Where Did The Time Go?

By Lisa Baker

Has anyone really looked at the calendar today?  Where did January go?  Here we are one month into 2019.  Time goes by so fast.  I talked to Dad this morning on the phone; it was hard to understand all that he said.  From what I could piece together, he is tired of sitting around and no one coming to visit him.  I tried to explain to him that both my husband and I have been sick.  He told me he has never had a cold, and that shouldn’t stop us from coming to see him.  He wants to see Mom and go to his house.  He thinks he can stay by himself.  He wants to walk in the yard and in the road so he can go wherever he wants.

He thinks that no one watches him at the facility.  It doesn’t matter how many times you try to tell him that staff watches him, he can no longer comprehend that he cannot be alone and that he is being watched.  He cannot communicate because he can’t verbalize what he wants to say.  He repeats words over and over thinking that he is completing his thoughts.  Dad will never again be able to be alone.

Right now, Mom seems to be doing OK.  She has been a little dizzy and has had some pain lately, but she seems to be settling in at her new facility.

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I want you to sit down and think about this: you can’t speak clearly, and you can’t remember which words to use to express your thoughts.  You feel so isolated and alone because you are having huge communication issues.  Can you begin to understand how a dementia patient feels? How about the family that is trying so hard to keep their loved one at home? At this point, it doesn’t matter if they are in a facility or at home.  If they are at home, you or someone must be with them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you have no help, you start to feel like you are losing your mind too.

Now imagine you are married.  Your spouse works outside the home.  You have to care for your children, keep up with your house work, prepare meals, wash clothes, and help your kids with homework. Now add a loved one with dementia to the mix.  Imagine they are at a point where they don’t want to bathe or eat. If you thought you had your hands full before, you were dreaming.  You are very quickly wearing yourself out.  You need help. Is it any wonder that caregivers for a loved one with dementia stand a very high chance of getting it themselves?

So what are you going to do?

Give up yourself completely? Find extra help who you will have to pay? Start looking at long term care facilities? The answers to all these questions and many more vary from person to person and family to family.

I do not have all the answers, right or wrong.  I can only do what’s best at the moment for myself and my parents.  What can I tell you then?  Well for me, I almost immediately made an appointment with my doctor.  I had no idea just how bad things could be, but I knew I would need help for me.  I knew I needed to be very honest with my doctor about my physical health as well as my mental health.

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I knew that the stress of everything could be very high, but I also knew that I needed help.  I needed someone who I could share all the burdens and business of having both parents with a dementia diagnosis.  While I do have both of my brothers, I knew I needed someone else with some medical experience to help me with things.  My sister-in-law was a perfect choice.  She has medical experience which makes it so much easier when we have to split up with one of us with Mom and one of us with Dad.  We set up a group text between my sister-in-law, both my brothers, and myself, so we could communicate effectively to each other about both parents. Early on, I mentioned that my parents had their wills already done and their POA financial and medical already picked.  All their legal paperwork was in order.

Even with that, you need a human support system. I don’t see how anyone can do this without help.

What other things can you do? Look at the questions below.  Sit down with your loved one NOW and go through these.  Write their answers down or better yet, video record them and their answers.  You may think it’s not important now, but later you will wish you had done this.  Sometimes you don’t realize just how much is gone until you start thinking about the things you can never go back and ask your loved one because they are too far in the dementia process to be able to remember.

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This disease takes so much away from us all even before your loved one dies.

fb_img_1541818060307Sorry folks, I’ve been pretty deep in thought about the process and how we’ve already lost so much of Mom and Dad even before they pass.  You start realizing you can’t just ask them the things you used to because they don’t remember.

Strive each and every day to make as many memories as you can.  Take lots of pictures.  Journal about your loved ones as well as yourself.  You never know if the day will come, so you will be so thankful that you did.

 

When Did You Grow Up?

 By: Ashley Whisonant

The day I have been dreading has finally come. My oldest “baby” started kindergarten this morning. I held back my tears and we walked down his hallway and into the room that will mold him into the student he will become. My confident little guy went from attendance check in to lunch choice with ease. He gave me a hug goodbye and sadly did not look back. Here are all the words I wish I could have said…

You will always be my baby. You are the one that made me a mom. I didn’t know how much I could love someone else until I met you. I am a ball of emotions. I am both terrified and overjoyed for you. All the experiences you will have, good or bad, will make you into our future young man. Remember to help others, even when it isn’t the popular choice. Find your voice and use it for good. Kids can and will be mean. Do your best to surround yourself with sweet souls. Remember to be yourself. Love you my sweet boy.

