When you have a child, you think about all the little things that will change. You try and mentally prepare yourself for different situations. Think about how you might handle them. But there are so many to prepare for. You can’t possibly think of them all. And you only realize it when you find yourself faced with one.
We lost a family member yesterday. My step-father. He fought a battle that not many could have endured. But somehow, he did. His desire to keep going was always because of his grandchildren. He had big plans for them. He was going to take them places, or plant a garden, or start an orchard. Something. But thats, without a doubt, why he persevered the way that he did. For as long as he did. He didn’t want to miss an opportunity with any of them. And maybe it’s just me, but he seemed to have a special bond with my son. His pal.
I think that’s why his death is so hard. You never want your loved ones to suffer. You never want them to live a life less than. And as his health declined rapidly over the last few weeks, those around him started the grieving process. But, for me, it was different this time.
Not only am I grieving for myself. For the man I had known all my life. A man who was kind, generous, and a constant dreamer. But I grieving for my son.
Nikola loved his Pa. He loved him so so much. I have never known a baby to sit so contently for hours on someone’s lap, but he did. He loved it. Nikola would sit an listen to his Pa talk about all the adventures they were going to go on since he was born. He would look up at him, eyes wide, and just take it all in. Never wiggling, never crying. Just sitting and watching.
I think that what’s making this so hard. Knowing how much Nikola loved him. And while he is just a baby.- Only 14 months, I know that he knows something is different. We were at my mom’s on Sunday, Barry was already in hospice, and Nikola looked at her and said “Papa.” And he said it again this morning when he was playing with a toy Barry had gotten him. He’s a smart little boy.
And so, this is one of the things. One of the things that is different now. I didn’t see it coming, I didn’t think about it. But, here we are. Barry didn’t want people to be sad. He said many times in the last couple weeks that he had lived an incredible life and did all the things he wanted to do. And I think we can find comfort in that.
Nikola has always been an affectionate baby but lately he seems to have an agenda when dolling out kisses. He has learned that if he gives you a kiss and then asks or points to something, he’s more apt to get it. Whether it be a set of keys you’re fairly certain he’ll lose or if he wants you to play Baby Shark for the umteenth time. With his chubby little hands, knuckle dimples and all, he’ll grab either side of your face and pull you towards his. His mouth open as wide as a largemouth bass. And then, there it is. The kiss that makes you melt, over and over again.
He knows exactly how to manipulate your heart strings. He is smart and perfectly mischievous in the most adorable way. And it’s one of the things I love most about him.
The most masterful linguist, the most articulate wordsmith, wouldn’t be able to scratch the surface of the feeling that is loving your child. It is indescribable in every way. What it means. How it feels. It’s depth, It’s reach. It’s pull. All of it. It is entirely different from every other kind of love that exists. And I understand how incredibly lucky I am to feel it all day, every day.
“You don’t know what unconditional love is. You may say you do, but if you don’t have a child, you don’t know what that is. But when you experience it, it is the most fulfilling ever. ” – Regina King
While it may not have been a particularly lofty goal, it has been one that has long eluded me. The process was slow but boys oh boys, doesn’t it feel good.
I have never been a person who sets personal goals. I have never strived for anything in particular. Any sort of feat or accomplishment. And it is truly one of my only regrets in life. I wish I had tried harder to be good at something. I wish I had made more of an effort in school, or hobbies, or sports. I wish so badly that I hadn’t given up on so so many things that didn’t come natural to me. But, c’est la vie.
So, this is it. This is what I want to be good at. Writing. Story Telling, Blogging. Creating relevant material that people enjoy. I don’t know where it will lead or what it will become. And that’s ok.
To be very clear, this is not your traditional “how-to” post. I am looking for an answer, not providing one. This is a question that I am sending out into the void hoping for some insight. This concept is something I’m having a hard time getting my head around. I’m not trying to be a martyr. I’m not trying to convince myself or others of what a selfless mother I am. I simply can not figure out what it means and how to do it.
Is getting a haircut self-care? I think it might be. I haven’t one in almost a year. And I DESPERATELY need one. And when I go over the excuses in my head as to why, it really boils down to time. And perhaps a smidge of laziness.
