On April 10, my mother woke up and found she could not move her left arm or left leg. It took a few days for it to be called a stroke definitively, but it was treated accordingly all along in case that is what had occurred. I spent close to two weeks waiting to hear what was going to happen next and making arrangements from afar. As she lingered in the hospital with no transfer in sight, I traveled to be with her to get a better sense of the situation. It was not my intention to stay for very long, but after I assessed what her real needs were, I felt that she didn't need much help that I couldn't give to her at home.
Conventionally, given her situation, she would have gone to a skilled nursing rehabilitation facility where nurses and nurses assistants would care for her daily needs and get her to physical therapy. That's really expensive care that I knew, given my background in providing at home caregiving, that I could do just as well, if not better. And what better occupational therapy is there than actually doing the tasks that would be required of her at home?
I decided that I could stay with her. Mainly the help she needs from me is getting out of bed and into her wheelchair and then into the car, shower, toilet, etc. Pretty much everything else she can do with a minimum of assistance. In fact, today she washed dishes, changed the sheets on her bed, started laundry, paid bills online, and played Wii tennis and bowling.
My values played into the decision to put my life on hold and care for my mom. As evidenced by Belle's birth, I take personal responsibility very seriously and do not typically outsource care to professionals that I can be capable of providing to myself or my family. Its also been a very intuitive process is knowing how to help my mom in this difficult situation. Each step of the way, I felt what I call the Spirit confirming my thoughts and plans. I also have considered throughout my life that traditionally it was a sign of respect and gratitude to care for elder parents when their health began to fail. Though, this is coming at an age where I'm much younger than I would have expected (25, with two small children).
On May 4, I brought her home. We've been adjusting since then and today has been the best day yet. It was rocky on day 3 and 4 but after some frank discussion, we better understand what is expected of both of us.
Its a blessing that as a stay at home mother, I have the ability to move and add to my "work." Both children are with me, though my husband has had to stay in school two states away. If I employed, I would not be able to drop everything and then at the last minute decide on my originally intended 5 day trip to extend it to 2 months. The hope is that by July, my mom will have made significant recovery with physical therapy that she will be able to either walk, or be able to support enough of her weight to transfer herself in and out of bed.
The baby is struggling with my added responsibility and just wants to be held all the time. She'll follow me around the house screaming waiting for me to pick her up. The answer to that: babywearing. Belle goes in the Ergo on my back and I continue with what needs to be done.
Willem is my rescuer and comfort. Because he's a playful three year old, he makes me stop every once and a while and just play with him. A wrestle on the floor or on the grass, a hug and cuddle, some catch or frisbee or baseball or building with blocks, or reading a story. And the rest of the time, he is getting to explore and play and develop his own inner world. When I am feeling overwhelmed or discouraged, I can ask him for a hug and I can't help but feel better. His hugs are exactly what I need. He is at an age where I'm not struggling to care for him. He also entertains and plays with Belle (when she's not too busy hassling me).
In a way, I'm glad to have this time with my mother. Usually when we visit, she is working all day and then very tired by the time she gets home, so we struggle to enjoy our time with her. Now she's home all day with us and we can interact and spend time with her. I hope that in the next week we can start going out on walks in the afternoon.
Because its not easy to be constantly needed by someone, I am being very careful to maintain my evening a week rule. I do it at home with my husband as well where at least one day a week, arrangements are made where I can get out of the house and do something for me. Last night, a friend and I went to a movie while her mother babysat. It was exactly what I need. Next week, I'm planning a 1 hour massage. I'm also back to my nocturnal habits (staying up until 2) for computer time and catching up on my favorite shows. Fish oil and Vitamin D and good food are keeping my mood elevated.
All that to say that things are going much better than I would have expected (in general) and that my blog will probably be much quieter in the coming weeks.
I did recently create a facebook fan page for my blog where I post links and status updates. Those don't take as much time as preparing posts so I feel good about maintaining my connection with blogging and birth and family advocacy. I'll certainly be able to keep up there.