MaternalMusing

A Personal Adventure Into Parenthood

Sick Day April 20, 2015

Filed under: baby,day,kids,parent,sick — maternalmusing @ 10:12 am

I had an awesome blog planned for this week…but it’s going to have to wait. Since I am the parent to two of my own little chemical warfare agents I’m raising the white flag and taking a sick day…from blogging that is. V brought home a cold that’s kicked all of our butts. Instead of writing a witty blog on parenting today, I’m going to cry uncle and snuggle on the couch with my boys while listening to Toopy and Binoo.

Yup...it's that kind of day!

Yup…it’s that kind of day!

As a parent we don’t get to take sick days. We’re on call 24/7 365 (or 366) days a year. I’m so incredibly lucky that my husband is a fantastic, energetic and equal parenting partner so I do get to collapse into bed but since he’s at work today; here are a few things that feel about a zillion times harder when you’re feeling like death.

  • Making lunches: Lots of handwashing. ‘no cook’ simple dishes (aka PB&J) and easily opened snacks moved to the lowest shelf in the cupboard. A self-serve option for the older kid.
  • Changing diapers: Stomach turning endeavour made all the harder by hauling 16.5 lbs of baby up a flight of stairs when it feels like you’re walking through jello.
  • Trying to work up the appropriate excitement for your 4 year olds bazillion stories that all seem to require ‘choose your own adventure’ type participation.
  • Any trip outside the house: Trying to coordinate two small people and your ‘death warmed over’ self out the door sometimes leaves you wanting to sit on the floor and just throw in the towel. These things can wait.
  • Housework: Forget it….just no.
  • Dealing with anything that doesn’t go your way immediately: This includes but is not limited to; any form of technology that suddenly stops working, spilled juice, other adults who choose this day and time to be difficult, etc. May cause a temporary emotional meltdown. If you can’t beat ’em…join ’em! Can you harmonize toddler, infant and parent sobs?

On the plus side though I’ll be handing out quiet times like Oprah today: V you get a quiet time! A gets a quiet time! Mommy gets a quiet time! Zzzzzzzzz……

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Prepping A Big Sibling: Only Child Expiring Soon April 13, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — maternalmusing @ 9:00 am
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V is a truly awesome kid. I know, I know…I’m his mom so I’m pretty biased but this past year has really shown me what a fantastic, thoughtful, caring little boy we’ve been blessed with. Last winter, while I was overjoyed to find out we were expecting a sibling for our little man, I was also worried about how to tell V, how it would change our relationship with him, and honestly if I could love another child as much as I loved my miracle baby. For 3.5 years V had had all of our love, attention, resources and focus….how could we possibly divide that with another baby? And how would we help V adjust to sharing all of those things? I’m told these are common concerns for repeat parents-to-be and that it would all come out in the wash, but if you know me and my control-freak self, I wanted to have a solid plan in place to make sure our transition from 1 to 2 went smoothly.

First Hold! V was so careful...and carefully assisted by Daddy.

First Hold! V was so careful…and carefully assisted by Daddy.

First of all we had to decide when to tell V that a little brother/sister was on its way. Because there is a large-ish gap between our children and V is old enough to understand most things I felt like we should wait until I was almost done my first trimester to share our news. V is a sensitive kid and I didn’t want to tell him a sibling was coming if we experienced early complications or a miscarriage. You never know, so I felt it was easier to tell him just before we told other friends/family. Obviously there comes a point, typically when your stomach could block out the sun, that older kids will probably notice there is something unusual going on, but early on it’s pretty easy to keep it to yourself.

My tiny 4 year old...and avg sized 4 month old at the time

My tiny 4 year old…and avg sized 4 month old at the time

One other reason we didn’t share about the baby early on is because I was so sick and we didn’t want V forming any negative connotations in regards to his sibling. Kids are typically pretty sensitive and if we’d told him ‘Well baby is making Mommy sick’ we worried he’d think this baby was a pretty terrible thing. The fun part about all this was that I was brutally sick with Mr. A. Vomiting and nausea, all day, every day, for the first 14 or so weeks. Of course V noticed that I spent most of my time lying in a dark room with a cold cloth on my head trying to keep my breakfast/lunch/dinner down but since he has no concept of ‘morning (ha!) sickness’ he just thought I was plain old sick. We also told him about my kidney issues right away since they involved 3 separate (middle of the night) ER trips before I hit my second trimester.

