Hello everyone! Welcome back to Childless not by Choice, where my mission is to recognize and speak to childless not by choice women and men around the world. Civilla Morgan here. I am spreading the great news that we can live a joyful, relevant, and fulfilled life, although we did not have the children we so wanted. I would also like to thank everyone who recognizes that we are not all living the same type of life.
Welcome to episode 110!
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Well, this is a special episode. I will do my very best to get through it without breaking down. You may wonder why I’m doing this while everything is so fresh, so raw, but I believe now is the time. I need to do this to move on. Bear with me.
So, here’s the thing: I got my first real job when I was 14 years old. It was a summer job helping build the set for a play that would be performed that summer by members of our community, including my school’s swim class teacher. The play was called Guys and Dolls. I could not begin to tell you much about the job or the summer, but I will always remember the tune to the title song of the play. I have found myself humming it from time to time over the years.
But I also remember one incident. My swimming teacher was apparently also a set designer. She was painting backdrops and I was positioning the backdrops. The only thing I remember her saying to me that summer was ‘ did you tell your parents?’ I responded ‘no.’ Within hours of my response to my teacher, and making my way home after work, I was confronted by my very upset parents, asking how I could not tell them such a thing. Ugh, she had told on me, and somehow, even at age 15, I knew she was doing the right thing, and probably also covering the school of any backlash and I totally got it. I don’t recall being mad at her.
What did I not tell my parents? Well, some time near the end of the school year I had stayed after school for intramurals and was trying to be cool, jumping into the deep end of the pool knowing full well I could not swim.
I nearly drowned.
Someone had run and called the teacher that was covering intramurals that day. All I remember was feeling two really strong hands grab me from behind and pull me out of the pool, and my coughing embarrassingly on the pool deck. He was just in time too, because I had begun to run out of energy from flailing around, and had started to drift to the bottom of the pool.
As a deeply shy and introverted 15-year-old, I wonder even now, if I had properly thanked those two teachers. I hope so.
That was the second time in my life I almost died. There was one previous incident when I was nine, and there would be one more when I was in my early 20’s.
I’m wondering why I’m thinking about that long ago swimming pool event in particular. I’m not sure. Maybe because at that point in my life I believed my parents would be around forever?
But of course, that is not the case for anyone. We all die don’t we? All of these years later, the last time I saw my sweet mom, my best friend in the whole wide world was the evening of Sunday, May 5th as I got her ready for bed. By the morning of May 6th, she had exited this world leaving behind chronic pain, and chronic illness. I miss her terribly. What breaks my heart the most is I did not have a chance to say goodbye.
My heart aches for my dad as June 5th–a month to the day after she died–would have been their 54th wedding anniversary. They loved each other so. I watched them all my life, through the ups and downs, thick and thin, flat broke, and money in the bank. They stuck it out. We don’t see many couples sticking it out through thick and thin these days. We hear a lot of ‘I don’t love him or her anymore’, ‘we’ve fallen out of love’, ‘we just can’t see eye to eye on anything anymore’.
How exactly does one fall out of love? And could it be that couples don’t see eye to eye because no one wants to give in once in a while? Or maybe the same person is always giving in and the other person just doesn’t get that it can’t always be their way? Hey, I’m not a shrink. So I will leave those thoughts and questions right there.
I sometimes thought I did not deserve my mom. She was quiet, reserved, her favorite color was beige. She taught us how to clean up after ourselves as young women, and my brother as a young. She taught us how to live clean, how to cook, and how to maintain a clean home. As nice and kind as she was, she did not mince words with us when we got out of line. But she also taught us how to be kind to others, how to let things go sometimes, and as she said ‘put the best construction on things’. Something I usually found difficult to do.
I believe I was the most difficult of her five children because of that very difficulty. As an adult, I often wished I had listened to her more. But she was a patient mom.
Being the mother of five children, she did not know the intricacies, the emotional pain, of being childless not by choice. She asked me questions, and she defended me when I told her the latest stupid comments or actions of those who did not understand the life of a childless not by choice person. She was my biggest defender. No matter how old we got to be, we called her Mommy. We call my dad Daddy. I guess it’s a Caribbean thing.
I will never trust another human being as much as I trusted my mom. You may say that is just the rawness of such a recent loss talking. But it’s a fact.
