“Just keep swimming,” Bellevue teacher Jill Comcowich has adopted Dory’s words from the children’s film “Finding Nemo” as her mantra.
After overcoming rare diseases and fighting infertility, Comcowich, 42, tattooed “Dory” on her foot along with the initials “JKS”, representing Jill, husband Kevin and her miracle daughter, Sophia. A quote from the movie is also inked.
In 2003, shortly after the Comcowiches decided to try to have a child, Jill was infected with the West Nile virus, a disease carried by mosquitoes. Most people affected by the virus are elderly or very young. She was an exception.
Side effects included short-term memory loss, balance, and body temperature control problems. Because of these issues, Comcowich struggled to conceive and suffered a miscarriage.
After a second miscarriage of twins, Comcowich broke down.
“This miscarriage hit me hard,” she said.
“I hated people for getting pregnant so easily,” she said. “It seemed like every trip to the OB-GYN found me sitting in a room with a group of pregnant teens.”
As she mourned the loss of her unborn children, Comcowich also was watching her father die of cancer.
“I was so very sad,” she said. “I was furious at God.”
As an eighth grade teacher, Comcowich found solace in her students and co-workers.
“It helped that I love my job,” she said. “Someone would give me a hug, or a kid would do something to make me laugh.”
Weaving baskets also gave Comcowich an outlet for her despair. Making beautiful works of art for family and friends gave her something else positive to keep her mind off her grief.
After suffering three miscarriages including a tubal pregnancy, the Comcowiches tried in vitro fertilization. On the third attempt, a successful pregnancy was unfortunately marred with sadness when Comcowich lost her father during the first trimester. Knowing that her father was aware that the baby was healthy, Comcowich was starting to make her peace with God and her losses.
When Sophia Faith Comcowich was born on March 21, 2007, she said, “it was a dream come true.”
Now that Sophia was here, everything should have been perfect, but life threw the new mother more obstacles. Comcowich’s mother developed dementia and when Sophia was 17 months old, Comcowich herself suffered a heart attack caused by migraine medication, a side effect only affecting .0001 percent of those who take it.
“Nothing compared to thinking my daughter would not have a mom,” Comcowich feared that her life was over as she sobbed stories for Kevin to tell Sophia.
“I felt ridiculously picked on by God, the universe, fate, whatever,” she said. After a couple of shots of nitro, her artery opened up, and she has not suffered any complications since.
Although her heart survived, her body and soul continued to suffer pain. Knee surgeries coupled with watching her mother sink further into dementia added to the list of her trials, but Comcowich has discovered that her life is blessed.
Today, Sophia is a healthy, lovely six-year old excelling in school and growing up before her parents’ eyes.
“I go in and watch my sleeping daughter and think how lucky I am,” she said. “I have an amazing husband, wonderful family, friends and colleagues.”
“I mourn when I need to mourn; I use professionals when I need them,” Comcowich said. “But you can only cry so many tears.” She has found despite all of the pain she has encountered, she has to “just keep swimming.”
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Jen Schneider, who is married with a daughter and stepson, wrote this guest blog for momaha. She’s a full-time middle school teacher who maintains her personal blog, Liv, Laugh, Love.
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