V getting ready to feed Mr. A his first taste of solids.

V getting ready to feed Mr. A his first taste of solids.

When we did tell V we didn’t make it a big deal. We sat on the couch while he was dancing/playing around the living room and told him he was getting a brother/sister. Of course, V being 3 at the time and not understanding how babies are made, started looking around the room like his sibling was about to magically appear. We explained that baby would grow in Mommy’s ‘tummy’ until after his birthday (well we got close!) and then he’d come out and play. We also put more emphasis on what a great big brother he was going to be, rather than how a new baby was arriving. We sold it like a promotion and everyone with toddlers knows that they love anything that makes them feel important or grown up. Luckily V had had a baby cousin born in Jan of 2014 so he at least understood the concept of what a baby looked/sounded like. V, in his typical way, nodded, took the announcement in stride, and went back to playing. In the toddler mind if it’s not happening right that second, then it’s not really all that exciting.

Bubble Guppies is one heck of a bonding experience.

Bubble Guppies is one heck of a bonding experience.

One thing we made sure to NOT do when we told V was start by asking him if he wanted a brother or sister. Let’s be honest, at that point it didn’t really matter if he wanted it or not, so it was better to just tell him what was happening. We also didn’t ask him if he’d prefer a brother or a sister…babies aren’t really the ‘made to order’ type. We had him ‘guess’ what the baby was before our gender ultrasound but he didn’t really seem to care either way. My advice here is essentially don’t let your child feel like they have a choice, when they really don’t. It’s not like asking them if they’d prefer milk or juice with breakfast…

Helping Daddy give Baby A a bath in the NICU.

Helping Daddy give Baby A a bath in the NICU.

Another element A and I discused was how involved with the pregnancy we wanted V to be. He was 3 and a half when we told him about our impending arrival so he was definitely old enough to understand what was happening but still young enough to be impatient or distracted at appointments/ultrasounds etc. We decided that V wouldn’t be attenting any of my pre-natal appointments, tests or ultrasounds. Baby doctor appointments, especially high risk ones, are long and they would have required him to sit still and quietly which is hard to do for any normal 3-4 year old. Some days I would be at the hospital ALL DAY…ultraound for an hour in the am then a 3+ hr wait to see my high risk OB. Not really fun for an active little boy and stressful for me as well. My in-laws were great about watching him while I was at appointments and he had fun hanging out with his cousins all summer!

Oh he's beautiful! - V

Oh he’s beautiful! – V

We, of course, would show him the ultrasound pictures when I got home and he loved looking at them and trying to pick out his brother’s features! He’d ask to see ‘his’ baby sometimes during the day and we’d let him look at the scans as much or as little as he wanted. We also let him touch my belly and feel his brother kick when I got far enough along. This weirded him out honestly and he only did it a couple times. Around 20 weeks when I was getting bigger he started asking me daily if his brother was coming out to play yet which was a little freaky since we’d had one pre-term kiddo already. I took it as a good sign that he was so excited to meet his little sibling. V also got to hear baby A’s heartbeat once during one of my many hospital stays. This was probably the most excited I’d seen him…he loved it! He told us ‘Baby August’ was talking to him.

Helping Daddy feed his baby brother.

Helping Daddy feed his baby brother.

We had also decided that V would not be present when I went into labour. I’m not a big fan of sharing that with anyone other than my husband and we didn’t want family in the waiting room etc this time either. My parents were lifesavers and took V to their house for numerous weeks in the summer when I was so sick with my kidneys and Andrew was at work. They agreed to pick V up when I went into labour (or was being induced as it ended up) and they’d bring him back to visit his sibling when we were ready. This was a hard decision to make since we didn’t want V thinking he’d been ‘replaced’ while he was away, but it ended up being a pretty smooth transition. V has a lifetime to spend with his little brother so waiting an extra day to see him after he was born wasn’t going to make a difference in the grand scheme of things.

