Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897), an unschooled French girl who died at age 24, intuited the path of descent and called it her “Little Way.” She said (and I summarize), “I looked at the flowers in God’s garden and I saw great big lilies and beautiful roses, and I knew I could never be one of those. But I looked over in the corner and there was a little violet that nobody would notice. That’s me. That’s what God wants me to be.”  Thérèse knew that all we can give to God is simply who we really are; or even better, “To do very little things with great love,” which was her motto.  That’s all God wants from any of us. It’s not the perfection of the gift that matters to God; it’s the desire to give the gift that pleases God.
I haven’t meant to keep you in the dark about life here. I just haven’t been able to wrap my head around posting much lately.
We have made a lot of progress with care for Nana. We now have her nurse/case manager from hospice on board and have been able to pass off prescription management to her. The number of medications needed has dropped because a number of them are no longer needed. For example, she doesn’t take a statin anymore because her cholesterol level is irrelevant at this point. It makes it easier to keep track of her meds, especially because hospice has taken over the ordering of refills.
Hospice is also handling medical equipment, such as oxygen and a wheelchair. They are good at solving problems, like providing cushions to protect her ears from the oxygen tubing. Simple things like that make a big difference.
It is nice to have just one number to call. If there are any questions, we just call hospice and they contact whichever doctor or service is needed. There is always someone on duty, even in the middle of the night, to address concerns or problems.
Meanwhile, ABC is already five weeks old! She had a checkup and is now almost two pounds (0.9 kg) heavier and 2 1/2 inches (6 cm) longer than when she was born. She has outgrown her preemie clothes and can wear regular newborn sizes. She is starting to focus on her surroundings. She is playing with some of her toys and is getting more tolerant of diaper changes, baths, and getting in and out of her carseat/carrier.
She is fascinated by her reflection in the mirror.
It is a blessing to have her here with E and L, watching them become a little family and assisting with baby care and general household tasks. Most advanced economies give parents paid time off for this life stage, although, sadly, the United States does not. We are grateful that E and L are able to have this important time to bond, especially because L will have to return to the UK in mid-August. We will miss watching his tender care of her, especially when he sits at the piano with her, cradling her in one arm and singing to her, accompanying himself with his free hand.
We are also blessed to be able to bring ABC to visit Nana and Paco. Unlike the earliest weeks, ABC now stays awake for part of the visit, so Nana and Paco get to see her deep blue eyes.
Tomorrow, L’s mom arrives from the UK and our younger daughter T arrives from Missouri. We are gathering for ABC’s baptism on Sunday.
ABC will wear a tiny white dress, first worn by my older sister, followed by me and our younger sister, twenty-some years later by my daughters, and twenty-some more years later by my granddaughter.
I retrieved it from the bottom of Nana’s cedar chest last week and we will return it there next week, in case another precious baby girl arrives in our family to wear it.
On Friday, Nana was accepted into hospice care. I now that some people are used to thinking of hospice as a last-days-of-life service, but it is really designed to be an integrated care program over the course of what is expected to be a final illness. It is meant to keep the patient comfortable and as engaged as possible for as long as possible, while also helping the family caregivers.
Nana will have regular visits from a nurse/case-manager, personal care aides, and chaplain. A social worker will be available to help with paperwork and recommendations as needed. A volunteer will arrive to keep Nana company while Paco goes off on his weekly trip to Wegman’s grocery store on the bus from their senior living community. More services can be brought in as needed.
In addition to hospice, we have aides coming in at night to assist Nana to keep her safe and so that Paco – and the rest of the family – can sleep without worrying about her.
Nana has improved over the last few days. It turned out that her oxygen machine that she uses when she sleeps was malfunctioning. Now that it has been replaced with a new unit, she is able to sleep longer and better so that she can have more quality time during the day.
Meanwhile, ABC is two and a half weeks old and doing well. She initially had a bit of jaundice, which is not uncommon in babies, especially those who, like her, arrived a bit ahead of schedule. She had light therapy at home which, along with time, took care of it. At her two-week checkup, her weight was a bit above her birth weight and she is now having a growth spurt and nursing frequently.
