Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Life Without Maia...

It's been over a month now since Maia passed away. Although life goes on, thoughts and memories of Maia continue to find their way into everyday life... sometimes they bring us sadness, and sometimes they bring us happiness. At the end of the day, we all know that life without Maia is just something we need to learn how to live with.

When asked the question "how are you?" or "how are you doing?" I can honestly say with a smile that things are good. There are enough things in our everyday life that keep us busy. Things that were neglected when Maia was at the hospital. I truly believe having Marissa prepared us for Maia. Having lost Marissa didn't make things easier for us when we lost Maia, but for some reason, I felt more at peace after Maia passed away. I find it hard to explain, but there was sort of an added comfort that wasn't there when Marissa passed away. Don't get me wrong, everything isn't exactly fine and dandy now... it's just different. I'm glad she fought her hardest, but sad she can't be with us. But I try not to dwell on the sadness (I'm not good at it anyway!). Instead I try and put my energy toward things that make me happy, including the many memories we have of Maia. Sometimes though, looking at her pictures gets overwhelming and I end up with tears in my eyes as the flashbacks start rushing in, almost coming to life. At times I almost feel guilty for having happy times without Maia... but I realize that the definition of happy is different now... it seems to always change depending on the life circumstances surrounding me. My happy moments are starting to add up now, and I give a lot of credit to both our lil angels, for teaching us to be grateful and make the most of every moment we're blessed with. I still cry, but I cry less now, compared to the times after Marissa passed away. I think it's because we only had 43 minutes with Marissa and with Maia we had a full year, and we made the most out of every day. These days, although I could be sad, I choose to be happy. I choose to be happy for myself, and also for Gordon, and for Marcus. I wouldn't be the person I am without them in my life... I don't know where I'd be without these two. Gordon keeps me inspired about life and the future, while Marcus keeps me grounded and helps put things in perspective. 

Our focus now shifts to Marcus, not that he wasn't a priority before, but now we want to make sure he's ok, after having to endure such life changing experiences in the past few years. He continues to excel in school and Taekwondo, and hasn't lost his love for learning (anything)! But he misses Maia terribly... who doesn't?! We asked him to pick a few of Maia's stuffed animals that he could keep for himself. After he was done, he chose about 20 of them! We were so happy to be able to donate many of Maia's baby clothes, gear, toys, blankets, etc. As a mom, it was bittersweet to let go of some of her things, but knowing they would go to those in need made the experience better. Marcus on the other hand, hated seeing her things go to other people, even if some items were going to friends and family. He says they're Maia's souvenirs and he can't understand why we're giving them away. So we explained that we can keep some things, but those items that we can't use and other people need them, we should give it to them. He understands, but it doesn't make him any less upset.

A few of Maia's friends Marcus wanted to keep!

Marcus and I were fortunate to get baseball tickets to this year's NLDS between the San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals (Thank you Gail!) It was our first playoff game ever and we had a blast at AT&T Park! We think Maia was there too because an orange and black butterfly landed on my head. Not sure why I think of past loved ones whenever I see butterflies, but I do! Marcus tried to trap it and keep it with his baseball cap but it flew away. Then Marcus had his own reminder of Maia. He said in such a sad voice "I just saw a pink Giants cap and thought of Maia." I told him that thinking about Maia is normal so it's ok when it happens, and that he could talk about her anytime. About a week after Maia passed away, he asked me if we could have a "Maia crying session" on an upcoming Thursday night, where we could talk and cry about Maia... it was both cute and heartbreaking to see him try to schedule something like that. So I again reminded him that he can talk or think about Maia at anytime, no appointment needed. I really feel for him because he's such a good, caring, and protective big brother, and now that Maia's gone, he seems to feel like he doesn't really fit that title anymore. But that big brother side comes out when he's around his little cousins, especially the little girls. It's nice to see but also makes me sad that he's not able to share these experiences with his little sisters.

