November 16, 2013

Step Aside, Sorrow, and Make Way for Thankfulness

If I stop to think about things, my heart begins to ache. Keeping busy is the best thing for my sanity, but I'm not quite sure how effective it is in reference to my emotional healing. It is only during the quiet moments of life, when I am alone and allow myself to breathe, that the tide begins to creeeeeep back in; soon enough, I feel as though I can barely keep my head above water as I drown in sorrow, pity, and self-loathing.

Although I can feel that tide washing against my feet, I am not going to let it get the best of me today. NO, SIR. Instead, I am going to dwell on what blessings I do have, the things - large and small - that I am thankful for in this moment. It is the season of expressing thanks, after all.

No, I'm not pregnant anymore, but I still have so very many things to be thankful for today.

Coffee. Lord Almighty, thank you for this blessing that I can now consume in mass quantities again... even if it is just Starbucks.

Bagels. CREAM CHEESE. Oh gosh, so so so thankful for that ridiculous combination. You don't even know. You don't EVEN know.

80's music. Aerosmith. A little ditty about Jack and Diane. Electric guitars. Free Fallin'. Being transported to times past and memories with my beloved momma via radio airwaves.

Our record player. And the fact that Christmas is coming up and I can FINALLY bust out my Christmas records of all sorts. And Christmas music in general. Hanson's Snowed In album is my life during that most joyous season. Don't lie - you know you love it.

Windows. Windows that OPEN.

A day at home on a gorgeous Autumn day, sitting at home with the windows open and the attic fan pulling that glorious fresh air through the house. It makes my heart swell. It really does.

Leggings and ancient sweatshirts... to be worn while being cozy at home, because leggings are not pants.

Hair dye. Because no one actually likes embracing their naturally ashy-brown hair.

Money. Sure, that sounds superficial, but it's really easy to forget to be thankful for the thing that keeps a roof over your head, food in your bellies, clothes on your bodies, shoes on your feet, hot water in your pipes, heated air in your home, gas in your tanks, books on your shelves, the list goes on and on and on. We have lived with very little, and I am so incredibly thankful to not currently be in that dark pit of financial despair.

Cheerful flowers and cards filled with heartfelt messages and cupcakes and mochas and other ridiculously outrageous gifts from some of the most caring and loving people that I have ever known.

There are so many things that I am thankful for today.

Most of all, though, I am thankful for my communities - each and every one of them. My husband. My family. My community group/house church/very dearest friends that we share life with. My church family. My girls... those crazy Juniors that I am so blessed to "lead" (psh... like they need it). My UCO English Ed cohorts, including that brilliant professor/Momma Bear that we all love so dearly. My mentor teacher and my sophomores - I got way, way too lucky on that front. My dear friends from all areas of my life. PEOPLE. If you are reading this, I am thankful for you investing in me, encouraging me, praying for me, loving me. So very thankful.

Oh, and I'm thankful for that bitty fur baby of mine. The one that can sense when something is wrong and snuggles up with her momma when times are rough. Can't forget about her. She deserves some catnip, or tuna, or something.

November 12, 2013

Once Upon a Time, We Lost Our Rainbow Baby

Today is the day after losing our second baby. Today, I would have been 8 weeks along exactly with our second baby; I would have been 30 weeks and 3 days along with our first baby. Today, my womb is empty. Again.

It really hurts to say that.

I tried during this whole second pregnancy to be positive while still being emotionally reserved. It only worked a little bit. I have a feeling that this healing process is going to look quite different from the last one. I can already feel the bitterness rising up, rearing its ugly, poisonous head, ready to strike, aiming directly at my throat.

The baby that was to be due two days after the one year anniversary of my first miscarriage is gone. Now I get to live in the fact that we have lost two babies in less than five months time. We get to live in that very sad, very frustrating reality.


This time yesterday, I was in my doctor's office being seen by one of the other doctors at the facility (mine was not able to be in the office this week; she is both a family physician and an OB, and she was scheduled to be at the hospital all week). I had an appointment with her last Wednesday when I was 7 weeks and 1 day along. Everything was picture perfect. I had the teeniest bit of discoloration that morning, but it was nowhere near the color of blood, and I wasn't cramping, so it was of no concern. She told me that I wasn't going to get a Pap smear or pelvic exam until the second trimester, just to be safe, based on my history... fine by me. I got my blood drawn and left.

The next morning, Thursday, I started spotting. And I lost it. After my initial freakout, I gathered my wits and my mock-inner-strength and vowed to keep it together until I knew more. At that point, though, I knew that I was losing this baby, too. My sweet friends in our Community Group at church tried to be encouraging as they responded to the news, but I knew it in my gut. My symptoms had decreased over the past 48 hours (which could be normal), and there is no way to explain away a woman's intuition.

