Having just celebrated a great Mother’s Day with my three children and their spouse’s, I couldn’t help but think that although my kids are all now grown, my mothering days are not over. I’m not referring to my status of “once a Mom, always a Mom,” which is certainly true but I’m talking about how being a caregiver is much the same as being a mother.
As a Mom, I did everything I could to keep my kids safe, happy, and well. As a caregiver, I do the same. Whenever I’m in the presence of my “child” (Lynn in this case) I watch for signs of danger. Is he about to run over something with his wheelchair that might topple him over? Has he allowed his food to sit out too long without being eaten so that I need to throw it out? I even automatically throw my arm out in front of him when I have to stop quickly! (He always asks me what I think that will do to protect him since he is bigger than I am but what can I say, it’s an automatic reflex.) I always reach out to protect him from whatever dangers I feel might be lurking around.
I also protect him from “bullies,” others causing him harm in whatever fashion, by overseeing his health care, going to bat for him in defending his rights, making sure all his “stuff” is secure and cared for. I am his “mamma bear” protector in the same way that I was to my children. When I feel a doctor or other healthcare worker is not paying attention to his needs or missing something that I think is important, I step in. If I think someone is trying to take advantage because of his condition, I’m ready to go to battle. I am his protector….Just like I did for my kids….
When I was raising my kids, I liked to always see them happy. I do the same for Lynn (and have the same challenges and defeats as I did for my children.) I try to make sure he has what he wants; that he has entertainment and fun in his life; that he feels comfortable and secure. I try to keep his fears at bay and lighten his load so that he doesn’t worry or become depressed. I try to keep him “happy.” Hum, okay, I admit, that’s not always true but it wasn’t always true for taking care of my kids either. There are days that I strike out with my sharp tongue that can be cut like a knife. I don’t always protect his feelings and I often fight back when I think I’m being taken advantage of but overall, I’m very sensitive to his emotional needs. I try to help pick up his spirits if sad. I comfort and encourage him when he’s down and discouraged. I bolster his ego and am his cheerleader. I’m the proud Mama clapping and shouting for joy when he gets good news about his book promotions or gets a good book review. I glow with pride when I hear him sing knowing that God gave him that voice to praise him (and praise him, he does). All these emotions I have for him and give to him; I had and gave to my children as their mother.
Another goal I have is that I strive to keep him well. Now as a caregiver, I seem to spend most, if not all of my time, in this category. What I feed him, how I care for his physical needs, where I step in to ensure he has a balanced life; all these actions are done with the goal of keeping him well. I make sure his food provides the best nutrient balance to fight MS. I assist with his physical therapy to keep his muscles, respirations, and circulatory system in the best shape possible. I see that his hygiene is kept up and watch for skin breakdown or discoloration that could indicate a problem. I try to make sure he rests when he shows signs of being tired and I attempt to keep his life a balance of stress and joy. All this is done for his well-being. All of this I did for my children and their well-being also.
So being a caregiver is essentially the same job description I had as a mother, EXCEPT as a Mom, I knew I was “growing up” my child to go out on their own. I was giving them the best start they could have in life and laying a foundation for them to enter their adult life with health, knowledge, abilities, and emotional strength so that they, in turn, could raise their own families and be successful in their own right.
Not so as a caregiver.
What I do each day as a caregiver is not to prepare my child for a future to go out on their own but instead to continue in this life at my side and under my care for as long as they live or as long as I am physically and mentally able to do so. He will not “leave the nest.” If he leaves its for a worse situation; not a better one (except personally, I have a strong belief that heaven is an awesome place and much better than earth could ever be; so in reality, it would be a better place for him; just not the dying part). For us, right now, there is not an end in sight, for which I am fortunate because as a caregiver to someone with an incurable condition, an end means THE END and is not a happy goal to achieve.
So as I reflect on Mother’s Day, I realize, I have my three children, my three children-in-law, my grandchild, and my spouse-child. I have a house of children and in my opinion there is no better (or harder) job in life than being a Mom.
