From the Mommy Files…

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I’ve had the privilege to have had the essay, “Time to Forgive my Mother” published as part of a Mother’s Day series on the Women.Who.Write blog. I’m thrilled to be in the company of some very talented writers. Hop on over and check it out. Click here.

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We left and I barely said a word to my friend. We walked to the parking garage, to realize neither of us knew where the car was. We went to 4 different floors, then finally going back up to the 10th floor, site of the original attempt, only to realize it was there, but on the other side. This was pure comedy, certainly funny to anyone who saw us. To us, it was much-needed comic relief, and temporarily lifted the fog. We laughed so hard, I thought I’d bust open my incision. We laughed so much, I wonder if we looked like drunks searching the parking garage for our car? We found it and headed home – in record time. When we arrived at my house, I felt like I couldn’t go home. I felt like I couldn’t face my family. My kids would want to play, talk, and I wasn’t up for it. I wasn’t ready to talk about what just happened to me.

I went inside to find the house empty. Perfect. Once inside, I found roses and a beautiful card from my husband. Sigh. Soon he and the girls arrived. They came barreling inside. “Mommy! Mommy! Are you OK? He told them I went for a test and would likely get a shot. I didn’t want to tell them. I forget they aren’t babies anymore and I have to treat them accordingly. Would knowing some of it be so bad? I told them I was OK, just a little sore. As I rested on the couch, he announced he was taking the girls out so I could have quiet time. I turned on the TV. I was glad to be alone, but hated it at the same time. How did I live alone all those years? The silence was deafening. I watched 4 back-to-back episodes of Seinfeld –something I never do – and stayed on the couch. I didn’t answer the phone. I didn’t check email. I couldn’t communicate with anyone. I didn’t want to voice the fear that I was feeling. I didn’t want to give it life. I felt like if I did, then it would be real. I stayed in this state of other-world-ness for a while.

The next morning, I went about the regular routine, counting the hours until he doctor called. I tried to stay positive. In just a few hours, my fate would be revealed. Stay busy! I couldn’t go to the gym–no strenuous activity or 48 hours. So I just rested on the couch and read a book. After school, I picked up the girls and took them to dance class. It would start at 4, the expected time of the fateful call. I was glad they wouldn’t be with me. I went to the cafeteria to await the call. I read a book. I checked emails. 4:00. 4:05. 4:07. 4:08. 4:10. When was the call going to come? Deep breath. I’m Ok. Everything’s fine. Pray. Pray. Pray. 4:12. 4:15. 4:16. The phone rang.

“Hello Maria. How are you? Any problems? Any pain?” the doctor asked. “No. I’m OK,” I responded. “Good. I’m glad to hear it. So we got your results and reviewed everything. It came back normal. Everything’s fine! No problems in there. There’s no need for further testing. Have another mammogram next spring. Everything looks great. You’re OK! This is great news! Now exhale, and celebrate!”

I could barely find the words. “Oh yes! Thank you so much!” I immediately texted my husband and a few close friends in the know. Thank you God! My prayers were answered! I was elated, on top of the world. I could breathe. I got another chance. I got the kick in the ass, the push I needed to remind me to stop waiting for things to be perfect. To find the beauty within. To decide to be happy. To always live in gratitude. To stop waiting for a sign to move forward on the road to fulfilling my writing dreams. To stop waiting for permission or approval. This was the time. Now is the time. It’s time.sometimes

Has it taken something drastic to give you that push you needed to get started? Have you ever had a scare like this before? Please share in the comments below.

So where did we leave off before I got consumed by moving?

That’s a whole other story.

Oh yes.

STROKE ALERT!

A quick trip to the CT room and back, revealed there was no stroke.

Thank God.

But…

Yes, there was a “but.”

Something on the scan didn’t look right, so the doctor ordered a series of MRIs and MRAs.

The doctor gave no clue as to what he was looking for nor did he share any of his suspicions.

I didn’t even know how many tests I was about to receive until later.

Meanwhile, the vertigo was still an issue, especially with all the tests.

Another doctor came in and told me in order for him to figure out what this vertigo was, he had to do a test that would probably make it worse.

He raised me up quickly and turned my head really fast.

Holy cow!

