Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Reflection: Our Last Night- In memory of my sister Alberta

(Note:  This is a re-post from 3 years ago.  This year marks ten years since my sister's death.)
Seven years ago, I received the call that I did not want to receive.  My sister's doctor had called to give his condolences. 

This horrific news left a hole in my heart because I felt guilty for not staying with her the night before.  I thought if I had stayed with her I could have saved her. 

A year later, I composed this poem to reflect on that last night I had with my sister: 


Our Last Night (In memory of my sister Alberta)

As you laid in your pain

(that were hot iron spokes jabbing your joints).

I rubbed your kneecaps.
My warm touch could not surpass your discomfort.

My heart shattered into dull crystal shards.

There was a war inside of you. 
You cried out for your medication.

The morphine patches did not work.

You needed your shot of Demerol.

They shoot horses don’t they?  
Your usual neatly curled hair was disheveled.

The nurse suggested that I comb it.

I climbed into bed with you and knelt behind you.

I brushed and combed through your tarnished hair

and made a part down the middle; a bitter

sour smell rose up my nostrils.

It was a familiar odor

(the odor of my own hair when it needed washing).

You sat still as I cornrowed two Scarlet O’Hara plaits

on either side of your head.

The war had seemed to cease.  
When I was finished, I took my green ponytail holder from

my hair and married the two ends of your braids. You

handed me your favorite scarf
(the one imprinted with all of the countries’ flags).

I tied the scarf around your head.

You turned to me and smiled.

It was a smile that I had never seen before.

My eyes locked with yours and the crystal shards

fused with one another making my heart whole again.  
My medicine lasted a little while; then the war began again.

The nurse came into your room to administer your shot.

You told her where you wanted it.

She forcefully stabbed your right thigh.

You did not cry, but laid there with your eyes closed.

Waiting on relief.
I walked over to you and kissed your moist warm forehead.

I then sat down and opened up my book, “A Song Flung Up to Heaven.”
I peered over a page and heard your brown eyes say good-bye.

As I was writing this; I felt comfort in knowing that she no longer was in pain and I realized that God was the one to save her. 

RIP Big Sis.  Love & Miss you!
(Our Last Night appears in the book Wrapped up in Life with Omniscient Eyes)


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Reflection: Motherhood Memories


With my belly protruding and sweat running down my back, I boarded the sardined-packed E-train on 5th Avenue in New York City.  This was mid-July of 2006.  I was six months pregnant, but looked more like nine months.  I canvassed the train for an empty seat and there were none available. When we pulled out of the station, I held on tight to an empty space of a silver pole, stiffened my legs, and swayed in the direction of our destination.  Even though, I worked in an office and sat down all day, the weight of my first daughter made my legs wobbly.   A woman of Jamaican descent noticed me and offered her seat.  I was very grateful.  I sat down next to a man reading a newspaper and across from me was a man just staring into space.  I thought to myself, Chivalry is dead! I’m not old-fashioned but I do believe that someone— it doesn’t matter if you are male or female—should offer their seat to the elderly, disabled, a person with a young child, or an expectant mother.  This is the humane thing to do.  But instead of me griping about these men on my way home, I decided to enjoy the comfort of sitting down and rubbing my belly.  I still was in disbelief that I was pregnant.  A year prior, my left ovary was removed because a cyst mangled it so badly that there was no hope for survival. Before this, I thought I was barren because most women my age had their children when they were teenagers or twenty-something, and even in their early thirties.  But, I had just turned thirty-eight and was experiencing the pregnancy of my first child.  I felt a little long in the tooth for this new role, and lost. 

