping back into work right away. I thought that would help. But it backfired, so I had to do something else. I wanted the grief to just happen and be over (no one wants to feel pain like that, no matter how much love it speaks of), but that wasn’t an option. I had to go through it. All of it. I still do.

My heartbreak over losing my first baby isn’t gone, it never will be. But the pain has become less intense, for which I am grateful. My first baby is still a part of this new pregnancy, my total fears for the new baby coming directly from my grief of losing Charlie. Of not knowing. Of not being able to protect my children no matter how badly I try. And when hubs and I do have children (working hard on making myself think “when” not “if”), they’ll know about Charlie. It won’t be a secret. Chute talks about this as well.

I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re in a position even vaguely similar to mine, this book might be worth it. I wish I could give you more direct passages that spoke to me, but I actually let my mom borrow the book so she could get some kind of idea of what I’ve been feeling. (So, if you know someone who’s been in a position even vaguely similar to mine, and you want to try to understand more, you might be interested in this book as well.)

Food for thought.

If you want to learn more about the author, you can check it out here: www.alexismariechute.com

March baby

I tried coming up with a name to give the baby for now. Unlike with Charlie, my friend hasn’t named this baby — probably because Charlie died. I tried on a few for-now names, ones that would be gender neutral, but nothing felt right. Then I tried a couple nicknames, but calling the baby “peanut” or “little bean” never appealed to me. I’ve finally settled on March baby, at least for now. It’s accurate, since it’s due in March, and gives it some sort of proper-noun identity. Plus, there’s a funny anecdote that ties in.

When hubs and I got engaged, I was so not interested in having a long engagement. Even a year felt ridiculous. We were thirty (well, almost, for me), we’d been living together for quite awhile, we both had steady jobs, we had usable household materials, etc. I just didn’t see the point in waiting. Anyway, initially after the engagement (which occurred in early June of that year), I posited that we get married in February. It would line up with our dating anniversary, and I have a thing for snow and thought a winter wedding would be lovely, plus it’d be out-of-season for weddings, which equals cheaper!

So that’s what we went for and we shared that idea with our families. It would be a waiting/prepping period of about 7-8 months. Totally doable. Hubs’ family came back with a “what’s the rush?” curiosity. I didn’t see it as a rush at all. I would have done it in four months if it wouldn’t have seriously crunched us for planning and executing time. But eventually, I came up with a theory that to this day I swear I’m right about: His family thought he’d gotten me pregnant out of wedlock (gasp!) and that we were trying to get married before the baby came. Laughable, at the time. Mildly sardonic now, given our last four months.

But from that, we started calling the wedding planning (and thus the wedding) “Project March Baby”. Eventually, we changed the wedding date to April — which of course answered any unofficially-asked questions about the “pregnancy”.

However, now, hubs jokes that we actually have a project March baby on our hands. And oh how I am praying that March delivers (get it?).