Thursday, August 30, 2012

Saying Goodbye

When and how to say goodbye, or giving permission to let go, is a personal decision, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Some families have difficulty starting the conversation but find that once begun, it can be a gift....

Some families begin these conversations with:

  • What I love most about you....
  • What's will always remember....
  • What I will miss most about you...
  • What I learned from you...
  • What I will cherish...

(excerpted from "When Death is Near a Caregiver's Guide" published by Quality of Life Publishing Co.

In my last post, I was wondering how much time we had left with dad. Today I think we are a little closer to the answer. I don't think he will be coming home from the hospice center. I am here with him now. Night shift. He's resting now, but it's touch and go. Once he's up, he's quickly agitated. His body twitches, jerks. He wants up. Wants out. Doesn't want anything touching his body. Obviously a naked dad wandering the halls in a weakened state is nothing that anyone wants.

I have always winced at the phrase "battling cancer" but this time I feel like I am watching exactly that. Right in front of my eyes.

I could tell my brother was bothered by the morphine pump. But he hasn't seen him in action. Hasn't seen how it takes four nurses to calm him. He doesn't know that he almost hauled off and hit mom a few days ago at home. He's angry, dammit. And he's never been terribly good at directing that accurately.

It's hard to watch him here, as physically weak as I've ever seen him. Completely dependent. And be ok with how annoyed I have been with him. Lately. Always. But I don't know what to say. I've been trying to fill out the sentences above and I don't have the answers yet.

For all of his weaknesses, for all of my frustration, I do know this: he loves me as much as he is capable of loving. For all of his grumbles and crankiness, there is nothing more sacred to him than his family, meaning, me, my bro, my mom. M has been elevated to that level as well. Because he loves me.

He is so fucking stubborn. And I can't decide if that is something I admire or drives me crazy. I think both. I am also fairly certain M has said the same of me.

He's sleeping now. If recent history can be trusted, I'm thinking maybe I should try too while I have a chance. The Nationals are on. I don't know if he can hear the tv, but it's soothing to me.

Boom. There it is. That good memory. That perfect moment I've been searching for all day. Why is the drone of the baseball announcers and his snoring so calming to me? Because those were the sounds of almost every night one summer. Pre high school, but old enough to sneak out of bed and not get in trouble. Me. Dad. The old pleather couch. Bag of sour cream and onion chips (don't tell mom) Baseball until we both fell asleep. Tv on. Crumbs everywhere. That. That was great.

I knew I needed to be here tonight.

I know more memories will come.

I love my dad. I know he loves me. That's all there is to it, no?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Blog by Numbers

  • Baby M/m is doing great. At last ultrasound, was measuring right on time. Which means today is 9 weeks 2 days.
  • Heartbeat was 175 (and our gestational surrogate is placing bets that it's a girl. How about you?)
  • Today is day 44 of my running streak. 
  • 30:48 was my finish time for a 5K this weekend. A personal best, and also the very first time I've ran with the woman who inspired me to run, my girl S.
Now, the last number is the one that's affecting my life the most right now and the one that is the most unknown. How many more days does my dad have to live? Are we talking months? Weeks? Days?

This weekend was a rough one. M and I were both exhausted, but we got to leave on Sunday. Mom, she gets to stay behind. And apparently things got worse when we left. Cancer is clearly pushing into his brain and he has equal moments of lucidity and talking straight up nonsense. He thinks he's mobile but he's not. He fell twice when we were there and thank god for M because I wasn't getting a 200+ lb man off the floor.  His weakness is making him frustrated. His frustration is making him mean. His meanness makes me snap back...none of this is pretty.

He's spending a few days at the hospice facility now, which will be a relief for my mom, who is crumbing under her own exhaustion. I'm debating renting a car and heading down tomorrow for a few days, but the problem is, once Labor Day weekend hits, their little beach town will quadruple in size. I'll need to make it back before the weekend rush or my 3+ hr drive will turn into a 5+ one. Guaranteed.

So we'll see.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Testing It Out on Strangers

So, there I was, finally seated on the last flight home from an awesome work trip in a city far away from home. A woman in a business suit shoves her bag under the seat and plops down next to me. We're both tired and a little loopy from airplanes that don't show up, flights that keep getting delayed. We smile at each other, make small talk as the plane gets ready to lift off. We both had good weeks. We're both looking forward to being home.