Thank you, God for blessing me with my children.
Shortly after we returned from vacation, my daughter started having a lot of right-sided pain just under her ribcage and nausea. After a week, instead of it getting better, it was getting worse. She called me to “consult” on what I thought it might be (nurse to nurse). I ruled out liver problems, thought it might be muscle irritation but knew she needed to get it checked out. I told her to bring me the baby (2 1/2 month old Elijah, Eli if short) and go get it checked out. Being that it was the weekend, she and her husband went to the emergency room. A quick work up ruled out anything serious but they suggested her gallbladder might be the issue and recommended a follow-up to her primary care doctor.
Her pain was not getting better and was at times worse so she got an appointment the following week. The doctor immediately scheduled a STAT CT scan. As she was coming into our house to pick up Eli, she was hanging up her phone, “Mom, I’m going to have to have surgery!”
I immediately went into “mama” mode, getting what details she had and reassuring her that we would be here to help her out. Apparently she had multiple gallstones which were periodically blocking her bile duct. If one lodged there, it would be emergency surgery. Regardless, she needed surgery as soon as it could be arranged. He also told her she could not “jiggle, bounce, or do any other jerky movements and could not carry heavy items.” Eli is a fussy baby and we do a LOT of bouncing with him to calm him down. So, we came up with a way to reduce her risk of bouncing.
After I get Lynn through his morning routine, I run over to her house, about ten minutes away, pick up Eli, and bring him back to our house. During the day I rotate taking care of Lynn’s needs with Eli’s often while handling requests from work. The first week wasn’t so bad. My parents came up and totally took over the “Eli” job. They were awesome and loved every minute of it; however, when they went home to take care of a few things, they found their floors had been flooded by a cracked toilet fixture and there was mold and ruined carpeting to address. I felt awful. Had they not been here helping me, their things would not have been ruined. I also admit though I was very disappointed they could not return here because they had been wonderful with Eli and I really enjoyed their stay with us (they live five hours away from me). But when life throws you a curve ball, you take a swing and see what happens.
Actually, though it’s like Grand Central Station here with everything I’m trying to do, it’s really rather enjoyable. Eli is a great diversion (in more ways than one). He’s now three months old and loves to smile. He recognizes me and my voice, as well, as Lynn and his voice. Though Lynn can’t do as much with him as he would like, we have developed a way of allowing him to help out with “sitter duty”. When Lynn is lying down, I put Eli under the arm that has limited movement and wrap it around him. Eli is then lying with his head and back against Lynn’s side. Lynn sings and talks to him and Eli coos and talks back. When Lynn is in his wheelchair, I have a “rocking chair” for the baby that allows me to strap him in and it has a play bar over it. Lynn keeps the rocker moving when the baby gets fussy and entertains him with songs and stories. I also often lift Eli so he’s eyeball to eyeball with Grand-dad for some heart-to-heart conversations.
Eli is like a drug for Lynn. Before I go and get the baby, Lynn might be feeling tired and out of sorts. Once I come back and Eli gives him a few of his famous grins and gurgles, Lynn just lights up! He laughs with him and forgets for the moment all his frustrations and hardships. He told me after the first day that we kept Eli that he was the best medicine he had every had. He calls me to bring the baby back to his room for a visit, often throughout the day and each time, their bond gets stronger.
My daughter’s surgery is now scheduled for September 7. She will not be allowed to lift Eli at all for three weeks afterwards so his Dad will drop him off here when he goes to work and pick him up when he comes home. Mom might come initially but I expect it will be easier for her to resist the temptation to pick him up if she stays home. It will certainly be hectic but I’m actually looking forward to it.
Having a baby around is healing. He brings joy and the promise of bright tomorrows. It’s wonderful to watch him discover the world though his hands and feet and see the amazement he experiences over things we take for granted. It’s really a blessing of healing having him here. … (Though if you want to send up a few prayers for my sanity and stamina for the next four weeks, I wouldn’t object!)