My mom learned how to text on her Android phone, and use her iPad very late in life. But she learned them. She enjoyed texting the entire family. She enjoyed researching celebrities ages on her iPad. She did not consider herself a smart person, but whenever she started with that ‘I’m not smart’ bit, I would remind her that she was one of the smartest people I knew. She could tell you about every event that was going on around the world. She knew who Lady Gaga was, she loved listening to The Gaithers and watching Bobby Schuller’s service on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. She was the smartest woman I knew.
My mom raised five kids without serious incident, working her fingers to the bone to provide for us. She was mistreated on some of her jobs. And I remember feeling so helpless when she would tell me about the latest incident. But she always said she wanted to keep a righteous heart. And several times she would tell me how she had run into one or two of the people who did her wrong and they were not in a good place. But she never spoke badly about them and their plight. It will take the rest of my life to become half the person she was.
I battled the medical community to pay attention to her needs the last few years of her life. Unfortunately, they did not care about the role of the caregiver, and I felt they definitely did not care about the plight of the elderly. Many of them ignored anything I had to say because although I knew my mom much better than they did, they could not hear above the din of their seven to 10 years of education.
One time when she was in rehab, against my wishes, they gave her two similar diabetes medications. I ended up not sleeping that entire night as I did not trust the rehab staff to stay awake and prevent her blood sugar from going to zero. They proceeded to feed her junk all night to keep her blood sugar up. Shortly after that I had her taken out of the facility and brought her back home. I am not a clinician, but I did my best by my mom.
I truly hope that one day caregivers will be heard in the medical community. In the meantime, if you are a caregiver, do not ever give up on your family member. Advocate for them even when the medical community gets upset and kicks you out of the hospital. Yes, that has happened to me.
They would rather say ‘I’m sorry’ or say nothing at all if something terrible were to happen during one of their ‘mistakes’. I heard from one of her specialists calling to give condolences.
The life of a caregiver is not easy. No part of it is. Becoming a caregiver changes your life…forever. And most times there is no warning that you are becoming a caregiver. It literally just kinda happens. Initially, you are taking your loved one to doctor’s appointments, then you find yourself handling prescription issues at the pharmacy advocating for your loved one, and then you begin to administer medications, and the doctor is talking to you even more than to the patient, about next steps after each appointment.
Then you incorporate their schedule, their life, into yours; into your calendar, or in my case because I’m old school, into my daytimer.
Caregivers have to watch time: time away from the person being cared for, time to administer medications, time to eat, time to get to doctor’s appointments. There are late nights…illness exacerbates at night. And the most overwhelming feeling for a caregiver is the feeling of helplessness which happened quite a few times for me. I was and am literally responsible for the person who took care of me. I was taking care of the person whose loving face was the first I saw when I came into this world. Talk about pressure. I did not want to mess up.
I really thought I had more time to make changes in her care. The morning she passed I had planned to call one of her physicians to start a new treatment. But it was not to be.
I now battle in my mind; the battle of wishing I had more time to make changes. But I also know as one my sisters always reminds me, ‘God is sovereign’. The bottom line is, we all have a day assigned to us, that last day on earth. The best thing we can do is to be sure we have our affairs in order so that we do not leave any undue burden on our family, and to be ready to meet our maker.
My mom thanked me for caring for her. And all I could say was ‘you’re welcome mommy’. But what I should have said was ‘it is my honor. It is the least I can do.“ I know she knew I loved her though. I gave her loud kisses on her cheeks from time to time, I prayed with her some nights and comforted her as best as I could as things got worse. I was in love with her dimples, always wishing I had gotten them. But it turns out those beautiful dimples skipped a generation.
Sometimes when I would be washing dishes she would sit at the kitchen table and we would talk about one thing or the other. I would say something and then get no response only to realize she snuck out on me to go watch the evening news.
Well, She played that trick on me one last time. She snuck out on me without saying goodbye. I knew she did it because if she told me she was going I would have begged her to stay, as much pain as I knew she was in.
My consolation as I grieve the loss of her presence in this world is that she is no longer in pain. She is no longer taking tons of pills, and going to tons of doctor’s appointments. She is now spending her time singing in the Soprano section of Heaven’s choir.
Sing on my sweet mommy, until we meet again.
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‘To recognize and speak to the broken hearts of childless not by choice women, and men, around the world.’
‘Spreading the great news that we can live a joyful, relevant, and fulfilled life’.