Monday, May 12, 2014

Kindness

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I've learned in the last few weeks that a village is also needed to help care for the elderly.

As mentioned in a previous post, I had to rush my mom to the hospital early one morning -- where she still remains -- and have also had to deal with my own medical (pregnancy) issues since then.

What I failed to mention was that my husband was out of town when all of this first unfolded, so I was completely on my own and unsure of how to juggle home, work, the hospital, child care, and my own sanity.

At the time, it was all very surreal, and I felt completely overwhelmed with helplessness. I think I was experiencing a mild bit of shock and was just doing what was necessary to make it through the day.

With my mind racing, I texted my sister the first day and had her leave work early so that she could sit with my mom in the closet-sized room of the ER, where they waited for her procedure. This allowed me to attend my prenatal appointment, pick up my daughter from day care, take her through a drive-thru, and drop her off at home where my brother-in-law waited to look after her.

That was Day One. Since then, there's been no shortage of kindness shown to us by family, friends, and even strangers.


Since I've been spending each day at the hospital, I've had to take an early leave away from work. And even though I left them in a pinch, many of my coworkers have offered to help me out at home, as have my family and friends.  From multiple offers to babysit my daughter to offers to do our grocery shopping for us, we've been extremely blessed.

Some family members stopped by one night with a tray of homemade lasagna and multiple containers of homemade soup, plus several jars of homemade tomato sauce, so that we'd have some ready-to-eat meals in our fridge.

(Did I mention all of this stuff was homemade??)

And the same brother-in-law who looked after my daughter when I was alone at the hospital that first night also spent the entire following week scrubbing and disinfecting my mom's house from top to bottom.

(I'm tempted to ask him to come and clean our house next but, you know, that would probably be asking for a bit much. Ahem.)

I've even gotten lucky when it comes to paying for parking at the hospital. The other day, while I circled the parking lot for 45 minutes waiting for someone to leave, I hit the jackpot. A random guy in a truck pulled up next to me and offered his week-long parking pass for free, since he didn't need it anymore. Suh-weet.

And then today, while at a different hospital having my 5th ultrasound* done, another random couple just gave me their day-long parking pass so that I could park there for free as well.

(*As an aside..... ultrasound # 6 is booked for 3 weeks from today, mere days before my scheduled C-section is supposed to occur. The fun never ends.)

We've been very lucky and very blessed throughout this entire ordeal, and the only thing I can think of that would make it all the more bearable is to have free Wi-Fi available at the hospital.

Seriously, I've spent so much time responding to work emails and messages about my mom in the last three weeks that I'm a little afraid to see my upcoming cellphone bill. Here's hoping that I can at least break even in terms of what I've saved in parking fees, thanks to some very kind strangers.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Challenges

So, yeah, when it rains, it really does seem to pour.

I normally try to stay away from using too many clich├ęs, but this one is fitting for the month I've had.

On the day that I first brought my mom to the hospital, I also had an important pre-natal appointment to attend for myself. In that visit, I found out that my baby's measurements are slightly off, and it appears that his femurs are too short.

Schwaa?

I'm told that this apparently could mean one of a few things:

1. He has a bone disease.
2. He has Down's Syndrome.
3. He's going to be short.

Frankly, all of the above will present their own challenges in life, but obviously I have my fingers crossed for option #3.

I had a total of just one ultrasound when I was pregnant with my daughter, but now I'm scheduled for ultrasound # 5 with this little guy next week.

Each time my doctor sends me for more tests, her exact words are always, "It's probably nothing, but we should check this out anyway." And each time we come away with something else new and bizarre to stress over.

We're now running out of time with all these tests, given that my little man is going to make his appearance in 4 weeks, whether we have answers beforehand or not.

From my point of view, I don't really see the necessity of having this fifth ultrasound, because whatever's going to happen will happen regardless. But I suppose that, from a medical standpoint, my doctor needs to be prepared.

All I can do at this point is try to keep things in perspective. I know of more people who have had problems with their pregnancies than those who have gone completely smoothly. (Frankly, I've always thought it a miracle that more things don't ordinarily go wrong, given how much potential there is for this to occur.)

One of my coworkers had to have an ultrasound done every two weeks when she was pregnant with her first daughter, because they discovered a tumour in utero. Once the baby was finally born, she immediately underwent surgery to remove the tumour and, luckily, has lead a relatively healthy life since then.

But I can't begin to comprehend the unimaginable stress and fear felt by her mother in those months leading up to the birth.

I know of so many other stories just like this one, and so I'm doing my best to relax and just appreciate the fact that things could always be worse. Someone out there will always have it worse than me.

And I also have to trust that things will be okay regardless of what these ultrasounds reveal.

What other choice do we have? In four weeks we will have a new little blessing among us who will be loved to the moon and back, even if he grows up too short to ever play on any NBA teams.

Again, there are far worse things in life.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Dignity

I remember thinking, back when I was pregnant with my first child, that there was absolutely no dignity in pregnancy and childbirth.

Virtually from the moment you conceive until after you've given birth, you're poked and prodded, having to endure painful exams..... leading up to the ultimate in physically-painful experiences: labour and delivery. By that point you've really been exposed -- in front of God and everyone -- while at your most vulnerable.

It's a miracle that I eventually gave in and decided to have a second child after all.

Up until now, I had figured that childbirth was the most humbling of medical experiences anyone could go through. But I now know that I was wrong.

There is even less dignity in aging.

Chef Paula Deen once proclaimed in a TV interview that, "None of us are getting out of here alive, y'all," and we, of course, know this to be true. Death is inevitable.

I've heard many people debate on what's worse: being taken very suddenly without any warning, or having to suffer through a long, drawn out illness before eventually succumbing to the inevitable.

I'm not yet sure which of the above I would "prefer", so to speak, but I do know that having to watch a loved one suffer can be as equally excruciating as going through it yourself.

I brought my mom into the ER over a week ago, where she underwent an emergency procedure and was then placed in "isolation" for the next 4 days. That label has now been lifted, which basically just means we no longer have to gown up when entering her room, but still she remains in hospital.

The entire experience has been horrifying for her, and she's asked that no visitors be allowed to come in. Not because she doesn't appreciate everyone's concern, but because she feels she's been completely stripped of her dignity.

A month or so ago she was strong and was shovelling her own snow. But today she's unable to walk (or do other, more personal, things) unassisted. And, due to the severe emotional stress of being in hospital and facing her own mortality, she's now developed tremors whereby she has difficulty with speech and in feeding herself.

Naturally, this only adds to her anxiety. It's a vicious cycle.

My daughter has come to visit her in hospital a few times now, which makes for an interesting contrast. Was my mom ever that youthful, energetic, and full of life? And will my bright-eyed daughter one day have her beautiful spirit taken away from her, too, by a debilitating illness? It's painful to think that this is how we'll all eventually end up.

While none of us know if she'll fully recover from this illness, it is somewhat reassuring to know that there are a few nurses here who are caring for my mom as if she's their own mother, too.

(I'm not going to lie, though -- there are also a couple of cold, uncaring nurses here as well. And that makes me homicidal.)

At this point, all we want again is to have some normalcy and for things to go back to the way they were before. I just hope it's not too late for that miracle to occur.

Life is beautiful, but the end of life is not always so.