Miscarriage – Part 1

Please join us in welcoming Jenna to Mama Might!

It was Friday, November 20th, 2009. I was sitting in an unfamiliar school gymnasium with my almost 2 year-old daughter and about 200 strangers. We were in line for her to receive the second part of the H1N1 vaccine. I had only brought one snack, raisins, and within 20 seconds of opening the container, they were spilled on the floor. I think the number we were given was something in the 90’s. We had hours of waiting ahead of us. The lovely lady beside me, a few decades my senior, graciously traded with me so that our turn would come sooner. She also gave my little girl a granola bar. God bless her. I remember getting up at one point to go to the water fountain and that’s when I knew something wasn’t right. There was no gush of blood. There was no pain. But I knew something was wrong. The rest of the wait was a blur, my little girl got her vaccine and we came home. I went to the bathroom and my worries were confirmed. I was bleeding at 12 weeks pregnant.

I talked myself out of worrying too much because I had friends who had experienced similar symptoms at the same point in their pregnancies and everything turned out fine. Unlike with my first pregnancy, I had chosen to be followed by a doctor instead of a midwife. As far as I knew, there was no one to call about my condition on a Friday night. I decided to wait until Monday and call my doctor.

That weekend at mass, I remember thinking “this could be my last time receiving communion with this baby in me.” I felt sad and worried, but tried to remind myself not to worry until I knew there was a real reason to be concerned.

The Monday morning, I went in to see my doctor. I don’t remember most of the details of this day. There was a lot of waiting in between moments pregnant with worry and grief. They gave me an appointment for an ultrasound. ”Are you sure of your dates?” she asked. “Hmm” she said. She didn’t smile. Neither did I. We were brought to a room in Emergency to wait. I cried the whole time. After what felt like hours, a doctor came in. Upon seeing me, she said “I guess you already know…[very. long. pause]…there’s no baby.” I felt pain. I felt angry that she would tell me in this way. There was no compassion, no empathy….just an assumption that I already knew. And then she said we could stay as long as we needed to and she left. And I cried. I cried out. Loud. I had never felt, nor have I since, such deep physical, emotional and spiritual pain. I already knew that I had lost the baby. I really didn’t need her to tell me, but hearing the words “there’s no baby”….it not only seemed like the worst way to tell me, but it ripped away any shred of hope I had left to hold onto that maybe everything was fine. I don’t know how long we stayed. Thinking back, it could have been minutes or hours that I sat there and cried. I have no memory of leaving or driving home. My only memory from when we arrived home was calling my best friend, and sobbing “she said there’s no baby” into the phone. My friend said the right thing, whatever it may have been. I kept crying.

Later that evening, I remember thinking “this was God’s plan for this baby…for our family. I truly believe this.” I don’t remember telling anyone else what had happened (but searching my email account today, I can see that I sent out a message letting my friends know what had happened). I don’t remember anything from the rest of that night or the following day. I do remember not saying a single prayer for

the rest of the week. And I also remember the immeasurable amount of grace and faith that was poured into me throughout the following days – thanks to the countless prayers of others, I presume.

I have always had an easy time with faith. From the moment (while listening to a Chris Rice song) I realized there were people in the world who knew God personally, I just knew I could trust in His plan. Suffering a miscarriage was the first time I guess you could say my faith was tested. It didn’t really feel like a test, though. It just felt like an opportunity to confirm what I already believed.

In the days that followed, I received many emails and phone calls from people expressing their condolences. One friend emailed a link to this prayer which played a huge role in our healing process. After reading it, I began to see our miscarriage less as a cross to bear and more as blessing for which to give thanks. We had – we have – a child in Heaven. She (we believe our baby is a girl) stands before our Heavenly Father. She prays for us, her family still on earth. We will be united one day and every day until then we can look forward with hope to meeting this little soul who has gone ahead to our forever home.

