One of my vices or weaknesses in life is tabloid trash. When the going gets tough, I start reading about the Kardashians. One of my favourite articles is “What’s in my bag” when a celebrity dumps their purse/satchel to show us what they are carrying. And yesterday as I was cleaning out my bag, I realized that the contents of my purse showed how my life had changed in the past two weeks.
On March 21st, my family welcomed our second child, a daughter we named Nora. I am 41 years old with a three year-old son, so I am very grateful to have two children. Nora was born through a scheduled c-section and I always joke about how “civilized” it is to have your child’s birth scheduled in an agenda. In preparation for her arrival, I pulled out my diaper bag. It took me over a year to choose my Matt and Nat diaper bag when my son was born and I was slightly excited to pull it out of the closet. Until I realized it was the size of carry-on luggage. I had clearly forgotten all the supplies that were needed for a newborn! So, I stuffed my bag full of wipes, change of clothes, spare bottles PLUS everything my son needs as well! My bag was ready for new my new role as a mother of two.
Thirteen days after Nora’s birth, we received a phone call from Victoria General Hospital that my mother-in-law had been admitted through emergency services. My mother-in-law had a massive stroke three years ago, about three weeks before my son was born. My husband is her medical representative and power-of-attorney. We received a crash course in joining the “sandwich generation” of middle-aged people caring for young children and their aging parents. In the past four months, we had received many phone calls from her care facility, doctors and the hospital about her condition. As a veterinarian who worked many years in emergency medicine, I have learned that one of the most important questions to ask is “what has changed and how is this different”? I appreciated the doctor’s honesty when he simply responded that the difference today was that she was unlikely to make it through the next 48 hours. So, we scrambled to find childcare for a newborn and a toddler and made our way back to the same hospital we had just left over a week earlier with a newborn. And on our way out of the house, we quickly grabbed the paperwork outlining her end-of-life care and advanced directives. I stuffed them in my purse next to a onesie and package of diaper wipes.
My mother-in-law died less than an hour after we left the hospital to relieve our babysitter. The contents of my purse seemed unimportant in the face of funeral planning and caring for a newborn and busy toddler. And yesterday as I was scrounging in my purse to find my wallet, I came across the paperwork. It was wrinkled, creased and stained—a reminder of the chaos a few days ago. And I left it there—I simply did not know what to do. I imagine in the next few weeks, my bag will become filled with the accessories of parenthood and the paperwork will soon join the jumbled mess at the bottom of my purse.