On death, impending labour, and threatened with court

My beloved grandmother died early this morning. I jokingly made her promise me last week she’d wait to leave us until the end of the month, when Henry’s brother is supposed to make his debut. I don’t take it personally that she didn’t stave off her severe lung infection needing constant oxygen support, recent heart attack and broken pelvic bones, and chronic several pain, arthritis, and early onset Alzheimer’s just to meet her second great-grandson (what kills me, is we tried. Henry, if you lived, you would have met your Great-Nana). It was time to go back home and be with her family, all of whom died before the age of 70. She made it to 94. What a woman. I will miss her dearly.

My Nana’s funeral starts on Thursday with a few hours of visitation in a funeral home I always thought sounded like a candy store. Urgel Bourgie. Friday is the remembrance mass and burial. Friday is also my soft due date (we’ve been sticking to the 27th – Sunday – as baby’s date of arrival, but in all calendrial honesty, he’s due the 25th).

Will I be at the funeral? Will I be in the throes of labour? I guess we’ll see. You never know when you’re going to come or go in this life.

In bad news, I found out that I tested positive for streptococcus B. If transferred to baby, it’s fatal. Great. More things to worry about. I pray Henry doesn’t meet his brother before I do. But the antibiotics I’m supposed to have as I start labour are supposed to protect him.

And I’ve mentioned I have a step-son before, have I not? Did I also mention his mom is, hmm, to avoid public defamation, is, in the most PC way I can express it – leaves much to be desired in her parenting competency. She believes her high-school dropout roaming minimum-wage earning ass is going to prevent us from moving a few provinces over in the middle of next year, with my step-on, of which we have full custody, to a two-year postdoctoral position offered to my betrothed, at a significant raise and an overall boost to our livelihood.

Forget the fact that my partner (who will soon be my husband) will have myself and our newborn to support, plus his son by this she-devil who, if we do go to court, will drain every last red cent we had saved up for our impending move and to float us by the next few months while we focus on baby. She doesn’t even want to change the frequency of her visitations, which is supposed to be every two weekends, but is usually, maybe, only once per month, with nary as much as a phone call in between. The drama lama has hit my family hard.

Grandma – strep B – ex-girlfriend/step-son … whats’ that thing about women close to labour needing to relax and prepare for the big push? You know, that thingy about them being the priority so they’re feeling good and supported and taken care of so labour goes as well as possible?

Apparently, I have to be super human and try my best to filet away the drama, accept Nana’s gone, and not worry about strep B because antibiotics will take care of it so I can be as relaxed and well-rested as possible for the big (enormously overshadowed) day.

So this is your warning. Don’t you dare tell me everything should turn out okay, or not to worry, or sprinkle sugar on any of this. Shit with sugar on it is a waste of perfectly good sugar. It damn well might not work out at all, and I have no illusions about it. I’m stressed, I’m sad, I’m worried, and I’m supposed to be giving birth within the next week. Please pocket your helpful words of advice because I pretty much guarantee you’ve never experienced compound events like this. If you have, then let’s talk.  Not to sound defensive, but I  can already feel well-meaning words of advice fluttering around this blog post, so, please don’t bother. I’m just pissed off. At life.

I have one dead son, one dead father, and no grandparents left. My last one checked out today and I haven’t really stopped to process her death yet. And a step-son who won’t stop talking about how his mom is going to take us to court, sue us, and win. And a partner who is racing to finish and submit his Ph.D before I give birth. How’s that for a hectic week? Ah fuck, and it’s only Monday.

 

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Lessons

I’m different now.

I’m part of that group of people who are rarely understood, unless you’ve also been there.

Please don’t come here. I pray you never will. It isn’t a group I ever expected or wanted to join. But here I am.

Life is different now. I’m not out of the woods yet – maybe I never will be. But here are some things I’ve learned through the changes of the last month (has it already almost been a month?)