"Any kids? I have two."

"Well, one's on the way....."

"Get out! Oh you're gonna love it...." And she then goes on to tell me to eat everything and anything I want since breastfeeding "sucks the fat right out of your body. It's freaky at first, but you get used to it and holy shit you can eat fritos without even stressing." I'm barely paraphrasing here. And then her TMI alarm went off and she went back to reading her book. I smiled politely and did the same.

And there you have it. I said it. Of course she assumed I was pregnant, not my surrogate, but why insert details into a conversation that will never be remembered with a person you don't know? At this point, it's not important. What's important is that one is on the way.

Measuring 7 weeks 6 days as of today. 8 weeks tomorrow. Right on schedule. Heartbeat is 155 bpms. Good and strong.

Back to "the telling." I blame Paz. She started it.

The night before we were at yet another conference-hosted party (yes, people! Paz and I in the same city, doing work-type stuff. Being ooh soo professional, but basking in the serendipity of being there together and being able to spend some quality time with each other, and Vanilla Ice, and KC and the Sunshine Band, but those are stories for another day). So, this party. Me and Paz. And this incredibly tipsy guy telling us about his life in Colorado and how much he loves to snowboard, and how cool it will be to get back on the slopes this year after a few years off to raise his son. He can't wait to be on the mountain with his son. Out of nowhere....

"She's pregnant!!" Says Paz pointing to me, who thankfully is sipping a mineral water.

His eyes light up. Mine try not to register shock. Do I clarify? Let it ride? It is really that far from the truth? We're pregnant. I just don't happen to be holding that baby in my belly. I smile. Say nothing, other than "oh yes its quite early," because I can see him eying my gut. The stinker.

And it really wasn't until the words were said out loud, with other people listening, that this really registered with me. And I am fairly certain that's why Paz did it. Not for snowboard guy, but for me. We are going to have a baby. Baby.

Baby, baby, baby.

And now that the seal is broken, I've started to wonder how best to share the news with our non-blog reading family and friends. I'm not ready yet. M isn't either. But we have started to think it through. Family will be easy. They know the road we've been down and that gestational surrogacy was the path we were exploring. They just don't know that we're cruising along on it right now.  With a baby on board. I am sure we will share the news with friends as it comes up. No worries there.

That leaves the folks that need to know because M and I will be taking some time off work and will be appearing around town with a real live baby some time this spring. Mainly, work colleagues and bosses. At what point do we let the cat out of the bag? For me, that list extends a little farther out than M - members of my association, my Board, the lobbyists and consultants I work with - I will need to explain why I'm not in the thick of things next budget season. Do I give them a heads up now? The latest possible moment? Somewhere in between?

People: what did you do? Moms and dads via surrogacy, adoption, any way that didn't involve an obvious visible indicator that a child would soon be joining your family - when did you alert folks beyond your tightest circle of trust? How much or how little of your story did you share? I'm curious because we are veering into being more than just your story to tell. More on that later, but for now, tell me.

When did you tell your boss?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Didn't Mean to Leave You Hanging

Well, hi.

I realized yesterday that I've left you hanging. I'm sorry.

Last week's ultrasound was great. Our little guy measured 5 weeks and 1 day, a few days short of what our doc predicted, but nothing out of the ordinary. Sac there. Fetal pole there. Now its time to get growing. Hoping to hear a heartbeat on the 16th.

Our GC is nothing shy of fantastic. This morning, she asked me a very honest question: how much do you want to know about this pregnancy? She promised to tell me everything, or nothing, what would I prefer?

I'm not sure.

It doesn't help that my mind is muddy this morning - last night's dal and mustard greens dinner was delicious, but it has both M and I a little doubled over today with some, um, cleansing, effects? I'm just not thinking straight.

I've loved the open communication so far. In fact, its been a wealth of info from multiple sources. Our GC's and nurse's calls or emails almost always overlap, racing to keep us informed. Couldn't ask for more.

At the same time, I'm already getting a little nervous about planning a visit to share a doctor's appointment. I know she would love to have us at one. I feel we should be at one. But I don't think I can manage being there for the big one - the full body scan. You know, the one that came out perfectly for I and J days before an infection pushed them out of my body.