It is a joy to watch E and L who are wonderful parents, despite being so new to it. B and I love to snuggle and rock our granddaughter and are finding that our long-unused infant-care skills have reappeared readily.
We especially love being able to take ABC to visit Nana and Paco, who love every moment with their great-grandchild, even though she is often napping during visits.
We expect to see a bit more of her (currently) deep blue eyes in the coming weeks.
I admit that I am cheating on SoCS this week. I had a post that I had to write and it could not be stream of consciousness. My family has had a very eventful week. If you are so moved, you can read about it here.
When I wrote this post in the wee hours of Monday morning, I had no idea what new highs and lows the next twenty-four hours would bring…
At 9:00 AM, Nana and I met with her primary care physician, Dr. T. What began as a discussion of her recent symptoms that had prompted us to be there quickly segued into a discussion of how her numerous health conditions and our treatment plan were not succeeding as we had all hoped, how the trajectory while there were ups and downs was trending downward, and how we needed to discuss and prepare for end-of-life planning.
As I am sure you can imagine, or, perhaps, know from your own experience, the discussion was painful and emotional, but I am grateful for Dr. T’s honesty, care, and concern that made it possible for us to consider our options and get the help that Nana and all of us need. Barring a sudden event like a stroke, we are likely to have some unknown number of months with Nana, which we want to make as comfortable and peaceful as possible, as filled with family and friends as her strength allows.
We are starting with getting home care recommenced, but the new goal will be to have therapists and aides to help care for her so that she can conserve energy for fun things, instead of wasting it on mundane things. For example, while a goal of her physical therapy had been to be able to walk down to the dining room at their retirement community for dinner, a new goal will be to get a wheelchair so she can ride to the dining room and have energy to eat and visit with friends.
We expect that there will continue to be some days that are better than others, but we hope to have enough support to keep Nana at home in the apartment she shares with Paco. They have been married for 63 years and belong together!
I spent much of Monday afternoon communicating with family members that needed to know what was going on and wrapping my head around our next steps. E and L took over dinner preparations and we settled in for an evening together watching television. E wanted to watch the Stanley Cup (ice hockey) game and was ensconced on the couch with L, when, a bit before 8:00 PM, she startled all of us with the news that her water had broken.
In short order, there was a call to the obstetrician’s office, the message saying to head to the hospital, the hurried assembling of some supplies, and the four of us driving off to the hospital where we arrived at about 8:30.
E and L headed into the delivery suite while B and I set up in the waiting room, thinking that, given that E had not been having noticeable contractions, they might send us home while she rested for the night and waited for labor to begin in earnest. The reason we thought this might be the scenario is that, when I was pregnant with E, my water broke at 36.5 weeks and it took 26 hours for her to arrive.
And E was also at 36.5 weeks.
This was a different labor-and-delivery story.
Baby arrived before 1:00 AM Tuesday, on the sixth of the month.
E was also born on the sixth of the month.
Baby weighed five pounds, five ounces (2.4 kg) and was eighteen inches (46 cm) long.
E was born at that exact weight and length.
Baby has a full head of hair, as did E, although E was strawberry blond (later changing to golden blond) and Baby has dark hair, like L’s.
E and L named their new daughter Ada. Henceforth, I will likely refer to her here on the blog as ABC, which are her initials, but I did want to share her lovely name with you in honor of her birth.
B and I got to share a little time with the new little family before heading home to catch a few winks before the sun rose. We each got to hold our precious first grandchild and reflect on the parallels between E and little Ada.
One more: Ada, like E, is the first grandchild on both sides of the family.
L was able to stay at the hospital with E and ABC until they came home on Wednesday. On Thursday, they went up to meet Nana and Paco.
Maybe Ada was in a hurry to arrive so that she could meet Nana as soon as possible.
I’m sure she will bring us all much-needed joy in the coming months.
