Thoughtful ThursdayThanks for all of your expressions of concern after last week’s post.

Mel wrote a stirring post a couple of weeks ago about death. In between the time she posted it and the time I managed to read it, I sat at my mother’s bedside and held her hand as she died.

There is so much to say, so much to feel. It’s not a one-post topic.

One thing I’ll say is that her death got to me both more and less than I’d expected. During the past year as she’s been sick, I’ve been very stoic. Some of the hassles — dealing with care providers, finding ways to pay for things, trying and failing to get my mother to comply with her doctors’ orders — have affected me, enough to drive me to anger or worry on an almost daily basis for months. Conversely, the situation itself, the reality of her condition didn’t make much impact on me most of the time. Maybe it’s my Vulcan blood. Maybe I was geographically too far removed from the situation. Maybe I was too focused on the trees to think about the reason I was in the forest.

When she went into the hospital a couple of weeks before her death, I was a sweet and dutiful daughter when I was on the phone with her (which was not as often as I wanted, as she was not in a condition to talk much of the time) but all business in dealing with her treatment team. I didn’t sleep well or much, but during the day I was fine.

When they told me she was getting better and would get out of the ICU soon, I did the prudent thing and started looking into new care options for after her release from the hospital.

When I got a call that my mother had gone into cardiac arrest and they were in the process of resuscitating her, I calmly started checking flights and trying to arrange for child care while I waited for a call saying whether their heroic measures had worked (they had, at least temporarily, but she was non-responsive).

As I sat on the plane, not knowing whether she’d still be alive by the time I landed, I still managed to do some work.

It wasn’t until I got to the hospital that it started to hit me. But even then, I felt and showed less emotion than probably almost anyone else you’d find in my situation.

Intellectually, I wasn’t sad for myself. I was sad for my mother, for the suffering she’d been going through, for being on the verge of death, for not having more time to spend with her beautiful grandchildren, for not having gotten to know them as well as all of their other grandparents because of the limitations of her conditions. I was sad for my father, who sobbed next to me. I was sad for my children, who won’t have any memories of her.

Although she was non-responsive and I didn’t know whether she could hear me, I gave my mother some updates on Burrito and Tamale, as well as on DH and myself. In my head beforehand they’d been so straightforward. When I actually had to say them, knowing that this was a deathbed discussion (monologue), I kept choking up.

During The Big Talk with the medical staff — the one for which they bring you into a conference room, offer you water, and keep a box of tissues nearby — I surprised myself by crying enough that it was hard to carry on the discussion. It didn’t feel like me, like my stalwart self. At one point I shifted into business mode and it felt so good to deal with the doctors intellectually rather than emotionally. It felt like me.

Decisions were made and at my insistence it was agreed that she’d have one last test, for the sake of definitive knowledge rather than for the sake of being able to do anything. The test required her to go elsewhere in the hospital and would take a couple of hours. So, I suggested that we go out for lunch to my favorite restaurant in that city. I had no trouble eating, and I thought about the fact that so many people wouldn’t be able to eat at a time like that.

Watching her die was kind of hard, but mostly not hard. I was glad to be there.

It was going through her belongings in the days after her death when the emotions really started flowing. But once she had died, once I left the hospital for the last time, no one else ever saw me show anything except measured sadness. All of the weeping has been done alone.

Well, that’s not quite true. No adult has seen any real emotion from me. But I keep bursting out crying around the twins. In his whole little life I have never seen Burrito look so puzzled as when I was going about mealtime calmly, handed him some peas, and then out of nowhere started bawling. But the fact that I’ve been able to hold it together the rest of the time has been a little surprising, even for me.

Fundamentally I think I’m just wired to feel less emotion that the average person and to show even less that that. DH is someone who is wired to feel emotion strongly; expressing emotions too strongly used to get him in a lot of trouble, but as an adult he’s learned to express it appropriately and even to harness it.