It was somewhat startling to move from the depths of grief and pain to the heights of healing and hope and gratitude in such a short span of time. I am forever grateful for the power of our praying family and friends – I have no doubt that they carried us through those hardest days. I am forever grateful for those who reached out in the weeks that followed and expressed their condolences. We had experienced a great loss, and I appreciated those who acknowledged it. But we soon learned that we were blessed with an even greater gain. I weep with gratitude at the memory of developing a clearer understanding of what it means to have an eternal perspective. To know that I am called to live my life on earth as a gift knowing that the greatest treasure will be found when I leave this world and move onto the next – and I have an extra special gift waiting for me, there.

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Jenna Gernon is a wife and stay-at-home mom living in a [very] small town outside of Ottawa, Ontario.  Her faith journey was jump-started the day she listened to Chris Rice’s Clumsy; she joined the Catholic Church in 2004.  Jenna has a passion for photography and loves having her children as live-in subjects.  She jumps at the chance to take photos for others and is always looking at the world around her as potential photo shoot locations.  Aside from photography, she loves all things crafty, cooking good food, being with her family and friends and soaking in Canada’s four beautiful seasons.

Feeling Christmas-y? A Mama Might Give-Away!

I’m one of those people whose thoughts turn to Christmas as soon as the weather begins to cool off and the leaves begin to change colours. Of course I realize that it’s still a full three months until Christmas Eve, but there’s no time like the present when it comes to getting a jump on handmade gifts.

So in the spirit of gift-giving, the Mamas want to share a little gift with one of our readers as a way of saying thank you for your support as we get this blog up and running. We recently hit 200 Facebook likes, and had intended to do a give-away right away to celebrate. Illness has kept me out of commission (well, illness on top of being 18 weeks pregnant!), so I got a little behind. Next thing I knew, we had already hit 212 likes! So now it’s really time to celebrate!

To enter this give-away, leave a comment on this post. Tell us something – anything! Whether or not you’re getting ready for Christmas yet, what your favourite thing about fall is, what colour your socks are – anything goes.

For a second entry, simply share this post on Facebook or Twitter, and leave a second (separate) comment on this post letting us know you shared. (This is going to work on the honour system, and we trust that everyone will leave a maximum of two comments!)

The give-away will remain open for one week, to give everyone a fair chance to enter. At the end of the week we’ll select a winner at random, and she/he will win this handsome brown bird ornament:

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But how about we sweeten the deal a little?

If by the end of the give-away we have reached 250 Facebook likes, the winner will win the brown bird and this lovely Christmas dove!

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So there you have it. Leave a comment, share this post, and leave a second comment! Easy as pie! Mmm… pie!

Follow Up to my Open Letter

Hello friends!

Thank you all for your interest in my open letter to the candidates of the 2013 provincial election in Nova Scotia.  The response has been overwhelming, and I am grateful for the support.

I will continue to post here at Mama Might whenever my fits of inspiration strike, however in future all political pieces will be found at “Mommy Votes, and So Should You“.   For those interested in the ongoing discussion my letter has started I will be posting responses from political leaders, reflections on the election, activism in general, my thoughts on education, and other relevant information I might want to share with you.

Thank you again for your support.  It has meant more to me than you will ever know.

All the best,

Amanda

An Open Letter to the Candidates of the 2013 Provincial Election in Nova Scotia

**Hello friends! Thank you all for the overwhelming support with regard to my open letter. As this continues, please remember that my letter was about effectively managing financial resources in our education system. The bullying booklet finally pushed my frustration levels high enough to speak out about how we could better address issues in the classroom. I am not an expert on anything but my own life and I am just trying to speak my own truth. And FYI, I am not affiliated in any way with any political party. Nor am I “aligned” with anything other than my own personal beliefs about what is right and what is wrong. I am just a mommy who loves all kids and is annoyed by all waste.  Thank you again.**

Dear Candidates,

My name is Amanda.  I am thirty years old.  I have been working (and thus paying taxes) in Nova Scotia since the year 2000, and am currently employed as a permanent classroom teacher for the Halifax Regional School Board.  I live in HRM.  I have been married for almost ten years, am a parent of three beautiful, intelligent, kind, honest, sweet, little children, the oldest of which is in grade primary.  I am grateful for the many blessings I enjoy and benefit from, and I thank you for your commitment to protect them by endeavouring to promote a standard of living that I believe every Nova Scotian deserves to have within their reach.  With that being said, I find myself becoming more and more disillusioned as the standards set by our provincial government continue to decline.  In this time of uncertainty, “A Better Future for Today’s Families”, “Change That Works”, and promises to put “Nova Scotia First”, are all lines that I desperately want to believe but am unable to.

