Goodbye Mum

A week ago today, I found my Mum’s body in her flat. 

I see her every Tuesday with my daughter, F. We’ve done this routine ever since her brother died last August. Mum saw Eric three times a week and they spoke on the phone every day. Sometimes more than once. So when he suddenly passed away, Mum was devastated.

The grief never subsided. She picked up a bit before Christmas, but then seemed to regress again after the new year. The shitty weather in this country – months of cold, damp, dark, grey days – does not help. She had two spells in the psychiatric ward as she was struggling so much and her psychosis seemed to be causing her ongoing problems. They discharged her three weeks ago, handed her care back over to the normal mental health unit. In my opinion she was worse after this than she was when they admitted her the first time.

I had tried to call Mum on the Monday, but she hadn’t answered the phone. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t want to face up to it. She wasn’t really well enough to leave the house as she had become physically very weak and had a severe tremor that had worsened over the last 6 weeks, leaving her unsteady on her feet. I told myself she had been readmitted to the hospital and hadn’t yet remembered to call me. However, with hindsight I was just postponing the inevitable.

When we arrived on Tuesday morning, she didn’t answer the buzzer at the communal door. I was about to call her when another resident came out, so he let us in. We went up to her flat and I put my arm out and pushed on her door. It was like part of me knew what to do. The door opened – she had left it on the latch.

I walked in and called her name a few times. It’s a one room flat with a small kitchen and bathroom, so after passing the kitchen and looking in the lounge/bedroom I was about to leave. I thought maybe she was better than I had thought and had walked across the road to the shop to pick up some food. Failing that I thought I’d go back to the car and call the hospital and maybe go and see her there.

I was about to leave. I passed the bathroom and noticed the light was on. The door was almost closed. I called again, “Mum?”

I pushed the door a fraction, not wanting to disturb her if she was on the toilet, or feeling unwell, but also certain that she wasn’t in there because she would have heard me calling. Then I saw her legs in the bath.

As soon as I saw them I knew immediately that she was dead. She would have answered my call. I said “Oh,” out loud, catching my breath.

I had to be sure what had happened. I pushed the door a little further and stepped half into the room, holding F back so she didn’t see anything. The bath is behind the door and I had to lean around it. She was lying in the bath, slightly to one side, her face just under the water. She looked like she was sleeping… except as I tried to look and and not look, my eyes scanning the scene as fast as possible so I didn’t have to see the detail, it was immediately obvious that she had been there for some time.

Getting help

I called the police. They came out really quickly (it felt like forever while we sat in the lounge/bedroom). They were brilliant, cannot fault them at all. More police came, and then CID, and then eventually they decided it wasn’t a crime scene. They called the undertakers and two big men with iron handshakes, dressed immaculately in black suits came to take Mum to the hospital. They left her rings on the side, and she was gone. It took three hours in total.

The police all left, and we were alone. I went into the bathroom and rinsed the bath out as I couldn’t leave what was in there to dry. Then I drove Francesca home. The rest of that day, and the next are a bit of a blur. I collected the boys at the end of school, drove to my brothers but couldn’t find him, so drove to Dads. Then I drove home again. I got the kids into bed and then stripped off, and scrubbed myself down in the shower as all I could smell was Mum’s flat and the strange, sweet, rotting metallic odour from the bathroom. A week later and I still catch it multiple times a day.

I got three hours sleep the first night, between 1:30am and 4:30am. I had to leave all the lights on because I was terrified mum was going to come and get me, all bloated and dripping and angry, for allowing her to die that way. The next day I did everything on autopilot, still in shock and utterly exhausted. I drove down to her flat with the intention of starting the clearing out process (it’s rented and I have four weeks to empty it), but all I did was sit on the bed crying while F watched children’s TV.

I couldn’t eat, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had seen.

Piecing it all together

Gradually, I have rebuilt her last few days. I saw her on Tuesday and arranged for a GP to call her about the tremor. On Wednesday she went to the GP to collect a form for a blood test. I spoke to her that evening. On Thursday her friend Ted drove her to the hospital for her blood test. I called her that night. On Friday a man came in the morning and cleared away an old fish tank and a cabinet she no longer wanted from her flat. She also had a meal delivery I had just arranged for her. Then Ted took her out for a coffee. They said goodbye in the afternoon and I spoke to her at 4pm. She sounded sad, hopeless, and angry about her health and NHS waiting times. It was a week before she had another call with the GP and would get her blood test results. We spoke for less than four minutes and despite my attempt to convince her that we were going to get it all sorted and she just needed to wait until next week to get results and we could go from there, she sounded dismissive. I signed inwardly. And I asked her, “What can I do to help Mum?”

“I’m alright,” she said after a long pause. “I’m alright.”

We said goodbye. After that she ate dinner, ran a bath, and never got out of it.

She’d been dead four days when I found her.