The spotting increased over the course of rest of the day and continued into Friday. That night, I had some minor cramping alongside the achey, stretching-of-the-uterus feeling. I was so confused. On Saturday, the bleeding increased even more and I began to have cramping and sharp pains where I knew they should not be. On our way home from dinner with Patrick's parents, I knew that it was going to happen and asked if we could stop and get some pads. We pulled out the pullout couch in the living room where we slept, me with a towel underneath, just like last time. I knew that I was not going to church the next morning, for the fear of losing my baby in public and mimicking our previous experience was too frightening to even think about. I don't remember a lot of Sunday, just two days ago, except that I slept on the couch while my dear husband went grocery shopping for us; I hadn't gone in two weeks and we had zilch. Cramping, bleeding, and passing clots and tissues filled both Sunday and Monday. I kept telling Patrick that I wanted to get this stupid miscarriage over with already. Defense mechanisms were at work, folks.

Like I said, this time yesterday, I was at the doctor's office. We had called the on-call doctor on Saturday night and didn't get much help. We already knew what to expect, but we didn't know at what point it was recommended that we go to the ER; I was being a brat about racking up thousands of dollars in debt for them to just tell me that our baby was dead again. That being said, I called my doctor's office at 8:30 on Monday morning, which feels like an eternity ago. The nurse talked to the doctor on site and they both suggested that I come in for an exam at 9:30. We both got ready to go, and Patrick packed a bag with a change of clothes, pads, washcloths, books, and even snacks to take with us - this poor man has been scarred by miscarriage in a public environment, too.

Long story short, I was told that my cervix was closed, and that I had some bleeding but my mucous plug was still there. Was I surprised in the least? No. I got the same answer the last time that I went to the ER and ended up passing my baby approximately two hours later. I was diagnosed with a threatened miscarriage, had blood drawn again, and was sent home to await my ultrasound appointment at 5:00 that evening.

Longest. Day. Ever.

Lots more cramping, accompanied by lots more blood loss, as well as the passing of clots and tissue, but not nearly as much as the last time around. I was alone, but I tried to keep busy while being planted on the pullout couch bed, or whatever the heck that thing is called.

Patrick came home from work, grabbed the duffel bag, took me to the hospital where my ultrasound was scheduled. Let's just say, I'm freaking tired of ultrasounds at this point. I knew by looking at the screen that nothing was there. I knew by the questions that the ultrasound technician was asking me that the baby was dead at the very least, gone at the most. She was ridiculously sweet and called to see if she could get ahold of my doctor, whom I adore.

My doctor asked to speak to me on the phone. When I answered, she simply asked, with deep concern in her voice, "What happened?" That's when I started to cry. I informed her of the timeline of events, and she informed me that I must have passed the baby this weekend because there was nothing on the ultrasound screen. 

Damn. I knew it.

I don't want to relive those moments walking out of the hospital, trying to get to the car before I broke down completely. Patrick, my dear, sweet husband, tried to console me as we were walking out, but I knew that I needed to get to the car as quickly as possible. We headed home, I yelled about life not being fair, about whores and drug addicts getting pregnant when they don't even want the babies (not my proudest moment, but an honest one), and we both told each other that we were sorry. Because we were, and we are. Because this stupid situation sucks and it is no fun for anyone involved. Because we got to tell people, family and friends, that we have lost another baby. Because we were sad. We still are. We will be. We got home, but I immediately decided that we needed to get out of the house. It was only 6:30 pm and it was dark outside, making it feel like an eternity until it was time to go to bed. We ate at The Wedge downtown. We texted friends and family and informed them of what had happened. I choked down tears along with my humongous cup of Coke, which I was drinking only out of spite.


This morning, Patrick helped me put up the pullout couch. I ate breakfast before (or at) 9:30 am. I am still in my pajamas, sitting at the table 45 minutes later, but I'm still calling it a win thus far. I will get around to showering eventually. 

I have had to miss two days of school. I miss those 10th grade turkeys when I don't get to see them one day, so being gone for two makes it really difficult. I am supposed to be teaching my Shakespeare unit to my pre-AP kids, but my amazing mentor teacher, who has been so kind and understanding, took over while I have been gone; the same thing goes for teaching my on-level kids The Hobbit.

This is my third day out of commission, and I'm vowing that it is my last. I cannot stay in the house, not seeing anyone at all, for an entire week like I did last time. I guarantee you, I will still be an introverted hermit for a while, but I have to at least get out of the house and get back to some sense of normalcy.

When my kids ask me where I have been, though, I plan on telling them that I had the plague. The Bubonic Plague. The Black Death. Outrageous answers like that work with sophomores, which is why I love high school.


If you have read this far, I just want to conclude with a little bit of positivity - mostly as a reminder for myself when I go back and read this post one day.

This miscarriage has not been nearly as physically painful, nor as traumatizing, as the last. As far as the physical pain is concerned, I truly believe that it was easier because we had so much of our church body praying for me on Monday. We are still very upset, of course, but I had to get this off of my chest - I couldn't wait three months to write about it like I did last time. 

