Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Letter

A search on the Internet revealed a very small clue: a listing of two names from a Local History book index for Vulcan and Wheat County. Fortunately the maiden name was present, and this gave me an indicator for what her married name might be. After searching her under the married name, I found a listing in Lethbridge.

I didn't think much of it until the subject came up again during a family dinner. My brother revealed he had even gone down to Vulcan and searched the cemetery to try and find the family connection. I mentioned the information I found, and it was surprising just how interested we individually were in our family history. I forwarded the info I'd discovered to my other brother and he had the foresight to search the address I'd found along with the name listing in Lethbridge.

It was a senior's center. After that we knew we had a chance. How many women in Alberta could have such a distinctive name such as Wilma, have the Vulcan connection (which was her birth town) and be alive in a senior's center? It had to be her.

Before I had confirmed the senior's center, I'd thought of phoning the number I'd found with her name. I'd considered writing a letter. Once I had my brother involved, he was as convinced as I was that some contact needed to be made and needed to be made soon.

This was my grandmother, after all. My mom's mom--who had left her and the family in 1950 when she was 18 months old--never to be heard from again, at least from what we knew.

We wondered if we should even tell my mom what we found, but I couldn't help it--as always, and it turned out she wasn't concerned about our plan in the slightest and gave us the go ahead. She kept reiterating what we were doing was for "us and us alone", as she couldn't care less. Right. Who wouldn't care to find out the true story behind their mother leaving and never having contact with them for the next 60 years? I'm sure there's no baggage there what so ever. : )

My brother thought my letter was confrontational--"accusatory" even. I thought it was factual and respectful, and my Dad and Mom agreed. My grandmother's leaving the family had always been a big secret. Even after my mom asked a few family members, she was told nothing--no one was the wiser, it seemed. The true story, it seemed, had gone to her father's grave.

Until now.

The letter asked for a bare minimum of the truth to be shared, and indicated that no knowledge of the series of events had ever been given to my mother. It mentioned how I was currently pregnant with my first child, touched on my brother's briefly and also underscored that should nothing come of our attempt, we would fully respect a responding silence. I included a copy of my mom's baby picture, a wedding picture which she keeps in an album next to her mother and father's wedding picture, and a copy of the family tree from my mom's baby book.

We thought we were throwing the equivalent of a bottle into an ocean. After 60 years, I thought there was no way this woman would have anything to do with any one of us, never mind my mom. She hadn't made any attempts as far as we knew, so why would we have any success now? I'm not sure under the same circumstances if I would have the courage after 60 years to provide or get the necessary closure. And did she even have any of her faculties left? So many questions, and such a long shot.

I mailed the letter on a Sunday. I got a phone call that Thursday.

"My name is Adrien. My mother received a letter from you about a family connection. Give me a call so we can talk about it. I look forward to hearing from you." He didn't sound that old. He didn't sound angry. But I was afraid to phone him back. My mom couldn't believe we'd gotten a call and encouraged me to phone immediately. I stalled for a few moments, but started dialing anyway.

After introducing myself, Adrien responded, "I'm your uncle. And my mother is your grandmother. I can't tell you how excited I am." And after a bit, "Let me assure you, my mother has never forgotten your mother."

We couldn't believe it. My mom still can't believe it. She thought she didn't care, but once we'd made contact she worried her mother wouldn't have the courage to come through and actually meet with us--meet with her daughter. Give us some answers.

They are meeting today for the first time in 60 years.

It all seems so simple now. If we hadn't sent that letter, we would never have known this could be possible. In a million years, my mom never thought she'd have this opportunity. We know to have low expectations, but having come this far, we can't help but wonder at the possibilities--even with her brother's (our uncles) at the very least.

And if nothing else, my mom will finally know more of the truth, can stop speculating, can stop looking at her mom's pictures for "clues", and can perhaps get some peace.

Adrien also commented several times just how "well written" and "respectful" the letter really was.

Well of course it was.