Today I am writing specifically in response to a document that was sent home with my son from school on Thursday.  I am currently on Maternity Leave and so I did not see the document prior to that afternoon, nor was I aware of its existence.  I am referring to the 58-page booklet entitled “Bullying and Cyberbullying: What We Need to Know (A Reference for Parents and Guardians)” that was sent home in the back-packs of Nova Scotia’s public school students.

When I first saw this document, I was exasperated.  The more I read and thought about it, the more my sense of frustration grew.  And today as I write this, I am angry.  Let me explain why.

First, please understand: I am glad that the provincial government is attempting to communicate to students and parents that bullying in schools is a matter of concern.  As a teacher, and as a parent, I agree wholeheartedly that bullying is a serious and very relevant issue that requires our time, attention, and yes, even our resources.  The children of Nova Scotia deserve a learning environment that is nurturing, safe, and effective.  My colleagues and I have lost students to suicide.  We love our students, we want change, and we are prepared to work hard to help bring it about.  Despite all this, I fail to see how sending home a “reference” will do anything to help solve the issues our children actually face with regard to bullying at school.  I have read the document myself.  The information within it is not bad or incorrect, but it is nothing new.  Nova Scotia is, after all, the home of Rehtaeh Parsons, Jenna Bowers, and Courtney Brown.  Nova Scotians are familiar with bullying, how and why it sometimes happens, and the potential consequences for the victims.  It is a problem, there are ways parents can talk to their kids about it, there are appropriate channels to follow when reporting it, and the NS Department of Education does not condone bullying in schools.  We get it.  But to be perfectly frank, all I saw when I looked through this glossy, color printed, and expensively-produced booklet were more words, and no action.  I am deeply disappointed by this.  I am also deeply disappointed in the lack of wisdom displayed by this flagrant waste of resources which will no doubt be proudly referenced in speeches, press conferences, and the like, as a shining example of how the NSDOE has met the truly difficult and complex issues head on, in a meaningful way.  This is simply not true and as a parent, teacher, and tax-payer I find this very, very frustrating.

Combating bullying in schools must be a priority.  But hiring (and paying) who-knows-how-many consultants, graphic designers, printers, publishers, panels, editors, reviewers, and writers to produce this project and distribute it to the masses (who, by the way, used it to line their blue bags on Friday morning) is not a responsible, reasonable, or efficient way to accomplish this.  (And since I mentioned efficiency, or rather a lack thereof, I would also like to point out that sending the booklet home with four children from the same family, when their parents are both public school teachers, was simply stupid.)

As a teacher, I would say that the most important way in which I strive to combat bullying in my school is by communicating to each child I encounter that they have value.  They are worth spending time with.  They are worth spending time on.  They are worthy of my respect.  They are worthy of my best efforts and my best ideas.  They are worth all the meetings, program plans, phone calls and emails, coaching on sports teams, chaperoning at dances, personalized feedback, time away from my family, and kindness I can give them.  I see them every weekday, and I truly believe that those are the best things I can do to educate them in the fight against bullying.

You may not see the students of Nova Scotia every day, but you can still show them that you believe in their worth by your actions.  You can teach them that the other students in their school also have value, and are therefore to be respected.  And the best way to do that is not by giving them pink t-shirts, water bottles, bracelets, and 58 page reference guides like the ones you asked the teachers of Nova Scotia to distribute last Thursday.   Our students may be young, but they’re not stupid.  They understand that all the “free” pink stuff in the world won’t help them in the hallway tomorrow.  Again, combating bullying must be a priority, but it can not be, nor appear to be, the only priority.  That alone will not make students feel valued by those whose role it is to promote and facilitate lifelong learning.