My head is confused, my heart is hurting, and I cannot even begin to figure out what state my soul is in. This is going to be a long emotional recovery, I'm sure. 

Please, friends and family, do not misunderstand me: 
  • if I don't want to talk about it, or if I seem to be hanging out somewhere in the margins of life, please do not take that as me not wanting you to ask me how we are doing. Please, continue to ask, but please do not poke and pinch and prod.
  • if I open up to you about it, please, please listen, and refrain from finding an answer to give me. Just listen.
  • if I reject your offer to help, please remember that it is because I do not know how to graciously accept help if I do not want it; it is in my nature and my upbringing to convince myself that I can do it on my own, and that it is rude to accept things from other people without giving back. I just don't know how to. It is much better to ask my husband this question. You won't get the answer that you want from me.

I love you all. I love my husband. I love my Lord and Savior, even when it doesn't make sense to. And I love our babies that we can never hold in this lifetime. 

Babies. Plural. That hurts. It really does.

November 1, 2013

Musings of a Student Teacher - Part II

Oh, how bleak things looked to me when I last wrote about teaching!

I'll admit it: I was completely overwhelmed and nervous about everything. The previous two posts have been quite the Debbie Downers, so I felt that I needed to write a positive one to balance things out.  Let me be 100% honest with you.

I love love love teaching.

Really, I do! I do not love the hours, nor do I love how exhausted and ragged I feel. My kids, though... they make it all worth it.

I teach sophomores - five sections of pre-AP and one section of on-level. There are very few behavioral issues, which definitely makes my life easier, but they are also just really great kids in general.

The students have become quite comfortable with me, especially over the past month; I have been able to teach all day several times since pretty early on in the year. I have even had the classroom to myself all day at least three times when my mentor teacher had to take some personal days... and while I was utterly deflated and worthless by the end of the day, I didn't die! And nothing went majorly wrong! Hallelujah, praise the Lord!


I really have so many things to say, and I could write an entry after every day of teaching if time allowed, but there is no good way to summarize my experiences in a few solid paragraphs. But let me say this - the things that my students say to me are internalized, for better or worse. This week, those statements have all been positive.

One of my students asked me on Tuesday if I would be in their classroom next semester. I replied that I would not. She seemed so sad when I said that, so I quickly interjected that I would love to visit from time to time (which is the absolute truth). I'm going to miss my kids coming in and telling me about their lives; earlier in the semester, this same student charged into the classroom, and she quickly found me:
"Mrs. Womack, I just bombed my pre-AP history test. Like, it was really, really bad. I'm pretty sure that I failed. I know I failed."
I talked to her about how it felt, and reassured her that I know plenty about bombing exams. She is one of my brightest, most involved and caring students. She is going to do some amazing things in the years to come.

Sometimes my students will write itty bitty notes to me on their DGP (Daily Grammar Practice) homework that I grade first thing. I have had several students write on their homework, next to the current assignment where I write their score, the date and "my birthday!" in the margins. They just want me to wish them a happy birthday, and I take oh so much joy in giving them that teeny bit of affirmation in that moment.

I had one student tell me this week after changing his DGP score, "You're not fake! You're real!" Oh, how my heart swelled as he said that! I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my relationship with this student has changed his attitude about learning in our class. He used to be checked out and unwilling to talk, but now he does his homework and is willing to sometimes participate in class discussions. I try very hard to be "real" with my students, to show them that I am not just a person standing in front of the class assigning them loads of work for no good reason. I want them to know that. I want them to know that I care, because they are real, too.

Another one of my students asked me this week if I would be with them next semester. When I said no, another student chimed in:
"When will you get to be a real teacher?"
"After I graduate."
"When is that?"
"December 14th!"
"So, will you teach here?"
"I would love to teach here! There just has to be a job opening, but I would love to stay here."
"You should be the AP English III teacher. Then you would have us."
What he was really saying was that he wanted me to be his teacher next year, because AP English III is where most of my pre-AP kids will be headed. Of course, I told him that I would absolutely love that. First of all, I would looooove to have any of my students again - and I truly mean that, even the ones that are ridiculously frustrating. Second (and I told him this), American Lit is my baby. That is my dream job. I would LOVE to teach that to these kids. What a joy that would be!


While it is true that I am still completely overwhelmed and feel as though I am barely keeping my head above water, my experiences during student teaching could be so much worse... SO much worse. It has been a wonderful experience overall. My mentor teacher is knowledgeable, supportive, encouraging, willing to let me take the reigns on so many things, and just awesome in general. My kids - and, yes, they are now my children - have my heart. I truly treasure them, and I just wish that I had more time to just get to know them.

And honestly, I will definitely cry on December 10th when I will be with my kids for the last time. I'm getting choked up even thinking about it.

Sigh. I guess this teaching gig really is what I am supposed to do. The literature sucked me in, my amazing English Ed department chair kindled my desire to be in education, and the kids have put the shackles on me - hand and foot. And as torturous as it can be at times, I really don't want to get out.