Tag Archives: loss

When “Best Man Holiday” Hits Home

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Sixty plus degrees..less than a week from Christmas… in DC? There was something distinctly surreal about that day. As I walked to the church (that fact that we lived so close, struck me as a bit odd) the warmth of the day and the bright sun in December, made each step forward even more unbelievable.

Our friendship was not born out of the fun of college experiences like the blockbuster hit, Best Man Holiday, but through navigating our new lives as young families. I was on maternity leave after having G1 and my esthetician/friend Germaine, told me about Mocha Moms. I attended my first meeting when G1 was 3 months old and 12+ years later, I am still a member and credit my early years with Mocha Moms for giving me my ‘Mommy Roots’. At the anchor of these roots is the Utsey family.

As a young, African American, professional, married woman, I had never been exposed to a group of people of color who were so…different. From discipline, to diet, I learned how to be open minded and explore ideas that were not necessarily the ‘norm’ in our culture. Monica Utsey, the Vice-President of the first chapter I belonged to, and then (and still) President of the second chapter I helped to charter (my first introduction to the term ‘crunchy granola’, lol!) led the way with many of the ‘unconventional’ approaches to family life.  Normal duration breastfeeding, attachment parenting, co-sleeping, alternative/natural remedies, stay-at-home moms, marriage support groups, my on and off again vegetarian eating :), homeschooling, natural/non-medicated births, natural hair, the importance of knowing more than Martin Luther King Jr. as it pertains to African history, and self-employment/entrepreneurism, were all values that were either supported by or in some cases introduced by the Utsey family. I would always say that we were a subculture of our community; it is where the concept  of ‘Off Da Chain and Outta Da Box’ was birthed.

When you live ‘against the grain’, it takes a special kind of man to have the confidence to respond to the critics and live life on your family’s terms. “Everyday I’m Hustling”, was the song that reminded the Pastor of Eric, Monica’s husband. Eric was time enough for anyone who wanted to challenge his family’s choices. He did what he had to do to support his family and provided the much needed ‘comic relief’ when he was around. Our marriage group was always live and poppin’ with the Utseys in attendance, lol! We all shared our stories with transparency and a deep desire to make our marriages work, but Monica and Eric always seemed to bring humor, even to the serious stuff.

It had been almost 6 years since Eric experienced a severe stroke. We were living in Georgia at the time and over the years, we stayed connected to the Utsey family and even visited Eric when he was in rehab (he was still able to tell me exactly how to get from NW DC to Potomac, MD lol!). Since returning to Georgia a few months ago, we had the honor of seeing Eric a few times, he had some physical limitations, but we all just knew that the worst was behind him and although it was a seemingly slow process, he was recovering. So it was shocking to me to get a call from a fellow Mocha Mom to tell me about his sudden passing, at the age of 47. Three days prior, Monica and I were planning to get together for a Yoga class and breakfast because I had reached out to her to share some of the challenges I was experiencing in relation to the loss of my mother (see previous post), something I knew she could relate to after recently losing her mom, grandmother, and grandfather, within months of each other. The weather was bad that day, so we decided to reschedule. After getting the call, almost immediately my own challenges took a back seat, and I set out to go see her.

As I sat in the church and remembered the little, rambuctious toddler and watched him basically officiate his father’s funeral with such maturity (he’s now 13) the tears wouldn’t stop (although there were some hilarious stories shared that did make me laugh…a lot, including all the Philly references, something Eric and I had in common.) I glanced around and saw mama after mama, some couples from our marriage group, and of course, the once babies, now big children that I was connected to primarily because of the Utsey family and the importance of them in my life just magnified. It wasn’t under the best circumstances, but it was a reunion none the less. The pastor (who was good friends with Eric) shared during the eulogy that Eric felt deserted after he had the stroke. Some friends didn’t come around anymore. We were reminded of Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times….” and challenged not to allow another friend to go through something without supporting them when they needed it most. ODC has done an awesome job of garnering financial support for the Utseys, and as a major beneficiary of their investment in community, I was compelled to share our connection. Over the past few years Monica has had more than her ‘fair share’ of challenges; the pre-mature delivery of her son Ayinde, Eric’s stroke, Zion’s car accident, the loss of her mother, grandmother and grandfather, and now this. I know that God will give her the strength to move her family forward, but as we approach Christmas Day, thank you to all who gave, and if you haven’t, would you please consider a gift to her as she now faces life as a widow with 2 young sons? Payments can be made via PayPal to motherjegna@msn.com. May Christ be lifted up during this time of year and the gift of hope and peace be given to the Utsey Family and us all.