Let me tell you what I firmly believe will.

Start by giving them enough teachers. 

Then give every teacher a classroom.  Then give each student a desk that has not been recovered in Dollar Store floor tiles that their teacher had to buy with their own money.

Fix the microscopes in the science labs so they can experience the wonder of biology.  The real thing is way cooler than the virtual online microscopes, especially when they have to take turns on the computers.

Give them guidance counselors whose only job is to counsel children, not coordinate all the standardized assessments, attend meetings, and fill in at the main office.

Make it easier to provide real-life, hands-on learning experiences, outside of the school building.

Give them policies that will allow teachers to describe their progress in words they actually understand.  Let us tell them when they are bright, helpful, friendly, respectful, and self-motivated.  Let us put it in an official report so that they have physical evidence which states they are good at something they learned at school.

Give them standards to uphold.

Give them ideals to strive for.

Give them the opportunity to experience consequences.

The current platform of the NDP promises that if re-elected they will “give our kids a better start by focusing on what matters most.”  The Liberals claim that “education isn’t a line item in a budget, it’s our future.”  The PC party guarantees “the very best classroom education for our children.”

 It’s time to put your money where your mouth is.

As my colleagues’ jobs continue to be eliminated, as our class sizes continue to grow, as our students are continually cheated out of a high-quality public education, largely due to a lack of both financial resources and wisdom in curriculum development and assessment methods, and as teachers continue to be crippled by the provincial government’s lack of financial foresight, the production and distribution of  “Bullying and Cyberbullying: What We Need to Know (A Reference for Parents and Guardians)”, is a proverbial slap in the face to us all.  I have great respect for my colleagues and for the many efforts they make to provide their students with the best education it is within their power to provide.  I am one of them, and we all do our best.  We love our jobs, but we no longer trust you to help us do what you hired us to do.  And on a personal note, I want you to know and fully understand that if I had access to the resources, I would happily choose to educate my three children privately.  They deserve better than what the NS Department of Education is permitting their teachers to offer them.  I am tired of expensive words that end up lining recycling bins.

Respectfully,

Amanda Winsor

Back to School

“But Mommy maybe my new teacher won’t love me like you and Daddy do.”

My heart, already sore, was starting to throb with the unexpected pain of sending my four year old off to primary last week.  He is so young, so small, so innocent, and so vulnerable.  He looked like a baby standing beside the older kids at his bus-stop in his new clothes, bright, white size-nine sneakers, and Super Mario back-pack, which looked as though it weighed more than he did.

As we stood at the bus stop, waiting for the much-anticipated moment when my oldest baby would go somewhere without one of his parents for the first time, this was the burning worry on my child’s mind:  Will I be loved?

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Any teacher, or for that matter anyone who works with children on a daily basis, would say that they love their students.  I can say with conviction that I love mine.  Not because they are easy to be around.  Not because they are easy to teach.  Not because they offer me love in return.  I love them because they are worthy of being loved.  Inside each child I teach is untapped, and often unrealized, potential for greatness.  Each of them was born to do something incredible.  Each of the lives represented in my classroom every year have a purpose.   As their teacher I have a unique and awesome opportunity to help them discover what they were put on this earth to do.  And I endeavour to do this by loving them in a way that, hopefully, says: “You are worth spending time with.  You are worth spending time on.  I love you because you have value.”

Last Wednesday, my son was thinking about many different things.  I find it incredible that the words he actually spoke in that moment articulated the fear we all have when faced with change, new challenges, and moments of vulnerability:  Will I be loved?

This past week many of you, like me, stood at bus-stops, holding small hands, comforting small hearts.  Many of you had to peel little arms from around your neck and allow a teacher you had never met before, to lead your child into an unfamiliar room, full of children they had never seen.  Maybe some of you felt a different kind of pain mixed with pride as your confident, smiling child ran towards their friends on the playground, calling “Bye, Mom!” over their shoulder on their first day of school.  Maybe some of you sent the last of your babies off and then spent the first of what seemed like a very long, very quiet day alone in the house that used to be noisy and busy.  Maybe some of you, like me, questioned your value as a mother now that your child would be loved by someone else for most of their waking hours.  Maybe some of you even drove many kilometres with a loaded mini-van full of lamps, extra blankets, groceries, twenty-seven pairs of shoes, and four suitcases to help your somehow grown up baby move into her very first dorm room and then hugged your girl goodbye before driving back to a house that may never hold her again, except for Christmas and summer vacations.