: D

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

17 Hour Ordeal

The pain started while driving: menstrual like aching across my lower back, and sharp mid abdominal pain. So much so, I thought of turning the car around and going straight back home. Except we were counting on the vegetables I was going to buy to go with the fish we were planning to have for that night's dinner.

As I walked around the store, my discomfort eased. My stomach felt a little more "full" than usual, but I'd just taken my blood pressure at the drug store, so I knew that was all good.

I had decided not to get the mini grocery cart I like so much, as I couldn't be bothered with the quarter, opting instead for the handheld basket--never a good idea, never mind when you're seven months pregnant. Of course, I ended up with all kinds of things in the basket, legitimately making it too heavy for me to sensibly carry, but still I forged on.

Even the bag of groceries I carried back to the car was obviously much too heavy, because I'd only brought one shopping bag with me and I refused to get a second plastic one. The drive back home was again extremely uncomfortable, reminding me of getting my period last October when I discovered I was no longer pregnant for the first time.

Back home, I only put away what groceries I absolutely had to and made it to the couch where I immediately laid down. Except it hurt more when I was on my back than when I was sitting in the car. Rolling over to my side, I found my breathing to be quite shallow and wondered not for the first time if this was what one element of labour would be like. As the pain subsided, I hoped this would be but a brief pregnancy phase.

Rob kept trying to encourage me to get things done regarding the baby room, and I kept insisting with my silence and stationary activity that wasn't going to happen. For the rest of Sunday, every time I sat up straight, I felt this pain mid abdomen and aching immediately flare up in my lower back to radiate higher and higher.

After as much TV as I could stand, a slow walk around the block, and several unsuccessful self diagnoses on the Internet, I finally went to bed. Everything seemed fine, except when I rolled over. The brief moment on my back produced an intense mid abdominal pain. During once such roll over, I got up and decided to walk around the house. After pacing back and forth for over 5 minutes, I tried another search on the Internet. But just as with the others, all I could discover was that menstrual like back pain or sudden onset back pain was not considered a good symptom, and mid abdomen pain was more difficult to diagnose--ranging anywhere from heart burn, to urinary tract infections. Not to mention that just sitting in the computer chair was causing me a tremendous amount of discomfort (say 7 out of 10 on the scale) which was taking longer and longer to ease off.

Still, I went back to bed. When I woke up in the morning to what seemed a worsening set of symptoms--taking special note of the level of intensity of discomfort while on my back, I decided to call Health Link. I thought perhaps they might refer me to my doctor, or a clinic, but they of course, referred me to the hospital. The nurse later said they always will--which should be reassuring except when it's coming from a nurse who is telling you to "keep this in mind" if/when you call Health Link.

So, after Rob got home from the gym at 6am, we trucked off to the hospital, me lying as prone with a pillow as possible in the passenger seat. Even though we were able to bypass emergency and go straight to the labour and delivery unit of Rockyview, we still ended up spending 17 hours there while the doctors practised due diligence in terms of ruling out a variety of the possible sources of my symptoms.

Many things were eliminated within the first four hours. But the final test was to be an ultrasound to make sure my placenta had not ruptured, which could be the source of that mid abdominal pain (which had lessened only to a small degree, but was still fully present when sitting and lying on my back). I was told around 2pm the ultrasound would not occur until after 4:30. Meanwhile, I had sent Rob to work as it didn't make sense for us to both sit around waiting for this final test--which didn't end up happening until 8:15 that night!

Cut to 11:30pm, where we finally decided we should leave the hospital (against medical advice we were told--which had always been an option). The people at the hospital had been very attentive in the beginning, and did periodically check in on me while I waited (very patiently, I might add) for the ultrasound, but we felt after 17 hours, there had to be a little more attention thrown our way.

When I told the resident I wanted to leave and just needed to know the risks, I also asked what the treatment would be if my placenta had ruptured--which I was told was TO DELIVER THE BABY. Riiiight. It was that kind of initial risk, which we hadn't even fully known, that kept me at the hospital for 17 hours to begin with. But the resident said she'd check with the doctor one final time and come back to advise us.

