Thank you to all of you who left supportive comments to my last couple of posts and particularly for the prayers and good wishes for my mom's health. She had her cardiac bypass surgery two weeks ago today and came through the procedure okay. We all were thankful that it involved only a single bypass that was able to be done through a small incision on the side of her chest. Thus, she was able to avoid the more invasive traditional open-heart surgery in which the sternum is cracked open, and therefore her recovery was expected to be much quicker and easier than is the case with the traditional surgery.
On the day before the surgery, my parents called me and asked me to drive to be with them over the weekend rather than arriving earlier on the day of the surgery as I had planned. Since my sister was going to take time off from her job to be with them during the surgery and initial hospital stay, they thought it would be a better use of my limited time off from my job to arrive later to assist my mom during and after her discharge from the hospital. They wanted me to be there to help get her settled in at home.
I arrived two days after the surgery and ended up being there over a week because unfortunately my mom's recovery involved several complications. First she experienced severe heart arrhythmia which delayed her discharge from the hospital. Then, when she was discharged, she experienced symptoms that landed her in the emergency room less than 24 hours later because her lungs were filling up with fluid (a condition associated with congestive heart failure). She was re-admitted to the hospital and her lungs were drained, but unfortunately she developed a nasty infection via the site on her arm where an IV was administered in the emergency room. After a few more days in the hospital and some strong antibiotics she was deemed well enough to go home, but she was very weak.
My mom is 79 and had already been looking elderly, but now she seemed noticeably more shrunken, small, old, frail, and vulnerable. Her condition during her initial recovery required me to care for her like almost like an infant. Seeing my normally independent mother like that and realizing that our role reversals were bound to continue as she aged broke my heart a little bit. After all my mother has done for me, I was glad to be there to care for her, but it was bittersweet. I realize the great blessing it is that both my parents are still living and am so thankful that God answered my fervent prayers that my mom would pull through her surgery. Still, it is sad to watch my parents physically deteriorate and suffer through repeated health crises.
Many thoughts came to my mind as I sat in my mother's hospital room hour after hour. Mainly I reflected on the importance of family. I have a bond with my parents that makes me more than willing to drop everything at the blink of an eye to be there for them as they have been there for me so many times. I contrasted the support my mom received from loved ones with another elderly cardiac patient down the hall, a man who never seemed to have any visitors. The nurse confided that he didn't have any children, no family to help buoy him up and care for him during his illness. How sad. This is a hard world, and we all need a family to circle the wagons when times are tough.
I feel caught between the preceding generation, my parents, whose lives are winding down, and the total lack of a subsequent generation, my children. I have been feeling the loss of all my unborn children more sharply than I have felt that loss in a while. I realized that if my most recent pregnancy had not ended in yet another miscarriage, I would be entering my sixth month right now, round and ripe and full of hope (instead, my womb is empty and my period arrived, complete with severe cramps). Losing my parents is inevitable, like a freight train coming down the tracks, and even if I adopt and have the incredible blessing of raising a child, I still grieve the abrupt amputation of my family line. Once my parents are gone, it doesn't seem likely at this point that I will have a child who echoes their faces, frames, talents, or mannerisms.
As my mom reclined in her hospital bed, I looked at her midsection and marveled that my life began inside her body, that it nourished and protected me for nine months before performing the miracle of birth. I must admit that I like having one sole mother--one mother who conceived me, carried me, gave birth to me, and raised me. It's normal and simple and uncomplicated and awesome. It saddens me that if I adopt a child it won't be simple like that for them as my child...or for me as their mother. With adoption, there will always be another mother, and I understand that, I accept it, I am gradually embracing it, but it's a loss to me nonetheless not to be a mother who conceives and gives life to the child she parents.
I also was faced squarely with mortality, not only my mother's but also my own. If we live long enough, bit by bit almost everything that we hold dear will begin to fall away: our physical abilities, our mental sharpness, our independence, our looks, our friends and peers. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I personally can't fathom how people with no faith in God deal with that. If this life was all there is, then it would be a horribly cruel joke to deteriorate and die. It's hard enough even WITH faith, with the hope and promise of eternal life and the understanding that the inner man is being sanctified even as the outer man is falling away.
Sorry to get so heavy on you, but I have been feeling a bit heavy and blue lately. Maybe it is an emotional hangover from all the stress of last week but it saddens me that at this point in my life, after six pregnancies, the only mothering I am doing is of my own parents.
At the same time, I'm thankful for so many things...that my mom and dad are still alive, that I have a loving relationship with them, that I have the health and ability to be able to help them when they need it, that my boss was supportive and let me take time to be with them, that I can get in the car and go see them or pick up the phone and talk with them, that I have a wonderful husband, that adoption provides a possible avenue for me to have a child even if it's not a perfect avenue, and most of all that I have faith and hope in a God that is bigger than deterioration and death.