The weird part is that although I’m some sort of robot most of the time, infertility as well as the postpartum phase (especially breastfeeding) made me a fucking mess. Mothering and emotion go together, I suppose, whether it’s becoming a mother or losing a mother.

How much emotion do you show? How much emotion do you actually feel?

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Thoughtful Thursday: Plan

March 24, 2011

Thoughtful ThursdayCan’t write that much now, but the fact that this week’s question is rooted in my current reality should serve as a temporary explanation. More later.

Do your next of kin know your wishes about what you’d want in the event of catastrophic illness/injury? Extent of artificial life support, heroic measures, organ donation, preferences for death and post-death? If so, how did that come about? If not, why not?

Some people in my life don’t like to talk about death, as if merely having the discussion will draw death to you.

DH and I aren’t afraid of conversations drawing the Grim Reaper to us, and we’re both very pragmatic. I have particularly strong feelings about organ donation, having known a child stricken with a sudden random illness who waited and waited on the transplant list (and, thankfully, eventually got the organs and soon became a regular healthy kid again).

I had to formalize my living will when I was going under general anesthesia for my first IVF, then again at the local hospital when I almost gave birth very prematurely, then again at the big hospital later that day, then again before my C-section. The first one really freaked DH out — not the living will itself, but the idea that IVF carried enough risk that they had to ask questions about vegetative states and death.

Do your next of kin know your wishes about what you’d want in the event of catastrophic illness/injury? Extent of artificial life support, heroic measures, organ donation, preferences for death and post-death? If so, how did that come about? If not, why not?

Uterus Cakes

March 23, 2011

As someone who purposely baked a uterus cookie in the middle of an IVF cycle, I was just delighted by today’s Cake Wrecks post about cakes that are unintentionally uterus-shaped.

Thoughtful ThursdayTurns out that Lori week has become Lori fortnight.

Lori said something during her own stop on the Life from Scratch book tour that really got me thinking:

Let’s face it: blogging is brave. We put ourselves out there and open ourselves up to both praise and criticism, and, worst of all, to being ignored.

I think I’d rather be ignored than criticized. Certainly while blogging, probably in everything else too.

Way back in 5th grade, in addition to the letter grades for each subject, we also received marks for qualities such as Penmanship, Participation, and Courtesy. Letter grades were all As. Qualities were all Es for excellent — except Ability to Accept Constructive Criticism, which if I recall correctly was either Satisfactory-Minus or Unsatisfactory-Plus.

And oh boy, was I pissed about that. Apparently the grade was accurate.

In college, not-yet-DH completed a personality inventory about me for a class. As the #1 personality trait, he chose Defensive. He showed it to me, and immediately I responded, “But I…”

And he said, “Ha ha, I did that on purpose. But it’s definitely way up on the list.”

I don’t enjoy being ignored of course, but apparently I have a thing about criticism, whereas some other people have more of a thing about being ignored.

Obviously you’d prefer neither, but if you had to pick, would you rather be criticized or ignored?

Vote!

March 6, 2011

The time has come to vote in the Limerick Chick contest!

My entry, in case you’ve forgotten from earlier in the week:

I can’t make babies without several men
And spending fortunes again and again
I can’t whistle or spit
But still, I’m The Shit:
Infertility taught me zen.

Go vote for someone. If that someone happens to be me, even better.

Thoughtful Thursday

Coming in like a lion and out like a lamb, it’s the March Intelligentsia, the people who commented on every Thoughtful Thursday post for the month of February.

#25: Wiseguy from Woman Anyone?
#17: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#16: Lost In Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV

#9: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#8: Cat

And welcome to new Intelligentsia member, Tara from Turkey In My Oven

Thoughtful ThursdayContinuing with the all-Lori week…

As I mentioned before, Burrito, Tamale, and I spent the day with Lori and her daughter Tessa a couple of months ago. While we were having lunch, Lori asked me about whether we hoped to expand our family further.

Before I could answer, 9-year-old Tessa interrupted:

I don’t think you should. Two sets of twins would be too much.