Marcus and his cousin Lexi... giving her a
taste and of his strawberry milkshake!
Marcus has also asked me "when are we going to have a real baby?... one that we can take home and will grow and grow and grow." At the time he asked, it had only been a few days since Maia had died, so everything was very raw and fresh for us. He was crying and very upset. All I could do was give him a hug. Every few weeks he'll talk about having another baby. He says it's in his plans for the next year! He says all I have to do is hold my breath, and let my breath transfer to the umbilical cord and into the baby that's in my tummy. That will get the baby to start growing! From there we let it grow until the baby is ready to come out!... After all that, I was in shock and didn't really know what to say. It sounded so simple! I'm actually surprised that Marcus would feel excited at the thought of another baby, or even want another baby after everything that's happened... or that he would somehow associate having babies (for us) as something negative. He sounds so determined and seems to have it all planned out. If only it were that easy. As for me, I've been saying "I think I'm done." I use the word "think" because I've learned to "never say never!" and that anything can happen. We've been that "1" out of (fill in the blank number) too many times the last few years, so whether the odds are against us or for us, we seem to be very lucky! I also know that I will always want another baby, just because we don't physically have one. It's a feeling that will probably never go away. It's a similar feeling to wanting Maia here with us. It's one of those things that I'll need to learn how to live with... and it's hard, very hard. Everyday we all come across people and situations that make us think about what could be.... At Marcus' taekwondo class, we see such cute little girls all the time, and they are so good. Sometimes we talk to other parents and realize that they had their kid(s) at the age we are now, so age isn't really an issue. I think our history and experience, and where we are in life now plays a bigger part.... and the thoughts start creeping into my head about how we can still do it, we can have another baby. But like I mentioned before, it's not that simple... it will never be that simple. It's not right to think selfishly about something that affects more than one person. Plus, we have different priorities right now, some of which include rejoining the workforce and finding a place of our own (sooner rather than later). Even though it's possible to have another baby, it doesn't necessarily mean we should. So I guess I can expect all these thoughts to continue and do battle in my head until the time comes when I really cannot have anymore children!

Since October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, it was very fitting that we finally got the chance to take a trip up to Lake Tahoe (where we were married) and released some of Marissa's and Maia's ashes. For a long time, these plans were tentative, but finally became a reality this past weekend (Thank you Jimenez Family)! Gordon's mom had been very sick and we were driving back and forth almost every day to be with her in the hospital. When she passed away on the night of October 6, we were undecided about taking our trip. It wasn't until a few days before, that we decided to go. We were only going to change our plans if there was going to be a memorial service in the upcoming days. So as part of our last minute plans, we invited Maia's godparents. Although some had to work, and a couple were with us in spirit, we all made it happen. It turned out to be a nice, relaxing weekend, filled with laughter, tears, good food and beer! On that Sunday we gathered by the Lake's shoreline to say a little prayer... then Gordon, Marcus, and my brother Dada, went further into the Lake and released the ashes. It was an emotional moment, but also a funny one. As I watched from afar with Maia's godparents, we heard Marcus' voice "ahhhh!!! Marissa and Maia went in my eye!!" He also added that he wants to come back next year to go swimming in the Lake with his sisters! He is too funny! We spent the rest of the weekend sharing memories, stories, outlooks on life and the future, and just enjoyed each other's company... not to mention a little bit of gambling! The guys spent a couple of hours at the casino, while us girls stayed in, playing hours after hours of gin rummy! We started playing after 5pm. I only know this because the Giants game started at 5pm... and by the time we stopped playing and went to bed, it was 5am!!! We only took a break for a quick dinner and bathroom breaks when it wasn't our turn to shuffle and deal! It was crazy fun! By the time we left Lake Tahoe the following day, we were all pretty much happily exhausted.

So as we all celebrate our baby angels in Heaven during this month of October, please remember it's just a dedicated month for the families who have lost a baby... for us directly affected, we live, mourn, and celebrate our loss every single day. So remind yourselves to fight hard and play hard every day, all while enjoying every moment... that's how Maia lived, and that's how I imagine her living up in Heaven!