Last year, Mother’s Day was subdued. Neither of my daughters was at home. B’s mom had died only a few weeks before. I was blessed to be able to have brunch with my parents, known here as Nana and Paco, although Nana was already dealing with the congestive heart failure which is still a feature of life taking considerable time and energy.
While Nana’s health is still a feature for Mother’s Day today and we will again be joining Nana and Paco for brunch at their senior living community, we have new and exciting happenings this year. Daughter E is in residence and expecting her first child in a few weeks. Baby will be our first grandchild and Nana and Paco’s first great-grandchild. Daughter T has already sent cards to all three generations from her present home in Missouri. Later in the day, my older sister and her husband will arrive for a few days’ visit and, tomorrow, E’s spouse L arrives for three months and my younger sister arrives to get ready for Nana’s birthday on Tuesday.
Next year, what will Mother’s Day bring? I hope that B and I will again be brunching with Nana and Paco. It is likely E, L, and Baby will be living in London. T’s position in Missouri is supposed to end in December, but it is possible that she will stay a second year or move on to another position who-knows-where. If my sisters visit again from Nana’s birthday, it wouldn’t be in close proximity to Mother’s Day, which is as late a date as it can be this year.
Whatever happens in the next year, I know that next Mother’s Day will be marked by intergenerational love, no matter what circumstances separate us physically.
As some readers will recall, older daughter E is currently living with us while her spouse L, a British citizen, is in London with his family. He will be arriving soon for a three month stay to encompass the final weeks of E’s pregnancy, the arrival of Baby, and the early weeks of cuddling, bonding, and diaper/nappy changing. (Have I mentioned lately how dysfunctional and/or in flux the immigration policies of both the US and the UK are?)
In L’s absence, one of my happy duties is to accompany E to the obstetrician’s office. Fortunately, the pregnancy has been progressing smoothly and Baby seems to be thriving and growing according to schedule.
I was pregnant thirty-one and twenty-seven years ago, so a lot has changed in prenatal care. Fetal heart monitors have gotten a lot more compact and easier to use. There is a lot less belly prodding and measuring than when I was expecting. There are more blood tests and standard glucose testing. My daughter received a booster for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis so that Baby will have stronger resistance at birth to help prevent whooping cough until the infant vaccines can kick in.
The biggest change, though, is the use of ultrasound. I never had an ultrasound when I was pregnant. While they were available, they were not yet routine and there was no diagnostic reason to order one. As women had for millennia, I relied on hope and faith that all was well, bolstered by the experienced hands and measuring tape of my health providers.
It has been a revelation to be there for E’s ultrasound exams. Most of the time, we have been able to have L join us via skype, which has been nice. E and I have been able to watch as the technician measures the length of Baby’s femur and the circumference of the head. I have been amazed to see the the entire backbone, tiny fingers and toes, all the chambers of the heart beating over 150 times a minutes, the stomach, the bladder, and other organs. From the last ultrasound, we know that Baby weighs about 3 pounds, 10 ounces (1.65 kg) at 31 weeks. We could even seen some fringe of hair atop Baby’s head, not surprising given that both E and L were born with thick heads of hair.
This last detail was particularly poignant for me, because the first detail we knew about baby E was that she had hair on her head, a fact conveyed to us by the maternity nurse who first examined me at the hospital after I arrived late on a Friday night in April with ruptured membranes at 36 weeks. I was only a centimeter dilated, but she could feel the hair on E’s head as it nestled down, getting ready to enter the world. It wasn’t until the early hours of Sunday morning that we would know the hair was strawberry blonde and belonged to our little girl.
We didn’t know that morning, as we welcomed our first child into the world, how wonderful, complicated, heart-warming, and heart-rending parenting would be. We didn’t know the depths of fear, joy, and love we would experience.
And we didn’t know that, thirty-one years later, we would be on hand to witness that cycle of family begin anew for her and her husband as parents, for B and me as grandparents, and for Nana and Paco as great-grandparents.
Even though it is the most common story in the world, its power isn’t diminished. Love makes the ordinary extraordinary.