ODB

Missing Mothers and Matriarchs

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“It’s the most wonderful time…of the year.” Well, not for everyone. I had always heard that the holidays weren’t happy for some people, but I thought that only applied to lonely people, you know the one’s without any family.  I have a wonderful husband, 4 exceptionally precious little girls, a compassionate father, a fun loving sister, a brother and sister-in-love I’m so proud of, adorable nieces, nephews, and a huge network of extended, loving family and friends. I am not lonely by any stretch of the imagination, but I continue to struggle through the holidays since the death of my mother five years ago.

I have the honor and privilege of having nothing but fun loving memories of my mother.  She smiled and laughed…a lot!!!

Sometimes I think that maybe if our relationship wasn’t so great, I wouldn’t hurt so bad, but I know that’s not the case.  I know of people who had relationships with their mothers that weren’t necessarily positive, but the loss they feel still leaves an empty place in their hearts. There has to be an extreme spiritual significance of the person who gives you life.

I lost my mom to breast cancer.  After being in remission for almost 5 years, the cancer returned and she succumbed to the disease 14 months after the reoccurrence. As much as the experience involved so much sadness, I cannot deny the existence of God. I had the opportunity to share my mom’s last 14 months of life with my immediate family as she lived with us in Georgia.  The day that my mother passed away, she was surrounded by all her children, her best friends, and even her ex-husband! (I owe my dad’s wife many thanks for this).

As I cling to my faith as a follower of Christ, I am grateful for His faithfulness and all the private, secret prayers He has answered. I think about the tragic losses of children and parents that have been experienced by some of my friends and I know that their pain and grief is unimaginable. I think of the little girls who were in my daughter’s CLIMB (Children’s Lives Include Moments of Bravery) group and other children who will not have their mother’s at their high school graduation, wedding, or birth of their children. I had my mom for all these milestones and more, but it still feels like it wasn’t enough. I was 38 when my mom died, and she was 59. It was 2 weeks before my birthday and about 3 weeks before Thanksgiving. I have traveled for some of the Thanksgivings since her passing, I was pregnant one year, had a newborn the next, spent two with my Dad, but this year was extremely bittersweet.

This year my brother and his wife did a fabulous job hosting Thanksgiving! ODC had to work, so the Gs and I split up and rode to Delaware with my dad and my sister. My mom lived there until the second cancer diagnosis after which she came to GA. I lived in DC for about 9 years before moving to Georgia and made several trips across the Bay Bridge to see her. She worked as a CNA and constantly juggled her patients and runs to Target with me. Now that we are back in DC, the reality that she is no longer 90 miles away is sobering and going back to Delaware flooded my mind with melancholy thoughts. The house was filled with love and the laughter of children, but I still found myself fighting back tears during the day and secretly crying myself to sleep Thanksgiving night. My goodness, how can I ever pull it together to host Thanksgiving if even the sight of a can of cranberry sauce makes me tear up 🙂

I have so many wonderful memories of the holidays. I incredibly miss my grandparents and my mother, but I don’t want to remain in a place that I can’t make new memories with my family. It starts with my birthday; I fall into a funk and don’t really start feeling better until the winter is over. I don’t want to be a total Scrooge, and I want to be present for my family. As I scroll through my social media feeds and see so many happy people during this time of the year, especially the one’s with people and their mothers, I try to choose happiness, but sadness just keeps winning. I have so much to be thankful for, but my mind keeps falling back to what I’ve lost.

Memories are powerful and finding the joy in the holidays is not easy for everyone. Praying for God’s peace and love to restore my heart and the hearts of those who may be experiencing similar emotions during this time of year.

If you have struggled with grief during the holidays, what specific steps have you taken to manage it?

ODB

As We….Proceed: Part 2

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If you didn’t read Part 1, please start here.

She kept circling my stomach. We could hear my heartbeat. She asked me if I was ok, and told her I was. She tried for another minute or so and then she said she thought it was just too early. Hmmmm. She blamed it on her doppler. It wasn’t the most sophistacted. I cautiously accepted it, but I had never ‘not’ heard any of my babies through a doppler. I tried to remember how early it had been detected previously. Of course I googled “How soon can a doppler pick up a heartbeat”. That didn’t help.

I walked out to the truck (ODC and G4 stayed in the car because she was sleeping) and ODC gave me the thumbs up through the glass. It was like he was asking was everything ok. When I got in the car, I told her she didn’t get a heartbeat, but it was probably just too early. We stopped at IHop on the way home. (More comfort food). I tried to sort out my feelings. Maybe I really wasn’t pregnant! My life could go on without trying to figure out how I could ever get a sitter for 5 children. Who in the world actually works with 5 children?!?, I asked myself. ODC was pretty low key about everything, but made it clear that he wouldn’t be ok if something was wrong.