Her assumption was entirely logical from a kid’s point of view: if I had twins once, I will have them again. Based on that assumption, Tessa’s advice was quite sound.

Many of us have blogged a lot about the bad unsolicited advice that people have given us concerning family-building, whether related to having more/any children or stopping. Just relax. Just adopt. Adopt and you’ll get pregnant. Boy-girl twins, that was easy now you’re done. Have sex standing up. What about good advice?

Have you received any good unsolicited advice about family-building?

Welcome to this stop on the Life From Scratch book tour!

Life From Scratch is the first fiction book by the incomparable Melissa Ford. I reviewed her first book, the infertility resource book Navigating the Land of IF a couple of years ago. This book is just as excellent, but in very different ways.

I’m not a ChickLit reader — literally the only ChickLit books I’ve ever read have been for book clubs — but I did enjoy this book. The characters are more fully developed, the protagonist more likable, and the situations more realistic than most other books of this genre.

It was funny, knowing the author, to see bits and pieces of her throughout. The main character is in many ways dissimilar from Mel, but there were several times when, if I’d been reading the book blind of the author’s identity, I would have said, “Hey that sounds like something Mel would say.”

And now, the Book Tour questions.

Blogging plays a key role for Rachel in the growth she experiences throughout the novel. How has blogging affected who you are and/or how you see the world?
Blogging helped me survive infertility.

Blogging introduced me to several friends. Not online friends, real true friends that I just happen to mostly talk to online and happen not to see that often in person (or in some cases not at all, not yet).

Blogging has helped me articulate my inner life, since I tend not to express my private thoughts and feelings in other venues.

Blogging has also compartmentalized me — I have BabySmiling friends and other friends, BabySmiling thoughts and other thoughts, experiences told only to BabySmiling readers and experiences told only to others, photos of my twins that I’ve posted on BabySmiling and all of the other photos. I’m not particularly thrilled with still having to remain so secretive to maintain the two separate existences, but I am thrilled to have a place where I can be so honest.

Rachel’s blog gets very popular when she wins a blogging award and she starts averaging about one hundred thousand hits per day. Would you want your blog to become that popular or would you prefer to stay smaller?
More evidence of compartmentalization: this is not my only blog. A couple of readers know that, but most don’t. I would not want BabySmiling to become hugely popular — I am delighted to share my experiences with anyone who needs them, especially anyone struggling with infertility, but I don’t need the level of scrutiny that would come with such an enormous readership. I also don’t need the heightened likelihood of having my identity discovered.

For my other blogs, though, I would be fine if either one became that huge. They’re not intended for that kind of audience, though, so it would invariably change what and how I wrote. Not good or bad, just a bit different. A little less idiosyncratic, a little less intimate, a little more about conveying interesting or useful information and less about personal connection. I’m very active on one of my blogs (posting more often than I do here) and would continue to be so. I’m extremely inactive on the other one, so if it became popular (though I’m not sure how that’s possible when there now are a only a few posts per year, but this is all hypothetical anyway) I would certainly be more diligent about regular posting.

While she is trying to move on from her divorce, Rachel cleans out The Box- a box of sentimental mementos from her marriage. Do you have a Box of your own? What do you (or would you) keep in it?
I don’t have one single Box. I have several areas where I keep things. I have one box of all of the greeting cards DH gave me during our courtship, another box with all of the letters he wrote me — on notebook paper — accompanied by the various roses he gave me, dried. I have a box with ticket stubs from everything we’ve attended together. A couple of pieces of jewelry he gave me when we were dating are in my regular jewelry box. And then there are the photo albums, physical albums from the early and middle days and digital-only (though well backed up!) most recently.

I have all sorts of other sentimental mementos from experiences we’ve shared, but I don’t think of those as being from my marriage — I think of those as being from my life.

To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at Write Mind Open Heart.

Buy the book in paperback or Kindle. C’mon, you’ll enjoy it!