Saturday, April 14, 2018

She went there

A few weeks ago a neighborhood mama who I've always wanted to get to know better invited me to join a women's group.  Tuesday nights from 7:00-8:30 at a local coffee shop just 5 minutes away.  Women from *ahem* our church.  "Our church" meaning I've gone a few times, my husband has been going regularly of late but apparently joined awhile back because we get tithing envelopes in the mail monthly.  He actually asked our neighbor to invite me because he knows I'm lonely, need community and I'm guessing is secretly hoping developing friendships with these women will get me to church more often.   Whatever.

I went to the group though, because I AM lonely and I DO need some friends and I'm hoping this will foster a true friendship at least with my neighbor.  There were only 4 women the first night including me.  Three the next week.  Seven last night, including one brand new gal.  I'm feeling optimistic, as over half the women have children the same age as mine, and one is at least as old as me, so looking forward to hearing her story and commiserating on the whole advanced maternal age factor in parenting.

So last Tuesday, one of the seven was a woman who has been a member of the church since birth and clearly knows the ins, outs, down and dirty, projected reputation and internal reality of the church's goings on.  Basically, don't cross her.  Let's call her Casey.  Casey also just gave birth to her first child 3 weeks ago.  I'd heard about her in the previous meetups and knew the pregnancy had been at risk, with a rescue cerclage at 22 weeks, bleeding at 25 weeks, bedrest, etc.    But baby arrived at 39 weeks 3 days and all is well.  Last night she relished in the attention, the questions about new motherhood, and the 'poor me'-ness of sleep and caffeine deprivation (the latter due to breastfeeding).   I held my tongue.  The brand new gal to the group announced she was 16 weeks pregnant with her 1st.  Well.  Casey jumped all over that with loads of authoritative advice and "oh get ready for..." comments and I pretty much wanted to vomit.

But more than that, by then I'd already been consciously breathing through post-trauma anxiety for several minutes.   I hadn't traveled through this particular territory in a long time, meeting new people.  I'd forgotten.  People who don't know me or my story, how these first interactions are riddled with silent questions of "Will there be space to tell you about my first child?", "Will you allow my dead daughter to have a life in our relationship?", "Will you accept me as a person who can laugh and enjoy the life I have but still grieve?"   Used to be I dreaded meeting new people - uptight, a stone's throw from bursting into tears, getting out of there even a wisp of passing for normal was victory.  So a a few days later I realize that not having thought to be nervous was actually significant progress!  Some might even say 'healing'.  Except I hate that word.  There's no healing, only lessening.

Anyway, this lady's talking about her healthy baby boy and all it's trimmings took me back.  To the OR, to the silence, to seeing her for the first time, the doctor dropping her arm on the table to prove she was beyond saving, sobbing on my brother whose first newborn was safe at home, all of it.  To my milk coming in.  To spending weeks in my pajamas staring at nothing at all.

I had nothing to say to this woman.

Plenty to say to my baby loss mamas about her over-the-top advice, her barely contained smug demeanor, and authority on all things baby after being a mother to a living child all of 3 weeks.   Still, I sat there with my fists pressed against my lips, doing my best to keep a neutral expression.  But then, she went there.  During the official ice-breaker when we were asked to give our biggest success and biggest challenge of the last week.  Guess what she says?  Yep.  "My success is keeping my tiny human alive for 3 weeks..." Cue laughter and jovial 'oh yes, it's work!' and all the rest.  I *almost* excused myself.  But was able to stay in my seat knowing I could vent here, to you all.  Oh my god. 
Naive people.  I can hardly bear smug, naive people.  Yes she had a challenging pregnancy.  But she comes across like her son was a sure thing, now that he was here.  Would she someday know what it's like to get a call from her baby's daycare saying her son is on the way to the hospital by ambulance?  That he suddenly stopped breathing in the arms of his caregiver after a bottle?  Arrive to the hospital and learn he was gone?  Would she walk into his room someday and find him still, blue and cold in his crib?  I know these mamas.  These mamas are never smug.  These mamas are humble, yes, exhausted, exceedingly grateful, but always with that unspoken hint of anxiety, not knowing if whatever anecdote or experience they're discussing as a mother of this particular child might be their last.  They know nothing is a sure thing when it comes to life.  And death.

I know, I know, I know I know I know.  She's a fine person, a perfectly normal, probably good-hearted, giving person.