My boys in Baby A's second flight..home from FL!

My boys in Baby A’s second flight..home from FL!

I’ll be honest, I spent a lot of my pregnancy randomly in tears about how the whole ‘new baby’ thing would change our family dynamic. We’d had almost 4 years to get into a pretty smooth routine and as happy as I was to welcome a new life into our family I was also worried that we’d be living in chaos for the next 14-18 years. I had all of these plans to savour and celebrate V’s last summer as an only child. We were going to go to Canada’s Wonderland, visit the CN Tower, see many, many Jays games at the Rogers Centre! We were going to spend all summer, just the three of us, enjoying our calm before the storm. And then we didn’t…

Introducing his baby brother to Ace!

Introducing his baby brother to Ace!

At 21 weeks I was admitted to the hospital with devastatingly painful hydronephrosis and had a tube inserted into my kidney. At 26 weeks I had a recurrent infection that required another hospitalization and a permanent PICC line inserted. I’d get to carry a portable IV pump until I delivered. I had another hospitalization in August because my left kidney had blocked (although 2 hrs before my surgery for my second nephrostomy tube it cleared Thank God!). I had my tube changed once a week, met with an Infectious Disease specialist every two weeks, my high risk OB weekly due to blood pressure issues, had weekly progesterone shots in my backside to help keep Mr. A inside longer than his brother, AND monthly meetings with my urologist. I was at risk for septic infection, pre-term labour and strokes/seizures. I was told by all 4 of my departments that I wasn’t allowed to leave the city…I had to be within 30 mins of the hospital at all times. There went all of our summer plans….

Taking a 'picture' of his little brother!

Taking a ‘picture’ of his little brother!

This was incredibly hard, not just on my body, but mentally as well, for me and for A and V. V was shuttled back and forth between my fantastic in-laws and my amazing parents. All in all V was in Niagara over a month last summer when you add up his various trips. He was there so often he called it his ‘Niagara House’. Luckily he adores my parents and vice versa so he had a great time visiting them, playing outside, splashing in his kiddie pool and learning to use the toilet like a big boy. Have I mentioned how much I love my parents? We wouldn’t have gotten through last summer without them. I’m so blessed to have family who loves our child like we do and literally re-arranged their whole lives to help us out. I was so overwhelmed by their love and thoughtfulness that it’s brought me to tears more than once.

Posin'

Posin’

When V was back in London he spent his days with my sister-in-law and his cousins. Sometimes being dropped off at 3am when we were rushing back to the hospital with pre-term contractions, blood pressure spikes or kidney issues. Do you know what a relief it is to know you have someone to call when you have a middle of the night emergency? Huge! I also still live in awe that my sister-in-law was able to convince him to nap at her house on a regular basis…

As awesome as all this was for us, imagine how it was for V. He’s not old enough to really understand why all of this shuffling around was going on. All he knew was that some days Mommy was home in bed and he went to Auntie C’s house for the day, then he’d come home and give her a snuggle. Some days Grandma and Grandpa would come pick him up and he’d come home in a week (or more). Other times he’d head to Auntie C’s and then after he’d visit Mommy at the hospital because they’d ‘kept’ her. He started to get anxious when I’d tell him I was going to the doctor, asking me if I’d be home after. He’d cry on Skype asking us if he could come home like he was in some kind of exile. This was absolutely heartbreaking but honestly it was better that he had a stable routine especially during weeks I had multiple procedures.

Taking care of Baby A once we came home

Taking care of Baby A once we came home

As much as I wanted to spend all of my time with him I was physically unable to. Between all of these appointments I was on bedrest for my blood pressure, or recovering from having my tube replaced. I couldn’t lift him, bend down or chase after him. I couldn’t bathe myself so how was I supposed to help him? I felt useless and awful that I’d ruined his ‘last’ summer. And then I realized I was being stupid. All in all, V had a great summer! He was the number one guy for a lot of people last year! Our whole family pulled together to make sure he had a pretty awesome summer despite the chaos happening at home. He got to travel, see Blue Jays games, swim and run around outside. Sadly I wasn’t able to really participate but the summer was supposed to be all about him…and it was.

