Saturday, January 26, 2008

La Commencement

We are thrilled to announce that the Little Funky Monkey is here! Jonah Niquen (named with a J after his Mimi) was born at home in the water on January 23rd at 4:23am weighing in at 7lbs 11 oz and measuring 22 inches. He is the most handsome perfect baby I've ever seen (not that I'm biased or anything), with a full head of long dark hair and super long legs (he will be tall like his father, no doubt).

His birth was beyond beautiful (I will write out his birth story eventually, because its such a wonderful story) and by far the most amazing moment of my life was when the midwife said "reach down and get your baby!". I loved the birth experience so much that a mere 2 hours after pushing out my little monkey I said "I can't wait to do this again!". Don't get me wrong, it was very intense (active labor, from 4cm to 10cm dilation, was only about 4 1/2 hours, which means that my body worked that much harder to accomplish that much more in less time) and even though Chanteuse said that I made it look easy, it was most definitely hard work. Its just that it was such a miraculous and spiritual journey that I cannot even match words to. And WB made me fall even deeper in love with him (as if that was even possible) by being there every step of the journey with me, in our loving cocoon that made me feel so perfectly connected and protected and loved. The LFM was birthed in the same way he was conceived- as an intimate expression of love and tenderness between WB and I, and I will always treasure that.

I can't even thank our midwife enough, except to say that she is a godsend. She is also clearly a mind reader or found the secret portal into my head, because she always said exactly what I needed to hear in the exact moment I needed to hear it, and has continued to do so in the postpartum period. Chanteuse, JunJun, and Doula Sara, were such perfect birth attendants as well...every time I opened my eyes in the tub and looked up I saw them looking at me with such warmth and love I felt so supported. And WB, well, that man is a miracle in and of himself.

And the LFM! All I could say when we found out we were pregnant is "Wow!" and that's pretty much all I can say now that he's here. With every passing moment I feel like I couldn't possibly love him any more or I will just explode, and yet with every passing moment somehow I do. He is my little bundle of blessings and I am so very proud that he chose us as his family.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ma P'tite Maman

Ma P’tite Maman,

I was so scared to sit down and write something- scared that much like whenever I try and tell a joke, I would forget the most important parts...the indispensable details that makes it all come together. Then I remembered that you are the one who always, without fail, gets my jokes- even if we have to make up a new punchline because I’ve completely forgotten it. In fact, I’d say that’s what we did more often than not…made up our own punchlines in the beautifully challenging story of life that we always found a way of turning into a joke. Together, we found the joy and most definitely the humor in everything we could…and while not everyone got our special brand of silliness, or not all the time at least, those moments and the lesson of it all, are some of the greatest gifts we could have ever given each other.

I feel so lucky, Maman, so lucky for and so very proud of (as I know you were) how close we are. We created a truly unique mother daughter relationship that was the envy of most every mother and daughter we knew. And we worked hard at maintaining that relationship by respecting the hell out of each other for who each of us was. It wasn’t always easy, but wow was it worth it! I am so honored that through this closeness, I got the opportunity to really get to know who you were…not just as my mother, but also as the inspiring force of nature that you were.

I can hear you now, as clear as a bell, protesting with your completely genuine modesty, that I’m going a bit overboard, and I want to tell you that I honestly am not…that these are my true feelings, that you do inspire me, that I hope to one day become just a fraction of the woman you were. You wouldn’t accept a compliment in life, so now I’m embarrassing you in death by making you accept some pretty deeply felt ones in front of all your family and friends.

You taught me long before the heartbreaks of death and cancer appeared on the scene the true meaning of strength and courage, and reinforced these lessons with every challenge that you greeted with dignity and grace and yes, a truly liberating silliness that enabled you to melt every heart that came near you. You taught me that the process of self-discovery is never over, and that it never should be. In the last 10 years, I watched you bloom and grow into yourself in ways that you admitted you never thought possible…I watched with such awe and pride as you found and claimed your voice and power as a woman! I cried to know all that your path to these moments contained and felt so honored that you were sharing your incredible journey with me.