Three months later, when I had my daughter via emergency C-section because I did not dilate (the 10-week Lamaze class was a complete waste) I felt even more lost.  I couldn’t get the most natural thing a mother could do for her baby—breastfeed—right.  During my pregnancy, I schooled myself by reading The Complete Book of Breastfeeding.   I thought I was doing everything right but my daughter still refused to nurse.  When I left the hospital, I was so engorged that I looked like I had two torpedoes in my bra. I thought the problem was that my daughter was not latched on properly and I also blamed the nurses because I felt that they were too quick to give my daughter the bottle when I was so adamant about breastfeeding.  A couple of days later, when I went back to the hospital for my daughter’s first check up, I requested to see the Lactation Nurse to get to the bottom of this.  The Lactation Nurse confirmed that my daughter was latched on correctly, but it looked like she was drinking the milk begrudgingly.  My poor baby was probably intimidated by my weapons of mass destruction.  I decided not to traumatize her any longer and started expressing my milk.   Well, expressing lasted about a month and a half because I was so drained (no pun intended) and stressed about my new role as a mom and my impending move from my one-bedroom apartment in the inner-city to a house in suburbia, that I didn’t pump every two hours like I was supposed to.  So, I dried up like day old Munchkins. 

After squeezing what little milk I had and mixing it with Enfamil—I deemed myself a bad mother.  I reached out for help from people around me, who had children, but they were all from the “Old School.”  They couldn’t understand why when my daughter was born she had to sleep on her back and not her stomach to avoid the risk of SIDS or that a baby had to wait until they were four months old before they ate solids— instead of calming a colicky baby with a little bit of rice cereal in their formula.  I had to admit after several weeks of rocking my daughter to sleep in the rocker and suffering from sleep deprivation—I did succumb to giving her a little cereal.  She didn’t catch on too well and started to choke.  I felt guilty and regressed back to rocking her to sleep.

With little sleep, running back and forth to the pediatrician for Well visits, and my decision to be a stay-at-home mom—I semi-adjusted to motherhood a little over a year.  During this time, I took a break from writing, reading (except children’s books), and anything else that wasn’t associated with being a good mother.  I thought I finally had this mother thing down but there is always a loop hole in everything—I was pregnant again!  I thought, I’m going to have to start this whole thing all over again.  My first pregnancy was full of nausea, carpal tunnel, and excess weight (I gained around sixty pounds with my first daughter).  I thought about another C-section and the recovery time.  I wasn’t too happy about this, but, as my pregnancy progressed I felt the comfort in my youngest daughter’s aggressive kicks.  I read in What to Expect When You’re Expecting about the powerful kicks one feels.  When I was pregnant the first time, I was worried that there was something wrong because my first daughter  didn’t kick me (only punched a little).  But, I realized that my first daughter was more of a Muhammad Ali while  my second daughter was a Jet Li.  I also elected to have another C-section —in fear that I would not dilate this time either; plus I heard horror stories about being ripped from a natural child birth.  To me, having a straight incision was better than having a jagged rip.

As the months passed, it was difficult taking care of two very small children:  my elder daughter was still not walking, while my younger had an issue with spitting up and was on an every two hour nursing schedule.  I had to run to Gastroenteritis to make sure she did not have a digestive problem, which she didn’t.  Yes, my youngest took to nursing the moment she was born and didn’t want to stop. I tried to wean her off after the mandatory year but she lingered on until she was almost eighteen months (she knew her time was up because every time she nursed, I heard a devilish giggle and saw the sly grin of the Cheshire cat).   What saved me from being permanently named Elsie, the cow, was that I needed to have some dental work done.  So, I worked hard trying to wean her off.  After about three months, I finally weaned her down to two feedings—morning and night.  When I finally cut her off completely, she took her sippy cup and went about her business.

Now my daughters are two and a half and forty-one months.  I watch them play, fight, and talk to one another.  My elder daughter is playing the role of the bossy big sister with a mind of her own (she prefers to poopy in her pull-up training pants instead of the toilet).   Meanwhile my younger daughter can be the sweet momma’s girl (caressing my face as she did when she was nursing) or she can be the queen of, I’m not!—meaning she’s not going to say sorry when she hits her sister or she’s not going to stop doing something that she is not suppose to do.

But, as they quickly turn into my big girls, I can’t help but remember those times when we were one. Those times when we shared everything. Those times that I will miss. Those times that I can never get back—unless…
(First published on the Spartan Opinion}
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