Thursday, June 15, 2017

In memory of Elle Jay ~ 6.15.16

Grief is a tricky thing. It often has a mind of its own and works mysteriously, appearing to be more mischievous than anything at times. It can hit you hard and all at once; it can fester just below the surface, close enough to creep up and rear its ugly head in moments you let your guard down; or it can be stuffed down deep, hidden from anyone to see, tucked away in a place almost as though you've locked it up with a key. I thought I was ready to take on this significant day in good stride. But once again grief showed me who's boss. I woke up this morning feeling like a heavy weight had been dropped on my chest. Right over my heart. I literally felt like my heart hurt and I was not ready to get up and start the day. I would never choose to start the day cranky and angry, but I've learned I must accept these feelings and let them wash over me in order to get passed them, and in hopes to find peace once again. Today it's been one year since we lost our baby girl, Elle Jay, and this is the story surrounding her short-lived but largely-loved life. 

My husband Jason and I got married in August of 2015. We both wanted kids and being that he’s a few years older than me, we had a “we’re not getting any younger” mentality about it; so we stopped using forms of birth control the month we were married and decided ‘let’s just see what happens.’ Life got busy, six months flew by, and without making calculated attempts, I found myself “late” and then pregnant, much to my surprise. I really couldn’t believe it at first. I remember thinking I didn’t “feel” pregnant, not that I even knew any specific feelings you’re supposed to have that soon. Not completely trusting the at-home tests, I even made an appointment with my primary doctor to get tested and hear the official words from her that yes, I was pregnant.  
So here I am pregnant, a little bit shocked and very excited, of course, but also nervous of what could happen. I was always trying to keep myself in check until we reached what I called the “safe zone”, also known as the second trimester. I didn’t know as much then how truly common miscarriages are, but I had an inkling that it could happen early on and I wanted to prepare myself for the possibility of it, as if somehow knowing it could happen would it make it less hard if it did happen (which I realize now is so NOT the case).
I started telling immediate family and a couple of my closest friends when I was only about 6 weeks along, knowing I wouldn’t be able to hide it—I’m a horrible liar—plus we were excited! I also made them all swear they wouldn’t tell anyone until I made an announcement, and I knew it was too early for that. By the 9-10 week mark it was becoming harder and harder to keep it a secret though, between morning (all-day, really) sickness, two upcoming bachelorette party trips I’d committed to in Florida and Nashville, and even my quickly-approaching 30th birthday. It was getting difficult to pretend to drink at parties and apparently I wasn’t doing a very good job of disguising it. So usually when it became awkward or obvious that I was totally sober in instances everyone else was drinking, I told those around me the truth and everyone was always so sweet and excited for me.  

By mid-May, I was 3 months in; I’d had 2 ultrasounds that were perfectly normal, and I’d been tested for chromosomal disorders that came back normal as well—which had also allowed us to find out the sex of our baby…a GIRL!! It was finally starting to become more real that this was really happening and I was starting to feel more safe and secure. By this point I had bought the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting and started filling out a pregnancy book, tracking everything happening to me and our growing baby girl.
Once I passed the 14-week mark, I felt it was safe we put out an announcement we were expecting via social media, relieved to finally share the news with extended family and friends.  The news was well received of course, and things were looking up. The morning sickness had subsided once I got into the second trimester and I was feeling like a pretty normal human being again.
Fast forward 3 weeks. Jason and I have a stupid fight one night about something I can’t even remember now, and he leaves for his weekly soccer game; we’re both not in a great place. Something I regret to this day. I went and grabbed crappy Mediterranean food from down the street and met up with an old friend who needed help for a bit. Later that night we worked out our little quarrel and went to bed.

