Letting go of the Guilt in this Moment

It was Christmastime 2011, and my husband and I, and our oldest (and only child at the time) were between houses. We had sold our house, and when the new house we were building was delayed, we moved in with my brother-in-law and his girlfriend, into their one bedroom condo, for 3 weeks. It was a little tight, but we were so grateful and made it work. Our parents and siblings had just found very special gifts under the tree… vouchers to be redeemed for a new grand child or niece or nephew in August 2012. Everyone was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to welcome another baby into the family.

Then, on January 2nd, everything changed. I began spotting, and remember texting my best friend Nycol about it. I tried to talk to Chris about it, but it was hard, because we were sharing such a tight space with others which made it difficult to have private conversations. We eventually made our way to the hospital and waited for what seemed like an eternity. Chris and I fully expected to be told that we were miscarrying and it weighed us down. They did some blood work and eventually gave me an ultrasound. I was so early on in my pregnancy that a regular ultrasound didn’t do the trick, they had to do a transvaginal ultrasound, which was scary. I was alone in the room with my thoughts as the tech did her thing. She warned me that this test could lead to a bit more bleeding. By the time we were done, it was late into the night, and my husband and I went back downstairs to wait for the results. The doctor finally came in and told us the most amazing news. We were not having a miscarriage! He went on to explain that I was just earlier on in my pregnancy than I thought, AND we were carrying twins. Sorrow turned to joy instantly, and all of the emotions we had been through in the last 24 hours seemed to fade away in an instant.

There was a problem though. Over the next few days, the spotting didn’t stop, and the bleeding got heavier and heavier. We knew this wasn’t a good sign, and we found ourselves back at the emergency room over the weekend. During this visit, the doctor confirmed that I was having a miscarriage. We were heartbroken. The roller coaster of emotions was too much to handle, and although I was physically okay to continue on with my life, the doctor understood that mentally, I needed time. She wrote me a note for a week off of work, and explained to me what to expect over the next few days since I opted not to get a D&C.

I was pregnant.

Then I thought I lost my baby.

But found out I hadn’t, and was actually blessed to be carrying twins.

And finally lost not one, but two babies.

All in the span of a week.

It was a hard week.

Next thing I knew, I was sitting in my principal’s office on that following Monday morning; the first day back at school after the Winter Break. With tears in my eyes that quickly turned into sobs, I said “Marc, this isn’t how I had imagined this conversation would go. I should be sitting here today announcing that I am pregnant, but instead, I am sitting here telling you that I need time off work because I just lost my babIES.”

I then remember sitting in the library as tears rolled down my cheeks, because even when life is hard, teachers must plan for their subs. I felt so guilty that I hadn’t seen my students in two weeks, and that I wasn’t going to be there to welcome them back to school after the break. I felt selfish for needing time to grieve. My students needed me, for routine’s sake. And I wasn’t able to be there for them. I was abandoning them. I truly felt like the world was collapsing all around me.

I finished planning and went “home” where I spend the next 4 days laying in bed alternating between crying and sleeping. I was able to speak to someone on the phone who had had a miscarriage in order to go through my feelings with her. It helped a little, but not much. And then I remember getting up to go to the bathroom, and as I walked there, I felt it. I felt my babies falling out of me. I couldn’t help but cry as I stared as this little ball of tissue that was supposed to grow into two perfect little babies… and I just didn’t have it in me to throw it out. So, I wrapped it up and packed it away and brought it with me to my doctor’s appointment. “Can you please take care of this for me? I just can’t throw it out, or flush it.” My doctor was kind and replied that she would send it away for testing, even though we both knew that she was just going to discard of it after I left.

I continued to go for blood tests until my hormone levels were back to normal, this was to make sure that everything did come out and that I didn’t need a D&C. Every blood test reminded me that I should still be pregnant, but that I wasn’t.

By the time Friday came around, I was ready for a distraction, and although I was still very much grieving, I knew that spending time with my students would do me some good. I e-mailed my principal asking him to let the staff know what had happened and to ask them not to bring it up. I wasn’t ready yet, but needed some normalcy back in my life, and being back in the classroom, doing what I love, was it!

I put my brave face on, and went to work. That was the best decision I could’ve ever made. My students were so happy to see me, and I was so happy to reconnect with them after a very difficult two weeks. I’m not going to lie though, I teared up several times when I thought about everything, but I was in class, with my “other kids”, and that was a blessing. I had been so worried that I had failed them by not being there after the break, but found them to be completely fine going on without me. Life didn’t end for them when I just needed a bit of time.

I maybe didn’t realize it in the moment, but I do now. That little moment in time, although it seemed to be my WHOLE life in the moment, was truly only a tiny little piece of their (and my) life. As teachers, it’s in our nature to beat ourselves up when we have to take care of ourselves. We are givers, we want what is best for our kids, and when we need time, it makes us feel guilty. Moments pass, and your students will be okay without you. Take care of you. I can guarantee you that if I hadn’t taken those four days, I would’ve been no good to my students during that time. I took the time I needed, and was better for it afterwards. Our students deserve the best we have to offer, and in order to do that, we need to take care of ourselves.

I love this image by Mari Andrew that George Couros shared in his post This Moment. So simple. So perfect. So powerful.

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I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. And although it may be hard to understand in the moment, if we look hard enough, or are patient for long enough, we may just find the silver lining. Maybe I miscarried because these babies weren’t healthy and would’ve had a short and difficult life. Maybe I miscarried because I was meant to be a mom of four boys, which wouldn’t have happened had this set of twins been born. There are a thousand maybes… what I do know, though, is that I am truly blessed beyond measure, and I can be reminded of this every time I look at my left wrist.

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Here is a tattoo I got in Ocean Beach in San Diego three years ago. The four waves represent my four boys; Caden, Emmett, Brooks, and Brecken, and the two teardrops represent the twins I lost, all within the infinity symbol because my love for them will never end.

I will not pretend like any of this was easy, because it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. The pain I felt from loosing babies I had never gotten to hold in my arm mixed with the guilt I felt for “abandoning” my students was more difficult than I can put into words. But whenever I am going through challenging times, it helps when people remind me that it will get better. Moments pass. And remember that this is just a tiny part of your whole life. You will be fine. They will be fine. Take care of you.

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