On death

May. 5th, 2015 10:18 pm
illusionofjoy: (Default)
“Daddy, when is Cherry coming home?” asked Madeline as she was brushing her teeth yesterday evening.

“Sweetie…Cherry isn’t coming home,” I told my oldest daughter.  Her four year old mind processed this for a moment before she finally said, “that’s right.  I forgot.”

A couple of hours prior to that exchange, True and I were at the local veterinary clinic, the place from which Cherry, a Chihuahua nearly thirteen years old, would not be returning.  I had gotten the message during my lunch break at work; Cherry, whose health had been deteriorating, had suffered a prolapsed rectum.  I left work early since there was no point in leaving the dog to face several hours of suffering due to my usual work schedule.

Years ago I researched the price of an abortion, mostly out of curiosity and the fear of condom breakage.  Yesterday I learned that it costs the same amount of money to have an abortion as it does to euthanize a small dog.  In both cases, I can see death as nothing less than a merciful release.

I am pro-euthanasia.  I have decided that should I become useless to this world, a vegetable merely taking up space on a hospital bed and possibly screaming inside, I want it all to end.  I want to live, not merely be alive, a pile of organs just going through the motions, most likely prodded along by excessive technology.  I don’t want my children seeing me rotting alive and devoid of lucidity; I don’t want their final memory of me to be my final memory of my father.

That was 25 years ago today.

I was nine years old when my father died, meaning that he has been dead for the majority of my life – a tipping point which occurred somewhere between my 18th and 19th birthdays.  Madeline said to me tonight that Grandma lives in New York, but that one of the neighbours was Grandpa.

“No,” I corrected her, “your grandfather died before you were born.  The neighbour isn’t Grandpa.”

“Oh,” she said, “I don’t have a Grandpa?”

“No, Madeline, you don’t.”

“But I still have a Grandma?”

“Yes, Sweetie, you still have a grandmother – and she loves you very much.”

The memories are fuzzy, as are the family photos, albeit slightly less so.  I grew up in the age prior to digital photography, so either out of my head or out of the photo album, the past has an imperfect soft-focus aura about it and always seems to need a bit of colour correction.  I don’t remember much about my father, though the photos reveal that my younger brother inherited his face while I inherited my mother’s face (which looks way better on my daughter Amélie than it ever did on me).  It seems that my youngest brother was the lucky one, getting the perfect genetic blend of both of our parents.

Over the quarter century, the pain of Saturday, May 5th, 1990 has faded into something resembling insignificance.  I note the date and I note the time which has passed and I note how insignificant this day is to most people not celebrating Cinco de Mayo.   My daughters are too young really understand what is going on – be it a grandfather they never knew or a dog their father bitched about on more than one occasion.  Someday they will though…someday we all do.
illusionofjoy: (Default)

One would think that I would have written about an event which happened seven weeks ago...well, seven weeks ago. That's just not how I roll though. And really, this shouldn't have been happening the first week of July. The midwives and doctors told us that this was going to be occurring in the middle of last week. Specifically, they gave us a due date of August 15th. Instead, my daughter Amélie finds her birthday on July 6th.

In hindsight, I don't know why True and I bothered to write up a birth plan for this baby. Pretty much anything we'd put down on paper we were forced to discard in light of what transpired. The chorus calls out that the only thing which matters is that we have a healthy baby - and I am grateful and relieved on that front - however, I can't help but feel that we were somewhat cheated this time around.

It's mostly a blur now - and it was mostly a blur seven weeks ago too. I didn't have the presence of mind to take notes. The first sign of trouble began in the evening on Thursday, July 5th. True, who rarely even complains of not feeling well, was complaining that she didn't feel well. She said she needed to go to the hospital, so we called our friend Angela who graciously agreed to watch Madeline while True and I went there.

It didn't take long after admitting True for the obstetricians to diagnose her with preeclampsia. For that, there is only one cure: removal of the fetus. As the baby was 35 weeks developed, she would be premature, but developed enough to be viable on the outside. As such, the obstetrics team went forward with inducing True into labour.

