Quite the Month

September was quite a month for me, packed full of surprises, frustrations, delights, and illness. I notice that I haven’t posted since the end of August, and it makes sense, when I think of everything that’s been happening.

I don’t usually write update posts, but this time I feel like it’s needed, before I can do some deeper processing of what it’s all meant for me.

Early in the month, I traveled across country to visit my mother. Long-time readers of my blog may remember that I love my mother but often feel unseen and unappreciated around her. She lives on the other side of the country, in New England, and has repeatedly chosen the convenience of her husband over the emotional needs of her four children. My siblings and I have all regretted and resented and grieved this, all the more so because our stepfather doesn’t really like children much and was harsh and emotionally abusive to us when we were growing up.

I haven’t seen my mother much in the past decade, for various reasons. I’ve tried to make more trips and been told it wasn’t a good time, or they might want to travel then (but they didn’t) or I should wait a few months because they were already having too many other visitors. This hurt my feelings more than once, and for several years, I stopped trying so hard to visit and instead went on some international adventures with my husband–more fun anyway.

Even when I did visit, it wasn’t always easy or pleasant. She and my stepdad live in a small village, or rather, in the woods on the outskirts of the village. I can’t get much cell reception at their house, so it feels quite isolated. My stepdad doesn’t lend his car to people, so I would be stuck at their house unless they wanted to go somewhere–which was generally the grocery store or the pharmacy. They didn’t generally feel inclined to go somewhere interesting. Okay, to be fair, they were aging, but I wouldn’t have minded a walk in town, for example. I slept on a rickety fold-out couch that hurt my back, with scratchy old blankets. It was always so uncomfortable, and every day ran to my stepfather’s rhythm, so I never felt very welcome. Sometimes my mom acted very glad to see me, but also distracted–was my stepdad getting hungry? We had to stop our conversation and get him food.

Still, even if the visits were a bit rough, I wanted to spend time with her. I mean, who knows how long she will live? But life, and their desire not to have too many guests, and then COVID, and then my sisters visiting first, and then my son Andres and his pregnant girlfriend moving in with us–phew, just a lot of things conspired to keep me from another trip after I last saw her in December 2018.

So finally, FINALLY, I flew back east in early September. I took a red-eye to Newark, arrived at 6:30 in the morning, waited a few hours, flew north, rented a car and drove two hours to my brother’s house. Did I mention that my brother lives about 20 miles from my mom? He moved there about six or seven years ago. For the first time ever, I arranged to stay with him instead at my mom’s house, plus I had the rental car so I could come and go on my own schedule. Both changes were immensely beneficial.

I was nervous before the trip, not of the traveling part, but of being around my mom and having my feelings hurt when she made me feel unimportant or getting offended and outraged my some self-righteous and judgmental comment from my stepfather. I spent time thinking about how I would care for myself and soothe myself if those things happened.

But they didn’t happen. Instead, I had the best visit I’d had in years. I got some time alone with my mom. She paid attention to me, and I felt cared for. It was an incredible feeling; my child parts really basked in the sunshine of her attention. I didn’t see my stepdad all that much. He’d recently had COVID and spent a lot of time resting, giving me more access to my mother than usual. When I did see him, he was changed. He spoke with a weak, raspy voice. He’d grown astonishingly thin.; I was surprised by his fragility. I even felt a few stirrings of sympathy for him.

I traveled home on Tuesday, September 13. It was a hellish long trip–two hours to drive to the airport, then a short flight to Newark, then a slightly longer flight to Chicago, then four more hours home. In all, three flights, four airports, eighteen hours, and who knows how many unmasked people.

On Wednesday I saw Andres and Patty, who were excited and nervous to have their baby the next day. The baby was breech, and the doctor planned to try to turn her in the morning, and if that didn’t work, Patty was scheduled for a C-section. Either way, we figured that their first child, and my first grandchild, would arrive the next day.

Thursday morning I got up early to drive them to the hospital. Patty was too pregnant and anxious to drive, and Andres can’t drive (motor skills challenges related to his developmental disability). I wanted to accompany them, but the hospital wouldn’t allow any visitors to the maternity ward except fathers.

My perfect little granddaughter was born late that morning. A couple of hours later, I dropped off some food with my delirious, delighted son. Driving back home, I noticed that my throat was hurting a little. A few hours later, I had fever, body pains and headache, congestion, and a positive COVID test. I couldn’t believe the timing. After dodging the virus for two-and-a-half years, I succumbed literally on the day little Hannah was born.

I got pretty sick, and my husband came down with it three days later, even though I slept upstairs and wore a mask the small amount of time I was around him. Maybe it was just that we haven’t been sick with a normal cold or flu for several years, but this seemed a lot worse. And for as miserable as we felt, the worst of is that we were not available to help Andres and Patty when they brought Hannah home from the hospital or during those first overwhelming days of new parenthood. I remember what that was like. You think, “Oh my god, this tiny little human being, why is the hospital trusting me to take her home? I don’t know what to do! How will I even keep her alive?” Everything hurts, and you doubt yourself, and you haven’t slept and you fear you will never sleep again… I would like to have helped them through some of that.

Although, let’s be honest, when I finally tested negative and could meet Hannah, she was still only 11 days old, and the parents still needed me. I have been over almost every day since then, sometimes doing dishes or laundry or chores. But my favorite part, not surprisingly, is holding the small bundle of warm and radiant love.

