Guest Blog: Caring for Your Parents and Your Babies: What I Learned During My Son’s First Year
Written by Kate Turza
When my son was 10 months old, I found out I was pregnant with our second child. So, like most young families, we made the decision to move out of our “starter house” and into our “forever house”. Finally, when my second was 5 months old we moved into our “forever” home. Life was good. Two babies, beautiful house, happy mom & dad.
A couple weeks after moving into our house, my father (who had been living with Multiple Sclerosis for almost 30 years) went in for a routine surgical procedure. All went well with the surgery, I talked to my dad (who was still loopy) on the phone and promised I would be up to see him the next day.
I showed up the next day to find my dad in much worse for wear than I expected. After some urging from my brother and me, he was diagnosed with a Staph infection. He received treatment and was slated to be discharged in a couple days. Well, he didn’t get any better. He still couldn’t move, his speech was slurred, couldn’t eat, and was, clearly, very ill. He began a downward spiral, quickly.
Between my brother and I, we now had to care for my father and make medical decisions on his behalf. There were decisions that my dad didn’t like (like being placed in a nursing home), decisions that WE didn’t like, and there were decisions we were indifferent about.
There was no “right” decision, there were a myriad of things that we were trying to remedy, and I often felt that once we got one thing fixed, another thing would rear it’s ugly head and we would have to make another decision.
So, now in addition to having a 2 year old, a 5 month old, a part-time job, a new house, I was taking care of my dad. I cannot express how overwhelmed I felt.
I felt like a failure to everyone:
To my dad for not being able to be with him all the time,
to my kids because I had to leave them to be with my dad,
to my employer because I had to take time off to tend to both my dad and sick kids,
to my grandfather for not being able to fix my dad (his son),
to my uncle (my dad’s brother) because I couldn’t do it all and had to ask for help,
to my brother who had always wrestled with his relationship with my dad and now I needed him to put that aside,
and to my husband because I just didn’t have the capacity to take care of him, too.
I felt sorry for myself, a lot. I felt betrayed by someone (the universe?). Why was this happening to me? Why was I the one that had to be dealing with taking care of my father when I really needed to be taking care of my young family?
I felt alone.
I just wanted to give up. Wanted to move my little family somewhere and away from this.
I wished for someone to take away this mess.
I needed someone to do the dishes and the laundry, because I didn’t have the time or energy to.
I needed someone to arrange for pick up of my kids when I couldn’t get there because I was at the hospital.
I needed someone to give me a hug when I was wrangling a toddler and an infant in the hospital and nursing home as I made *yet* another decision.
I needed someone to explain to me that my kids are fine, and they know you love them.
I needed someone to tell me that I didn’t have to “do it all”.
I needed someone to help me communicate to my husband that nothing was his fault and I loved him for all support throughout the journey.
I needed someone to tell the nurse in the nursing home not to tell an exhausted mom to keep her toddler off the floor because he “could get sick”.
I needed someone to tell me that it was OK to feel overwhelmed, and to want to run away.
I needed someone to let me cry.
Even though I desperately wanted to, I didn’t give up.
I learned a lot as I fumbled my way through that year:
Always have an extra car seat you can use so other loved ones can pick up your children.
Eating grilled cheese and cheerios for dinner is acceptable for multiple days on end.
Know that it's ok to cry when a well-meaning preschool teacher asks how your day is going.
Whittle down your responsibilities. Keep your priorities in the forefront and let everything else slide. Do the bare minimum you can possibly do. You can pick up the pieces when you are better equipped.
Lean into your support team. Communicate your need for help, and how they CAN help.
And, most of all, remember that you are strong, stronger than you think. Strength is something your children will remember about you, not the laundry that isn’t finished.
ABOUT KATE TURZA:
Kate is a mom of 3 and postpartum doula. She's passionate about normalizing postpartum and new motherhood. In addition to providing support locally, she provides emotional and spiritual support virtually to new families navigating this intimate time.
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