When the birth plan had been drafted, we were expecting a normal delivery devoid of complications. The idea was that the baby was going to be delivered vaginally, the umbilical cord cut and then she (or he - we still didn't know the sex at the time) was to be placed on True's chest so she could attempt to breast feed. Originally we had planned to have True give birth with the aid of midwives, rather than treat pregnancy as a medical condition in need of "treatment." Unfortunately - or perhaps, rather fortunately, all things considered - the midwives at the sole independent midwife center in Pittsburgh betrayed an anti-fat bias and refused to take True, claiming against the evidence that she was "high risk." As such, True transferred her care to the midwives at Magee-Womens Hospital. No midwives would be involved in Amélie's birth; their role became relegated to "emotional support."

By late afternoon of Friday, July 6th, True and I had been playing the waiting game for around 24 hours. I had called off from work in order to be with her. What else could or should I have done?

I don't remember exactly how events unfolded the evening of Amélie's birth. When one is in the hospital, doctors and nurses are constantly going in and out. To me, the solid colours of their scrubs and uniforms had started to look like the quick and casual smears of a child's finger painting. I do remember that a swarm of them all seemed to descend at once. Then True was being told to push. There was a fetal monitor threaded into her vagina which apparently was attached to the baby's head. "That has to be terribly uncomfortable for all involved," I remembered thinking. Not even born yet and already being jabbed and poked at. Then there was True with a wire emerging from her nether region, a requirement for the modern birthing process so that the machine which goes "ping," could still do so - that means your baby is still alive.

Then True wasn't being told to push. I thought I heard someone say something about the baby's heart rate dropping when True pushed - but nobody was saying anything to me. "Alright, we have to do a C-section," one member of the obstetrics team called out, moving over to True's belly to create an invisible precursory map determining where to cut. I was watching this in an utter fog. A cesarean section? This was not what we wanted. This was not in the plan. But it was full speed ahead and I stood there dumbfounded, mouth certainly agape as True was wheeled out and the entire obstetrics team cleared the room in short order. I was standing stunned in an empty room - a delivery room which suddenly wasn't any more.

I think I was well on the way towards going on autopilot for the rest of the night. It felt like it took forever until someone actually spoke to me and told me what was going on. True was in an operating room where there were going to perform a cesarean section. I could still watch the birth of the baby. First, I had to put on one of those silly-looking sterile paper suits. - face mask, elastic hat and all. I was led into the operating room. They were already cutting into True's belly - I averted my gaze above the horizon of her flesh. I wanted to see a newborn baby, not the mother of that baby being cut open. This was all just wrong - babies weren't supposed to come out of the abdomen - they were supposed to be delivered vaginally. Didn't these doctors know anything about basic biology and reproduction?

I wouldn't be a witness in the operating room for very long. I heard one of the surgeons call out, "uterine rupture!" At that point, I was quickly escorted to the hallway.

And at that point time ceased to exist…not in a normal flow. I was still sitting in that hallway when Amélie was wheeled out of the operating room in an incubator. They stopped in front of me and said, "it's a girl." I was allowed to touch her briefly before she continued on her journey to the natal intensive care unit.

I wouldn't see True again until 4:00AM - Saturday, July 7th, technically. In the time between the emergency cesarean section being declared and that point, I just recall a fog punctuated by phone calls and/or text messages to update family and friends with as much information as I had as it came to me excruciatingly slowly. In seeing Amélie, my initial terror that I'd possibly lost half of my family had reformed into the terror that I could possibly be a single parent to two little girls who'd never really get to know their mother and end up resenting their father for being a woefully inadequate substitute. However, at 4:00AM I found myself setting up camp on the sofa next to True's bed in her room in the intensive care unit.

What had happened was that True's uterus had indeed ruptured during her attempt at delivering Amélie vaginally. When the surgeons opened her up during the cesarean, they found the baby resting in True's abdominal cavity. Apparently we were lucky, as in most cases where the uterus ruptures either the mother or the baby end up dying. As best as I can gather, the way True's uterus ruptured was akin to a rubber band being snapped inside of her body: her bladder was split open by the force. Ultimately they were able to call in specialists to fully repair her bladder and urinary system, however her uterus was beyond repair and a hysterectomy was performed. As a consolation, she got to keep her ovaries, so she won't be going through a ridiculously premature menopause. Ever optimistic, one of the first things she told me once her breathing tube was out was that she'd never have a period again.

I can't begrudge her that tiny silver lining. Though, despite not planning on any more children, I feel somewhat sad when potential and possibility are removed - especially in such a dramatically violent manner. And I'm unconvinced by the explanation that her uterus spontaneously ruptured. Something caused it, now just tell me what.

