Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Letter to Myself

A letter to my former self:

I look at you in the picture, a few days before Henna’s first birthday and these should have been some of the happiest times. But, the smile on your face is not a real smile. After each picture you kept wondering, why can’t your husband catch a flattering picture of you? But in reality you had been ignoring yourself for months. Ignored the scale, ignored mirrors, ignored your older clothes and just started to buy dresses so that you could hide under the billowing material. But, in these images you finally saw the real reflection.

What you didn’t know at the moment of despair, of self-loathing was that somewhere inside you the fire was being lit. Your relationships were suffering and you didn’t even realize how your bad habits made the closest person to you fearful. Fearful of losing you to obesity and fearful of finding a way to tell you just how much you had changed.

In the next year there were amazing highs and there were also lows that tested everything you knew and felt. I urge you to remember that the times you feel best are when you’ve got energy, when you’re not tired all day, when you’re running, dancing, jumping, playing and not just sitting on the couch all day feeling numb. Jenny Craig was a great catalyst to eat better and smarter and I thank my family everyday for making that investment in my health. To the amazing support I have found within the Jenny Craig community I am eternally grateful. Along the way I also found a support group to deal with the loss of a baby and I found an awesome group of people to dance with. You tried things you never thought you’d do before like spinning and bodypump and for the first time in quite awhile you were brave. You didn’t hide anymore and you let the world see your progress without fear of judgment.

To my current self:

You will always struggle with food, that’s just the reality. It will be a hard fought inner struggle between what used to make you comfortable and what you know you will actually need to care for your body for life. One day, you will be strong enough and those battles and insecurities won’t be as hard to vanquish. So, in 2014:

-     -   get back to the 100’s and STAY there
-      -  try more new activities
-       - get outside or to the rec center with Henna 4x a week
-       - finish the c25k program and run at least 3 5ks this year
-       - don’t stop weekly meal planning and logging into myfitnesspal
-       - keep sharing your story and help others when they ask you
-       - be happy and live for each moment as they come
-       - be more organized
-       -  be patient with myself and others

Thursday, December 26, 2013

From Christmas to the New Year

This year has absolutely flown by. I can hardly believe Christmas has come and gone. It was a good time and only one small meltdown on my part. For some reason I have become very clingy with Henna. I don't want her out of my sight and I worry that something will happen to her. On Christmas morning I held her in my arms and just sobbed. I was sad that I was no longer pregnant, sad that I don't know if or when we will have another child but happy that she's growing and healthy.

Christmas eve was spent at my paternal grandfather's house as has been our tradition as far back as I can remember. It started later than usual which was good for my waist line. Less time had to be spent trying to avoid the kitchen which of course is my favorite place in the whole house to sit. It's where all the talking happens.

I love playing games with my family and we started off playing the dice game farkle. We promptly were interrupted by meals needing finished and reheated and kids crying. For me the game night was cut short as Henna was just TOO tired to function and my husband had come down with a fever of 103. When we got home I didn't have much to do so I caught up on the Jenny Craig forums and revisited my post about my new year's resolution:

Oh, what a year??!! From some of my highest highs to some of the lowest lows, this year has really run the gamut. I feel like I've been living in an Alanis Morrisette song:

I'm broke but I'm happy

I'm poor but I'm kind

I'm short but I'm healthy, yeah

I'm high but I'm grounded

I'm sane but I'm overwhelmed

I'm lost but I'm hopeful baby

What it all comes down to

Is that everything's gonna be fine fine fine

'cause I've got one hand in my pocket

And the other one is giving a high five

I feel drunk but I'm sober

I'm young and I'm underpaid

I'm tired but I'm working, yeah

I care but I'm restless

I'm here but I'm really gone

I'm wrong and I'm sorry baby

But as the end of the year approaches I've been writing a lot which has been very cathartic and for the first time in my life I'm making a new year's resolution.

In 2014, I am getting out of the 200's... back to onderland... and I am NEVER seeing 200 again on my scale. So this new year is dedicated to working my way FAR away from 200... continuing to be active and adventurous and to make it a family effort. I want to successfully move into maintenance and really be in control 100% of my food and my health. I will RUN my first 5k and run the whole thing.

I will not let fear or sadness get in the way of me continuing my healthy lifestyle and hopefully trying again to expand our family sometime in the new year as well, God willing.