Is going to the doctor considered self-care? Perhaps. If so, I have indulged in that twice this week. I put it off last week and my illness got worse. Why didn’t I go when I first started feeling under the weather? Nikola had been sick and it was inevitable that I was going to get it. As a mom, I think it may just be commonplace that your primary focus is “I’ll be fine. Let’s get baby healthy.” And now, here I am. sick with a virus that has wreaked havoc on my respiratory and digestive system the likes of which I have never seen or experienced. And due to the contagiousness of the virus my mother had to come and pick up Nikola and take him to her house for a couple of days. This is the first time I haven’t been with him overnight and it has been hard. Is having a “night off” from your baby in order to recuperate self-care?
A few months ago, I posted about some terrible migraines I was having. I received messages from friends with helpful tips and one in particular from an accomplished Yoga Therapist with an offer to come in for an appointment. It was so kind and generous of her to reach out. And I wanted to go. I wanted to make an appointment so badly. But I just couldn’t figure out how to move that appointment to the top of my priority list. For whatever reason.
Time management as a mother has got to be one of trickiest parts of the title. Am I willing to sacrifice time with my son on Saturday to go get a haircut, or to go get a massage, maybe go to the movies? There has been this meme floating around that says something like “Society expects women to mother like they don’t work and work like they’re not a mother.” I have a full-time job that I love. By the time I pick up Nikola at daycare and get home its 5:30pm. Nikola has imposed on himself a strict bedtime of 7:00pm. He just passes out, every night, at that time. So Monday through Friday, I get one and half hours with him. That ain’t a lot. I miss him all day long, and then I miss him when he goes to bed. So, when Saturday and Sunday come along, I just don’t want to NOT be with him. There have been so so many weeks where I’ve said “I’m going to go to the movies this weekend. Have some alone time.” but when the weekend rolls around, those plans have gone out the window. I no longer want to go.
Today, there is such an emphasis on self-care. The importance of it, and I believe it is important. This blog is my main source of it. And even then, I can’t find the time or energy to write a post. While I have 23 posts saved to my “draft” folder. The time and energy it takes to complete, edit and post seems daunting. Even impossible. So, how do you all do it? How do you make time for yourself? What kind of priority do you put on your own self-care? I’m looking forward to reading your comments.
Get out your wellies boys and girls. This one is gonna get a little deep.
I believe that most everything happens for a reason. I think that we are all heading towards a sort of incredibly vague predetermined destiny. Some people may find that comforting, others perhaps not. I’m indifferent. But it does play into this theory of mine quite nicely.
Most people have experienced Deja Vu at some point in their lives. It’s a fairly common phenomenon. But I seem to have it regularly. Maybe once or twice every couple of weeks. Only, I’m not certain that’s what I’d consider it really. When this experience occurs I dont have the feeling that I have been in that exact space before. It’s not about space for me. It is about the lighting, the smells, the sounds, the people, the entire experience in that split second. It’s not something happening “again”. Instead it’s something I had, at some point, dreamt of happening. A premonition.
When these moments happen, I relish them. I close my eyes and will it to last longer. This sudden and fleeting sense is what I like to think of as a “checkpoint”. It’s a little blip in time that confirms I’ve made the right choices. I’m on the right path. That all my stars are aligning just so. And I find that astoundingly comforting.
I had a “checkpoint” moment yesterday. I had just gotten home from work. My baby was in his walker and we were in the kitchen. He and I have been in those exact spots countless times. But yesterday was different. The familiar and exciting feeling came over me like a wave. I closed my eyes for a moment. Then looked at my son and smiled. Believing that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be is one the most gratifying sensations there is.
Do you believe in signs? That things happen for a reason? And do you believe that every once in a while, the stars can align in such a way that the thought of it all just being a mere coincidence is more preposterous than believing that it was fate? I do.
I’ve been writing posts for this blog for over two years. How time flies. I started this blog soon after a terrible accident my brother was in. One that could’ve had a much different outcome if those stars hadn’t aligned in just such a way.
On October 6th, 2016 my brother, an arborist, was working in a large field with a couple of other crew members. His foreman had left to empty the dump truck and the other guy was operating the skidder just slightly out of eyesight due to a small hill. My brother, returning from a different task saw the chipper was loaded with brush and started it. What he didn’t know was that the winch line hadn’t been wound back up before the brush had been set on top of it. And when he started the machine, the line became untangled from the brush and wrapped around his legs pulling him into the mouth of the chipper.
First Star – My brother was holding onto the emergency reverse lever when he started the machine.
