I don’t think I have ever been called a sensitive person and as I have gotten older, I realize this is a good thing. Especially as a parent. Last week at my church’s Thanksgiving dinner, my son patted me on the belly and told me I had a big belly. But, I think he meant it in the same way that he tells me I have big feet or long hair. Just a statement of fact that did not offend me. My thick skin also saved my pride a few days earlier when I explained to another mother in swim class that my parents would be caring for our six-month old daughter in Qualicum Beach for three days as I had to go back to work and my husband’s parental leave changed. Her response: “I could never imagine leaving my baby with someone else for three days”. And, I was not offended as I never thought that I could leave my child for days. I realized it was just another thing that I never thought I would ever do. Welcome to ugly parenting!
When my son was born three years ago, I envisioned my husband and I cozily bundled up at home, taking black-and-white photos of me serenely breastfeeding while the cat tenderly rested a paw on our boy. Reality check: my mother-in-law had a massive stroke three weeks before my son was born. While I was meeting with the obstetrician to schedule my c-section, my husband was on the phone in the hospital hallway talking to a social worker about advanced directives and extended care facilities. After my son was born, I asked the doctor when I could travel. She got rather angry and told me I needed to be “nesting”. I explained that we had to go Surrey to visit my mother-in-law in case she passed away before seeing her grandchild. The nest was put away and we bundled up my son and went to the intensive care unit of a busy hospital. Never did I ever think that my resting period would be spent with terminally ill geriatric patients in a hospital.
My mother-in-law ended up surviving her stroke and was shuffled through five different care facilities before coming to Victoria in September 2014. She remained partially paralysed and never regained her full mental capacity. My son and I frequently visited her in the care facility and the residents came to know my son and would give him stuffed animals and toys. In July 2015, I was pregnant again and gave birth to my daughter at the end of March 2016. At this point in time, my mother-in-law had been struggling with multiple infections and we decided it was not a good idea for me and our daughter to visit right away. Thirteen days after my daughter was born by c-section, we were back at Victoria General Hospital saying goodbye to my mother-in-law. When we got the phone call from the hospital that she was going to die in the next day or so, my husband videotaped our daughter to show her. She never saw the video as she died while my husband was en route to the hospital. When I told the doctor that we had been here the week earlier with our newborn daughter, he simply said “you are having a tough time, aren’t you?”. Yes, we were. Never did I ever think that I would be planning a funeral in the middle of breastfeeding sessions.
When the other mother commented that she could never imagine leaving her baby for three days, I agreed with her. I did not make a nasty comment or angrily post on my Facebook page about her judging me, I simply said “neither could I but I am grateful for the help when I can get it”. And then she took my daughter while I got out of the pool. Because never did I ever think I would take help from anyone who gave it to me. I am grateful for small mercies as they are often all we get in life.