I am about three weeks way from my due date, and my husband and kids are very excited to meet and welcome this new life into our home. I am also excited, the most I’ve been out of all three kids (so far). It’s a pleasant change, to not complain about how hard the end of pregnancy is, given that I was so miserable the last two times. As I come to the end of my pregnancy, ready to give new life, my mother in Toronto is coming to the end of her life, with each day seemingly in more pain and depression than the previous. It’s the opposite of what I’m experiencing here in California. Given that the airlines have strict rules about flying, and my arrhythmia, I am not allowed to travel, and am experiencing her last days through our conversations (when she can have them) on the phone, or through my brother, who has essentially moved in with her, leaving his home in Northern California.
I often wonder if her impending death is making me appreciate this life inside me more than I would have if the situation was different. I suppose that’s an answer I’ll never know, but it’s a gift that I’m readily accepting. I do have a hard time with it, however, but it’s hard to express. Which is why I decided to write about it today, the first blog post I’ve written in months.
I’ve noticed how people can be exceptionally supportive during times like this. On the flip side, I’ve noticed how people turn into complete assholes, too. I understand that it’s awkward, and some people don’t know how to handle situations with death. I get it. But those people are still assholes in my mind. I don’t talk to just anyone about my feelings, so they don’t need to worry about bearing my burden. It would be nice to know that, given I’m not going to be there to say goodbye to my mother at her funeral, or to comfort her in her exit from this world, I could count on certain people in my life. Add to that my emotional state during pregnancy, and I’d say that things are definitely heightened, if not exaggerated at times. But I’ve never faced losing a parent before, pregnant or not, so how do I know what’s normal?
I’ve given it some thought, and have written the top five do’s and don’t’s in dealing with someone in my situation. I’m not the first, and I for sure won’t be the last, and I think I’m not so far off base in predicting what others might want (or not) in a time like this.
1. Call/email/visit/text and check in. Ask how that person is feeling and just listen. Don’t worry about what you can say in response. A simple 5 minute venting session with a listening ear can do wonders.
2. Offer to help with household tasks. Do you know how overwhelming it is on a good day to get things done? Being full term and not sleeping from worrying ‘the call’ might come in and bathroom breaks make daily chores seem like trying to climb Mt. Everest without gear. If someone offered to bring my family dinner a couple of times a week, I’d be extraordinarily appreciative. Ditto on grocery shopping or carpool.
3. Laugh. It’s extremely depressing to talk about death, dealing with it during pregnancy, or what will happen ALL THE TIME. The friends I appreciate the most are the ones that know to distract me with laughter (after my venting session, of course).
4. Be patient. Not everyone understands my reluctance to discuss my feelings with them, and it’s not personal. Please be patient, and when I’m ready, I’ll open up.
5. Distract. Similar to number three. Just like I need to laugh, I also want to stay connected. Your life is still important to me, and I want to know what’s going on! Don’t trivialize your own issues because death seems more significant.
1. Offer unsolicited advice. I’ve heard some really far-reaching suggestions, that have only added to my stress level and truthfully, made me create some emotional distance with those people. Message me if you’d like to hear some, they’re pretty insane!
2. Avoid the Topic. That’s the worst thing I’ve experienced so far. It makes me feel like you don’t care about what I’m going through (*see asshole comment above), or care enough. I hate to say it, but we will all be in a position of losing a loved one at some point, and no one is immune. Try to approach me as you would want to be approached.
3. Forget How My Situation is Different. Yes, please don’t forget that I am pregnant and trying to come to terms with my mother dying before this baby is born (or shortly after). It’s a lot to process, setting up the crib and car seat, washing teeny tiny onesies, and all the time knowing this baby won’t ever get to meet his grandmother.
4. Distance Yourself. Probably the only thing that’s more hurtful than number 2 is this. Completely disappearing during a time like this is very wounding to our relationship. What’s the saying about finding out who your true friends are?
5. Give up. I may retreat, or not want to talk for a while. It’s very overwhelming for me right now. At times I may want to just shut off my phone and not reply to texts or voicemails. This isn’t permanent, so please don’t be offended or give up on me. I just need some space once in a while.
Well, friends, that about sums it up for me right now. It’s day-to-day right now for my mom, and while we wait for the cancer to slowly take away one life, we are waiting for a new one to come into this world. The beauty and sadness of life, sunrises and sunsets, all in one.