Raising Readers

By: Crissie Kirby

Let’s face it . . . we ALL have one or two (or more) guilty pleasures in which we indulge.  Some of these might not be good for us (smoking, excessive alcohol intake, overeating, etc.), but some might not be terrible (working out, writing, crafting, etc.). For me, my number one guilty pleasure is reading . . . few things excite me as much as beginning a new book and delving in to the world created by the author. I don’t know when my obsession with books began, though I do vividly remember reading issue after issue of Reader’s Digest as a child and any other book that even remotely piqued my curiosity.  Reading isn’t a terrible habit to have, other than I could easily while away any number of hours in a land where dirty laundry and dirty dishes and messy floors don’t exist. I fully believe that being a voracious reader has allowed me to become a semi-decent writer.  When I had children, I just KNEW that I would have children who would LOVE books as much I did, so to ensure that, I bought a small library of children’s books. We had Goodnight Moon and Rainbow Fish and lots of Dr. Seuss and many other not so famous children’s books.  Then the unthinkable happened . . .

I had two very busy little boys.

Little boys who wouldn’t sit still for books.  Little boys who exhausted me to the point that I could often not finish a book we started before bedtime because I would, myself, fall asleep before they even blinked one tiny eyelid. I was failing as a reading parent.

As the boys got older, I would try to tempt them by buying books that I (again) just KNEW they would love. Captain Underpants and The Magic Treehouse and other not so famous short chapter books adorned the bookshelves above the aforementioned little kids books that were ever so subtly gathering dust from years of not being touched, much less read.

Unfortunately, most of these books, too, met with the same dust-encrusted fate as the earlier ones.

I was crushed. I was heartbroken. The one habit I had that I had literally waited years to share with my offspring was falling quickly by the wayside. In many ways, I resigned myself that my children were going to be like so many other boys who just didn’t like to read.

But, I kept on reading when I could. Vacations. Late nights. When I should have been folding laundry. I read. I read because it was my one little guilty pleasure that I couldn’t give up. Sometimes it would be with actual paper in my hands; other times it might be with my Kindle or on the Kindle app on my phone, but read I did. I continued encouraging the boys to read. I accompanied them to book fairs where I bought books that I silently prayed wouldn’t just become more dust magnets in our house.

Then, the tide began to shift. As surely as the sun rises slowly each morning, I would catch the boys reading books or magazines (mostly the Lego magazine, but, hey, whatever works, right?) when they weren’t required to by school. For my eldest, the reading bug sort of hit him after watching Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief and he began to read one of the Heroes of Olympus books. I was dumbfounded. I had tried buying the short little chapter books in an effort to ease them into reading and he picks up a 500+ page book and starts reading it willingly? His recreational reading has taken an even more dramatic turn in the last few weeks and he has been quickly devouring more than more than one book at a time. At bedtime, he reads. On the way to and from school, he reads.  The other night, I found him reading at 1 a.m. How could I fuss at him? As my mom replied when I relayed the story to her, it sounded like something I probably did as a child too. My previously devastated reading heart swells each time I look around and notice my son with a book in his hands sitting in the car or sprawled on the couch or nestled under his covers.

Study after study has shown that reading improves vocabulary and general knowledge and helps teach patience.  As with learning to walk and talk, developing a love of reading, it would appear, is just something that develops when the time and conditions are right.  And I’m so grateful to finally be sharing my guilty pleasure with my sons.

Adoption Can Be Funny

By: Jordan Tate

Jordan Tate

We all know that adoption is a joyous occasion, and also a heavy one with many challenges. It’s a true rollercoaster with peaks and valleys and slow turns and fast hills, but I think we can all agree that, for the most part, Hollywood has shaped many an opinion about adoption for those who don’t have a real connection to it. And it can be stinking funny. So today I thought I’d invite you over to have a silly little chat about some funny things we’ve experienced in the world of adoption in hopes that you’ll laugh a little. If nothing else, you’ll quickly learn what not to say to your friends who have adopted or will adopt in the future.

That said, I’m curious, how many of these have happened to you?

We get asked frequently if we’re going to tell Shepherd he’s adopted. You guys…we get asked frequently. To be fair, it always seems to come out rapidly and clumsily and without much forethought, which is very good news. Usually I’m like, “No, we planned on turning his life into an actual Lifetime movie where the ‘big reveal’ happens on his wedding day or something.” Or wait until the day someone else, who is not us, tells him that his parents are white and he is not. How fun does that sound!? Not fun at all. Not fun at all.

