Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Gift of Nighttime Parenting

I frequently share this story, often teary eyed, when parents ask me if it's OK to sleep with their babies.  Not only is it OK, it's a natural assumption for human infants that they sleep with the mother especially breastfed humans.  I had the pleasure of my children sleeping in my bed as nursing infants and toddlers.  It wasn't until they were ready that I transfered them into their own bed in their own room.  So yes, I was an avid co-sleeper!  Bedtime was not stressful or scary - just my warm, loving  embrace that said,  "NO fear - you are worthy & deserving of  my presence, day & night."   As my children grew, the bed was a common meeting place for fun and conversation, whether it were morning or night.  My door was always open for any joys, fears or concerns.

When I was 47, I was faced with a serious health issue which required surgery. I had a huge mass in my pelvis which led my doctors to believe I possibly had ovarian cancer. The prior year, I underwent bi-lateral mastectomies for breast cancer. Once you have cancer that's pretty much where people go with it :(

Anyway, I decided to go to Johns Hopkins Cancer Center in Baltimore for a full evaluation since they were considered one of the best for this sort of thing.  I'll admit I was really scared, more scared than when I had breast cancer.  From the lay person side of my brain, I felt because it was inside my body and not hanging outside my body like my breast, it was more serious.   Totally irrational, I know.  From the nurse side of my brain, I knew ovarian cancer was one of the most fatal and that since there was a palpable mass, it was probably too late anyway.  That's why I went to John's Hopkins, I figured at least I deserved the best surgery I could get since one surgery is usually all you get.

Johns Hopkins is about 4 hours from my home.  I went down for my evaluation and its was recommended that I have a complete hysterectomy. "Looks suspicious but only until the surgery is  done will we (the doctors) know for sure if you have cancer and what type."   Ugh!  So I scheduled my surgery and informed my family.  Thinking it is unlikely that I could dodge a bullet twice, I expected and prepared for the worst.  Prompted to get my affairs in order, I  redid my will including an attachment letter with my funeral wishes and my "gifted"  belongings.   Listen, I know this sounds morbid but I felt compelled to do it all.   My children were grown by then- 25, 23, and 21 years old respectively. I had been divorced for 6 years by then as well.  So funny thing, when I asked my children what they wanted of mine (jokingly but secretly serious), they couldn't think of anything!  My next thought was, "why am I keeping all this crap?!"- Lol.    I didn't know what the outcome would be but it made me feel much better not leaving confusion and chaos for my children.  Of course, I didn't expect to die during the surgery or shortly thereafter.   But I did know that I would not choose conventional treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation so who knew how long I would live?

To bring her up to speed,  I called my eldest daughter, Nicole who was living and working in NYC.  The main purpose of this call was to let her know that her brother and sister were going to come down to Baltimore to stay overnight the day of my surgery.  Did she want to come down, too?   Well, I could tell by her voice she was anxious and scared (moms know these things) and she responded quickly that she was sure she could not get off work.  Obviously, a knee- jerk reaction due to fear and uncertainty.  I got that.  So, I told her not to worry, that I understood and I would see her when I got home.


I am happy to tell you that I did not have cancer just tons of endometriosis- who knew?   I was exhilarated by the great news and felt fantastic (as fantastic as someone who had 4.5 hrs of major surgery could feel).  My parents, two children and sister-in-law were present rejoicing with me. But then guess what happened? To my surprise, my daughter Nicole showed up at the door of my hospital room.  Without a word she proceeded to walk up to my bed and climb in right next to me, laying her head on my chest- right in front of everyone<3.

It was truly one of the most tender moments of my life!  I will never forget it.  No words needed.  Just a gesture of pure love and devotion.  Our relationship was right back where we first started, snuggled together in bed. But this time it was,  "NO fear momma, you are worthy and deserving of my presence."  Now, that's the power of nighttime parenting - building bonds that stand the test of time!

Me & my girls, Andrea & Nicole
One year after my surgery