What's your new year's resolution(s)?? 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

New Directions (not the Glee kind)

Things have been going well for me. I started a payment plan to cover hospital expenses and having to meet my insurance deductible. I was a little worried about the tighter budget especially wanting to be able to continue on my Jenny Craig food. I can do meals on my own but I really like their food and there is nothing better than the convenience of just popping the meal in... but technically I am more than halfway and I need to start grooving myself into making my own food and continuing to lose weight. I successfully lost 1.2 pounds last week on ALL my own food.

I am VERY active on the Jenny Craig forums. I really love sharing my own story/experiences and love even more hearing other people's stories, struggles, triumphs and suggestions. I have recently been reading a blog I stumbled upon because of the JC forum (shout out to Ashley @ Coffee Cake and Cardio) and I've decided to take "A Mother's Journey" into a new direction. A part of this healing process is getting my mind and body in sync and really taking care of myself each and every day.

A Jenny Craig (JC) member recently joined and had questions about any struggles people had on the plan... here was my response:

The only challenge I've ever faced while on Jenny has been a mental one within my own self. I started Jenny in Sept. 2012 at 271 pounds and lost 85 pounds over about 9 months. There were weeks with big losses, smaller losses, gains or no losses. I didn't hit any plateaus during that time. I was very diligent about writing down what I ate and used my fitness pal to keep track of my calories. I typically stayed between 1200-1400 calories. I was able to incorporate meals out at restaurants and my own homemade dishes as well and still kept losing weight.

When I started I was very out of shape and rarely exercised. I was given a gazelle machine for free and I started exercising with this during television commercials, then I started exercising during the program and resting on commercials and eventually I could work through a whole program 30-45 minutes.

As a reward to myself for losing 20-30 pounds I bought myself a used wii and Just Dance. I started playing that and absolutely loved it. 30 minutes would fly by, I was sweating and didn't feel bored like with most workouts. Then as winter turned to spring I decided to try the C25K program that so many people were talking about. It got my gradually jogging until I could run 30 minutes without stopping. It was incredible. I'm a former soccer player but as an overweight teen I ALWAYS loathed running and here I am missing it now that it's winter. I stopped C25K while I was pregnant with my second child (unfortunately we lost him at 20 weeks) but I have since gotten into even more activity ... spinning, body pump, and hip hop dance post pregnancy. Not only has the exercise helped me feel back to normal but returning to my routine with Jenny Craig have been cathartic for me during the grieving process.

In short my keys to success:

1. Be consistent (write everything, weigh at same time/once a week)
2. Be patient (weight does not come on or off overnight and weight loss is not always linear or predictable... old dogs can learn new tricks but it's hard to erase old habits esp when stressed)
3. Be active but do what you can.... gradually build into a real routine
4. Be positive ... if you come into this thinking it's going to be too hard.. it will be.
5. Realize this is not temporary...these changes you're making need to become your way of life (not the frozen meals but the portion sizes and the daily activity)
6. WATER ... water is life and it is crucial in weightless and body regulation 

Here are my before and (now) photos:

These other 2 images were Dec. 20th 2013 before our office Christmas party!

So, here's to a Merry Christmas and a joyous 2014 pushing in the direction of ONEDERLAND (last week's weigh in on 12/18 put me at 203 lbs even)

Thursday, December 12, 2013


I finally got my period... I had been waiting on pins and needles. I use a period tracker and I HATED still seeing 100+ days late. We also made the decision for me to go back on birth control for the time being. I'm not going to lie, I really don't want to but I know it's the best solution. My husband has a lot of goals he wants to achieve and I know in my heart it is best to wait right now and let him get started in college classes and hopefully to even visit Niger next summer.

But still my heart breaks a little each time someone announces a pregnancy, announces they're having a boy ... hell, sometimes when I see a beautiful pregnant person tears spring to my eyes. A raging jealousy bubbles to the surface and I can't control it. I think it's harder for me because I don't know when we will try again. If I knew, okay, we'll start in April or something but I have no prediction and I tend to stew on the things I want to do. It's not one of my most redeeming qualities.

The other reality I've been facing is that one day when I do get pregnant again... I fear I will be too nervous to really enjoy it or to relax. I am a very laid back person and to not be at ease is hard for me. I was invited to join a support group for bereaved families and while it helps to read and share... it also makes me more fearful sometimes. I'm limiting myself to checking the page to one a week and I need to get better about just offering support and not turning to my story. There's a time and a place and I don't want to take away from their story by throwing mine at them when all they really need is a few word of encouragement. I'll leave my story to these pages.