One of my favorite things ever is when people ask me, when out and about, if I’m his “real” mom. I respond by telling them I’m actually a robot, so no, I am not real, and if they do not back away slowly, the laser beams will commence and then I’ll be forced to self-destruct. Okay, I know, I know, it’s just semantics. We try really hard over here to encourage others to use terms like “Biological mother” and “Adoptive Mom,” but I’ll be the first to tell you that if I’m feeling especially feisty I’ll just stick with the robot scenario. That, or scream loudly as I stomp away,  “What would it even mean to be a fake mom?!”

Oh, man! I said the previous situation was one of my favorites, but now I’m remembering another favorite, and that’s when everyone and their brother asks me if I’m the babysitter. I mean, okay, fair. I look insanely young and fresh and like my life has been nothing but rainbows and butterflies and look at me, I’m just babysitting to kill the time before my next semester of college begins, why thank you. While I daydream about actually traveling to Europe, I blubber something like, “Do you see the bags under my eyes!? Two of my children died and this is my son who I adopted just 4 months after burying my second daughter. So no, I am not the babysitter unless you want to offer me extra money because you feel bad for me.”

Ha…haha…sigh.

On a lighter note, how about when strangers ask very, very personal questions about the nature of his adoption? I’m over here like, “Umm, how about we start by you telling me your entire life history, including the moments you’d only share with family and close friends?” It’s weird, though. I usually don’t get a response when I say that…

Trust me, I could go on. But let’s end on this one:

“So, is it hard to choose which baby you want?”

And then it starts.

“First…adoptive parents don’t choose their babies.”

“What!? How does it work then!?”

“Well, after a family is licensed to adopt, they make some sort of profile that highlights various traits about their story and their family. Ultimately, the biological parents choose, from a group of licensed families, who will raise their child.”

“So then the families all go and meet her and she chooses one of them?”

“No, that would be so weird and so not okay. The birth parents usually look through profiles. Like books. About the families.”

“Whoa, no way! So you aren’t choosing the child at all.”

*silence*

“No. I don’t walk up to a precious birth parent during one of the hardest moments of their lives and decide that I like their baby best and that I believe that I would raise them in a way that would make the birth parent most comforted, and then take them without input from the person/people who made/birthed them. Make sense?”

How about we end there? I suppose if you don’t learn to laugh you just end up crying, amiright?

All in all, I think these comments and questions truly are an amazing way to education more effectively on the process of adoption. But having a good laugh at the end of the day doesn’t hurt, either. 😉

It Takes a Village

By: Ashley Whisonant
it takes a village to raise a child

Most of us have heard the saying, “It takes a village.” I never really understood the full ramifications until the last year or so.

Raising kids in today’s world really does take a village. Surrounding yourself with people that love your kids and want to help is the only way I could make it through motherhood.

Take for instance, the girlfriends in my neighborhood. We are there to help watch each other’s little ones while someone else finishes dinner or homework with an older sibling. We are each other’s sounding board for aliments and aches, husband rants, and work success stories. We laugh, cheer each other on, and work to help each other’s littles.

What about my boys’ preschool teachers? Thankfully they can stand to be with twelve 2 year olds because this momma certainly can’t. They help me and help my boys to be independent. From potty training to letter sounds, we are allies in this kid raising thing.

Maybe your village is an online community of women that encourage and help you. That is awesome. Wherever you can find it, get yourself a village. Without one, it is a lonely road.

A Letter to Infant Loss Mothers

By: Jordan Tate

Mothers

Just like you, before a healthy baby happened, my heart, mind, and physical body were already transformed fully to those of a mother. My body is scarred by pregnancy, cesarean section, and natural birth. My “mother’s heart” was forever awakened the moment I held my first little girl. She did not go from womb to some mystical place in the atmosphere… her physical body came into the world and I held her when she died and I carried her sister and held her as she died and they were taken from me, but my badge of a mother was not. I would argue that it was more fully earned.

Further, I would argue without a doubt in my mind that carrying those incredible girls to term and delivering them and watching them die will always always always be harder than doing this thing I’m doing now- it’s harder than these fleeting sleepless nights that I get to wake up and feed my sweet child who breathes and cries and wants to be held. Wait- so you mean I get to wake up and hold a snuggly baby!? Still blows my mind. This term “mother,” that you and I are just now being stamped with (or have yet to be stamped with if you’re still waiting) by most of society is being used in a way that doesn’t do justice to the word mother.