My mind and my heart are both very full right now. My bank account, not so much, as I either wasn’t in town or wasn’t well enough to work all month. I’m actually still recovering from COVID, but my cough and dizziness are much milder than they were even a couple of days ago. I look at little Hannah–not even six pounds when she was born!–and I see so much hope and potential. Her birth has stimulated some deep internal emotional shifts for me. I hope to write more about these in the coming days.

CREDIT: Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

31 comments

  1. Oh Q! How lovely. Just lovely. Congratulations on becoming a grandma. This little girl will be so blessed to have you in her corner. Yes, there’s so much potential in a new baby and I totally get the stirrings in you. I’m glad your visit to mom was better than expected too… but covid…ah man! What timing. Huge love to you and enjoy all these precious moments with little baby girl 💜 I imagine there’ll be some huge healing for you these next few years xx

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, RB, I am so excited to be a grandma! I hope I will be a blessing in little Hannah’s life–she already is a blessing in mine, and in her parents’ lives.

      And you are right to say there is some huge healing ahead. I have already noticed that mothering others (or grandmothering others!) feels sweet to the parts inside that needed more of that themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, thank you SH! I am feeling better, bit by slow bit. Today I took a walk for the first time since I got sick. It was slow and short, but still, it was a walk. Progress!

      I am excited to be Hannah’s grandmother, and I hope I will be a positive, joyful presence in her life. I know she will be (already is) in mine.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You wrote so descriptively it feels like I’ve experienced this with you! I am so happy your mother’s trip went so well, and many congratulations for your lovey grandchild! As others have said, she’s a very lucky girl to have a grandmother like you ♥️

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! I couldn’t be more thrilled! In some ways, it is even more exciting than when I gave birth to my own children, since 1) I don’t have to recover from a C-section (child 1) or 27 hours of labor (child 2) and 2) I still get a decent amount of sleep every night. That allow me to bring my whole healthy self to the baby. Or my whole still-recovering-from-COVID self. But that recovery is a bit better every day too.

      Liked by 2 people

    • It’s so needed, the help for brand new parents, and it’s also a pleasure to give, because I get to be around the darling baby. I’m fortunate that I’m not working full-time and have the flexibility to help.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Grandma Q!!! Welcome to the blog, Hannah! We all love you already. sniff her little head for me! Can’t wait to hear about what it is to become a grandma.

    Also, so glad you found a way to visit your mom and to enact some care around waht you need (car,mobility, comfort). I’m glad you had such a nice visit! I sort of wonder if the slight distance actually made it easier for your mother to bask attention and love.. that’s true of my mother, who no one in my family ever sees for more than 2 hours at a time (though she lives close by, so it’s much easier) because it’s too dysregulating for her.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s dysregulating for your mom to see family members? That’s interesting. I never really thought about my mom being dysregulated by family visits. But maybe that is why she makes it so hard to visit. Though actually I feel like it’s my stepdad who makes it hard, and she tiptoes around to make sure she doesn’t upset him. How do you deal with the mother who doesn’t want to spend time with family?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe it’s that your stepdad gets dysregulated and your mom is hyper sensitive to that? But yeah, my mom can’t handle visitors or even visits beyond a timeframe. Beyond Her window of tolerance, you might say! It was extremely painful to go through the process of accepting that, As it always feels like such a rejection from her, but in the end I feel like I can truly understand now that she is doing the best that she can, and can’t really do better. I think my mom does want to spend time with family, but ends up so overstimulated and overwhelmed that she lashes out or closes down or Pushes us away. Like when my kids were really little, she wanted to be a super present and involved grandmother to them, but it was just too much for her. For a long time I internalized that as “my boys are too much”, and I Thought there was something intrinsically wrong with them, though no one else had any trouble spending time with them at all, and they were actually pretty easy kids. it took a lot of therapy to really understand that I needed to add the “for her” to the “too much”. In time, we worked out a way for her to be a really great grandmother, really present and really loving and really involved, but for much shorter periods of time, and was very clear expectations around her involvement. I was mad for years that she wasn’t a grandma who could come over and babysit, or help us in the way that we needed to be helped as parents (If we ever asked for help, she would become totally flustered and would ultimately Bail, even if the plan was her idea). It took many years but now we work around the help she can offer on her own terms.

        In fact,my aunt has sort of taken a page out of your book – – when she comes to visit, she stays at my house, far away from my mom for a chunk of every day. That way they can actually enjoy each other without the pressure of having to spend 24 seven in the same space. I mean, this is a result of loads of loads of trauma and that generation above me, so I have some empathy for it.

        Anyway, keep us posted on grandma times!! ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you; it is so helpful to read this. It normalizes the experience with my mom a bit. I mean, it isn’t particularly normal, or at least not typical. I don’t have any friends who only see their mom every three or four years, or whose mothers don’t really know their children. Just hearing about your experience and the acceptance you have come to is so helpful.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been wondering about you and hoping you were well. Congratulations on the grandbaby! I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful grandmother who played a significant role in raising me. Your granddaughter will be lucky to have Grandma Q. I’m also so glad to hear that your visit to your mother went well, and I hope that you are fully recovered from covid very soon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh thank you Empress! I’m glad you had a wonderful grandmother too. I imagine she and my grandmother were excited about their role, just as I’m so excited about mine.

      Liked by 1 person

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