This was your battle cry after [my brother] died, and I can still see you, fist in the air, imparting your considerable strength and spunk to the world…and most importantly to your daughter, at a time when I desperately needed it. And now, it comes back to me again, at a time when I need it most…here you are in my head, fist in the air and spunk intact…unstoppable even in death! (Death has not met such stubbornness yet!) Encouraging me to now take up the torch and continue what you began as I start on my journey as a mother, my arms laden with the many beautiful gifts you have given me over the years.

I am devastated that you are no longer here in the physical realm…that you will never physically hold your grandson in your arms and sing him the French songs we sang together my whole life or hear him call you Mimi. But I know and trust you are with us (I just ask that you send some really super obvious signs every once in a while so that I don’t forget this) and that your grandson will be connected to you by many invisible threads that extend far beyond a mere name.

Yes, Maman, after 9 months of you calling him Baby N, you’ll have to get used to a new name involving a J instead of an N…but I think you’ll agree that’s exactly as it should be.

We love you,

Synge and Baby J

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Le Fin

Mimi died this morning, probably around 4:30am in her sleep. I'm sure she chose to die when everyone was asleep, and I'm just so glad that the end was so very quick. Its all so surreal...that's all I can keep saying, over and over again (in 3 different languages...I'm so freaking confused I don't even know what language I'm speaking!). I don't know what else there is to say. I'm just praying we don't go into labor before the funeral, which is Tuesday at noon. I really really want to be there, and its already heartbreaking enough that she missed the one thing she was doing her best to hold on for...I now want to be the one who holds on and makes it.

The Straight Up Facts

I'm so very glad I took the time to record those conversations before I forgot them, especially since it seems like they were the last ones to be had. Starting yesterday, Mimi became far less responsive and unable to speak. She is now not really taking any fluids, and not really reacting much anymore (she was smiling and responding a bit via facial expressions for part of the day today). We're really looking death in the eye here, tomorrow or the next day probably. Her brother and sister are here from France, and they're actually being so wonderful, I'm so thankful they're here. And of course WB.....he is nothing less than a saint. He just held me and rocked me for an hour while I completely lost my shit in the hugest, scariest, hyperventilating sort of way. He also held my Dad while he lost his shit earlier tonight. He's the official family rock, it seems, and my god do I love that man. My Mimi candle is burning (thank you Sarachkah) and I am going to try and sleep a bit...I have a feeling tomorrow will be an even harder day.

This feels impossible.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Conversation Snapshots

There are many things about these last moments that I don't want to remember...that I desperately hope I don't remember. I would rather remember the years of laughter, camaraderie and extreme closeness that I shared with my mother. But there are some conversational snapshots that I don't want to forget.

M: When is he coming?
S: The baby?
M: Of course
S: Hopefully soon. You know, we can ask the midwife for the birth drink* if you want us to.
M: Nah, let nature take its course
S: Ok, but we don't mind, Mimi. I know you're holding on just to see him.
M: Well, yes, kind of. I guess I am.
S: And I don't want you hanging on by your bootstraps and miserable just waiting.
M: Don't worry, I won't. Its ok, first come, first served.

**the birth drink is an all herbal drink that can sometimes bring on labor if the body is ready

S: Would you like me to sit in here with you quietly while you fall asleep?
M: [smiling a big smile] That sounds wonderful!
S: Just so you know I'm here
M: Yes, that's important
S: But you know I'm always always here, even when I'm not. I leave my heart right here with you [points to pillow right beside Mimi's head]
M: [eyes wide] You're not afraid you'll forget where it is?
S: Nope. It only needs to be in 3 places right now, here [points to pillow], in my belly, and with WB.
M: Its very important.
S: What is?
M: To follow your heart.
S: Is that what you've done, Mimi?
M: I guess. Sometimes. But... [trails off]
S: Is that what you want to tell me, Mimi, to always follow my heart?
M: Yes, its important. Very important.
S: Ok.
[Talking to LFM in the belly]
Your Mimi says you have to always follow your heart. She says its very important and she wants me to pass that along to you too.
M: Yes, its very important. Follow your heart, however...[trails off again]
S: However?
M: [looks confused] Huh?
S: You told me to always follow my heart, but then you said however....
M: [looks confused, shrugs a bit]
S: You'll tell me later, when you wake up.
M: Yes.

