My Mother’s Day Gift

I wish this blog began with a cute little story about how my kids made me pancakes and eggs and woke me up with breakfast in bed; how we snuggled and laughed in my queen size bed; how we told stories and then got ready for church and attended as a family…

But it’s not.

Mother’s Day 2011 will forever be a special day of remembrance for me and for my family… a weekend of sobering life lessons.

Let me go back a few weeks to give full understanding of why this particular Mother’s Day is so significant.

Spring is the busiest time of the year at the farm with classes and events, planting, baby animals who need a bit more care, intensity with beekeeping, homestead tours, and the general everyday up keep that comes with spring time.

Spring also means the beginning of the end of a school year for each of the kids – final exams, drama productions and extra rehearsals, a myriad of extra errands, and the added anxiety and excitement of being finished with school.

In the midst of all of this, Dave had the amazing opportunity to travel to Brazil with Crown Financial to document the trip through the lens of a camera – both photography and videography.  Dave was away for almost 3 weeks.

I knew what was ahead for me for the month of April and I took on the challenge with my usual “no big deal, I can handle this” attitude.  I’m not afraid of work, in fact, I love to work.  Often I will push myself to the limit, recharge, and start over again.

However, by the end of April, I was hitting the wall of exhaustion.  I set my eye on Mother’s Day knowing that Dave would be returning, the kids would be completely finished with school, farm classes and events would be concluded until June, and at this point, I could finally recharge.

By Friday last week, I was more than ready for the change in schedule and really looking forward to a slower pace.  The last month and a half was truly the hardest I had ever pushed myself and the 3 -4 hours of sleep at night was beginning to take its toll.

Friday last week was an early morning – I had to finish preparing for a pre-school homestead tour at the farm.  After a fantastic tour with 17 preschoolers, siblings and parents, my kids and I and a friend of theirs who had spent the night, were going over to another farm to help put in posts for an arena.  First, I dropped the kids off and headed to another farm to check on my bees and take care of animals since the owner of this farm was out of town.  Finished the bees and headed back to the other farm to help with posts.  4:30, got Ali, left Megan and Michael, and drove into Athens to meet Lauren.  She and Ali were going to go shopping and out to dinner – girls’ night!

After I met up with Lauren, I drove back out to the country to meet up with a friend for dinner.  She was delayed.  I didn’t mind – I walked around the square, looked in windows and realized it had been a long time since I’d been by myself with nothing to do for a few minutes.

My friend arrived and we went into the restaurant for dinner.  We had a wonderful time talking and visiting…..

Toward the end of the meal, I felt “funny”, like someone had drugged my food.  My tongue felt weird and my speech didn’t sound right to me.  I was dizzy and light headed, my right arm tingled and felt a little numb.  I mentioned to my friend that something was up.  We decided to go.  It was difficult to walk to the counter to pay for dinner, I could hardly hold the pen to write my name.  It all seemed so surreal.

I kept thinking, “It’s not my left side, I should be alright.”

My friend drove me back to her place – it was about a mile away.  I lay down and rested for a while.  All the symptoms went away – my tongue taking the longest to subside.  I still had to go pick up the kids from the farm where we’d been working and then drive home – about an hour or so of driving and it was close to 11pm already.

I called another friend when I got in the car and told her what had happened…

“Have you talked with Catherine yet?”

“No, it’s late.  She drove to Greenville and back today and I’m sure she’s in bed.”

“Hmmm.  I really think you should run this by Catherine and just see what she says.”

“I think I’m just tired but okay, I will.”

Catherine, our eldest is a nurse.  I called her and told her what had happened.  I kept thinking, “What a difficult predicament to put her in.  I’m her mom and I’m the one who’s always taken care of the kids and now I’m asking her to take care of me, tell me what to do.”

Dave was still in Brazil and out of internet service and I really didn’t think there was any need to cause alarm, especially when I had no answers.  I really believed this was happening because I was so tired.  Except for the tongue thing – that worried me a little.

Picked up the kids and drove home.  The kids were laughing and joking and I was silently praying that nothing more would happen while I was driving.

Catherine met me at the house and by then I really felt that all I needed to do was go to bed…until I took my blood pressure.

I have a cuff at home.  Ever since my first baby, I’ve been borderline hypertensive.  My pregnancies always ended with concern over my blood pressure.  I’ve been on medication, had times when it would spike but for the most part it was under control.  I’d heard all the info – it’s the silent killer, it affects women, watch your weight, be careful with your diet….  I half- heartedly gave acknowledgement to the statistics and the warnings.  I had been taking my blood pressure meds sporadically and had noticed that my bp had gone up a little recently. I kept telling myself, Mother’s Day I will slow down and get everything for myself back on track.  Just hang on to Mother’s Day.

