Mary is my eldest sister. Even though she was almost 15 when I was born, and left home when I was about 3, we were very close. I suppose there are a couple of reasons for this. When I was the baby, she was the eldest and
got stuck with joyously embraced taking care of me a lot. We probably developed a bit of a bond there. But secondly, Mary and I have a lot of personality traits in common. We’re quite different on the whole but we share a quietness, a reserve, an aversion to fuss and bother that also creates its own bond.
When my doctor told me I ‘d better stop work and get some help for the rest of my pregnancy, Ron and I thought about options. He couldn’t really take any time off work, as they are always short staffed in the summer time, and we didn’t have any local people we felt comfortable asking. Since we live out of town and he works long hours, the person helping would pretty much have to be living with us. I thought of my sister because she was at home, with only her husband to take care of, and I thought she might be willing. It’s a lot to ask, especially for someone who is a committed homebody, but we phoned her up and asked her if she’d like an all expense paid trip to our place! Who could refuse that? Mary readily agreed, and by doing so, lifted a huge weight off of us. It took her a couple of days to get things in order in Victoria, then she flew out to stay with us.
In conversations with my Mom around this time, she was really pleased with how well Dad was recovering from his fall. He was still in the hospital though.
The disturbing thing about the hospital situation was that he was in a ward where people kept dying! In the space of a couple of weeks 3 or 4 people he knew, had gone out of there with a sheet over their face. Dad began to slide into a deep depression.
Throughout this time, and through much of the previous year, there had been several dramas going on with my brothers and sisters. I won’t go into them here because I wasn’t there so don’t know all the facts. All I know is that there had been a lot of trips home from the coast by the Island contingent and a lot of trip from Calgary by Neal. All the kids (except me) had helped pack and prepare my parents for moving and this took a lot of work. During my Dad’s manic phase, the previous May, they had been helping with packing up and selling the house and moving out. He did quite a few odd and irrational things, including stirring up the kids with his paranoid fears. While he was in the hospital, my understanding is that Dad summoned the boys for a meeting and there was some kind of issue with the girls. Like I said, I was not involved in most of this because I couldn’t get home and my brother Michael, who is handicapped and lives at the coast, wasn’t involved either. So, there was some nasty stuff going on with 6 of them (then 5 because I had kidnapped Mary)
Meanwhile, things were going pretty well for us at home. Nicole continued to grow and thrive and morph into a lovely little toddler. Mary didn’t stand a chance and soon became her willing slave. Because she was still young (only 16 months) Nicole still needed lots of cuddling and carrying. I couldn’t do any carrying.
Lucky me. Kyah’s hair factory was going great guns at all time so our house required vacuuming every day. Mary helped with that, did the laundry, chased Nicole around, and basically shadowed me. I loved having her there. We’re very compatible and it even worked out pretty well with Ron. Its not always easy to have a member of your other half’s family living with you but this went quite smoothly. My pregnancy was going well but I was really uncomfortable. My pelvic bones had started to move apart at about 5 months so there was a lot of pain whenever I stood up, sat down, or walked. The Braxton Hicks contractions were kind of bothersome too. Pretty much all day every day. When I went to see my doctor near this time she jokingly told me ‘when the hospital calls me that you’re in…I know to come running!’
Towards the end of July, Dad was released from the hospital. Still in a deep depression. He wanted to quit having the dialysis and pack it in. It was boiling hot that summer in the Kootenays, and just getting in to Trail for dialysis was a terrible strain. One day, shortly after he was home from the hospital, I phoned to see how they were and poor Mom, she was just barely hanging on. It had been around 40C that day. Dad had gone in for a treatment but they couldn’t complete it because his blood pressure was too low. he kept passing out. When he was well enough to get up and go home, they got to the car but it broke down. There followed a huge ordeal of trying to get Dad home to Rossland, get the car towed or taken back there, all in this blistering heat. You have to factor in that my Mom and Dad were both 83 years old at the time!
Around this time, Joan and Margaret came home to help Mom with Dad. David and John (who both lived in the area) left to go camping with their various families. Right before the girls got there, Dad refused to go into the hospital for dialysis. Mom basically bullied and harrassed him until he went, and then she sat with him through the treatment to see with her own eyes how hard it was. I think she finally believed that she had to let him let go if he wanted.
He came home and didn’t go back. He didn’t want to die in the hospital, miserable place that it was. Joan and Margaret are both nurses so could help with his care. Neal came from Calgary. The boys came back from camping to see him again, then left again. Neal’s daughter, my niece Julia, who I mentioned before, came too. She was 8 months pregnant but really wanted to be there. Her and my Dad always had a special bond. I think because, when she was a little, Julia was the only person my Dad ever met who could out-talk him!
In the meantime, Mary and I and Ron and Nicole carried on at home. We phoned every day. I got to talk to Dad on the phone one day after he had come home. He was very ill, and very depressed but lucid and caring enough to ask how I was feeling and how Nicole and Ron were doing. He knew my baby was coming soon. I told him how much I loved him, and I told him I understood why he had to let go.
One very bad thing happened around the time he came home from the hospital. The Priest from my Mom and Dad’s church came to visit and gave Dad a dressing down for the sin of killing himself (I’m paraphrasing). Dad was terribly upset. Luckily, the son of one of my Mom’s friends was a very kind and liberal priest and he came to visit Dad. I think he helped him to feel some peace with his choice.