The next morning I’m woken up extra early to abdominal pain and an upset stomach. At first I’m thinking it’s gas cramps and/or something I ate making me sick (like that crappy Mediterranean), so I let my work know I’ll be coming in late and I get back in bed to rest. Every hour that passed that morning, though, the pain became worse and soon I notice a spot of blood when I’m in the bathroom. The blood concerns me but at this point I’m convinced I’m just really sick with some sort of flu or maybe food poisoning. By this point, my husband had already left for work and I’ve tried calling the OBGYN’s office, only to get their machine, because they aren’t open yet. Two hours in, the cramps and pain have continued becoming more intense. The next trip to the bathroom I see a lot more blood and I become immediately alarmed. So I call the emergency number at the office and they page the OBGYN on call. A quick conversation on the phone with him and he tells me not to panic, that this could be normal but I should come in to get checked out, so I set up an appointment. Within the next hour, the pain has gotten so unbearable that I can barely move from the bathroom and I’ve started throwing up on top of it all. I’m pretty much terrified now, sick with worry, and my husband rushes home because I’m not in any shape to drive myself to the doctor.

The whole way to the doctor I'm crippled over in pain, and while stepping into the elevator, I feel a rush of fluid start running down my legs. My husband and I see blood and he runs ahead to the doctor's office to alert them of what’s happening while I slowly make my way there. They rush me into a room and check the baby and tell me she's still alive but I need to go right to the hospital, which is luckily connected to their building. After being wheeled into the delivery wing and poked and prodded by a number of doctors/nurses/attending physicians, I find out all morning the pain I was having were contractions and that the rush of fluid was my water breaking. This meant my body was preparing to go into labor...way too soon. And since my water broke, there was no longer anything protecting our baby, and no way to reverse that. They gave us a few horrible options of how to proceed, none of which I wanted to hear. Since it was a Catholic Hospital, they couldn't do anything to move the process along because that could potentially harm the baby, even though they told me there was no way she could survive outside the womb at this stage.  The only way they could act was if my own health became in danger. She was still alive, but it was only a matter of time. So we waited.  At this point I don’t think I was ready to face the hard facts of what this all meant. It was as if my mind went into cruise control, not ready to let my heart accept we were going to lose her.
They monitored me and our baby closely and checked on us all throughout the night. The last time I remember the nurse coming in to check, our sweet little girl  still had a heartbeat.
Early the next morning I delivered her on my own. Jason called the nurses in, but by the time they cut the cord and got ahold of her she no longer had a heartbeat. We decided to name her Elle Jay, since “LJ” had been her nickname when she was in my belly. The nurses cleaned her up so we could hold her and say our goodbyes. Shortly after they put me under for a D&C procedure to retrieve the placenta. And a bit later a gentleman from a funeral home nearby came in to discuss end of life options and services for Elle Jay. 
Needless to say, it was an awful, traumatic experience. Running back through it now I still can't believe all of that actually happened to us, and that it’s been a whole year since it did.  
In the beginning, I was in shock. I don’t think my brain was ready to process what happened. It felt like it had been an out-of-body experience; it couldn’t have really happened to me. I tried my best to get back to life as usual. To find a new normal. I think I got so focused on moving forward for a while that I was subconsciously trying to block all my feelings out. But, living as if it didn't happen could only keep the pain at bay for so long. Eventually it caught up with me.
And then for some time the pain was unavoidable and overwhelming. At that point I tried to face the grief head on, the best I could and decided I needed to start seeing a counselor. I was lucky to find a lady with a lot of experience with this kind of loss. She helped guide me through the storm of emotions and armed me with tools to better handle the hard days.  I learned it’s okay to feel anger and sadness, to accept how I am feeling on any given day, without having shame for it. And also not to worry about making others uncomfortable by talking or not talking about my loss. I am the one who should take control of the situation and tell others how they can support me or what I need from them. Most of all she helped me learn to communicate better with Jason; to acknowledge Elle Jay with him and find ways to honor or celebrate her. Leading me to be in a much better, stronger place. In fact I'm planning to plant a tree in her memory later this year, so we'll have a place to visit that we can acknowledge and celebrate her. 