Lo and behold, the results of the ultrasound were able to be produced upon her return, and like all the other tests, were just fine. This was of course the best answer and clearly a relief; I did not need to find something wrong to feel justified in taking the precautions I had, however, I could not help but feel like an over reactive pregnant woman, or worse, a hypochondriac.

The pain was real.

The pain was getting worse.

I'm 31 weeks pregnant; I have to take abdominal pain seriously.

Still, I felt guilty.

Still, I second guessed--had I just rushed off to the hospital when I could have just assumed I was going through yet another uncomfortable phase in the pregnancy (even though the symptoms didn't seem to correspond with any typical phase)?

It's not like I wanted to spend 17 hours at the hospital, have 2 internal exams, have people fussing over the monitors that were placed on my belly which produced little charts to trace the baby's heart beat (for over 4 hours), and push a little button every time I felt the baby kick, all the while worrying about what was normal or enough.

Or not go to work for a second day because I was exhausted and still in discomfort from the original set of symptoms.

While I was waiting, I told Rob it was only time I was losing, and I felt the symptoms were serious enough not to ignore when I first went in, so how could that really change the longer I waited? How could I not make that decision again? The only thing was, contrary to all the symptoms, I was convinced my little baby was okay. I just wasn't convinced the symptoms were what they should be for this stage of the pregnancy.


I want this baby to stay in there as long as possible, of course.

I have to wonder though, how long will it take before I'll feel like I have my body back?

In future, I absolutely will make sure I'm not lifting anything too heavy. I'm just not sure what that always means, but the notion of "placental rupture" will run through my mind the next time I attempt anything out of the ordinary lifting-wise.

Sweet Baby, just take it easy on Mommy, will ya?

Saturday, July 03, 2010


Feeling freaked out. 31 weeks pregnant, 9 weeks to go.

9 weeks.

Baby's room is still not done. And between things I need to do to prepare for that, and everything going on at work--I'm overwhelmed. I don't know what anyone else's countdown to mat leave is like, but I'm entering what will be a very busy period between training my replacement, training a new advisor, getting everything I can into some kind of succession plan documented, oh, and two fee deadlines in the next 9 weeks. Keeping in mind I'm only working for the next 6, and in the next 4, I start reduced work days (which is a blessing, but it's not like those shorter days will be easy or breezy).

Maybe I should think about what I have left to do for the baby. Not in any particular order: clear room for painting, set up room after painting, birth plan, hospital bag, sign up for EI, buy stuff for breastfeeding/nursing.


And I can't even drink to procrastinate (like, the odd evening--not at 8 in the morning). : )

I know every single mom to be goes through some of this, but it does not make me feel any better. Just putting it all down makes me feel anxious.

Last night Rob and I listened to a parenting podcast, The Parent Experiment which featured a guest John Salley. I don't know much about John Salley, but the program was on nutrition and how what you're eating, you're feeding your kids, and how everything they learn they learn from you as the parents. Not an earth shattering notion, but he's a vegan so he doesn't drink milk, or eat eggs, and it was just freaking me out thinking about all the things we put into our bodies that are really lousy for us and how I now have to think about raising a healthy little being, so I can't be as cavalier.

A point of contention between my mom and I is her health. I believe that considering I did not choose to come into this world, she as my mother is obligated to be healthy to stick around for as long as I need her. A parent's job never ends, so she should choose to be healthier because I'm going to need her help my whole life. My mom is not healthy, and certainly does not role model a healthy lifestyle or choices.

It's all just a little much and too much to think about!

There's isn't even any bad reality TV I can sink my head into, or a shopping spree I can lose time over (cause I don't know the sex of the baby!--whine, whine).

Deep breath out.

Some people's lives just seem easier. Of course I had to immediately remind myself that to some people, my life seems easier.