Moving on

Life doesn’t stop when someone dies. It carries on with all its noise and mess and laughter and chaos, oblivious to the enormity of your shock and grief. After four days, I slept properly. After five days, my appetite started to return. A week on, and I have already removed two car loads of stuff from her flat and I am feeling better. I have lots to do. Lots to keep me busy. Plus of course the kids – nothing waits.

I don’t know if I will regress, but I already feel like I am healing. It’s like an old wound is finally closing. I have written thousands of words in my journal and lengthy emails to my closest friends. I have realised, with surprise, that I actually lost my Mum when she moved out, back when I was fifteen and my brother was nine. I can still see her walking up the road, brown suitcase in hand, heading to the station. My brother crying so much. She was never the same after she left. We grew apart, I couldn’t find common ground. She behaved in ways I coudn’t understand and no longer seemed like the mother I’d know from days long gone. She had always been distant and unaffectionate, but she was somehow more normal when she was married.

I have grieved the loss of my mother for 28 long years. I have wanted her back, and wished things were different for almost three decades. I could never bridge the gap that her leaving opened between us. She cut off all her hair, moved in with a woman I didn’t much care for, got new animals I hated (a screeching parrot and many dogs that wee’d everywhere in the house). She became something I couldn’t relate to. While I was striving to get my degree and start a career, she seemed to drop out. Then her health deteriorated and the psychosis became a problem. I lost her so long ago. Her death feels like the end of a period of black grief that has overshadowed my entire life, especially in the years since I became a mother myself.

It’s getting late and I need to sleep, so I’ll stop here for now.

Pills

I dropped DS1 off at preschool and walked up to the doctors this morning (passing a heavily pregnant woman on the way, of course).

The doctor is running late (he always runs late), and in the waiting room next to me is a mother with four beautiful children, aged around 3 to 11. A little old lady comments on what a lovely family she has. I try not to stare at them. I refuse to think about anything that might change my mind.

I promise myself I won’t cry when I go in. I try all my usual tactics. I pretend I am a Russian with deep emotions who never gives away what she is thinking (yup, I really do this. I have no idea why I have to be a Russian, I just perceive them as being brave). I imagine a lead box inside my brain that is cold and empty on the inside. No emotion. Nothing. I have done all my crying.

The doctor finally calls me in and after a bit of chit chat about my 100% normal hospital results, I say the words I’ve been planning. I ask him for the contraceptive pill. And he looks at me with sympathy and says, You don’t want to think about it any more. You want a break. Yes I understand that completely.

And I cry.

And then he hugs me!

My doctor gets up and comes over and puts his arms around me.

It’s a little awkward. But I’m grateful for his compassion.

He prints off a prescription without any questions. And before I leave, just as we are saying goodbye, he tells me he thinks I am making a good decision.

I feel sadness and relief as I walk out.

I go to the chemist to pick up my prescription, and guess who comes in to queue behind me?

The woman with the four impossibly beautiful children. Two girls, two boys. Her gorgeous children tug at my heart.

After a few minutes the pharmacist calls my name and holds a paper bag in front of me. She asks me if I have any questions.

Is this how it was meant to end?
Why couldn’t I have another baby?
Is there really no possibility it will happen?
Why I am suddenly infertile?
Am I doing the right thing? 

I shake my head, take the bag from her, and I walk home in the cold autumn sunshine.

Emotional Clutter and My Own Personal Pity Party

Feel free to join me!

Yup, headline news in our house is that this morning I am at the point of total emotional meltdown and have completely LOST my ability (not that I’m even sure I had it in the first place), to be calm, rational, kind and measured.

Well lets begin with some facts – much easier than writing it all out for you and getting lost in paragraphs of my own anger/sadness/grief/despair.

  • DS2 is turning 2 on Saturday
  • Exactly 1 year ago, on the morning of DS2’s first birthday party I ended up in an ambulance, on my way to hospital, miscarrying at 13.5 weeks (great timing, huh?)
  • Exactly 1 year ago, DH cancelled the party we had planned for family that afternoon.
  • Exactly 1 year ago, for the three days I spent in hospital not one family member visited me. And not one family member helped DH look after the boys (who were 2 and 1). In fact, the only contact we had with anyone in that time was my own parents who I called from the hospital bed to tell them I was alive.
  • For 3 months following that day, DH’s parents did not phone or visit. At all. They reappeared in November, when DS2’s birthday came around.
  • All of the above family are due to visit us on Saturday afternoon. Just like last year.
  • I took a pregnancy test this morning and it was a Big. Fat. Negative.

So, can you begin to imagine what my current state of mind is?

Aside from the fact that I had high hopes (as hard as I tried not to think about it) that I would be pregnant for DS2’s birthday (I’ve waited long enough and it would help soothe the wound of of his first birthday), I actually have to act all happy and entertain two sets of parents over the weekend when what I really want to do is shout at them and cry and sob and throw things at the way life has been for the last year and the way I feel I was wronged by them all.