Talk about speeding up the spin!

“A typical case of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo.”

Say that 10 times fast.

“Or BPPV for short.”

Apparently, we have crystals in our ears that regulate our balance.

When one comes out of place, it creates the vertigo.

The doctor explained that this was treatable.

He said there was a therapy I could do to gently move the crystals back into place, and then it should go away.

OK! So set me up!

Not so fast.

“We have to get the results from your other tests first.”

Meanwhile, Peter left to be at home when the girls woke up.

It would be several hours before I got any answers—or any relief for that matter.

I was given a pill and an injection to help stop the vertigo.

They helped, but didn’t relieve it 100%.

The ER began to fill up – there was a flu epidemic and people were flocking to the emergency rooms.

Eventually, this ER would be shut down.

I had been in the ER for more than 12 hours before I received more information.

Vertebral Artery Dissection.

What’s a vertebral artery?

The explanation I recall from the ER is not 100% correct, so I’m not sure if I didn’t hear it right or it wasn’t explained well.

We have two vertebral arteries—one on the left side of the neck, the other on the right. They are major arteries of the neck.

The one on my left side was torn.

Wait—there’s more.

I was told there was an aneurysm blocking the entry point.

VAD happens typically when there is an injury, or in many cases, a chiropractic adjustment gone bad.

I had neither.

The doctor asked me think back to what has been going on in my life.

We discussed the molar pregnancy, the chemo, the neurological issues I have had since.

It could all be related. They just weren’t sure yet.

This is a rare malady.

And for now, they would pronounce the cause as “spontaneous,” though we would revisit this again later.

So tell me, how did I get two “rare maladies” in a little more than two years?

Lightning struck me twice!

Then came more news.

I was going to stay in the hospital.

And my children?

The nurse said, “Let your husband take care of it. You can’t stress yourself out.”

Well, stress is part of this game we call Motherhood, no?

NOW WHAT?!

A chest x-ray, a discussion about therapies, and a four-hour wait in the hallway for a room.

Yes, you read correctly.

The ER was so jammed, I was moved from my room and had to wait in the hallway of the ER until I could get the x-ray and a room became available.

I was offered the choice of several drug therapies—all involving blood thinners with varying side effects, as well as follow up methods.

I chose Xarelto, which was a relatively new blood thinner, since I wouldn’t need weekly blood work, and my diet would not be restricted.

Then came the rules for this game.

“There are several things you will no longer be able to do, and some for now, let’s put on hold,” the neurologist explained.

“You have to take it easy, and no stress. You need to heal.”

I told him I was a mother, and that was an impossible task.

“Well, you have to try,” he insisted.

Then came the litany of activity restrictions:

No running, no jumping.

No prolonged movements of the neck.

“You know when you go to the hair salon and they put your head in the shampoo bowl?” the doctor asked.

“Don’t do that. It can give you a stroke.”

WHAT?!!!

“No quick movements of the head either. Use extra care when you drive.”

There was more.

“No neck massages, no yoga.”

How was I supposed to relax?

“No aerobic activity. Walk on the treadmill, but at a slow pace and only for a short time. Listen to your body. If you get dizzy doing anything, stop.”

“Take your meds once a day with dinner. Do not forget or you will be an increased risk of stroke.”

I asked how likely it was that I could have a stroke.

The doctor said it was VERY likely if I didn’t follow the rules, and somewhat likely even if I did.

He told me that I was lucky.

Lucky? How do you think this is lucky?

It seems that most people do not know they have VAD until they have a stroke.

If you hear of people under 50 having a stroke—this is most likely why.

So I was a walking time bomb.

“Oh yes,” the doctor said. “You might want to not play with the kids. No horsing around whatsoever. Do not lift them. Do not lift anything heavier than 10 lbs.”

“Are you kidding me?” I asked.

“I wish I were,” he replied.

17 hours after I arrived at the ER, I was finally on my way to a room.

Somebody wake me up from this nightmare.

This cannot be happening!

————————————————————————————————————————

Check back soon to learn what happened next.

 

 

 

That night, I woke up and rolled over to the right. I got dizzy. Hmmm. I hadn’t consumed any alcohol that night.

I settled back down and in a few moments the dizziness stopped. I drifted back asleep.