Like our children, as school begins, we mothers are often faced with changes and new situations where we have to confront thoughts and feelings we would rather not deal with.  As we begin to navigate our way through a new school year alongside our children, there will be moments where we too will be asking the same question that burns in the hearts of our babies, both very young and not-quite-so-young.  As we all move forward, and as we continue to evolve into the moms our children need for this new season in life, I want you to know that you have value, just as you are.  Like our children, we all have the potential for greatness within us.  Like them, we have a purpose.  Like them, we are loved.

I am confident that my son’s teacher loves him and understands that he has value.  I am also confident that she will do everything she can to communicate those things to him over the course of this school year.  I am also confident that my son will sense her love for him and the other children in his class, and when he realizes he is loved, he will thrive in an environment that once struck fear into his four year old heart.  And I am equally confident that as I move into this next season of motherhood, that a Teacher who loves me more than I can fathom is waiting to guide me along my new path.  And I know that, with time, I too will thrive.

The Easiest Budgeting System Ever

We are now *officially* a one-income family. My maternity leave benefits have ended, and the paperwork now shows that I am no longer employed. Logic tells me that we can surely live well on one income, as long as we have a budget.

Budget. Yuck. Every time we have tried to set a budget in the past we have failed. We did all the right things…

  • We outlined our monthly income.
  • We allocated money for all of our bills.
  • We made sure we were putting money into long- and short-term savings.
  • We determined monthly spending amounts for necessary categories such as food, gas and clothing.

But it just didn’t work. I don’t spend $30 a month on clothing; I buy one good-quality item and then don’t buy anything for a while. I don’t buy just enough food for the week, because I prefer to stock up on grocery deals when prices are excellent, which might mean buying 10 lbs of cheese at one time, or a dozen green peppers to slice and freeze.  So, since traditional budgeting wasn’t working, I started using the simplest money-management system I could think of.

I drew on money maven Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s rule that says you have to WRITE IT ALL DOWN. That was my starting point. I grabbed a clipboard and some lined paper, because I’m a pen and paper girl. Are you ready for the brilliance?

On one sheet of paper, I made two columns, because my husband gets paid twice per month. Under each pay period, I listed all of our committed expenses that are covered by that paycheque – including bills, donations, investments, and deposits into our savings accounts. Then I totalled each column. This sheet of paper stays on the clipboard all the time.

On a fresh sheet of paper, I wrote the date of the next payday. I noted the amount that would be deposited into our account and subtracted the committed expenses for that pay period. The remainder is what is available to spend. It needs to cover all our variable expenses – groceries, gas for our vehicles, clothes, home maintenance, and anything else we might need to pay for. Each time we make a purchase, it gets listed on the paper and deducted from that amount. Check out an example:Image

At any point, we can look at the clipboard and easily see how much money is available. It’s basic. Low-tech. Easy-peasy. Once the balance on that sheet of paper reads $0, we have to stop spending until payday. It sounds reasonable, right? But it takes willpower. We have credit cards! I *could* keep spending after the money is gone. But then I either have to use the next paycheque to pay it off, or start accumulating debt. I don’t want to do either of those things.

This is a really, truly simple way to track your spending to make sure you are living within your means. It clearly shows that money is a finite resource. It can only be spent once!

You might be wondering how a system like this works for larger expenses. For example, how do we cover Christmas gifts and family vacations? This happens through the magic of sinking funds. A sinking fund is a separate space where you set aside money on a regular basis to cover a larger, irregular expense. It could be an envelope that holds cash, or a dedicated bank account. In our family, we use five ING Direct savings accounts for: Fun Money, Emergencies, Christmas, Property Taxes, and Farm Share. Each month we contribute a set amount of money into these accounts. They are set up to take place automatically, so we don’t even have to think about it. These monthly deposits form part of our committed expenses, so we can be sure to have the appropriate amount of money available when the need arises.