Well, taking my cranky achy self to bed. But, glad to be back on cycle again.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Moving Along

I never liked the saying that someone was "moving on" ... it seems so finite and maybe, in some life situations one must move on. But, I consider myself as moving along... I am continuing the path of my life but I will never be moved on or "over" my son. Things are getting easier for me. It's easy for me to talk about what happened and there aren't as many triggers for my tears as there were the first week.

This past week I went to Las Vegas with my dad for a dental convention. On the plane to Vegas something came over me and I just needed to release. I turned on my playlist of songs that reflect my feelings and just started crying. I was as silent as possible and I wonder if the two ladies flanking me were aware of my tears. I almost wished they would have asked me how I was doing. I think it's easier to talk about it than to just think about it to myself. A few minutes later, I collected myself and was back to feeling content. It's still strange these waves of sadness.

I talked to my friend, Ginger and we talked for over an hour about all different things. It's so helpful to have a good community of people to turn to. This helps me keep busy and push forward while still acknowledging and recognizing my son's presence.

While I was in Vegas the chaplain of the hospital called me to let me know his cremains and photos were ready to pick up. On Monday, I picked up these last few physical memories. The pictures were beautiful. I really want to post one but out of respect for my husband and his beliefs, they are remaining off the internet. He was so tiny and looked just like my husband. But, so does our daughter. It's only now two years later that I'm finally starting to see a little of myself peeking out... still mostly in her personality.

I had my first weigh in with Jenny Craig before heading off to Vegas. I lost 8.4 pounds ... I then promptly gained 3.4 while in Vegas. It was worth it. We went to two of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants and I had a few drinks... a few more than planned on. But, two days into my week I've already dropped the majority of those gained pounds. I'm moving along with quite a few journeys these days...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Night time is the hardest time for me right now. All day long I stay busy at work and sticking to my wellness plan with Jenny Craig. Henna usually heads to bed around 8 and Moctar is already off to his second job by that time. That's when time starts to slow and my mind starts to ask the questions that I will never know the answers too. I won't ever have one hundred percent closure... but some days I feel more at peace with everything than others.

My mind still races ahead of myself, thinking about when I'll try again. I'm trying to focus on getting myself in the shape I've always wanted first. But, my mind was already in the frame of adding to our family. I feel like I've been tossed ten steps behind. I don't want to rush myself and then make myself sick with worry or regret. Part of me knows it's too soon but the other part doesn't care. I wish I knew how to know when the right time is. I suppose I will feel it deep in my gut. A shift in the mood... I don't know but I know this uncertainty definitely means now is not the time. I'm sure I'll need to constantly remind myself of this over the next few weeks.

Last night I created a playlist of songs that comforted me and listened to it until I fell asleep. I woke a few hours later and turned off my phone feeling refreshed. For now, I'll turn to my music to get me through the nights and the endless thoughts.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

What if Grief was a 12 Step Program?

I don't remember what exactly put this thought in my head. I was driving today and all of the sudden I was asking myself what I could do to make sure I'm really working through everything that's going on in my mind, body, and soul. I remember at age 10 on Sarah's birthday I wrote her a letter of all the things I remembered from her short life and all the dreams I had held for her. I burnt the letter, releasing the ashes into the heavens and hopefully up to her. This was my way of finally communicating all the things left unsaid. So, what would the steps be if there were a program to recover from grief?

  • One must admit and accept that they were or could be powerless to grief—that our lives or our subconscious had become unmanageable.
  • Come to believe that there is a power greater than ourselves which could restore us to sanity if we knew how to seek our courage from it.
  • Make the decision to turn our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him. God is God... no matter what we call him/her.
  • Make a moral inventory of ourselves. It must be an inventory that is without fear, without limit and encompassing all of our idiosyncrasies.
  • Admit to God, to ourselves, and to a loved one just how much and in what ways grief has effected us.
  • Be completely ready to do what we must do to be relieved of that grief.
  • Humbly asked God to remove our sadness and help us to overcome and live life in a positive, open way.
  • Make a list of all the people or all the aspects of our lives that may have been neglected in the grieving process and become willing to repair these relationships.
  • Make direct amends to such people and make ways to furthermore express our care and affinity for the people closest to us.
  • Continue to monitor our grief, and when we are struggling, promptly admit it and, above all, don't be afraid to ask for support.
  • Seek through prayer or meditation to improve our relationship with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of, not behind, His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  • Having an awakening to the grief and sharing our experience with others so as they may be helped from our own experiences.
  • Wednesday, October 30, 2013

    When Hello Means Goodbye

    Standing in the kitchen as Moctar prepared for work and Henna ran around the living room and back into the kitchen, not wanting to be left alone downstairs, my eyes must have glazed over. Moctar asked me what I was thinking of. I didn't really respond because I knew that would make the tears spill. I simply said, "you know what I'm thinking about." "Tell me," he pleaded...

