Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Missing My Nurse

When I was a child, my mommy could kiss any boo-boo and make it better. My mom was always a loving, compassionate mom. I remember the days when I would have to stay home from school sick; as much as I hated being sick and missing my friends at school, I secretly enjoyed the special attention I got from mom. She would lay out my pillow and blankie on the couch, turning on my favorite movies and make me hot jello broth to drink. She waited on me hand and foot, making sure to soothe any pain I had. When I had fevers, she would nurse me with a wet washcloth while I laid my head in her lap as she stroked my hair or scratched my back.

When I was nine years old, I was hospitalized for asthma. My mom was taking college courses at the time, and the college was across the street from the hospital. In those three days that I spent in the hospital, she only left my side once to go to a class and turn in her work and get her other assignments. She made sure though, that somebody was there with me while she was gone. She slept on a cot in my room at night. I can't imagine more devotion from a mother for her sick child.

The first time I was sick without my mom was when I went away to college. I had gotten a stomach bug and spent all night throwing up. My sweet roommate, at the time, did her best to nurse me back to health. But it wasn't the same as having my mom by my side. She tried to comfort me over the phone, but I longed to have her there with me; I knew she would know just how to take care of me.

I was the last of my friends to get married and start having babies. As I watched each friend in the aftermath of their deliveries, I noticed that they all had their mothers there to stay with them for a while to help them adjust to their new roles as mothers. I had no doubt that it would be the same for me, when my time would come that I would start my family.

My first pregnancy came approximately 7 years ago. I was SO sick. For the first week of my morning sickness, I could hardly get out of my bed. Even though my mom worked as a Head Start teacher in the afternoons, she would come over in the mornings to take care of me. I remember her making me toast and bringing gatorade in hopes to keep me hydrated. When my husband, Jeff, went out of town on a business trip, mom packed me up and had me come stay at her house so she could make sure I was taken care of. When it was time for delivery, mom was thrilled to be there for the birth of her first granddaughter, my baby girl, Aubrey. In the weeks afterwards, though she couldn't stay the night with me (due to her job), she was there nearly everyday to help me adjust to motherhood and make sure I got the nutrition I needed for breastfeeding. I felt very fortunate to have my mom with me; although at the time I didn't realize just how lucky I was.

Three years later, I found myself pregnant with my second child. That pregnancy was worse than the first. By this time, my mom's disease had begun (though we didn't know this at the time). She was tired and achey all of the time, which she blamed on her heart condition, and really only thought about herself and her own aches and pains. Indeed, she had become somewhat self-centered. She would come by to help me only if I was completely desperate and had no other choice. When I was about four months pregnant, and barely getting over my morning sickness, our house sold. I had one week to pack up the contents of our entire house, with Christmas right in the middle of that week. Jeff had no time off work to help me, as he had just started a new job the week prior. I expected that my mom would be there to help me pack all of our belongings. But she was too tired and it was her Christmas break; she wanted time to rest. In between the nausea and sickness, I did my best to pack up our home-mostly by myself. Lucky for me, there were 3 dear friends from church who came over and helped me pack up my kitchen.

"Where is your mom?" I remember one friend asking. I was embarassed to confess that she was at home, resting. She should have been there for me.

On moving day, we had those same friends, along with my dad, come help us move everything, despite my inability to finish packing. By that point, things were just thrown into boxes and moved onto the truck.

That following May, my doctor had set up my induction date for the delivery of our baby boy, Cody. I called my mom, excited to know the pregnancy was almost at an end. Of course my mom would be in the delivery room; that wasn't even a question. When there was a pause on the other end of the phone, I asked,

"You're going to be there, right?"

To which she responded, "I don't know, I guess it depends on how early it is. I have a hard time getting up early these days. I can always come by later when I wake up, I'm sure you won't have the baby yet."

I hung up the phone feeling hurt and angry. I was in utter disbelief at her selfish attitude. This was not the mother I once had. What was wrong with her? Why was she acting so selfish??

Delivery day came and she strolled in the labor and delivery room mid-morning (I had arrived around five o clock that morning). She was happy to meet her new grandbaby, but left pretty quickly after he arrived; quite the contrast to my first delivery where she stuck around to attend her first bath in the nursery. In the week following, she came over once or twice after work for about half an hour or so to see the baby. But she was usually too tired to hang out for too long or to do anything helpful.