As far as wanting another baby, I've been back and forth between trying and not trying to get pregnant again ever since. I know people are always wondering, what’s next, and when. I tried to take a little time off right after, per the doctor's orders, but it's always been hard to avoid trying when I sense there could be some chance--right? And I often get trapped in the endless cycle of trying then waiting and hoping, then being let down when my period arrives. I realized months ago though that getting pregnant and having another baby wouldn’t replace Elle Jay or make up for what happened. And that the important thing is giving myself time to heal from losing her.
Looking on the bright side, this experience has strengthened my marriage and myself. It’s also connected me with a lot of other women who have had similar experiences or losses.  Connecting with others who can relate to what you’ve been through has got to be one of the most powerful ways of making you feel comforted and less alone.

For anyone who’s had a miscarriage or is struggling to get pregnant, I wish there were words of comfort I could give to take away your pain, help you heal faster or make your struggle go away, but I know from first hand experience that there isn’t an easy way, there aren’t always the right words to say and there is no time limit on how long it takes to heal. It breaks my heart to know the pain others like me are feeling, and know that there may not be a way to give everyone a happy ending to their stories.  I feel like saying “I’m sorry” just isn’t enough, and I don’t know what is the right thing to say, especially since we all handle grief, loss and struggle differently.
I guess if there’s anything I could offer someone going through a tough situation tied to pregnancy loss or the struggle to get pregnant it’d be a big hug, a reminder that you are so strong and amazing for enduring everything you have (GIRL POWER!), and to lend an ear for you to share however it is you’re feeling about your situation, good or bad or AWFUL. You are totally allowed to feel however it is you are feeling. Whether that’s frustrated, hopeless, depressed, exhausted, anxiety-ridden, etc. etc. I’ve found for myself that a lot of the time I just need to hear what I’m feeling is normal and justified. Sometimes I need someone to tell me what I went through was awful or traumatic and that I should be angry/mad/sad before I can let myself feel the sadness that’s been lingering there for awhile.  I shouldn’t be looking for validation from others, but it’s something I’m working on.

Every day is different but my faith is strong things will be okay and we'll be able to grow our family some day. Until then, I try to stay focused on living in the present as much as possible. Not worrying about what's to come, and finding peace with what's already past. So today I keep her memory alive by sharing her story. Love you Elle Jay!

If you are reading this and can relate or are feeling that you could benefit from connecting with other women who can relate to what you’re going through or have gone through, I’d love to tell you more about support groups that are out there, and put you in touch with someone that could help. Leave a comment or email me at

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Taking Time Off Doesn't Mean Not Working

Lately I've been catching some grief from others, even my husband on occasion, for not having a job. Most people assume since I'm not working I have it so "easy". I'm sure they think I can do what I want, when I want, all day--lay out in the sun, watch TV, read, etc. etc.--and life is a piece of cake. But just cause I'm taking time off work doesn't mean I'm not "working" at all. 
Yes, it may be "easier" in ways since I don't have to get up and go into an office to sit at a desk for 9-12 hours every day any more, dealing with all the stress that comes with the job like my previous position did (putting it that way and I am so thankful I don't!). But I do still have to get up every morning and get things accomplished in order for me to feel like I'm contributing to my adult life, my marriage, and humanity! ;) I still 'go to work' only on chores in my house, errands outside of the house, and most importantly the task of working on and improving myself.  With my health at the focal point of each day, preparing all my meals, exercising, getting outside for some fresh air and taking a few moments to rest and reflect along the way takes up a good amount of the normal work day. I'm not comparing that to someone's full time job and trying to say it's just as hard by any means...MORE POWER to the people that are able to work full-time AND find the time to do all the things I listed to take care of yourself. This is just what is helping me work towards achieving my goals. 
And that's not to say I don't face any challenges; I do.  Every day I'm trying to take advantage of having this time for me and appreciating it by putting it to good use. I'm able to get tasks completed that may have been on a list for weeks or months, try new things (especially cooking, which I love), improve at others, and listen to what my mind/body are telling me it needs. Which could range from going on a walk outside to meeting a good friend for lunch or taking a break to stop, and address those pent up emotions. Some days don't always go to plan, like I talked about in my last post, and some days I have an off day. 
I certainly don't go and lay out at a pool all day. I haven't done that once yet actually. Not on a week day. I don't sleep in or nap every day. I could do these things, but that's not how I choose to spend this time. I get more accomplished the earlier I get up and get moving. The other day someone asked me, have you been working on any projects since you've been off? And my answer is that really the big project I'm working on is me. The most important one of all.But I realized in some ways I've been feeling guilty for that. Especially because I know many others don't necessarily have the opportunity. to do the same. I've been feeling bad for feeling good, and that doesn't seem right. I decided I've got to stop feeling that way. I have to keep the focus on me and my quality of life. This time I'm taking is for me, and it was my decision.  I don't need to worry about what others think of my decision, because it's for me to be concerned with, not them. I'm feeling good about myself, my health and how my life is shaping up, and I shouldn't feel bad about that. The whole point of this was to be a happier healthier me, so that then I can be a better me for others. And to anyone out there wanting or wishing or hoping or praying for your life to get better, this is what I'd tell you. 
YOU are in charge of your life, which means in a lot of ways, you can determine your own destiny. Hoping and praying and wishing for something isn't going to make it happen. Most of the rewarding things in life require putting in hard work, day in and day out.  So if you want your life to get better, look at what would need to change to do so and how you'd go about it. Maybe you don't have the means to stop working or take a nice long break like I am. But I'm sure you could take a few days or a couple weeks vacation to take time for yourself?! Or take some time off or use a weekend to plan out what you'd rather do that will get you towards your goal, like switching jobs or eating better, losing weight, improving a relationship.  There's gotta be something YOU can do or change that will improve your life and make you happier and healthier. Then the rest is easy ;) Set your mind to it and do it. Ain't nothin' to it but to do it, as they say! 
Okay, so maybe it won't be easy, but keep your "why" at the center of all you do, it'll help you stay on track on the hard days and if you keep at it and stay consistent, I promise the way you'll feel will reward you in a way that you won't want to look back.  We all have this one body to get take us through life. Listen to what it needs and take care of it, so you can live your life to the fullest!