True was discharged from the hospital about two weeks before Amélie. In that time, my mother came down from New York to help out and between her and Angela, our burden was eased. True is still healing from the surgery. While her bladder is back to being fully functional, she's had a hole in her belly for nearly two months which has to be packed with gauze and taped up so it heals from the inside-out. A couple of weeks back it became infected, so she had to go back into surgery for a day so that the doctors could clean it out and start it back healing again. At this point she's been told that the wound looks really healthy and if this trend holds, she should be fully healed within six weeks - especially now that her nurses have replaced manual packing with a wound vacuum.

I hope they are right. It's been an uphill battle to restore a sense of normalcy to our lives and I see this as the final hurdle. I don't dare imagine what it is like to be True through all of this - she's strong...and stubborn.

This, I think, best sums up her disposition: "someday Amélie is going to ask about her birth and I will tell her that she burst out of my belly like the Kool-Aide Man. OH YEAH!"

illusionofjoy: (Default)

It constantly amazes me how much I can accomplish when I don't have a job sucking up all of my time. I really don't want to go back to work ever again - not, mind you, that there is any risk of that happening any time soon. The job market sucks; I doubt I'll have the option of going back to work again unless I hone my skill saying, "you want fries with that?" The way things are, I should probably be down occupying Wall Street, save for the fact that I have an aversion to sleeping outside sans a daily shower for extended periods of time.

Also, True and Madeline would start to miss me...I think.

I finally came to a decision regarding cashing out my pension from my former employer. In the end, it came down to this: we needed the money now, not forty years down the road. So, I cashed it out and wrote a letter to Pennsylvania's Unemployment Compensation Office informing them that I did so (as required by state and federal laws).

According to the UC handbook and the website, my action should not adversely affect my compensation benefits. The pension in question was one that I had paid into and I took it all as a lump sum, not having the option to cash it out in instalments or partial payments. All of the above conditions should exempt me from finding my compensation reduced or worse, terminated.

I can't say that I trust those running the show at the UC offices, however. I wrote my letter detailing everything I could about my actions - crossing all of the Ts and dotting all of the Is as it were. I told them to call me if they needed more information. I did end up receiving a phone call from their office, but I was unable to answer it because I was driving at the time. True ended up answering my cell phone for me and she told whomever was on the other end of the line that I couldn't talk at the moment - driving and cell phone conversations don't mix.

The next day I receive a letter in the mail from UC. They want me to fill out a survey telling them the same information about my pension which I'd already outlined in the letter which I'd written to them previously. I'm irritated by this, but I figure that it is nothing more than bureaucracy inaction. However, the final section of the survey struck me as odd: at the bottom of the final page it said, "statement taken from claimant by phone" followed by the date they had called me. I put the completed survey in an envelope addressed to my local UC office along with a letter which noted that there was no possible way a statement could have been taken from me as no one had spoken to me on the phone before I'd received their survey.

I confess: I am worried about losing my unemployment compensation. By all rights, I really shouldn't but I can't say I have a great deal of confidence in those working at the UC office. If this is their twisted way of trying to encourage people to get back into the workforce, I say that it is sick and counterproductive. Stress doesn't motivate people; it leads them to an early grave. At this juncture, if my compensation is terminated, I am going to acquire an attorney. I'll fight this to the bitter end. It's not like I don't have the time - I'm unemployed.

So, what have I been doing with my time when I'm not battling bureaucracy or sighing in disappointment at the local job postings? Well, I've been busy trying to get people to pay attention to my new CD. It's awesome - seriously. Would I lie to you about such a thing? No, I wouldn't.

Alternately, True and I have been working on turning our living space into an actual home. This has involved a lot of cleaning, a bit of decorating and some furniture assembly. Let's face facts: stacking the baby's clothes on top of our dresser wasn't going to cut it forever.

In addition to juggling my home life with my music, I also decided to try my hand at producing someone else's creative endeavours. For the first time in my life, I not only recorded someone else's performance, but went outside of my expected genres and laid down a hip hop track. I'm actually confident I'll be writing more about it later as the initial studio session was quite auspicious.

Eventually I'd like to record more people; use the experience I've gained from producing my own albums all of these years and help other musicians get something polished onto a shiny disc or download. Maybe someday people will actually pay me to do it...now that would be a nice job.


illusionofjoy: (Default)
Seth Warren

May 2017

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