Second Star – The sheer force of the line wrapping around him and pulling him was enough to break both femurs, causing extensive damage to his tissue, arteries, and nerves in both legs, just above the knee. Somehow, not only did he not go unconscious but he managed to untangle the line, climb down from the chipper, and army crawl up the hill to flag down his co-worker on the skidder.
Third Star – He had spent some time in the fire service and had medical training. Even with everything going on, he remained calm. He knew that he needed to get his legs elevated so as to slow blood loss. He gave his co-worker clear direction as to what to do. How and where to put pressure. And he had his co-worker ask the 911 dispatcher for life-flight.
Fourth Star – They were working in a field in the middle of nowhere. When the call came into the the EMS dispatch, the town paramedics were just around the corner. They were returning from an earlier call instead of at the station 15 minutes away.
Fifth Star – The closest hospital was a small one in the town of Bridgeton. The ambulance had planned to meet Life Flight there. But when they arrived, the helicopter was still about 10 minutes out. My brother needed blood badly, so they brought him inside. They knew that his injuries were more extensive than the hospital was equipped for, but something was better than nothing. They wheeled him into a trauma bay and hauled out a special machine. A while back they had received a grant to get it. It was for rapid blood transfusions. My brother was the first person to use it. He received 107 units of blood that day. And just for some perspective, the human body holds between 8-12 units or pints, of blood. We were told that it could very well be a record. Most blood given and survived.
As soon as he was fully conscious, people either came to check on him, or he went to meet the people who saved his life. My brother remembered bits and pieces of what happened but as we met the paramedics, firefighters, the life-flight team, the nurses, and doctors from both hospitals – each one added different pieces to puzzle. A different star, if you will. All of the things that JJ couldn’t remember. And everyone he met looked at him in astonishment. Every single one made it clear that they weren’t sure how it was going to end when they left him. And, inevitably, they all said something along the lines of: “If we hadn’t been around the corner” or “If we hadn’t have gotten that blood machine” and of course, “if you didn’t have your hand on that reverse bar”
Just before the first anniversary of my brother’s accident I had determined that I wanted to shift the focus of my blog. But I was worried. I didn’t really know what I should write about, or if I should continue to write at all. I really enjoyed it. The act of it and how I felt after each post, but I just didn’t know if what I was doing was good enough. I struggle with a lot of self-doubt. But, I had written a post in the very beginning about how I didn’t want this blog to be something I quit. A hobby or project I give up on, like so so many that I had in the past.
I wanted to get better at writing before I threw in the towel. And so, I googled “Best books on learning how to write”, and at the top of every list was “On Writing” by Stephen King. I was hesitant. I had never read one of his books. I don’t care for the horror genre, but I downloaded the audio version and was immediately immersed. It was witty and thoughtful. I found myself sitting in the car for 15 minutes or more after I arrived wherever I was heading just to listen.
The book was coming to end and I had learned a lot. But still was unsure of my blogging future. I hadn’t posted anything in ages. With 28 minutes left of the book, I pulled into my driveway. And as I went to turn off the car I heard something that got my attention. He was talking about an accident he was in. He was walking in Fryeburg, Maine and was hit by a car. He was taken to Bridgeton hospital. The same little hospital the ambulance had taken JJ to meet life-flight. I said “Huh”. Not too weird I guess. But he went on to say he was life-flighted to Central Maine Medical Center. I stared at the radio of my car skeptically. “So had JJ”, I thought. And as he continued my eyes got wider and wider. When he arrived, his doctor was a man by the name of Dr. Brown. That was my brother’s doctor. The first of many to perform surgery on JJ. He’s had 26 in all. And finally, Stephen King described his injuries, the accompanying surgeries and treatments during his recovery. Between the extensive fasciotomies and the external fixator used to put him back together, the same exact procedures done to my brother. It all left me shock.
Was this a sign? Stars aligning perhaps? I started to blog because of this incredible situation that happened. I needed an outlet; this was my therapy. And when I started doubting my ability and worrying what I was going to write about. When I had come to a possible impasse. I get this book as a last ditch effort to help me find a purpose for this blog and writing in general. And in the final moments of it, Stephen King himself, reiterates the very details surrounding why I started writing in the first place. It felt as if it had come full circle.
Now, I am a fatalist, for better or worse. But I do try to check in with the realist side of myself. To second guess the relevancy of the situation. But in the end, serendipity reigns. And whether this was in fact, stars aligning or if perhaps this turns out to be just a theory of convenience, we’ll never know. And I’m ok with that. So, for now, I’ll keep writing.