When I took my blood pressure at home Friday night, I realized I needed to go to the hospital.  It had spiked and I didn’t have the meds at home to bring it down.  Catherine drove me to the ER.

It was difficult leaving the kids.  It was late at night.  Dave was in a foreign country, Victoria in South Carolina.   I, the strong one, the backbone for the family at this time, was headed to the hospital – what a horrible feeling.  My kids, especially Michael, rose to the occasion and took charge at home.  Lauren was already in bed asleep because she had to work the next day.

We arrived at the hospital and Catherine knew the routine.  She mentioned a possible stroke and they whisked me away to start getting vitals.  Blood pressure was very high, EKG normal, all symptoms from earlier were gone, and I had no headache – never had had one.

They sent me for a cat scan.  Result – a small spot of bleeding on the left side of my brain.  The doctor called it a “brain bleed.”

I was told I would have to spend the night in the Neuro Unit.  I was not happy.  I wanted to go home.  They wanted to observe me and make sure my bp was going down.

Catherine stayed with me until I was settled in the room.  She left around 3:30am or so, Saturday morning.  What an incredible support she’d been – so strong.  It wasn’t until the next day that I would find out that she cried almost the whole way home and prayed for my safety. …ahh, my heart.  What a horrible burden to put on a child.

My reality check came a few hours later when the Doctor of Neurology walked in the room.  I was intent on getting out of the hospital – I wanted to be with my kids, I had jobs that weren’t finished, people depending on me.

And then she told me straight what had happened, how lucky I was, and the severity of the situation if I didn’t heed her cautions and instructions.  I broke down and cried…

My mortality stared back at me.  I could have died or been left an invalid.  My mind was reeling with questions, the precious faces of my children before me.  Oh God – why???

It’s amazing how in a split second, all your goals and dreams become rubble in the light of eternity.  All that seemed so important to me vanished as I began to comprehend the magnitude of what had happened to me hours before.

I had pushed too hard, I was not invincible, the health I had always depended on was failing me…I was devastated.

An overwhelming thought loomed before me…

If I’m dead, I can’t be there for my children, I can’t hug them and comfort them, laugh with them and cry with them, I can’t even drive them around.

If I’m dead, Dave would be a widower….

If I’m dead, the farm and all I’ve worked toward won’t exist anymore.

Sobering thoughts, emotional valleys, tears of despondency and despair.  This was my wake-up call, my reality check…

I’m for the most part, a very optimistic person.  It took a couple of hours before I could start to see the good in all of this and begin to make heads or tails of my situation.  I refused to live in fear and I needed a plan to hang onto to ensure that changes would be made.

The irony about all this is, I had been contemplating the changes that needed to be made before this incident had happened.  How many family and friends had warned me that I needed to slow down?  But the Lord knows how stubborn and hard-headed I can be and gave me a physical reminder as to why it was imperative that these changes be made sooner than later.

I discovered the greatest Mother’s Day gift as I lay in that hospital bed.   The gift of my life and taking care of myself.  If I’m not well or here, then I have nothing to give back to those that mean the most to me.

The look on my kids’ faces when I left for the hospital, the tears that flowed when Ali crawled up next to me on the hospital bed,  the desperate hugs from Megan,  the anguishing cry of Victoria on the other end of the telephone line, the emotional strain on Catherine’s face as she sat with me during the doctors’ visits, the tenderness of Lauren’s voice as she whispered in my ear, “Momzie, come home soon.”, the tired eyes of Michael from a sleepless night, the exhaustion  my kids felt because of the added stress and chores – all this was the result of my negligence to take care of myself.

Part of being a mom is self-sacrifice, putting kids and husband first at the expense of what I need or want– it just comes with the job description, right?

Not any more.  I’ve learned that the fall-out from that kind of thinking is more costly in the long run for everyone.

So together, as a family, we’re making changes – life changes.

I’m making personal life changes – changes that will affect every area of my life.  The changes won’t come quickly – it takes time to be permanent.  They won’t come all at once, that just adds stress…but they will come because my life depends on it…literally.

Change is never made in a vacuum so I will thank all my family and friends, whether near or far, for their patience as I work through the different areas that need to be dealt with.  My family will be stronger, my relationships richer, the farm and all it entails, more efficient, and my physical, emotional, and spiritual health will be greater.

Your support, encouragement, and love will be the sustaining factor in the months ahead.

And when I tell you, “I love you” – it is heart felt with a deeper understanding of the privilege it is to have breath to utter those words.  Life is a precious gift…relationships a treasure to cherish.

I am grateful for my Mother’s Day Gift – it’s not what I would have asked for but it’s exactly what I needed.

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