S: Comfy?
M: Yes! Very!
S: You sure?
M: Yes, I just need a huge from someone and I'm all set.
S: I can do that. Do you need a love hug or a lift hug?**
M: A love hug will do just fine.
S: I
always have a big hug for you, Mimi
M: Not as big as the hug I have for you!
S: That's the sweetest thing I've heard in forever.
M: Good, I'm glad.

M: [smiling, out of the blue...] That feels soooo good
S: What feels so good Mimi?
M: To have such wonderful friends.

M: I've never even heard of such a thing!
S: What's that, Mimi?
M: A quickstop. I never even heard of such a thing before tonight!
(Dad: What's that?)
S: A quickstop?
M: Yes.
S: Well, neither have I!

WB's parents flew in from Puerto Rico and came by the house last night to meet me and my family. They had a really sweet little visit, in which WB's father, El Original, held Mimi's hand nonstop with such gentle caring, and Mimi made WB's mother's day when she proclaimed with wide eyes "You look so young!". We also took a family photo, at El Original's suggestion...something I'm already so thankful to have. Mimi reiterated with great resolve that she WILL be here to see the baby, and there was so much beautiful love in that room that I will be eternally grateful for those moments. When they left the room, the following conversation took place:

S: How was that? Was that okay? Not too overwhelming?
M: No, that was wonderful. But that was such a surprise! **
S: Was it a good surprise, though?
M: It was the BEST surprise!

(**We had told her they were coming, she just forgot)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fate Has a Twisted Sense of Humor

When my brother commit suicide almost 9 years ago, I thought that nothing could be worse than that...I was sure that no challenge could be greater than getting over the particular circumstances of his death and our relationship.

Oh fate, must your dark and twisted sense of humor come into play now?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My Wonderful Mother

Hospice says Mimi has about a week left.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sadness and Joy

No baby yet, but it looks like a far closer race between birth and death than any of us would wish for. I'm pretty sure birth will occur first, but unfortunately the joy and sadness will be pretty intermingled.

They already are.

Mimi has agreed to go into hospice and hopefully they'll be able to make her very comfortable at home. She is pretty much no longer able to do anything on her own- last night WB and I had to run out there at 1am (she couldn't get my Dad on the phone, who was sleeping in the next room) to cover her with more blankets...blankets that are situated on a chair beside the recliner she sleeps in. That's about where we're at now, she can't even reach right next to her to get a blanket when she's cold. Sitting upright isn't even always doable- she's been doing the world's best leaning tower of Pisa impression lately. Dad says that she fell out of the wheelchair today and now needs to be strapped in. I don't even know what to say...its more heartbreaking than you could ever even imagine, and to be going through it while on the verge of becoming a mother myself...well, needless to say my emotional state is pretty damn fragile.

At the beautiful blessingway that was thrown for me last wed (which I totally wanted to get to write about), I feel like I created a space for joy amidst all the grief. It has been incredibly challenging to maintain that space and not let it be overwhelmed by grief and sadness. I don't want to birth my baby in sadness- I don't want his story to begin that way.

Fuck, I don't want any of this story to be happening this way.

I guess I don't really have a choice, do I?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

38 1/4 Weeks (But Who's Counting...)