    "All I see is his face..." My love smiled at me and wrapped me in his arms. Sometimes it feels like I'm in a dream. Phantom movements in my belly and before I know it, my hand moves to my stomach, to be met with nothing other than silence.

    I both look forward to and dread Moctar leaving for work in just minutes. I feel bad crying in front of him because after having lived in Niger for two years, I know that tears are extremely rarely expressed. Luckily, my man understands me and all my cultural idiosyncrasies. He doesn't make me feel bad for crying in front of him, but it still makes me feel uncomfortable. When he's gone I have more time to think, to process, and to cry openly. It comes in waves... I hear a line in a song, see an image on the television, glance at a photo, or just simply watch Henna and I can go from a single tear, to weeping, to laughing and smiling. I bet some people feel as if they are going insane.

    I've been slowly paging through the book "When Hello Means Goodbye" that the hospital provided me. I can't handle large chunks of it because it's so personal. It's full of poems, stories, quotes and other anecdotes. The one I read today I will end this blog with:

    "May you find comfort in knowing that love was all your baby ever knew..."

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

    How to Introduce Henna to Alhassan

    For the past few nights, as I lay awake I wondered to myself how and when would be the time to introduce Henna to Alhassan and how to explain where he is and why. When my mom lost Sarah I was six years old and had a much fuller concept of the fact that I was supposed to have a sister come home with us and then dealt with grief of losing the sister I KNEW was a sister before my parents even did.

    Henna at two years old vaguely understood that something was going on as she kissed my belly goodnight every night before I tucked her in. I assumed that one day I would show her the lovely little handpainted box that was given to me by the chaplain at Riverside. It's a white oval shaped box with a teddy bear face delicately painted on it. Inside holds the blue crocheted blanket and tiny hat as well as the incredibly small blue gown that they dressed Alhassan in after they bathed him. It also holds a poem and a pearl in a sea shell. When his photos and his ashes come back from the Chaplain, they will be added to the box. This same sort of box was presented to my parents upon Sarah's funeral service and I took possession of it, constantly looking through it's contents and imagining what would never be. I think I was about 15 when I finally stopped looking in the box so often.

    As fate would have it, I happened to show her her brother much before I ever imagined. I downloaded my iPhone and was flipping through his pictures when she appeared beside me. She said, "baby doll". I told her, "that's your baby brother, Alhassan." She tried her best to repeat his name saying the word "Albassan" which means onion in Moctar's native language, Hausa. I couldn't help but to smile. I told her to say bye bye baby and she added a sweet, gentle "I love you" on her own. My heart melted and poured through my tear ducts. I suspect she may just know more about what's going on than I think she does.

    An angel, in the book of life,
    Wrote down Alhassan's birth
    Then whispered as she closed the book
    "Too beautiful for Earth.."


    Oh so much has changed these past few weeks. At work, we've went from being short staffed, to having a prolonged illness that's kept another staff member down, poor lady!, and then a whirlwind hiring process and now training. And of course my hospital stay and having to have our awesome staff cover for me as well. My husband took a second job las week and has been coping with his new schedule.

    I really miss being at work when I'm not there. I don't like not seeing to my post. I decided after losing Alhassan that it would be best to start back working half days and then using the remainder of the day to rest. I also decided that I was ready to get back on Jenny Craig. Between September 2012 and June 2013 I lost 85 pounds and started to get back my zest for exercise. While pregnant, you cannot continue with Jenny and I was frustrated so I just gave up. Not my brightest moment but alas, it's what I did. Just more proof that I have much longer to go to fix the emotional issues behind my weight issues.

    Sunday night, I called my center even though I knew they were closed and left a message to have my counselor (JCC) or the manager call me back to talk. Obviously, I had to explain to them why I was coming back sooner than anticipated. I was determined to get in Monday and buy my food and restart. I had my mom call the center again as I was very busy handling our normal Monday pace at work. She spoke with the manager and let her know what had happened. I think it was good for her to call, I know she cried it out a little herself. She set me up for my appointment later that afternoon.

    I went to lunch with our AMAZING new hire but was still having trouble with my appetite. I spent almost 2 days being unable to eat in the case that I had to have surgery and then with grief there is a lack of appetite as well for some. After lunch I headed directly to Jenny Craig and met with a new JCC as mine didn't work until later that afternoon. She was very nice but I made my appointment next week with my original JCC.