And here's an added treat for the day. I recently stumbled upon making a new smoothie recipe that's healthy and well-thy that I love and thought I would share. Although I may not be the first to throw this combo together, I'm naming this concoction of mine the "Sweet Dream Smoothie". Because it will satisfy the sweet tooth and it tastes like a dream :)


  • Unsweetened (organic) almond milk, chilled, about 8 ounces
  • 1 frozen banana (using one that's frozen is key)
  • Cacao powder, two teaspoons
  • Cashew butter, one tablespoon
  • Raw honey, 1 teaspoon
  • Cinnamon, a pinch or two, deepening on how much you like;
  • Vanilla extract, a small drop or two
Blend these all together and you've got yourself a delightful treat, that doesn't have any added sugar!
Enjoy and have a great rest of your day!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Breaking Out of Rut-City.

Welp. It's been over two weeks since I've posted. Sorry for being MIA to anyone out there actually following along :) I've been pretty good at making excuses for not sitting down to reflect and write more, like being too busy, too tired or just plain not getting my thoughts organized together enough to make much sense of them. Truth is I have been feeling guilty for not getting an entry written lately but I've found the more I try and force it, the more it just falls flat and I don't get very far writing. So this morning I finally took some time to myself to let everything on my mind surface and put a pen to paper to see where it would go--hoping it would lead me to break out of this rut!

First up, a little houskeeping. To quickly recap the past couple's weeks events...our Denver trip was amazing and action packed! I'll have to do a separate post on that trip alone to provide all the details of where we went and what we saw/did. In short, that is one awesome place! My husband and I enjoyed it so much we talked about moving there someday if we could make it work...or at least entertaining the idea of moving there :-). There's just a very relaxed, friendly vibe that comes from Denver, and even the surrounding areas we visited. More to come on that another time! 
Oh, and if you were wondering how this strict diet went while on vacation, I must admit that I fell off the wagon quite a bit during the trip. I had spoken with my holistic doctor shortly before going and asked about what the main things are that I should really try to avoid if I couldn't avoid everything I'm supposed to and she said to try and stay gluten- and dairy-free. Well I can honestly say I tried  hard and I made the right choices...maybe 80% of the time. But also, I am human and we were on a trip we will probably not get to do again for a long time, so I did indulge at times! That's what vacation is about, right? And I knew as soon as I got back it would be back to eating clean again. I tried not to take it too seriously, so I could really enjoy the time we had there. And while on the subject, the gluten-free pizza at Mellow Mushroom was DEE-licious. Can't wait to start trying more GF alternatives down the road. 