Another three years later, I became pregnant with my third, and final, baby (who is now almost a year old). This pregnancy was the worst yet. It didn't help that I had three other kids to take care of: my own two children as well as my husband's niece, Maurina (then 14), whom we had adopted when Aubrey was a baby. On a typical day, I was throwing up anywhere from 2-4 times; sometimes more, sometimes less. I could hardly keep anything down. It was hard to function. I had no strength, no energy; it sounds drastic but I felt like I was dying, like I was slowly wasting away to nothing. I was fortunate to have a friend who helped me transport Aubrey to and from Kindergarten each day, but I was still left to pick Maurina up from the high school every afternoon. Most days I would lay on the couch all day, only getting up to tend to the kids; then I'd get the kids in the car to pick Maurina up from school and quickly pull into the driveway, leaving Maurina to get the kids out while I ran as quick as I could to the toilet. It was all I could do to keep from pulling over on the side of the road on the way home to relieve my horribly upset stomach.

When we had moved (during my second pregnancy), we bought a house a mile up the road from my parent's. One would expect that I could call my mom to help me out; not the case. By this time, her disease (still undiagnosed) had progressed to the point that it resulted in a leave from her job, which meant she was home all day long. Not once did she come to take care of me. Not once. I remember one day, my son, Cody, got sick. He had been running high fevers for a few days. One afternoon, he woke up from his nap with a fever of 105 degrees! Of course it was one of my worst days of morning sickness. Every time I got off the couch, it resulted in a mad dash to the toilet bowl. I was extremely stressed out and desperate for help. I called my mom, knowing she wouldn't be jumping at the call to come help, but believing she would when I told her how high his fever had spiked. Her response?

"I'm laying down right now, I'm just so tired, I'm not feeling so well today. I'm sorry."

After calling a couple other people and coming up with nothing, I lay on the bathroom floor in tears, while Cody sat in a lukewarm bath screaming his head off. I cried out of fear for my child, I cried out of anger and frustration with my mom, I cried out of mere exhaustion; at that moment I felt so alone and devastated. It was the moment when I was forced to face the cruel realization that I no longer had a mother to be there for me.

She made it to the delivery room, where we welcomed Ryer into our family. It was pretty much the same scenario as with Cody: strolling in the room at mid-morning and leaving as soon as he was out. My OB also happens to be her OB, so as soon as he entered the room she made sure to tell him that she had an appointment with him in a few weeks because of all the pains she was having in her stomach, due to fibroids.

After Ryder was born, I don't remember her coming over at all, aside from family dinners and other family gatherings. A week after Ryder's birth, Jeff had to return to work and I was on my own. I loaded the kids up in the car each morning and afternoon to take Aubrey to and from school. This required parking up the hill from the school (parking is a nightmare over there!), pulling out the heavy double stroller to load both boys in and pushing them downhill to the school and then back up to where we parked. The crossing guard made a comment to me one morning, that first week after he was born,

"I can't believe you're back out here already after just having a baby!"

What choice did I have? Somebody had to take her to school.

This past week has been another tough one for me. Aubrey developed a fever last week, along with a horrible cough and head cold, which she graciously shared with Cody and me. I've been struggling to take care of the kids and give myself some rest at the same time. When moms get sick, they don't get a day off. I envy my sister-in-law, who has her mother to nurse her back to health and help with her kids whenever she gets sick. I used to have that. And I feel sad that I no longer have that for myself. I am trying not to throw myself a pity party, but in the moments when I am weak, when I just want to go take a nap and rest my achey, feverish, sick body rather than tend to rowdy kids, I just want my mom back. It doesn't matter how old you get, a girl always needs her mom.

I've said it before: I've spent many years in anger with mom over these events. I realize, now, that it is beyond her control. It doesn't take the hurt away, but it's a different kind of hurt. The anger that was once directed towards her has been rerouted. I will always hold dear the memories of who my mom once was. I know there will come a time when it will be my turn to repay her for the many years she spent nurtuing me back to health. It's scary to look at the future and think about me nursing my mother; I'm not entirely sure of what that means yet. But I am trying to prepare myself for what is to come.


  1. Cassandra, this is a wonderful, well written documentary about you mother (my baby sister). Although I am not looking forward to the future either for the obvious dread, I look forward to these installments as a tribute to my sister. Thank you for such a beautiful and moving story.

    Uncle Mike

  2. Thank you for reading, Uncle Mike.

  3. Last night, my kids and I were watching home videos of them when they were babies. Mom watched bits and pieces and told them how she got to see them all be born. It made me tear up, thinking about how my kids will never know Mom the way she was. It kills me inside.

  4. Omg. This is my mom!!!! I can't believe someone else has gone through this... Jesus!!!! I'm so grief stricken!