    Today was my first day back on my planned menu and it felt amazing. I made myself eat everything even though I wasn't feeling that hungry. I know not eating enough will not help me at all. It's very therapeutic to write out my plan and to check it off as I go. Getting back into this routine was help keep me busy and get me back into fighting shape. Can't wait to get fully back into my work routine as well.

    Monday, October 28, 2013

    Sweet Release

    I am eternally grateful to my parents for having raised me to openly express my emotions. My dad was never the type of man to stop us from crying. Instead, he held our hands and let us cry things out. My mom would cry right there with us. And now, at 27 years old, facing the most difficult loss I have suffered in my personal life, they are still playing these roles.

    I'm sure my mom cried just as much if not more than me while we were in the hospital. Not only was she seeing her own child hurt, I'm sure she was reliving her own personal losses. I remember vividly, even though I was just six years old at the time, losing my sister Sarah, born prematurely and underdeveloped at 7 months gestation. We held a service in the chapel of Riverside Hospital and played two songs that have always stuck with me.

    Last night, as I was home alone preparing dinner for my doting husband who is working two jobs right now to achieve his goals, I felt the urge to listen to those songs again. As I listened, the sobs started. What a sight. Rice simmering on the stove and me hovered over the island in my kitchen, hands over eyes, trying to be quiet so as not to wake sleeping Henna. But it felt so good. I may feel like the most cheerful person even during this period of grief, but even I allow myself to let the pain flow from me.

    Music will be both a blessing and a curse in this journey. A good song can evoke emotions so strong but sometimes you may not be ready to feel those feelings. The first two songs below are the songs we played for my sister and the third is what I listened to in the hospital as I was waiting for the doctors to come back to assess me after spending the first 24 hours on bed rest. I'd love some suggestions of songs that have gotten you all through hard times.

    Be Not Afraid

    On Eagle's Wings

    When You Believe

    Sunday, October 27, 2013

    Reflections on Grief

    I woke up at almost exactly 5:38... the same time I was giving birth 24 hours ago. Strangely enough, on the morning of the 26th, my daughter was waking her grandpa up at 5:30 AM just as I was laboring. I could hardly believe it when he told us that in our hospital room just as we were checking out. He didn't even know at that time when I had finally delivered...

    I was listening to some music and just felt compelled to write. Here is what I wrote:

    Grief is a crevasse of emotion, if not careful one might fall in and never see the light of day.
    This morning as I lay in bed I know I do not have an absence of grief.
    It is there,
    In the shadows of my room,
    In the aches of my body,
    In the corners of my eyes, threatening to well over,
    I will not ignore the grief; tears have and will spill,
    But, I have an abundance of faith as well. It overwhelms my grief and spares me,
    I will not tumble the depths of this tricky crevasse.
    God answered my prayers and helped my body make a choice my mind and heart could never make.
    In that moment I felt enveloped in a peace,
    In that moment, God opened his arms to me and I knew we were in his arms.
    Labor was long and I cherished my last hours with my child, interconnected as only mother and child can ever be. I felt his last movements and whispered my hopes and dreams to him only.
    And then his journey started,
    I held him in my arms and said my goodbyes for now,
    A perfect little being, made in love and sent on in love,

    Until we meet again, Alhassan.


    My name is Jessica. I also go by Faiza, depending on where/how you know me. That was my name when I served in the Peace Corps in Niger. That is where my story begins. I left for adventure and fell in love. Then we started a family. We have a beautiful two year old daughter named Henna.

    On October 26th at 5:38 AM I gave birth to our baby boy at 20 weeks of pregnancy. He passed and is now in the arms of God to be loved and cared for until I can see him again. We named him Alhassan.

    In the mere three days that this experience has spanned, friends and family and just people have been coming out of the wood work sharing with me their own experiences, tales of joy and sorrow in children they have not been able to raise in the physical world. I too want to share my story and hope it brings peace to someone else.

    It's hard when some one asks you how you're doing because I don't think they're really expecting a true response. But, I promise you, here you may read my innermost thoughts and feelings and know that deep down I am and I will be okay. I put full faith in God, however you may name him (in our house God and Allah are interchangeable yet we both believe in a creator, a higher power who guides us in our life) I know that everything in this life is a part of my destiny and I'm not going to question why this happened... I would drive myself crazy.

    So, this begins my blog...