In fact, I’ve even been imagining an alternate birthday party, where I stand up to give a little speech when everyone is here. Kind of like this:

[Stands up, sways slightly from the half a bottle of wine consumed]

I’m so glad that you’ve all turned up today to celebrate DS2’s birthday even though not one of you fuckers came to visit me last year when I was bleeding to death in the hospital and DH was on his own here with the two kids. Thank you.

How would that go down, I wonder.

Sigh.

So, this morning.

This morning, I took a (ultra sensitive 10miu) test and it was negative. I’m not due for a few days but I knew I wasn’t pregnant anyway. As usual any hopes were dashed on the sharp rocks of unexplained secondary infertility.

So I came downstairs with a sore throat, a headache, an empty uterus, and sadness in my heart for Saturday (which should be a joyful occassion – it IS a birthday after all) and the kids are playing up and DH is just standing there doing nothing, waiting to be given instructions (I swear, it’s like having 3 children already, why would I need another anyway?) and my voice starts to wobble and the tears come and then before I know it DH and I are waist-deep in an emotional dissection of last years hospital saga and the lack of support from either of our families.

Which of course, is neither of our faults.

I cry and cry and cry and in the end (because I really do deal with things better on my own), I send DH to work and try to compose myself for the day ahead.

I am so close to calling everyone and saying:

Sorry, no visiting this weekend. I can’t do it. I’m still not over my miscarriage in August (do you remember it? The one where I spent 3 days in hospital and had to have a blood transfusion?), let alone the three chemical pregnancies I’ve had since then, and I’m still upset that none of you were there to help either of us, so sorry, Saturday is cancelled.

But I don’t.

Because it would kill my parents (who are emotionally fragile themselves and god knows they have already been through enough in their own lives) and because if I make a stand against DH’s parents, I will never let them back into my life again, which is the wrong thing to do for the children.

So instead I cry and cry and cry and cry.

And DS1 brings me some Maracas and DS2 tries to climb on my back for a piggyback ride.

And then I realise a few things.

  1. What if someone told me today that this time next year I still would not be pregnant. That there would be no third baby. Ever. What would I start doing differently, right now, today?
  2. That I am blaming EVERYONE for what is going on in my life. I feel such anger and rage at other people over the things that have happened to me. On the surface it’s because they weren’t there for either me or DH, but on a deeper level I’ve always known that my own family was dysfunctional and unable to help others, so why do I still expect it after all these years? Why does it suddenly hurt so much now when it’s been this way since I was a child?
  3. That I need to stop blaming others. Full stop. It’s a horrible, self-pitying way to think and I don’t want to be that person.
  4. That I need to clear out the emotional clutter. My physical possessions are so much less now and my head feels so much worse. I’ve got to start untangling what’s in there. 

It’s not just about this weekend, or last year. It’s more than that. It’s ghosts in the nursery, unresolved issues with people, bad friendships, bad choices, old hurts, traumatic life experiences. My personality needs stripping down the the basics and rebuilding. I need to clear it all out. Get it all out. Start again. Grow myself or grow a tumour (so they say).

How the hell do I do all of this?

I know it’s all about baby steps – just like with physical clutter – you can’t get rid of 38 years of emotional angst in one go without having some kind of lobotomy.

But at least with physical clutter you can make a start anywhere and see immediate changes.

Changing the way you think, reconciling the thoughts that are ingrained in your mind is a little more challenging.

So.

I’m off to research exactly how to do this. How to ‘fix’ myself.

Or at least how to make myself feel happier, more of the time.

My ultimate goal would be forgiveness, but even the thought of that right now makes my stomach turn (that’s how bad it is for me I’m afraid).

I’m going to get a notebook, read read read. List out my issues, work through them. If necessary I’ll see someone else for therapy, whether it’s talking or alternate or conventional.

I’ll probably write it up on here – I apologise in advance for dragging you all through the mire with me 😉

And finally, I read a couple of things this morning in the great wordpress community that are so relevant to me right now I wanted to share them.

Firstly, Nancy over at My Year of Sweat said:

Magic happens…change happens…when we decide to take control of our outcomes. And yes, that involves work. Get over it. Stop blaming your parents for your bad genes and start making lifestyle changes that will improve your life.

Secondly, Ginny over at My Simplicity Quest said:

The older I get, the easier it gets for me to forgive… – mostly because l have much to be forgiven for. 

And so do I.

And I’d never thought of it like that before.

Wish me luck with this one. I’ve known it was coming and I’ve put it off for so long.

I can’t give you numbers and stats and before and after photos, but I can tell you if my world tends towards more sunshine and less rain on this journey I’m about to embark on. Thanks for reading.

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