The estimated due date is in less than 2 weeks folks! Of course, the reason its called estimated due date is it certainly isn't an exact science. As our midwife says, babies pick their own birthdays, we really can't control the process. So basically we could birth this monkey anytime between now and 3 1/2 weeks from now. Umm, I'll take now, please? The stats as of our midwife visit last Friday (for those of you in the know as to how women's bodies work) are as follows: 70% effaced, 1cm dialated, and the LFM is at -1 station. For those of you to whom this sounds like a science fiction novel, it basically means that the process has begun. We're not in active labor yet, but my body has begun doing the work it needs to do. This could last 2 weeks or more, however, so don't get your hopes up. Our midwife says that the more work my body does now, the less work it will have to do in labor so I shouldn't want to rush this period. Good point.

The annoying thing is that my body seems to be doing the majority of its work at night only. While the contractions aren't painful (they're like very mild menstrual cramps at this point, accompanied by some back pain and the occasional stabbing pain, but really I'm more uncomfortable than in pain), they do wake mLinke up all night long because with every contraction comes the extremely urgent need to pee. Does this mean I'll spend labor on the toilet? (which is great for letting gravity help move the baby down and put pressure on the cervix to open, but I hadn't envisioned all of labor in our bathroom...) So I sleep in the mornings and generally feel in a bit of a fog these days. I'm exhausted, huge, uncomfortable, and I swear to you I STILL LOVE IT! Every single moment! I must be a masochist.

What I am not enjoying is the interweaving of birth and death. The two are so closely connected now, each so much a part of the other. I was telling Kindness Girl, who's name could not be more fitting and who's kindness work has touched the lives of many (including myself) in huge huge ways, that one day I will see this as a beautiful experience but that day isn't today. Now, in the thick of it, sometimes its a struggle to get through the day. This weekend was definitely like that. The car broke down on the side of the highway on the way to pick up the birthing tub, prompting a massive waterfall of tears and a phone call to Dad to pick us up. As he was driving me to get the other car while WB waited for the tow truck, he told me that Mimi had fallen again that morning. She had fallen several times in the past week and a half, and had even been stuck on the ground for an hour and a half unable to reach a phone and get help.

Last week I talked to her about hiring someone to come help out, because she really can't be left alone now. This conversation happened right after I had stupidly driven her home alone, and had to catch her as she was going up the porch stairs and her body decided it couldn't support her anymore, and basically carry her up the rest of the way. Nine months pregnant. That's not doable at all, physically speaking. When I proposed hiring someone, she said "But the only person I want around all the time is you!", and I had to tell her that I couldn't do it. You have no idea how hard that was to say. But the truth is that I physically can't do it right now, and then how would I take care of both her and a newborn once the baby is born?

Fast forward back to the weekend, where we decide to go and check on Mimi after getting the car towed. As we pull up in the driveway, I see the neighbor leaving, which can only mean one thing...something happened with Mimi. Sure enough she had fallen again, the 2nd time that day. She fell again on Sunday. These falls are happening with the use of the walker that I made them get. Her brain is still swelling from the Gamma Knife Radiation that they used to attack the 6 new brain tumors, and that's most likely what's causing the falls. But I wonder if she's going to be able to get her strength back from this one or not. I'm having trouble staying positive the more she falls and the weaker she becomes.

Today is the first day with her nurse...I'm about to go over there and check in on her before going in to work. It will make her feel nurtured and protected. I get my nurturing tomorrow night in the form of a much needed and oh so beautiful blessingway ceremony that these amazing women from our birthing community are throwing for me. The timing couldn't be better- this is so much exactly what I need in this moment that when Kindness Girl phoned to tell me about it all I could do was sob incoherently and blubber "Thank you so much! This means so much!" I can't even put my gratitude into words.

Its unbelievably hard to have everything happening simultaneously. I feel torn between birth and death, like I haven't been able to give as much to either as I would have wanted to. That breaks my heart. This isn't the way I would have wanted either experience to be. I know deep down that this is exactly how it should be or it wouldn't be happening, but I can't say that my trust in the universe runs all that deep these days.