Sometimes it takes a life- changing experience to put things into perspective. It was 2008 and I was thirty- five years old. I was still relatively young in most respects, and yet I felt as if my life was over. Just months earlier, I had left my job. I was doing well, and in the middle of receiving my masters degree. I was working with special needs children. I was also pregnant with my first child. Life was good, until that day in April of 2008. At the Anatomy scan, my husband and I found out that our baby had a very serious heart defect. The shocking news left me barely able to function. I left my job, and devoted the rest of my pregnancy to taking care of my little one and myself.
We had nine brief days with our Liam Jude until he passed away in September of 2008. I felt as if my life was over in every way. I was unable to return to my job due to my fragile mental state. I really didn’t even know how I would go on. If I was one day able to move forward, one thing was for sure: I would devote the rest of my life to the memory of my son.
My life has always been a series of uncertainties. Upon graduating college, I received a B.A. in English. I figured I would wind up in the field of publishing. I was willing to start from the bottom. I envisioned myself writing for a magazine. I also had a dream of writing a novel one day. When I didn’t hear back from these companies right away, I grew frustrated. Family and friends urged me to teach. They said I would be good at it. It was in my blood as well. My mother had been a teacher, and an outstanding one at that. There were also perks involved in a career in education, most notably, a ten month work year.
I guess you can say I fell into it. I was offered a job thanks to a friend, whose current school needed to fill an open position. I would be teaching science. I wasn’t a scientific type person, but I was willing to give it a try. It was a disaster. As much as I loved teaching kids, I didn’t have the greatest control over the class. They walked all over me. Being a fish out of water in a public school, I figured I just didn’t have the experience yet. That said, I just didn’t enjoy it in the way that I thought I would.
A couple of friends suggested that I would be better suited for parochial school. The setting was usually smaller and the administration meant business, they told me. Regardless, kids are kids and I figured I would have similar struggles. I knew I needed time to learn. I was a rookie of sorts. When Catholic school didn’t work out either, I decided an office job was more for me. I would up in real estate property management. It was never where I expected to be but somehow, there I was.
I still had an itch to do something more fulfilling. The one aspect that I loved about teaching was working with them on a one- to- one basis. I was thrilled to learn about a type of educator called a Special Education Itinerant Teacher (S.E.I.T for short). This was my calling, I thought and something that I needed to pursue. I would be working with special needs children one to one in either a school or home setting. Yes, where I wanted to be. A few months after landing my first S.E.I.T job, I found out I was pregnant. I was nervous; especially with all the constant traveling, but all would be okay. I was having a great pregnancy so far, I couldn’t have asked for more. Until that day in April.
It was a day I had been looking forward to for months. Given the blessing of a great pregnancy there was absolutely no reason that I should have thought something wrong. I was there to verify the suspicion that I was having all along: that I was carrying a baby boy. Sure enough, he was a baby boy. He also had a very serious congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. I was shattered, and unable to continue with my job. He died, very unexpectedly, at nine days old.
There was no doubt that losing Liam was the hardest part of the journey. Two beautiful subsequent children later, I still have not fully recovered. While fortunate to get pregnant a few months after my loss, my professional life remained at a standstill. I would be a stay at home mom for awhile. It was something that I knew I had wanted regardless of any situation. But, then what? Where would life lead me? Again, friends and family pushed me to go back to Education. However, I wasn’t ready for that, at least not now. At the age of 36, I had finally made up my mind. I slowly found the courage to go after the dream that I had wanted all along. I wanted to write and do so with a purpose. I wanted to share my story. I needed to. I wanted to be a voice; a voice for other bereaved parents.
The loss of a child is, no doubt, perhaps the most painful experience one could ever endure. I knew I had to be honest in order to help people. It was scary at first. Once again, I was a fish out of water, one who was soon to be forty years old. At this point, age meant nothing to me. It was just a number; and a magical number at that. I was going to do this.
I began to query various editors. It was a job in itself. Some editors got back to me. Others did not. When pitching a story, I learned to realize it was not a personal thing when it wasn’t accepted. Sometimes, it was as simple as a timing issue. Other times, the story was not appropriate for the publication. All I knew was that I would keep trying. I was not giving up without a fight.
Finally, in December of 2013, I got my break. I pitched my essay to a mom blog. It was about loss during the holidays and how my family chooses to remember our son every single year in our holiday photo. It was called “Pictures of Liam: Remembering Our Son During the Holidays.” The fantastic editor loved it. I would be published. I was ecstatic.
Now, two years later, I am still doing my thing. I have learned a lot about myself in the process. The feeling I get when another bereaved mom messages me to say thanks is immeasurable. This is what it is all about. One of the best lessons I have learned is that is never to late to go after what you love. It is not particularly easy. You will make sacrifices, you will struggle, but you will keep on. Money may not come in right away, but you persevere anyway. All that is needed is the love and devotion that you have for your craft. It is the gift that will keep you going.
In my life, I have definitely been a “late bloomer” of sorts. I have always taken my own sweet time. I am very thankful to have gained much strength through the years, and I owe it largely to all my children. I have been blessed. I look forward to the future and the next forty years. I am here and nothing is going to stop me.