After all the chaos, to be honest, A’s arrival was pretty anti-climatic. He really does deserve his own post on that so I’ll skip to our first meet and greet! V was with my parents during my labour and delivery and was finally able to come visit his new sibling on his 4th birthday! Our b-day gift to him was a doctor’s appointment for vaccines so he could get into the NICU. Andrew got to tell V that Baby August had arrived the day after he was born, but V didn’t come down to London until the Monday evening to meet him. My parents brought V up to the NICU and we helped him sanitize his hands and walked him down to Baby A’s private suite (The ‘new’ NICU is pretty freakin’ swanky let me tell you!). On our quick walk we explained to him what he was about to see. Baby A was in a special crib to help keep him warm, he had a mask on his face to help him breathe (like Bane) and was on a special blanket that made him glow! He was too little to hold right now but he’s so excited to meet his awesome big brother! V skipped down the hallway, anxious to meet this little person who’d been hiding in Mommy’s belly!

What followed made me sob like a baby. V was the sweetest, most loving big brother I’ve ever seen. He sighed when he saw his ‘beautiful baby’ and whispered to him that everything would be okay now, Vaughan was here. He blew kisses into the isolette and kept telling us how amazing his baby brother was. It was such a special moment for the 4 of us and I’ll carry those memories with me forever. V was so sad that Baby A had to stay at the hospital until he was big and strong but he promised his little brother he’d come visit him again. Heartbreakingly beautiful…that’s my boy!

Aww I love him! - V

Aww I love him! – V

August was in the NICU for 16 days and V was able to come for several visits after he arrived back home. When we brought him for visits we encouraged him to give his brother kisses on the forehead, ‘help’ give him a bath and even help us hold his bottle. He loved being so hands-on! One thing we never pushed though was contact with his brother. If he didn’t want to give him a kiss then that was his choice. We explained that it would be nice if he did it, and his brother loved his kisses, but if he wasn’t feeling it I wasn’t about to hold a screaming toddler over a 4 lb something infant forcing them to snuggle. We tried very hard not to create any negative emotions surrounding our new addition. When V visited the NICU it was all about what he could do to help!

It's okay Baby August...Vaughan's here!

It’s okay Baby August…Vaughan’s here!

When we finally brought Baby A home, V was over the moon! He wanted to help with everything and we still try to keep him very involved. He would sit next to him and rock his chair, replace a dropped soother, and sing him songs when he was sad. He was everything we’d imagined he’d be as a big brother and now, 7 months in, he’s exactly the same. V will shush us when he see his little brother sleeping, pick up dropped toys and come find us if he thinks Baby A is hungry or sad.

The one thing V doesn’t do is hold his brother. Not that he doesn’t want to, but let’s be honest. Baby A is considerably bigger than V was as a baby…and quickly gaining on how big V is as a 4.5 year old. V weighs a whopping 27 lbs…and August is quickly approaching 17 lbs at 7 months (delightfully average for the most part!). V just can’t hold that much squirming baby safely, so we keep the snuggles to the bed or playmat.

V is a very protective older brother, he worries if Baby A isn’t with us. He doesn’t like when I take him for doctors appointments and makes me promise that I won’t let the doctors keep him because August is ‘big’ now. He gives me a stern talking to if Baby A doesn’t come with me to pick him up from school. If we’re going somewhere he wants to make sure Baby A can come too. He’s eagerly awaiting the day that Baby A can play with him and they can have sleepovers. He tells people that Baby A is his best friend. Oh…and he also asks me not to swallow Baby August anymore…he didn’t like it in my belly apparently.

Snuggles before V heads to school for the day.

Snuggles before V heads to school for the day.