Sometime later I woke up and rolled over to the left. The room began to spin uncontrollably. What was happening?

No alcohol, I didn’t have a migraine, I ate…what was going on?

It wouldn’t stop. I tried to settle myself, but to no avail. I got scared and let out a scream.

“Oh my God! What’s happening?”

My husband ran up the stairs so fast, it’s amazing he didn’t fall and break a leg.

I explained the situation. The room wouldn’t stop spinning.

“HELP!”

Finally, after a few moments, sitting up, the spinning stopped. It was the weirdest thing I had ever experienced.

You know the head spins after a night of consuming too much alcohol…this was worse.

It was January. Almost one week into the New Year. This had happened to me once before, in August 2012.

My cousin came over.

We drank a bottle of wine, ordered some take out, and talked until the wee hours.

The next morning, I felt hung over. OK.

A while later, I got up from the couch and the room was spinning uncontrollably.

I’d sit back down, and feet on the floor, it would finally stop. This went on the entire day.

Every time I got up it was worse. I got sick.

I crawled around, because standing up made the room spin and started the chain of events again.

I was either on the couch or in the bathroom.

The girls stayed with me on the couch all day. They watched cartoons while I tried to sleep it off.

Just when I thought it was getting better, it got worse.

I was so sick, we decided that I probably had some kind of food poisoning. I couldn’t function.

By the next morning, I was fine.

I never thought twice about it because it didn’t happen again—until that January night.

Except, there was no alcohol involved this time. Hmmm…

So hubs ran up the stairs in record time and I explained the situation. He got me a drink of water.

As I sat there, various parts of my left side began to tingle and then go numb—one after another.

This was not normal.

My husband called and had my doctor paged. He immediately called back with a dire tone:


“GET HER TO THE HOSPITAL NOW! SHE COULD BE HAVING A STROKE!”

A what? Get out! I’m in my early 40s. People my age don’t have strokes.

Well, some do, but lightning already struck me once with a rare malady. What in the world?!

It was after midnight.

I didn’t want to wake the girls and drag them to the ER in the middle of the night, to stay for an untold amount of time.

We called our next door neighbors, who graciously came over right away so we could go to the hospital.

If it was indeed a stroke, there was only so much time to spare before there would be permanent damage.

This was all happening so fast and all I could think about was my kids waking up and wondering where I was.

I didn’t even think about the ratty old, stained t-shirt I was wearing—one kept more for nostalgia than looks.

So in that 25 year old t-shirt that really belonged in the garbage, and my pajama pants, I put on sneakers (yes, believe it or not, I left the house in sneakers!) and my husband and I set off for the hospital.

What was happening to me?

I was still dizzy on and off, and at varying degrees.

It was kinda like being outside yourself.

Who was this person and what was happening?

Why was I on my way to the hospital?

Why did I have something else going on?

What if I did have a stroke?

Who would care for my kids?

It was hard enough to find someone to watch my kids when I was going through chemo.

What would we do if I needed extensive rehab?

What?
What?
What?
Why?
Why?
Why?

At the ER, they were expecting me. The doctor called ahead.

I was quickly put in a wheel chair and taken to triage.

Then came the announcement:

“STROKE ALERT!”

It didn’t seem possible that the alert was for me.

Me, in my early 40s? Isn’t this something that happened to old people?

—-
Unfortunately this is not the opening of a novel or a short story. This is my real life story–the story about why I haven’t been around, why you haven’t heard much from me this year. Check back soon to read more.

My blue bike is long gone, but it looked something like this.

My blue bike is long gone, but it looked something like this.

Last week, we took our daughters to Toys R Us for a reward.

We’ve recently moved, so we are just locating all the nearest locations of the stores we frequent.

We chose one particular location of Toys R Us and hit the road.

As we drove, I got very excited.

I began to think this was the very same Toys R Us where we shopped (when we did) as kids.

I remembered the time we went there, and my father bought me a bike – my first brand new bike.

I was in 6th grade.

I’d had bikes before, but being the 3rd of 4 kids, I often didn’t have brand new anything.

This was a big day for me, and I was surprised to see that enthusiasm hadn’t waned with the years.

I remember the day.

Dad said it was time for me to have a new bike, all my own.

