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Gaining and Losing

Gain and loss.

No, this isn't a blog post on how to lose weight quickly (or at all--I'm definitely not the one to ask about weight loss right now since I can't seem to keep my fingers out of the cabinets for more than fifteen minutes). 

This is a blog post on life and death and everything in between. 

2013 has been emotional. I gave birth to my amazing daughter, a time that was both wonderful and terrifying, and I said good-bye to beloved grandfather. 

As a first-time mom, I got to experience the highs and lows that come along with being pregnant, going through labor and delivery, and coming home with a beautiful but puzzling little human. 

On the other end of the spectrum, my mom's dad passed away just a few short weeks ago. He's the third grandparent I'd lost, but, since I was with him when he died, his death has impacted me in such a different way than the others. 

You might wonder what I'm doing--what does the birth of a baby have to do with the loss of a grandparent? To me, everything. 

I hadn't ever experienced the dawning of a new life until Britton arrived. And I hadn't watched the setting of someone else's until Grand-dan passed away. 

But having been there for both (and in such a short time period), it seems as if they are so much more connected than people want to admit. 

When Britton was born, I kept asking Landon, "Where did she come from?" He thought that it was the medication talking (and, to some extent, it probably was), but what I was trying to grasp was this idea of being, of place, of existence. We've all got our individual ideas on what happens after death (reincarnation, Heaven, nothing, etc.), but no one really seems to dwell on where we come from. 

In those heavily medicated days, I also would cry and cry because I probably won't be there for every day of Britton's life. I would think of her as an old, old woman, and know that I would not be with her. The idea that we'd be separated tore me apart in those emotional first days. It saddens me now that she and I will one day have to say goodbye to one another just as I did to my grandfather. 

When my grandfather went into the hospital, we all thought that he would be okay. He'd been having some issues with his heart, so we were completely shocked to find out that he had stage 3 cancer. After he found out about his diagnosis, he seemed to accept it--and at that moment, his health began to decline drastically. I went up to be with my mom, grandmother, and grandfather; I stayed in the hospital room with my mom and Grand-dan for moral support and company. 

Those 48 hours that I was there opened my eyes as to what happens at the other end of life. I learned that there are signs that death is impending, like the way a patient is breathing or the color of the patient's legs. I learned that helping someone through the final transition is mentally and emotionally challenging for everyone involved. Grand-dan told me multiple times, "I want to beat this, but I know I can't." He wanted us to know that he was okay with dying, and that was the hardest thing for me to accept. 

I had to tell him, "Grand-dan, I love you. It's okay to go."

Just as I had to help bring Britton into this life from wherever we come, I had to help lead Grand-dan out of it. Neither was easy. There were tears shed, memories made, hands held, doctors talking, hugs exchanged, and lives changed in both.

In some ways, I feel as if I peeked behind the curtain of life and, for a brief moment, saw a tiny bit of what makes this world tick. But I have no conclusions, no big reveals about the meaning of life still. Birth and death remain mysteries to me. And they should. 

What I do know is that I love both of them and will treasure the time I do have. If I look at it that way, there are only things to gain, and nothing truly to lose. 


Control

In my last post, I talked briefly about control and how my attitude towards it has changed since having Britton. Since that post, I lost my grandfather (who I was extremely close to) and that experience has made me examine my control issue even further.

From day one with Britton nothing turned out the way I planned. I wanted an all-natural birth with no medical interventions. I used my Hypnobabies home program, and my husband and I listened to the tracks religiously. But then, at 39 weeks, we found out that 1) I had tested positive for GBS and had to be administered an IV during labor (there goes the no intervention), and 2) Britton was measuring so far ahead that she needed to be induced. There was much talk of her head being too developed to be delivered naturally, but I decided to hedge my bets and be induced. That entire process ended with me in the operating room fourteen hours later delivering a baby in respiratory distress via C-section.

One day old, and covered in tubes and wires.
Then, I decided that I wanted to stick to my guns and breastfeed, the other important part of my labor/ delivery/ postpartum plan. The NICU that Britton stayed in for three days wasn't breastfeeding-friendly and only wanted to give her formula. Then, after taking her home, nursing her was hideously painful, so we continued to give her a bottle when I was in too much pain to try and nurse. About a week and a half after Britton was born, a lactation consultant finally diagnosed her with a severe tongue-tie, which we corrected with a quick procedure. Her nursing habits, however, were more difficult to change; she didn't know how to latch properly, and I was tired of trying and failing, and ending with pain and crying. So, I started to exclusively pump and feed her out of a bottle.
By pumping, I could get everyone, including my parents, to help out during meal time!
As Britton grew, I found it exceedingly difficult to let go of the notion that I got to go to bed when Landon did. 10 p.m. would roll around, and I would tearfully watch Landon get ready for bed; after all, he had to go to work the next day, bright and early. Before Britton figured out night from day, I was up at all hours--but none were as difficult as the early morning ones. I'm actually kind of a night owl, so being up late wasn't the thing that got me. It was the lack of control I had to tell this tiny baby, "Okay, it's night time. Go to sleep like Mommy and Daddy do." She was dictating the schedule at that point, and I had to learn to go with it.
If I keep my sunglasses on all the time, you won't be able to see the half-shut eyes and dark circles--right?
When my grandfather was sick and in the hospital, I was lucky enough to be there with him in the days leading up to his death. He knew that he was dying--and was glad that it was the pneumonia that would take him and not his newly-diagnosed cancer--and he was okay with it. He told me, "I want to beat this, but I know I'm not going to." That was the hardest thing for me to accept. I was completely helpless in this situation. I could do nothing to help my grandfather except tell him that it was okay to go. But how do you let go of someone who you love?

Christmas 2012. I'm in the front row (four months pregnant!) with my grandmother and grandfather. Landon's standing behind me in the purple shirt.
In the last five months, I have shed many, many tears over all of these situations--some are obviously more important, but all have worked on me in their own ways. Looking back, I know that I have learned to release some of that control. Deciding to exclusively pump was emotionally heartbreaking, but I have a little schedule for pumping now and I know I'm still giving Britton the nutrients she needs. Landon and I have regulated Britton's sleeping schedule, so it's more consistent now. She'll even sleep through the night most of the time. Being with Grand-dan when he passed showed me how much of our lives are trust that someone else will continue to bear the burden when we are too tired to go at it alone.

For all those new moms and dads out there, you can't control everything. And that's okay. Control over every situation is not the important thing in life. Love, in all of its forms, is.