I did have someone ask how we ‘made’ the boys get along. The answer is ‘We don’t’. Kids are just like everyone else…sometimes you just want time alone, you aren’t feeling affectionate, or they’re just plain getting on your nerves. We respect V’s personal space and if he wants to play by himself, away from his brother, for an hour or so, he’s free to do that. I don’t believe you can force anyone to get along, even siblings, and there will be a lot less resentment, if you just let things unfold organically. I should also probably mention, on the other side of the spectrum, Baby A is obsessed with V…No-one else can get a smile or laugh quite as quickly as V can when it comes to our August-man.

We are so glad Baby A came into our lives and it’s also nice to know that he and V will always have each other. Siblings are for life, and good or bad, they’ll be each other’s rocks when they’re older. Now to get prepared for when August starts grabbing V’s toys….wish me luck!

Oh the attitude...

Oh the attitude…

 

When The Parent Becomes The Child: ‘Our’ Journey with Lewy Body Dementia April 6, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — maternalmusing @ 9:00 am
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2014 was a big year for our family all around, and a true mix of the good and the bad. We welcomed a new life into our family in Sept but earlier in the year we began to watch one slip away. After years of gradual personal and physical decline my mother was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. Slowly but surely we’re now witnessing this once vivacious woman drift quietly, but quickly, into her own world.

My mom and V on his very first birthday!

My mom and V on his very first birthday!

I’m struggling with how to organize and write this particular blog so forgive me if it’s more disjointed than most. It’s an emotional topic for me and trying to look at it both clinically and personally is a tough balance. I’ll start with a breakdown of Lewy Body Dementia and share a bit of my mom’s story before I move into how it affects our relationship with her as both a daughter and mother of her grandchildren.

A, V and my Mom when she came over to hand out the Halloween candy so we could both take V trick or treating.

A, V and my Mom when she came over to hand out the Halloween candy so we could both take V trick or treating.

Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) is rarely talked about but apparently pretty darn common among our elderly population. It’s garnered some media attention in the last year or because of its effects on famous personalities Kasey Kasum and Robin Williams. The disease itself encompasses both mental and physical symptoms and is usually a ‘possible/probable diagnosis’ based on different criteria. It can’t be definitively diagnosed until an autopsy is done after the patient passes on. A great resource I’ve found, if you’d like to learn more, is the website: http://www.lbda.org/

My Mom participating in Go Blue or Go Bald! She raised a ton of money for Make A Wish and opted to Go Bald!

My Mom participating in Go Blue or Go Bald! She raised a ton of money for Make A Wish and opted to Go Bald!

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, LBD is basically a combination of Alzheimer’s type symptoms combined with Parkinson’s. Patients can experience any combination of hallucinations, personality changes, paranoia and memory impairment. They also deal with tremors, weak muscles, and trouble with co-ordination. It typically progresses over the course of 4-8 years from initial onset and most patients are older when they start experiencing symptoms. It is progressive and there is no cure.

My mother’s journey with LBD most likely started back in 2009, just before I became pregnant with V. At the time she had just turned 60 years old. The changes were small to start. She’d forget little things, like conversations we’d had about plans for the weekend. Always known as ‘blunt’ she also started losing a bit more of her ‘social filter’. You know those things you think but don’t say? About your boss/co-workers, the person in front of you in line at the grocery store, acquaintances? She didn’t have that ‘off button’ anymore and would sometimes say mean or inappropriate things even to close friends or family. She also started to trip, and slip more often. Falling off ladders, missing that last step coming down the stairs or slipping when getting out of the shower. Nothing big, maybe a bruise or two but mostly catching herself and experiencing one heck of an adrenaline rush. This continued on a pretty even keel for a year or two. After taking early retirement she chose to sell her house, moving to an ‘easier to manage’ apartment, and continued on as normal. Driving around, visiting family, and volunteering, to pass the time.

V pushing her around on his Plasma Bike at his 2nd Birthday Party.

V pushing her around on his Plasma Bike at his 2nd Birthday Party.