It was Saturday morning and I was going to run at Stone Mountain. I was going to take G4 with me in the jogging stroller. I put her on the potty and then I went to the bathroom. Whoa..is this blood? I called ODC. I was bleeding. I tried to remain calm and decided that I better not go run so I spent the rest of the day in bed. I called my midwife, who I had seen the week before and she told me to wait and see. I knew it was too late for implantation bleeding and of course good old Google helped me find several stories from women who bled throughout their pregnancy or at one time or another and went on to have healthy babies. I spent alot of time talking to one of my closest friends. She had recently expereinced two miscarriages and she was very supportive, informative and most importantly, positive.

The next day, I was still bleeding. I decided to stay home from church and take it easy. When Monday arrived and the bleeding continued, I knew it was time to go to the doctor. (OBs are for problems, midwives are for normal births.)

Thankfully I was able to get an appointment for that same afternoon. We found a sitter for the Gs and ODC and I made our way to the doctor’s office. I was starting to get nervous. Even though I wasn’t thrilled about being pregnant, AGAIN, I never thought that I could LOSE the baby! We get called back and everyone is treating me like this is a routine, first prenatal visit. All the normal questions and precautions were given. I was even offered prenatal vitamins. I was feeling optimistic. I was told that they noticed some blood in my urine, but couldn’t be sure if there was an issue without some further checking.

I had not had an ultrasound since G1, over 10 years ago. I was a first time mom, and although we didn’t want to know the sex, I just assumed it was required. My subsequent midwives made it more optional, and since there were no problems, we didn’t elect to have one. My body was literally trembling, I was so nervous, “just let there be a heartbeat”. The doctor pointed out some things I can’t remember, then finally, she pointed to the baby. Deep exhale. That day, I was 11 weeks pregnant, but the baby was measuring 7 weeks and there was no heartbeat, it was a “missed miscarriage”. 

The doctor was very sincere and shared that she too had experienced a miscarriage more than once. I was doing ok. ODC, of course, was my rock. She gave us a minute to determine whether or not we wanted to schedule the D&C. I started feeling like I didn’t have enough time to process it all. I was scheduled to go back to NY soon and didn’t know if I wanted to risk the uncertainty of things so far from home. I had some blood work done, just in case, and we left. This was a time I desperately missed my mom. I needed to hear her voice, her genuine concern, and her reliable words of comfort.

Once I was in the car, it actually hit me and the tears began to fall. In my mind, I thought I would find out that everything was fine, or the whole thing was a fluke; I was never pregnant to begin with! I wasn’t crazy about my menopause theory, but it would have been better than this! I started reflecting on the past few weeks, and how things never seemed quite right. I would always tell people “I’m not worried, but I am concerned that I don’t have any real symptoms”.  I recalled how on that prior Friday, the day before the bleeding started, I came home from the gym, dropped my bag and immediately started cleaning the kitchen, for about four hours!  I cleared the clutter, I rearranged things (this was not normal for me, I struggle with the domestic side of things). It was like the typical nesting that happens right before you give birth. My body knew.

ODC had an emotional moment, but immediately went into supporter mode. Krispy Kreme, Chick-fi-la AND Zaxby’s were the stops we made before going home to break the news to the Gs. (Do you see the reoccurring theme of comfort food throughout this 🙂 ).

The girls were heartbroken. They were so disappointed. They cried. They asked a lot of questions; “Where is the baby now?” “Was it a boy or a girl?” ODC and I tried to answer the best that we could. But like most children, they are very resilient and by the next day their main question was “Where are we going today?”

We decided to forgo the D&C and thanks to God’s mercy, my trip back to New York the following week, was conveniently canceled by my engagement manager. She had no idea what had happened, so I knew it was God who was working everything out for us. I had an additional week before I had to return to New York, so I  waited for the awful cramps and the heavy bleeding, but it never happened. Quietly and peacefully, my body did the work to end the pregnancy.

I received so much support and encouragement from friends, IRL and on-line. I found out just how common miscarriages are. If I told 5 people, 4 of them had experienced one. My midwife told me that so many ‘late’ periods are actually early miscarriages, but because of the widespread use of EPTs, we know we are pregnant so much sooner. I didn’t understand the silence. Maybe it’s because I am an oversharer, but why didn’t women talk about this? I know the answer is complicated. How does guilt make its way into something that you have no control over? I found myself feeling bad because I wasn’t initially happy about pregnant, then I started feeling bad because I wasn’t feeling bad anymore!

God, in His infinite wisdom, created our bodies to work perfectly. I learned the value of knowing mine. I learned the value of a 27 1/2 year relationship with someone who has been by my side during the best and worst days of my life. I learned the value of lining up my heart with my mind to truly accept His will. But most importantly I learned the value of every one of my children, they all teach me, even the ones that I never see.