But I don't think we're gonna be friends.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Morning Glory

It's 7:13 a.m.   My 2 1/2 year old, whose bed I slipped into somewhere around the 5 o'clock hour to keep him sleeping in his own bed the rest of the night, woke me up less than 15 minutes ago by sticking his fingers up my nose.  After sticking them up his.  On repeat.  Until he saw his favorite person leaving for work through the crack in the door and ran out to say goodbye to his beloved daddy.   Immediately thereafter he stomped back in and told me it was morning time and I need "to put th-ome pant-th on".   After sliding on the pair he chose for me, a gaudy version of mama-fat-pants-stretch-leggings (thanks buddy), I rolled out to greet the newly risen sun.  Thank god for the sun.  This freaking Minnesota "spring" come longest-winter-ever is k-i-l-l-i-n-g us all.   In the next 5 minutes said 2 year old has played two rounds of Pie In The Face because whipped cream in the face is always hilarious, no matter what time it is.  And my 5 year old with crazy bedhead just asked me to tell her a story.  Her favorite thing, which also happens to be the thing I just never feel up for.   Who can be creative when they're exhausted all the time and using all their oomph for appetizing lunches and figuring out what to do with the 2 year old all day, I ask you?!

It's all a lot to ask before coffee.   A lot.

Normally this kind of start to the day would make me feel cranky and trapped.  Again.  But today...   Maybe it's the sun.  Today I just feel grateful.  Grateful to be their mama, grateful to be the one they feel safest with, grateful for the ordinary-ness of it.  Mundane is the new glorious, you know.  At least for those of us who have ached for ordinary when our world turned inside out.

So guess what?  Today I started a new story.  For my precious girl.

After coffee in hand, of course.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Let The Games Begin

Not quite 2 weeks after the PSA that came back elevated, a second reveals it has risen 0.03 already.  Now .25.  Quick for prostate cancer.   Pelvic MRI tomorrow, consult with radiation oncologist next week.  Meeting with urologist after results of MRI are in.  Dr. Knoedler, the urologist, is well-reputed and has a relationship with Brad's brother (prior to Brad becoming a patient) and to Brad himself outside of this.  So Brad feels good about the doc not thinking of him as 'just another patient'.   But honestly, I know my young patients at the hospital stick with me,  I'm pretty sure Brad's situation would stick with Dr. Knoedler regardless.

We had gotten to a pretty good place the last several days.  Matter of fact, feeling like we can handle radiation, staying present with all the goings on here (my parents visit, Cate's birthday).  But this conversation rattled us both.  Words like "aggressive, concerned" and "50/50 chance".  We were told there was a 50/50 chance the cancer would return in 10 years after radical prostectomy.   It's been 2 1/2.  Now we're being told there's a 50/50 chance radiation will kill it.   I'm sorry, but WTH?!  I would have thought radiation would have a greater return, you know?

I had written a slew of fearful thoughts here, along with a few other negative-ish comments throughout, and this morning am editing and deleting them, while still trying to stay true to the situation.  My beloved friend, a ridiculously wise and powerful Type I diabetic who has undergone 3 organ transplants, multiple heart surgeries, lymphoma, a myriad of other issues and oh, is also completely blind, strongly encouraged me not to write down the specifics of my fears.  Writing them down, having others read them and react in kind, all that only draws energy to what we don't want.  Stirs up the universe's creative energy in the wrong direction, you know?

We will always think of this in association with Cate's 5th birthday, no matter the road from here.   Certain events creating the Before-s and Afters of our lives.  Before Anna, After Anna.  Before living children, After.  Before....After.   I've been through enough of life to know it never stays the same, there are unforeseen surprises and scenes you dare hope for that come true...and ones you pray never do.   My mother's response to Brad's news was to say something along the lines of "How much crap can happen to one family?"   But my answer was "But so much good has happened too.   Cate, Matt.  Our home, Brad's job, everything about the last 5 years.  This is Life.  The good with the bad."

I believe radiation therapy will give us time.  I'm going to hold the vision of a very, long, time.

Please join me in that vision!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How 0.22 can change your life.'s back.


It's an infinitesimal number, really.   Teeny.  One would think, inconsequential.

Except when that number is supposed to be 0.00, or "undetectable", as it has been for the last 2 1/2 years.

Yesterday Brad found out his PSA level was 0.22.  An elevated hormone showing up in his blood from a piece of his body that's no longer there.  Which means one thing.

Cancer is back.

His urologist is out of town until Monday and so we won't know his opinion or next steps until at least then (which is also the date we're throwing Cate's 5th birthday party, so that won't be surreal at all).  We suspect another blood draw to re-test and a bone scan to start.  The hope is radiation to the surrounding prostate tissue and that will be it.  Done.  Onto gymnastics lessons and hockey and plays and all those ordinary moments that make life extraordinary.

Last night I felt like I was sputtering and in danger of drowning on oxygen, very nearly sending out a cut-to-the-chase email to our tribe.  That knee jerk response of wanting to know you've got people holding onto your hand just enough that you can keep your face above water.  But maybe in a show of slight personal development, I didn't and decided to write here instead, as those who read this are the ones who can probably handle me at this early stage and throughout whatever is next.

Shit, you guys.  Just...all the swear words.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

So this happened...

This was just not on my radar yet.

So Catherine has been talking about boys and friends and boyfriends and it's all mixed up depending on the day, sometimes the hour.   In one conversation they are her boys that are friends but not boyfriends.  Other times she loves them but just likes her teachers, showing some awareness about a distinction between the two, and indicating some level of knowing there's a romantic bent to the title of 'boyfriend'.