Then the changes became more noticeable. She became aggressive and unpredictable behind the wheel. So much so that V wasn’t allowed in the car with her anymore. She could also become aggressive with people,often with very little warning. We never left her alone with V although we made an effort to see her at least once a week. She always felt badly afterwards but it was like dealing with another child. She had time-outs and people had to explain to her why her behaviour was inappropriate. As her child that was hard to do. You never picture having to sit your parent down to explain that ‘hitting is bad’ but sometimes it’s what has to be done. Honestly it’s a bit easier to look back on now that we know she wasn’t truly in control of her actions.

The day we moved her out of her house (of 20+ years!) and moved her into her apartment.

The day we moved her out of her house (of 20+ years!) and moved her into her apartment.

In the summer of 2013, she was asked not to come back and volunteer when her ‘filter’ deteriorated to the point that her language was inappropriate and confrontational. We started visiting the doctor for memory tests and she was referred to a geriatric specialist (at 62 years old, about 15 years younger than most patients). They did some testing and thought that the changes she had demonstrated may be due to small strokes in her frontal lobe. Unfortunately there wasn’t much to be done. Her results were a little abnormal but at that point they weren’t bad enough to warrant further care or treatment.

Boat ride in Gananoque back in the summer of 2009

Boat ride in Gananoque back in the summer of 2009

The bigger changes started in later 2013/early 2014. When we went Christmas shopping she couldn’t remember her PIN number for her debit. She start walking incredibly slowly, shuffling her feet as she went along. She would forget dentist, and doctor appointments. She kept forgetting if she’d fed her beloved cats, resulting in extreme overfeeding and grossly obese animals. We were starting to become very concerned and she herself called the doctor to arrange another round of testing.

On her birthday in Nov 2013.

On her birthday in Nov 2013.

Before those tests began, larger issues started to unfold. In Jan 2014, after she never showed up for a shopping date, we discovered that she’d been in two car accidents in one day, totaling her car. ‘Oops!’ she said. At this point I called the family doctor on her behalf and requested that they contact the ministry to pull her license. She was a danger to others and herself on the road. This was an incredibly hard decision to make and I knew it would break her heart. By taking her license we were limiting her freedom and mobility but it had to be done. I would never have been able to forgive myself if she’d hurt someone else or herself on the road when it could have been prevented.

Smiling on Boxing Day 2013 with my lovely sister.

Smiling on Boxing Day 2013 with my lovely sister.

The ministry allowed her to take a driving test in order to try to regain her license but she wasn’t able to complete the task safely and they ended the evaluation early. We got to read the report afterwards and it was heartbreaking. The woman who had had a spotless driving record until approximately 5 years ago would never, ever have her license returned to her. She was incredibly upset by this and called our family doctor daily to see if they could get it reinstated. Not because she was persistent, but because she had forgotten she’d already asked.

The doctor had her come back in and repeat her testing and we discovered that she had deteriorated significantly. They started the process of having her evaluated by CCAC (Community Care Access Centre aka the people in charge of setting up assisted/long-term care) because we were worried about her ability to care independently for herself. She had lost at least 20 lbs at this point and was unable to tell you what she’d eaten for meals, when she’d last done laundry, or gone shopping. We were prepared for this to take several months and were digging in for the long haul when unexpected events shifted us into high gear yet again.

Last April 1st, while trying to sleep off my morning sickness, I received several text messages from my Uncle. They had that carefully worded tone of ‘don’t panic but please call me’. When I called him back he told me that my mother had collapsed inside the bank when he’d taken her for some errands and they were now hanging out in the ER. I called A to drive me over and spent the rest of the day waiting for test results, trying to keep her on the bed. Turns out she’d broken her hip and unfortunately with her memory impairments it was a challenge to find out how, and when she’d actually injured herself! Memory issues are embarrassing when you can still remember enough to realize you’re forgetting. As a result, rather than admit she had no idea, she was making up different stories for each person who asked. We used bits and pieces of these stories, along with her bank records, to piece together how it happened. If you asked her; she was hit by a car when she was grocery shopping, or alternatively a young girl had pushed her into the parking lot. From what we can actually deduce, we think she was walking in the parking lot, coming home after a grocery shop on the 31st of March. A car must have come around the corner and she’d tried to step up on the curb to get out of the way. With her decreased mobility she didn’t step up high enough and fell hard on her left hip, fracturing it, before hobbling off home and then collapsing in the bank the next day when it was finally unable to support her weight. She underwent surgery to repair the hip the next day and spent two weeks in the hospital rehabbing and undergoing evaluations.

