Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mum's the word

My back is much better thank you. I'm just out of shape. My core is pretty weak. Ack, sometimes I feel so old. I've already seen my first grey hair on my head. You don't want to know where I found the other grey one. I felt like Samantha in Sex and the City when she found a grey hair in her nether regions. I was absolutely horrified and went into denial, sure that the electrolytes in my pee was responsible or whatever. And no, I won't be dyeing my powder puff brilliant red or going Brazilian any time soon.

But the grey hairs are catching up on all of us, I guess. Not much other than hair dye will keep it away. Well, I guess I better make a plan to get back into shape, cause I'll need all the energy I can get when I have a wee one who doesn't sleep as much as I do. I used to be in pretty good physical shape until my mum moved here. I promised a couple months ago to tell you a bit about my mum so I'll do that now.

Just before trying to conceive consumed our every waking thought, my mum finally retired and sold her house and went to spend some time with my sister and her new baby in Atlanta. We went to visit and it soon became obvious that there was something definitely off a bit with mum. She was paranoid and had found a new dislike for my sister's husband. She was also overly possessive with the baby, but at the same time clearly not capable of taking care of him as my sister had hoped. So, it was agreed that she was should relocate to Vancouver. Six weeks after she moved here, as I was taking her to do extra work in a movie, she had a massive stroke.

I'll never forget that day. I was so sure that it had something to do with her diabetes. I was not familiar with signs of a stroke, it wasn't obvious, it was just like she was sleepy. I drove her to emergency, they told me to go get a coffee and when I came back, she was lying unconscious in a dimmed room and the doctor sat me down and told me that he was sorry, she had had a massive bleed and there was nothing he could do for her. I was dumbfounded. I bent my head down on her chest and all I could do was chant softly and I had no idea whether to chant that she survive or that she went quickly. I just chanted. He said there was a small chance that maybe the surgeons at the other hospital could do something as they had no neurosurgeons there, he would check. I just chanted. I didn't want to lose her. But I didn't want her to be comatose either. She was transferred to the other hospital, had brain surgery right away and she lived.

Once she physically recovered, a team of therapists said she had to be in intermediate care, a home in other words, a locked ward for dementia patients. It would be too difficult to care for her at home. At the time, we lived in a one bedroom apartment with our dog. She would need 24/7 care. She stayed several weeks in hospital until a space came up for her in a care home. I was told it could take months and I wouldn't have a choice for the first placement. I chanted. 6 weeks later, a large room became available in one of the better homes downtown close to where I lived.

So for 4 years, my husband and I have cared for her as much as we could. She cannot keep track of the days, she cannot bath or toilet herself properly, she doesn't remember what she had for lunch, but she does have long term memory. She doesn't always get things straight and sometimes she can't find the right words or the right memories. She has a nasty habit of blowing her nose in her hand and wiping it on whatever is handy. She knows who I am and all of her family. She remembers names, and can do simple addition and subtraction. In the past her condition has gone up and down. Now she's stable and doing well. Her doctor had told me that she was going to get worse. I never believed him. And you know what, she's doing much better, she's stable. She has her sense of humour and she can still sing. She still likes her beer and she has a fondness for sushi. She still knows she's my mum.

It was tough. Really tough when the elevator doors to her floor closed. I cried every time I left her. I did my best. We ate out a lot, we were both exhausted from constantly attending to her especially in the early days. I gained a lot of weight. No more time for working out and going shopping with friends. I had to become her legal guardian as she had no power of attorney agreement when she got sick. The paperwork was overwhelming. I suffered from nosebleeds and didn't sleep properly for 2 years. My eldest sister from Toronto and my uncle from England came once. My youngest sister once a year. I chanted to keep my stress down, to continue working. I even thought I had a huge break in my career until I got replaced( i.e. fired) from the role. My husband took great care of me. He went through 2 layoffs and a career change.

During this time was when we went through all the IVF treatments. Yeah. No kidding. There was a lot of hope, though. The first time, I had hired a personal trainer for the days I didn't visit mum, and as I've said before, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, blah, blah, blah. I was in great shape and I felt completely confident. We cracked a lot of jokes. From my mother's disability, I learned to really treasure our time together. In many ways, I had gained a relationship that we never had before. For most of my life, she drove me crazy and I found it hard to be in the same room with her. I knew she always loved me, but she never listened to me. I couldn't really talk to her. Now, we hang out at Starbucks and people watch. I miss her when I don't see her. We hold hands when we walk down the street. She listens to me. I can't tell her my problems, but she always senses my mood. She continues to encourage me. I have learned patience, how to slow down my pace to match hers and focus on her needs. I get short tempered with her every now and then, but now I recognize that I need to take time out to take care of myself and not get overextended. I have to say no to her every now and then.

That's why it still hurts that I cannot give her a grandchild of her blood. I am proud of her. She's a survivor. She just loves watching little kids and I wanted her to hold my baby and see herself in there somewhere. I told her recently that I cannot have my own, but will be adopting. She said she was okay with that. I hope that she will "forget" that the child is adopted but be a part of her. I think she will be happy to be a grandma again.


Lori Lavender Luz said...

With all that going on, it's a wonder you aren't TOTALLY gray.

That chanting must be pretty powerful.

Nica said...

I have so much grey in my hair. I've had folks (with bad vision) think that I've streaked blonde.

I can SO understand what you are going with -- Mother on one end, IVF on the other. I wish I had some great advice or solution to give you. (I don't).

All I can say is, I know where you are. (Or at least, I know the neighborhood).

Schatzi said...

I have not yet been in the position of needing to care physically for my parents. But I have a lot of respect for people who are in that situation. It must be very difficult to watch a parent lose the capacity to care for themselves.

I think it is nice that you have found a different, sweeter relationship with your mother through all this.

Pamela T. said...

I think Lori said it best. You are one strong woman. It's wonderful that you still have such a strong bond with your mother, that you can bring each other comfort. Your wistfulness about not being able to give her a grandchild of her blood is something I understand so well. I long to know how my parents traits might have manifested themselves, too. The best I have is a vivid imagination, and I work it! They are some pretty amazing children. (Uh, that sounds quite deranged - bragging in imaginary kids. There's got to be a post in that.)

And, I'm glad your back is on the mend!

Teendoc said...

I'm sorry about your mom. I lost my mom two years ago and it still aches.

Please remember (and I am like a broken record in saying this) that the child you adopt will be your own. S/he will carry on your family's legacy just as my Zizi is carrying on her grandmother Ericka's legacy.

Anonymous said...

hello i have never visited your blog before .just happened apon it .forgive my spelling. im not good at typeing.anyhow sorry about your mom. i was young when my father had surgery on both sides of his brain .blood clots.and he also was not the same person.with much hope of recovery. we brought him home and in matter of time he was fine. even drove again.and we became closer.enjoy what time you dad has passed but will never be forgoten.he taught me well .i am now a single father raiseing a 14 yr old daughter.and my step son .who is now 21.i only read the last thing you wrote.i will read more. peace (wan).