Besides that, I've been keeping busy with all sorts of things and trying to get some sort of routine down for weekdays (since I'm not currently employed). Which sounds like it could be easy, but it's been a bit tricky for me. The past week or so I've been having more angst than usual about getting things done on my to-do list. 
Every day (sometimes the night before) I'll make a list of things I want to get done that day, but I'm finding that some days when I wake up, my body or my heart is pulling me in another direction, wanting to do something else that keeps me from my list. Or while attempting something on my list I run into a bunch of other things around the house that need to get done too and I get distracted from what I started off doing. Soon enough, I'll look at the clock and be surprised to learn how late in the day it is and how little it seems I've been able to get done, even though I hadn't been sitting around. I thought I had been busy that whole time! And just when I think I've got everything about done, a few more things come to mind that need doing. It can seem never-ending! 
I mentioned earlier I'd been good about avoiding sitting down to reflect/write. That had been on my list all week, but I've put everything else ahead of it and justified it by thinking, "it's so nice outside, how can I sit inside, I need to get out there and be active" or "I need to get these other chores/errands/tasks done because they feel like I'll have more to show for myself." Can't it wait until tomorrow? Sure, so it gets put off. But even so, I still felt the guilt creeping up all week, lingering like the feeling you get when you have a project due or a test you need to study for and you can't really enjoy whatever else it is your doing, because you're dreading that less enjoyable task you're obligated to do.
While reflecting on that, I noticed that I tend to do the same thing with my feelings and emotions. If I am upset, sad or mad about something that happens whether it's shaming myself for making a mistake, feeling sad when I hear bad news or am reminded something sad,  I quickly shift the focus to something else and those feelings get stuffed somewhere else. Then I end up carrying around that frustration, hurt or shame and find myself redirecting  it later in a unique situation or worse, at a person I care about that crosses me at the "wrong" time. 
First I know I need to work on not feeling guilting for not getting something done I had planned on or for making a mistake. For me, the rationale I was giving myself for having that shame is when I was working I at least had more 'concrete reasons' for not getting everything done since I had a lot less time and work often left me feeling exhausted. But now that I'm off I do have more energy and I am doing more around the house no doubt but I still don't feel like every day I've done it all. There's always more I could have worked on or prepared for. But life doesn't always go to plan, and things are always going to come up and interfere along the way. Plus, if your heart isn't in something, you probably shouldn't be doing it, or forcing yourself to try to be into it at that moment.

As far as making mistakes goes, that's a bit harder to blow off. It seems we can all often feel ashamed of our flaws or mistakes we make. For me, some of that stems from the fear of disappointing or letting down the ones I love. When you do make a mistake, it's easy to jump to the defense, justifying your actions and shifting the blame to the other person... like, "well I did that because you told me to, or because you made me feel that way, so it was only right that I reacted this way". We do that because it's easier to shift the blame or the shame onto someone else, rather than step up and take it ourselves. It's more difficult to say, "You know what, you're right, I'm sorry, I screwed up and I shouldn't have done that. I'll do better next time." I bet if I took a moment to collect my thoughts before reacting in a situation of conflict, I'd rather take the more difficult route if I knew it would lead to a better outcome afterward. Your significant other, friend or family member can't expect you to be perfect.  Addressing that you are flawed and make mistakes only makes you human. And taking the effort to see how changing your thoughts or actions a bit to avoid the conflict that arose, or reacting differently in the heat of the moment, will greatly benefit you down the road. There's always going to be conflict, but maybe you won't have to keep having the same ones, or you'll learn how to better handle certain ones. 

So remember, you are human and you are flawed. But that's okay because you are also lovable and capable of doing wonderful things. And as long as you are striving to do better next time or being more forgiving of yourself or others, you are heading in the right direction. That's what I'd like to think anyway. :-)

Ciao for now!