What a hard choice to make. To actually choose to quit dialysis, is to choose to die. I certainly don’t begrudge him that choice.
After a couple of days, Dad’s level of consciousness started to decrease. He was still conscious enough to be mad as hell every time he woke up from dozing. Joan told me one day that you couldn’t help but chuckle because, now that he had decided to let go, he was really miffed to keep waking up!
Ron and I tried to get Mary to go and be with them because she was finding it pretty hard to not be there while the family was going through the suffering together with Dad. She refused. Her loyalty was to us and she thought she could do the most useful thing by staying with us. What a sweetheart. Truth be told, I was glad to have a member of the family with me to. It helped with the grieving.
Eventually Dad lapsed into unconsciousness. Luckily, he had most of the family there with him. Mom told me on the last time he dozed off, when she told him she loved him, he couldn’t speak but squeezed her hand.
He slid into a coma and the group continued to keep a vigil. On July 30 th, the Saturday, Julia was laying on the bed with Dad and saw him take his last breath. She came and got the others, telling them ‘he’s gone’.
I was very angry at the Priest again. The one from their church. Now that Dad was dead, he wouldn’t let them have a non-traditional Catholic funeral. There could be no talking or readings at the funeral. So, the date for the funeral was planned for August 3, and they arranged to have a Vigil, on the night of the 2nd.
Joan and Margaret had run around and made a lot of preparations for Dad’s funeral. He already made quite a few plans so they basically implemented them. My SIL Kim wrote a beautiful eulogy to be delivered at the Vigil, and others planned to participate. One of my cousins is an amateur videographer so planned to tape the funeral.
On the night of the 1st, Ron had gone to work at his usual time. Mary and I were at home with Nicole and Kyah. In the evening we were talking on the phone with the family but I wasn’t feeling well. My back was killiing me, but this wasn’t unusual. My back and everything else was killing me most of the time. Mary rubbed my back for awhile then I decided to go to bed and read. Lying down often helped to settle the Braxton Hicks contractions.
So, it was about 9:30 and I was writing in my diary. The pains I was having seemed to have some kind of rhythm. I started to note the times in my diary. Uh-oh, I thought.
I phoned the hospital and they said I could always come in and they’d put the monitor on me then they would know if I was starting labour. I called Ron around 10 and said, I think I might be starting labour but I can’t really tell. These contractions are a lot like what I’ve been having for weeks. So, he said he’d come home and take me to the hospital. I was at 38 weeks.
I got up to get dressed and went to tell Mary. Then BOOM, I had a huge contraction and suddenly remembered exactly what it felt like to be in labour. I thought, ‘crap, I don’t want to do this right now’. (Yeah, as if you have any choice). Thank goodness Mary was there. I could leave Nicole and not worry. This was something that had really bothered me ever since our last hospital incident.
My friend Suzanne, who is from the UK and also raised a family here without much of a support network was very sympathetic. She had told me that if I needed her to come, any time of the day or night, she would, so I could leave Nicole with her. That was a very nice offer. Luckily, we didn’t have to take her up on it.
By the time Ron got home, about 10:30, I was laying on the couch waiting, having contractions 2 minutes apart. Exciting isn’t it? Let’s get on the roller coaster now!
I took a big thick towel with me to sit on because my water hadn’t broken and I had no idea if and when it would. Part of the trip to the hospital are seared into my mind. My contractions were very powerful. I had one big one by the McDonalds, and wondered if we should pull over. We kept going. I had a huge one coming around the corner by the hospital. Then, about a minute later, we were parked and Ron tried to open the door to help me out. He couldn’t. 10 men probably couldn’t. I was having a huge contraction and holding the door closed!
Finally he got me out. In a small town hospital, after 10 at night, the front door is closed and locked. You have to go in through the Emergency ward. We walked in through the big door and just as we go into the hallway, I dropped to my knees with another contractions. Ron ran to get help.
He came back in about a minute with a doctor and a nurse and wheelchair but I was already up and
waddling running for the delivery room. Again, a small hospital, I knew where it was around the corner from Emerg. As I went in there I saw a busy hive of nurses getting the room set up and someone started stripping me. Luckily we had come at shift change so there were lots of nurses there.
One more big contraction and they managed to get me changed into a gown and on the bed. Someone had called my doctor already. She came within about 10 minutes. Good thing. I was on the accelerated delivery plan! Dr. Robles examined me and said it was time to start pushing. It was about 10 to 11, less than an hour after I had first called Ron, ‘thinking’ I might be in labour.
Speedy Gonzales Our Son was born at 11:18. Whew. What a ride. I had this baby on my knees. Highly recommend it compared to on the back (my first experience)
I was so stunned to see a boy lying there on the bed. I had been quite sure we were having another girl. Ron knew the gender (from the amnio) but I didn’t . I wanted to find out how it felt to be surprised. I loved it!
So, they cleaned us up and put us in a room for the night. I phoned Mary and then phoned home to tell Mom and the others. It was a very welcome piece of cheerful news after days of sadness.
I nursed him, and he did really well, then tucked him in beside me. Ron went home after awhile and I lay there most of the night, vibrating and looking at this new person. It really is amazing how a squirming big lump in your belly can become a new person!
The following evening we went home.