So we had one of the two boys she adores over today for a playdate.  He's been here before with his Mom, but today came alone.  For the sake of privacy, let's call him Jack.   On Jack's last visit his mother shared with me he has an obsession with diapers (???...whatever!) and of course we have a lot of those around with Matthew.  We currently have a stash behind the couch in the living room.  So she and Jack have been thick as thieves all year, and today were playing downstairs for a few hours.   In the first hour or so I knew they were sneaking into the diapers and sneaking back downstairs.  I told them it was fine to play with them, they didn't have to be sneaky about it, I wasn't and wouldn't get mad or anything.  A little while later I noticed it was pret-ty darn quiet down there.   So I went to check it out.  Jack was in the puppet playhouse and Cate just outside it.  I asked if everything was okay and they said it was, and I made a lighthearted reminder about what I always say when the kids are quiet..."trouble is brewing, right?"   Cate gave a little smile like she didn't quite know what to do with that information as it applied to her and not Matthew (which is who we're usually talking about.)
So I went back upstairs, no big shake.
At some point in there they said they were trying on diapers.  Whatev, right?  I figured they meant on the dolls, or over their clothes, didn't think much of it.

Later I hear some of their conversation as they're playing house, and it's so cute I go down to take a picture of whatever they're doing.  Cate is now in a cowgirl vest and tutu, so she had obviously changed her clothes.  Almost assuredly right in front of Jack, because that's how she rolls.  In her underwear most of the time, or changing outfits left and right.  Particularly dress up clothes with friends over.  Note to self, have a conversation about changing outfits with male friends over.
They were playing house, being darling.
Soon after I hear her going on about pretending to get hair cuts and then "OK, you can be an astronaut AND a hair cutter!  Then you can give my hair a trim when we're in outer space, OK?"
A few minutes after that, "No Jack!  You play what I want to play or I'M not going to play with YOU!"  Aaaaand then, tears and "Mom, Jack won't play with me, I want you to play with me!"
So she tells me all about how she wants Jack to brush her hair and style it and play dress up and I explain to her that honey, boys just don't often like to do that kind of thing.  And oh by the way, you are now totally naked and OMG GO PUT SOME CLOTHES ON!!!!  Wth?!  But being naked is a nonissue and this hair business is really upsetting, so in her world my priorities are totally upside-down.

After convincing her to go get some clothes on I find Jack downstairs basically hiding behind the puppet house in a corner.   Poor, traumatized kid.  I mention that Catherine was being pretty darn bossy.   And how that's not really fun to be around.  He agreed on both counts.  We didn't mention the nakedness.
"Science-ing" brought both kids around and all was again well (baking soda + vinegar = volcanos, food coloring + just about anything = my mom doesn't let me do this at my house, super cool!).    Eventually there was a baking pan full of water and about 4 bottles of food coloring.   Jack was using a small baster that came with the science kit to suck up the liquid and squirt it back out.  I hear Catherine say "It sounds like pee!"  giggle giggle.  Then I hear, "It looks like your penis."  I must have made a sound because she looks at me at says, "You know, the long part."  Yep, I say, because of course she means the long part where the pee comes out.  But, holy hell.  Jack didn't say a word and I couldn't see his face, so who knows what was going on for that poor child.

Later, I'm telling his mother about this because it sounds like hilarious stuff kids say and she's laughing like crazy.  Not until I go inside to look for some of the items Jack brought over to make sure they go home with him did it hit me....wait a damn second.  Diapers.  Trying them on.  Cate changing clothes.  Naked.  It looks like your penis.


So hours later, this evening, I casually and lightheartedly ask Cate if she and Jack were playing with diapers or actually trying them on.  She admits they were trying them on.  I ask if they saw each others privates and let's just say yes, they did.  She gave me specifics on what he saw and what she did.  Still super casual as if this must have been silly and didn't they have fun together today, I ask if they touched each other's privates or just looked.   The latter, thank you sweet Jesus.

Folks...I just did not know we were here.
I thought we were still in "Isn't this sweet, kids just being kids and unfazed by gender differences, just having fun and enjoying each other for who they are" glory!  You know, INNOCENCE.  And it's still innocent for all practical purposes.  But innocent doesn't mean appropriate.   And there were definite inappropriate portions of today's playtime occurring while mama was upstairs dealing with being double billed for our security system over the last 3 years.

Gonna be some new rules in town, kiddo.
1)  Clothes on with company.   All the time.
2)  If you're going to change clothes, do it where they can't see you.  Preferably in another room with the door mostly closed.  Modesty, girl.
3)  No showing others your privates.  Only to parents (or a doctor) if we or you suspect a problem down under.
4)  What am I missing, ladies?  It's now 12:45 am and I'm tired tired tired, but....holy cow.  Holy cow.