A 'memory' picture book we gave her for Christmas in 2014.

A ‘memory’ picture book we gave her for Christmas in 2014.

The broken hip was tough, it’s hard to see your parent suffer in pain, stuck in a hospital bed. It was also a blessing in disguise. After the staff at the hospital realized that she was unable to complete simple daily tasks (eg. Getting herself up and dressed in the morning) they expedited our application with CCAC and we were able to have her evaluated for assisted or long term care. The evaluation came back quickly with the recommendation that she be placed in long term care, on a secured floor. Let me recap this for you. My mother went from living on her own, to a secured (aka locked down) floor in a nursing home in two weeks flat. Talk about quick progression. With the fall, memory impairments and other cognitive issues she would require 24/7 monitoring. At the age of 30, my sister and I had to make the decision to put my 64 year old mother in a nursing home. All I kept thinking is that she left her home to do her banking and now she’d never be going back. We had to enact her Powers of Attorney, give notice and move her out of her apartment and help her adjust to new surroundings. My head was spinning…oh and I was also 12 weeks pregnant with Mr A and already experiencing complications. This summer was not going as I’d planned. Luckily our family pulled together, put our heads down and got through it all.They did the majority of the heavy lifting (no pun intended!) so I could protect baby A. I feel blessed to be a part of such an amazing team!

Playing with V after his very first haircut!

Playing with V after his very first haircut!

Mom had trouble adjusting to her new surroundings and would often call crying or yelling, demanding we pick her up and take her home. She would pack her suitcase every morning with all of the momentos and belongings we’d brought to her and wait for us to pick her up. She would cry like her heart was breaking when every day we had to tell her she was staying. It was that terrible moment in time where she couldn’t remember enough to live on her own, but remembered enough to know that this wasn’t a place she wanted to be. More than once I’d hang up the phone in tears, but I’d have to remember as much as the conversation hurt me, my mom wouldn’t remember it 20 minutes from now. I wasn’t even her primary contact for these demands, my uncle had it 10x worse and handled it with amazing grace considering it’s his older sister he’s watching drift away. Nowadays she’s moved past this phase and is content to sit and think. She talks to the nurses and her biggest upset occurs when her parents aren’t calling her back or my uncle brings her the wrong kind of fish and chips. It should be noted here that my grandparents passed on some time ago, and she hates fish and chips. The nurses tell us it’s normal for dementia patients to ‘talk’ or ‘phone’ their deceased parents and we try our best not to argue with her. If she tells me about how they blew off her dinner invitation I’ll agree that it wasn’t very nice but maybe they’re busy and will try to make it another day. It’s those same little white lies you tell your toddler…glossing over the truth so you don’t have to upset them.

At my wedding in 2011.

At my wedding in 2011.

Mom has also physically declined quite rapidly and within a year has gone from walking independently, to a walker and now a wheelchair. She can still walk but needs to be supervised by someone in arms reach as her legs suddenly give out and she’s already had several trips to the ER and stitches from recent falls. Her arms do occasionally tremor but are mostly just quite weak. She can’t hold either of the boys for very long but she sure does enjoy looking at them. It’s those sweet moments we have to savour because with her progression it’s hard to know how much time we have to stockpile those memories.

Family is very important to both A and I. When we found out we were expecting V, way back in 2010, we discussed how we wanted our child/children to grow up creating strong relationships with his/her extended family. We were excited for holidays, family trips, parties etc. celebrated with aunts, uncles, cousins and, of course, grandparents. It’s worked out beautifully so far and V has loving relationships with all of his family on both sides. I’m sure A will grow into these fantastic, nurturing relationships as time goes on as well.

Mastering the art of the selfie! Better late than never right?