I don't want to jinx anything. And I know M feels the same way. He gets nervous about being around ANY pregnant woman because he doesn't want any bad luck to brush off. Seriously. He said it pretty bluntly the other night:

This whole out of sight out of mind is a wonderful thing for my mental health. 

And I don't disagree. I trust our GC and already told her to just keep doing whatever it is she does. She has four beautiful kids of her own. All perfect pregnancies. What knowledge can I impart about pre-natal care? She got it right. Me, well, I didn't. Not being self-effacing here. Just stating facts.

Knowing that our little one is in the hands/womb of someone safe frees up all of this head space to think about other things.

Like baby names.
Like where a crib might go. 
Like what kinds of songs we might sing to him/her.
Or if my sister in law will let me borrow that kick ass baby carrier when baby S grows out of it.
Like Pottery Barn Kids.

I don't feel like a walking time bomb waiting for my body to fail. I feel like an expectant mother. With hella perks. 

It took a very, very long time to get my head to this place, but right now, at this moment, this is feeling like the right decision, and the best of many worlds.


Little guy without a cute nickname: 5 weeks, 6 days based on first u/s
Day 24 of running streak.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bad Habits

I'm feeling a little growly this morning. And I think I've figured out why.

I'm angry with myself. Really bothered, in fact, by some bad habits that I seem to be developing lately.

It seems that I'm getting into the habit of inserting certain things into conversations where they don't need to be. I'm adding information that does nothing for the recipient. What is it doing for me?

Think back to the days when you were early in loss. Or think back to posts you may have read here circa January 2009. Those days when all you (I) wanted was a bright orange shirt that said, "my babies died" to remove me conversations and give me a free pass from any social obligations. To explain my awkwardness. To justify my moods. Think back to the moments in line at the supermarket or Starbucks when someone asked you if you wanted soy milk with that and it was all you (I) could do NOT to say, "my babies died!" as if that was the answer, or lack of an answer, to anything and everything that someone could possible ask of you.

God dammit. I'm doing it again.

On at least three occasions, this week, someone has asked me "how are you?/can we meet on..../have you had a chance to...." and my response has been this:

"My dad's not doing so well."

True? Yes.
Essential information for this person? Probably not.
Does it have any bearings on the actual question being asked? Yes. No. Sometimes. Not really. Kind of?

I hate that I need people to know this. Why? Why???? What am I looking for? Empathy? Sympathy? A free pass? Am I the only girl who's dealing with aging parents? Fuck no.

I'm bothered that it feels like I'm using this situation like a crutch. I'm annoyed at the way I find myself speaking about my parents lately. Both of them. I'm embarrassed at my lack of emotion. My seeming callousness. My "I'll handle everything attitude." Who the hell am I and do I really think they couldn't make it without me and the horse I rode in on? Please.

I'm not asking for an "it's ok" here. Because it's not. It's just not. That's what someone said to me yesterday when I said, as usual, "My dad's not doing so well."

She said, "I am so, so sorry."
I said, "It's ok."
She looked me in the eye and said, "It's NOT ok. And I am so, so sorry."

And that's when I realized, that here I was, finding a need to tell everyone and anyone my dad is dying and yet at the same time not able to process any kind of response they might give me. What am I doing here?

I am sure part of this is a defense mechanism. Coping mechanism, whatever you want to call it. But there are other ways to move forward here. Like I said, I'm not asking for "it's ok." I'm writing this here not for absolution, but to Name it. Change it.

Stop it.

m, stop it. Handle your business. Be private about it. Share what needs to be shared. Leave other people's parts of the story out of it unless its essential. Stop playing a martyr, or "good daughter," take off whatever ill-fitting wardrobe this is. Death and dying bring drama. Don't add to it. Take those lessons learned about abiding and DO THAT. Just be there. For chrissakes, just shut up and be there. 

All those things you wanted/wished for when you were grieving? Remember them. Do them. Be that. Say that. 

Ok. okokokokok.


I'm leaving work early. I'm walking home now to a (hopefully) clean apartment and bag packed for the weekend. Hospice is now fully in place. Delaware during any spare days becomes our norm. And that's ok. It is. It is ok. We have the ability to be there. So we will be. And I will quietly abide. And then I will go and run and cry and walk with M and sit in the sand for a few hours and then go back. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Breathe in. Breathe out. And be thankful for those breaths.

First ultrasound is tomorrow.
Day 18 of running streak.