From happier times, with Wilbur

From happier times, with Wilbur

1) I will never, ever ask another pregnant woman the typical questions we all expect to hear:

  • Is it a boy or girl?
  • When are you due?
  • Have you picked out any names?
  • How is the nursery coming along?
  • etc.etc.etc.

One out of every four pregnant women you meet will not get to bring her baby home, or, she might lose her precious little one soon after, like a stillbirth, or SIDS. Some women you see who are pregnant may know they are losing their babies, and yeah right if they’re going to be talking about it. It’s a respectful cautionary thing that I will just omit from conversation.

In the group of friends we sometimes spend time with, at one point a few months ago, there were five pregnant women in the room, including myself. Of this group, me and another friend never got to nine months. For the time we spent in the happiness of expectation, the rest of our time on Earth will be spent in mourning and remembrance of the ones we lost.

2) People don’t know what to say to you.

A little over a month ago, I wouldn’t have known what to say to me either. I’ve been shocked and saddened, though, that even after a few solid weeks of blogging about this, I still get insensitive and hurtful things said to me.

I don’t know if remarks intended to be uplifting, but are actually soul-crushing, will ever not be hurtful. But right now they are, and I’m still shocked when I hear or read them, despite all the words I have poured from my heart to point out helpful ways to talk to bereaved parents. Oh well. I can’t expect everyone (or anyone) to read this, or remember anything I write.

You have your own lives to think about. This is just the way it is and I hope, over time, to find a space in my heart that only fits compassion and support rather than being an open door to everything everyone has to say.

3) Kindness lurks in every corner, especially in unexpected places.

I’ve had to make a few phone calls, taking care of business, financial stuff, bla bla bla. When it’s relevant to the conversation with the stranger on the other end, every single time I’ve had to bring up that I’m no longer pregnant, I cry. Every single time, the person I’m speaking with has been infinitely kind, patient and understanding. And these are bank employees, Service Canada employees, my local pharmacy, etc.

Friends I haven’t spoken with in a while have popped up with incredible support and gestures of selflessness and kindness, like Anita, who set up a charity page in Henry’s name with Water Aid. Parents of friends have helped us with weekly tasks, and have left us food, flowers and messages of love. This tragic event seems to have opened people’s heart to us, and we’ve spent a lot of time in teary-eyed gratitude.

I have questioned myself for what I would have done if this happened to a friend of mine instead of me. The new Mel knows the answer, but I’m concerned about the old Mel – would I have shown as much compassion as we’ve been shown in the past month? I’m not going to worry about answering that.

I know that my life is going to get to a new normal, and I am taking my time with it.

4) My last lesson is a work in progress – which is to try to learn the difference between actually feeling ready to do something, and forcing myself to go outside my comfort zone to do something, like I would have normally done. I guess I have to give myself time to see what new Mel will do.

Thank you for reading this very self-centred post!

Thank you for feeding us

From our bellies: Thank you for the bread, soup, lasagna, zucchini bread, pie, pad thai, spring rolls, more bread and soup, tourtiere, more pie, even more soup, more pad thai and spring rolls, hot dogs and poutine, cookies and chips, chicken, coleslaw and french fries, more lasagna, cannelloni, sauce and desserts, pastries and quiche, popcorn, hot chocolate, spaghetti, zucchini, pineapple thai chicken with rice.

From our hearts: Thank you for the cards, sweet and supportive messages, flowers, poems, healing amulets, offers to go for walks, offers to talk, talking, picking up our weekly veggies at the market, flowers, flowers and flowers, taking care of Jordan, taking care of us, feeding and cleaning the rabbits, doing our dishes and laundry, thinking of us, respecting our space, writing blogs and books that help me feel less stranded. Thank you for understanding if we see you and don’t stop to chat or catch up, and sorry if you thought we were acting strange. Thank you for giving me time to mourn and pick up where I left off when I feel ready.

To Henry: Thank you for you. We miss you.