Mastering the art of the selfie! Better late than never right?

The challenge we now face, is trying to help the boys build some type of relationship with my mom, and create memories that they’ll carry with them when she’s no longer here. It’s hard to think about and definitely more of challenge than a ‘typical’ grandparent/grandchild relationship. With V’s other grandparents he visits regularly, plays and talks with them. They, in turn, babysit him, read him stories, run around outside with him and will soon be doing the same with his little brother. My mom is no longer able to carry a conversation, read, write or hold them. She will likely be gone before A is able to form memories to look back on. It’s something I don’t like to think about. I remember how excited and proud she was when we found out we were expecting V, all of the plans she had, and how little time she had to fulfill them before LBD stole that ability from her.

Mother and daughter during a visit in Feb 2015.

Mother and daughter during a visit in Feb 2015.

Sadly our visits with her are few and far between since we have to find a time when both boys are healthy AND her floor isn’t experiencing an outbreak of their own. This means that baby A has only been able to see her twice in his very short life (boo to being born at the start of cold and flu season!). She also becomes easily overwhelmed by the boys. They are a lot to process when your typical day is very orderly and quiet. I wasn’t able to visit when I had the tube and recurrent infections since they can easily be transmitted in a medical environment and what was an inconvenience for me could have killed some of the residents on her floor. There is a lot of guilt associated with our lack of visits and as much as I try to convince myself we’re doing the right thing it’s hard to know she’s there by herself.

Biker Mom!

Biker Mom!

What is also hard with the visits is thinking that these are the memories that V will have. He won’t remember the smiling Grandma who took him shopping as a baby, shared Happy Meals with him as a toddler, or ran around with him at his second birthday party. What he’s going to remember is the quiet, skinny little lady who smiled at him from her wheelchair and shared her chocolate bunny. Sweet memories yes, but not what I hoped for either one of them.

My mom holding Baby A for the first time. She could only hold him for a minute but loved every second of it.

My mom holding Baby A for the first time. She could only hold him for a minute but loved every second of it.

I try to take lots of pictures when we do visit so that when A is older he’ll be able to see he was snuggled and loved on by his Grandma, even when he’ll likely not be able to remember for himself. It’s another one of those moments in life where you just want to scream about how unfair it all is, but you can’t. Crying won’t help and it just takes energy and time away from all the positive moments you can squeeze out of a really crappy situation. I’m 31 years old, and she’s only 65! I shouldn’t be watching her fold in on herself, losing that ‘larger than life’ personality that used to light up a room. My boys are babies and it’s not fair that they won’t get to know the ‘real’ her. The whole situation sucks but dwelling on it isn’t going to make her better and it just makes my heart-break that much more when I’m sitting there holding her hand. So, in the moment, you try to let it go, paste a smile on your face, and do what makes her happy. Then, suddenly, while watching her savour her mandarin orange or chocolate chip cookie, the smile isn’t quite so forced and you find yourself truly enjoying the simple moment, kind of like you do when you watch your children sleep. It’s life at its most basic and that’s not always a terrible thing.

Easter 2015 picture with her grandsons.

Easter 2015 picture with her grandsons.

As I said, not my most coherent post but this one holds a heavy weight. It’s hard to become a caregiver to a parent, especially when I have my own young family, but when it comes right down to it you do what you have to. My mom definitely had her faults but they were part of what made her ‘her’ and slowly she’s becoming what I can only describe as a ‘blank slate’. Although I already grieve the loss of the woman she was (annoying habits and all!), I don’t want to waste my remaining time with her mourning what still remains. Going forward we’re really making an effort to see her as much as possible with the boys and I’ll try to go for longer visits with my sister when she drives down. I’m going to savour every moment and hold it close, creating memories and stockpiling stories (Fav so far: When she asked me for a cigarette and I had to remind her she’d quit oh…only about 25 year ago…). These are the things that I’ll be able to revisit and share even when she leaves to join my grandparents for dinner…wherever that is…

V pushing her in her wheelchair after one of our visits.

V pushing her in her wheelchair after one of our visits.