In this busy season of our lives, the last thing we need is a complicated money management system. This is as simple and it works. I’ll take it.

My True Love Letter

“A real love letter is made of insight, understanding, and compassion. Otherwise it’s not a love letter. A true love letter can produce a transformation in the other person, and therefore in the world…Some letters may take the whole of our lifetime to write.”  -Thich Nhat Hanh

My husband has never written me a love letter.

Over the ten years that we have been a couple, nine of which we have spent as husband and wife, I have never received a love letter from him.  He has purchased beautiful cards on (almost) every birthday, anniversary, mother’s day, and Christmas we have shared.  Most of them have brought tears to my eyes and warmth to my heart.  Many have made me smile, and a couple of them have made me laugh out loud.  Some of them have been short, sweet, and simple in their delivery of a loving message and some have covered three sides of card-stock with words so beautiful that I can’t believe they are meant for me.   Although I do not doubt that my husband has chosen these cards deliberately and with great care, they are nonetheless cards filled with words written by someone other than the man giving them to me.

I have every card I have ever received from him.  I keep them in a clear plastic tote next to our filing cabinet, and the fire-safe box that holds important documents, the kids’ ultra-sound photos, our wedding video, and three tiny wisps of baby hair in varying shades of brown.

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I have hinted at the idea of a love letter at various times over the decade we have spent by each others’ side.  I wrote one to him in hopes that he would write one back.  I have come right out and asked him to write me a letter.  He has yet to pick up a pen, sit down with a sheet of paper, and put his feelings for me into words that I can read over and over again and cherish in a special box for the rest of my life.  He has never written me a love letter.

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He has spent hundreds of hours transforming the woods that pressed against our house, making me feel isolated and anxious, into a gorgeous yard where I feel relaxed and truly home.

He has held my hand at funerals, gotten out of his seat to find a tissue, and then helped me wipe my tears so my mascara doesn’t smear.

He has gone out for Honey Nut Cheerios, in his pyjamas, at eleven o’clock at night.  Without a single disparaging comment directed towards his very pregnant, and very unreasonable, wife.

He has stood by my bedside, holding my hand, offering sips of water, tracking down pink popsicles, and whispering words that kept me calm and helped me focus three times as I laboured babies into our lives.

He has tucked our boys into bed at night so gently and sweetly that I have stood in the hallway outside their door with tears in my eyes from the joy of having a man like him as the father of my children.

He has called out a sweet greeting to our tiny daughter as I bring her down the stairs and into the kitchen where he has been making breakfast for the boys, every morning since she’s been born.

He has thoughtfully offered insight after listening to millions of my words, tumbling out of my mouth at mach speed, more times than I care to remember.  He has held me and said, “I understand”, more times than I can count.

He has forgiven me over and over and over and over.

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He is kind.  He is not jealous.  He never thinks of himself.  He does not get angry.  He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

He has come home to me every single day for ten years.

He has never written me a love letter.

Instead, my husband has given me his whole life.  Every choice he makes is largely driven by his decision to love and provide for us.

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Every time he wipes up a milk spill, every time he offers me a smile at the end of a long day, every arm tossed over my shoulders in the middle of the night, every cold, dark trip to the emergency room with a feverish child, every financial sacrifice he makes for the sake of our future, every piece of toast he gets up to butter so I can have ten more minutes in bed, every phone call I get from him while he’s at work, every flower he sends to me from the backyard in the hands of one of our sons, every time he drives our loaded mini-van to church on Sunday morning, every time he kisses us goodnight, every time he laughs with me after a rough week, he adds to the manuscript he has been working on since the day he asked me to share his life with him.

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His life is the love letter he writes to me every single day.  And when I take the time to read it, it changes me from a woman who longs for words written on paper, to a woman who knows what it means to read love in every act, every step, every moment of a life lived together.

**Shout out to Lisa-Jo Baker for writing the beautiful post that was my inspiration for this one!**