One of the meanings behind the word “grief,” is “the heart of a mother.” Why? Because mothers feel so deeply and love so deeply and the meaning of that hits my heart way more intensely in regards to Ellie and Elsie than it does with Shepherd. Our children who are gone are still very much a part of daily life..but that doesn’t always make sense if you haven’t felt it.

Waking up to care for Shepherd, my very alive son, is literally a piece of cake in comparison to the cumulative months of sleepless nights I cried through with a heart that ached, both during my pregnancies and, of course, after they died. Does that mean parenting my son is easy? No. It means the other stuff was so very hard. The hardest.

Does it mean I’m not a sleepy mom? No, I could nap at any point of time…anywhere. But sleepy is not equivalent to bad. It’s equivalent to blessing. It is equivalent to redemption.

So, my friends. I see you. I feel your heart when people ask how many children you have. You have permission (not that you needed it from me) to include your sweet babies that died much too early. I see the tears and the nights of heartache that nobody really knows about. I understand that you can’t turn off the mama part of your heart even though your babies aren’t with you and that is simply not fair, and wouldn’t it be easier if we could? You are a mom, because you did the hardest thing a mom could ever do, and that is saying goodbye to her sweet baby.

If you haven’t yet had your “rainbow baby,” I’m here to tell you this: it’s a joy. It’s all a gift. Few will have the privilege of seeing parenthood the way you will…some do get it – you know who I mean. But loss makes the gift of your healthy baby inconceivable to most who have never had to say goodbye. I would never wish our loss on anyone..but don’t you wish your heart and feelings could be felt for just a moment by anyone who wished it? It’s a devastating experienced that now gets to be your greatest weapon as you parent your alive baby with a deep understanding of purpose and a deep gratitude for health. It will forever make you a different brand of mom. The best kind.

You’ve seen the very worst side of motherhood and none of the best sides. You don’t get to pull up to baby play dates with a baby in your arms and you can’t talk about how often your kid dirties diapers or his latching abilities or his nightly routine, but you can talk about planning baby funerals and how much your heart aches and how you hate baby aisles in stores right now and so it’s not fair, my friend, that you’ve seen only the worst and none of the best and yet you may not be labeled a mother until you see the good.

So, if your heart allows, when people ask you how many kids you have: tell them. We say we have three and two aren’t here with us. It may be alarming to the average person, but it opens the doors, if they want, for tough conversations about life but great conversations about healing and hope.

Are moms who haven’t experienced loss a lesser kind of mom? No way. Never. But you are a different breed. Your journey to motherhood was not the kind you asked for–but if you let it, it will be the source of the greatest moments of gratitude and amazingly miraculous perspective on the very beautiful gift of life.

A Much Needed Special Day

By: Ashley Whisonant

Gray

Shortly after we became pregnant with my youngest, Gray, my husband and I decided we would complete our family with two. For whatever reason, I never imagined myself with more than two or even a little girl. Even looking at a family picture now, I feel we are complete.

I frequently find myself feeling guilty for my second born. With my oldest, Weston, we were mentality present for all his firsts. He had our full attention, all of the time. I remember the excitement of watching him roll over and crawl. The moments of him running to meet me at the door when I pulled in the driveway from work. He was our whole world.

Gray

Gray will never know the feeling of being the only one. He adores his older brother and thinks he hung the moon. I remind myself to take mental pictures of Gray’s firsts- crawling, walking, waving. I work hard to not let life get in the way and give him the same experience as his brother, but it is different.

I needed to do something special for my second. While Weston was camping with my husband, I planned a special day for just Gray and myself. One of his favorite places is the beach. He could run up and down, racing towards the waves for hours. I was determined to have a special weekend with him. 

Gray

When he got up, we painted and shared a breakfast laughing together. Our drive down to Sullivan’s Island was not filled with screen time, but real conversations with my two year old. He pointed out all the things he saw, colors he liked, and we sang Disney songs. We arrived to an almost empty beach-in July! It was as though someone knew how much we needed the time together. I truly lived in the moment with my second born. The laughing, playing, running, and swimming was just what we both needed.

After our day together I realized he is not missing out. My guilt is internal, not with him. He feels my love and knows how much I care about him. I need to let go of my guilt and enjoy the moments with him.