We drove to the Toys R Us and there were many bikes displayed outside the store.

I eagerly jumped out of the car, and ran to the display.

To me, it was the best day ever.

I picked out a light blue 3-speed, with red racing stripes and a white seat.

I loved that bike.

It was mine, and no one else’s.

I think I had that bike for 15 years.

I recall that day fondly, and I could feel that same excitement, as I took my girls to the SAME store.

I sprang out of the car, as I did on that day so long ago.

I thought, is this the same building?

The sign was obviously a more updated version.

Who was more excited? Me or the girls? 😉

As we walked in the doors, I knew. It was the very same one!

Searching through the store for the princess aisle, the anticipation shot through me, just like the day I got my new bike.

Was that even possible?

The girls picked out their toys, and if I didn’t know better, I’d say I almost started to skip inside the store, just like a little girl.

It never ceases to amaze me, how some small, insignificant thing can trigger a memory, a feeling.

That old bike is long gone.

But I will never forget that day – getting my very own brand new bike, one I could select, and it would be only mine.

I’ll never forget the freedom I felt as I rode my bike through the neighborhood—wind in my hair, the speed, the independence.

That bike brought me such happiness.

And obviously still does.

Has any activity with your kids brought back very fond memories and feelings?

Please share.

By no means do I wish to dissuade anyone from the institution of marriage.

I think marriage is a wonderful thing. cake topper

It’s challenging, but it’s worth it.

Sometimes, we do make it harder than it has to be.

While I never expected the fairy tale, I didn’t expect it to be so hard.

I got pregnant very early in our marriage, so there was little time to really explore these new roles of husband and wife, how that affected our lives and who we were as individuals.

Fast track to parenthood –and without any help –led to much stress and strain on our marriage.

Our kids are now 6 and 4.

Has it gotten any easier?

No.

The challenges are different and ever-changing.

So is this a rant or complaint about my husband?

No.

This is a reality check.

As I ponder what has happened during our marriage –good and bad—I realized something very important.

Neither of us was raised with the tools to be a good spouse.

Think about this for a moment.

We are taught to be good people and kind to others, and yes, all that helps.

But, like many of you, we were not taught how to be a good husband or wife.

And that doesn’t mean cooking, sex or making a lot of money.

It’s about relationships.

It’s about respect.

It’s about listening.

It’s about being unselfish.

Putting someone else first, but NOT always putting yourself last.

You know what I’m talking about, Ladies.

That last one really hit home, yes?

We always put ourselves last.

We watched our mothers, aunts and grandmothers do this.

These women did not have the same opportunities that we do, or the same education or motivation to do anything outside the home.

But we all have an inner drive, a wish to accomplish something in our lives, to be a unique individual.

Sometimes, this gets squashed in marriage and parenthood, and it brings about feelings of resentment.

These feelings are not always recognized, but they are there.

What about communication?

This is vital.

I grew up in a house where children were to be “seen and not heard.”

We were supposed to be thankful for what we had, not complain, and just deal.

This did not serve me well in my dating years, and certainly not now in my married years.

It didn’t help me in my career, either.

I was conditioned to not ask for what I wanted or needed, to make do with what we had and to just deal with the way things were, as unhappy as they made me.

I’m still struggling with this as an adult.

Things get overwhelming and you fall back into old patterns.

Think about what is going on in your life, in your marriage.

Are you personally happy? Fulfilled? Motivated? Inspired?

Do you embrace the individual you are and not allow yourself to get lost in the everyday of marriage and parenthood?

Do you take time for yourself to work toward your own goals?

Do you observe couple time? (Not talking about sex, sorry. There will be more of that when you work toward these things!)

Think about how the lack of personal time and couple time affects your parenting.

We all could use a break.

So.

We can break the cycle.

And enrich our own lives.

It’s not a fairy tale. There’s no automatic “Happily Ever After.”

It’s important for us to raise our children to be good spouses.

If they choose not to marry, these skills will also serve them well in their lives.

Think about what traits a “good spouse” has.

Next time, we’ll discuss some things we can do to help raise our kids to be good spouses.

I hope you’ll share your thoughts as well.

A little late…but I wish you all a Happy and Healthy 2013!


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