I got up at 430 this morning.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
What happened is that Nathan woke me up at 430 this morning, and I promptly replied with a “No, thank you.”
It would be funny if waking up so early weren’t so painful!
I had to trek with the teenager to Oklahoma City, which was actually amazing one on one time, and get her back to her new place in time for me to see patients in Owasso before getting back to Bartlesville to see patients and tell them that I will be on medical leave.
Speaking of medical leave, I officially got the answer back about how much PTO that I have right now, and found out today that my office will give me 9 days of PTO, and everything else will be unpaid.
My doctor says I will need six weeks off to start chemo if it’s the pill kind, and more if I have to do a port and heavy-duty chemo.
It is all my fault, for I am the one that has chosen to use up my PTO in the last year, but only the Israel trip two Februarys-ago was vacation, and the one the year before that. We did not go this year, and have not taken other vacation time. The rest has been court dates for kids, but with 26 kids in less than a year, that’s a lot of court dates. My illnesses and surgeries before that have kept me low for starting out from scratch every year, so that’s the best I can do.
Oh, yeah, and we got married. But I only took five days for that!
They said that after those nine days, any time off will be unpaid.
I don’t know what to do about that. I got some book reviews from Deseret and did those the other night when I couldn’t sleep, but that won’t make up my salary. I also don’t know how that affects my insurance benefits, if I am not working enough to pay my percentage of my insurance. I don’t guess there is anything I can do about it.
I see patients for the church just one time a week, and I am having to stop that all together for now, which means we are losing that tiny additional income as well.
That’s part of my job: if you aren’t seeing patients, you don’t get paid. It just is.
After work, I got news that they were picking up 11 and the baby tonight, to send them on to their next stop. This was in the works anyway, but cancer sped up the process and made it happen now. The kids were excited, and I took them out to eat to celebrate, and made sure it was about the family being reunited and not about my cancer.
After dinner, I took the kids over to Nathan’s parents for them to get to say goodbye, and abandoned the whole lot of them over there while I brought just the baby home for some alone time to say goodbye. It was hard. I cried. But what a miracle, to have known her for a tiny bit of time, and maybe helped in some tiny way we will never know. I can pretend, right? And what a miracle that after all those miscarriages, we would get the experience of bringing a newborn home from the hospital, middle of the night feedings, the umbilical cord experience, tiny little clothes, bottles and burping and diapers galore, and even sleep-deprived hallucinations! I am so grateful to her, for that little taste of normal, and for her sweet smile, and for her tenacity to survive so much in such a short bit of time. I cried and I kissed her, and I fed her one more time and rocked her one more time, and then I sent her away.
I know the crying was about more than that baby. I know it was about miscarriages, and hysterectomies, and cancer. I know it is about wondering how to provide for my family, how to start from such an exhausted state and conquer such an ugly disease, and how to ever find a new normal again. I know it was about getting to keep five and the toddler, but not yet knowing for sure, and being unable to bear the thought of one day having to pack up their things and send them away.
Fostering is really, really hard, especially the saying goodbye part.
Know what else is really hard? Parenting! Me and Nathan (Nathan and I) are terrible parents! We don’t mean to be, and we try hard, but oh my! Now we understand in new ways, after the experiences of the last year, why families are a required part of the plan. Parenting shines light on shadows in your soul that you never even knew were there until some child drags it out of you, and what shame and frustration that feels like! Nothing has been so refining, so challenging, or so shocking as our parenting experiences and behaviors in the last year.
Maybe that’s part of what this is about, realizing we have been running faster than we have strength, and just settling at two for awhile.
Maybe these two kiddos need that as much as we do, at least for a while.
It was strange, then, after the caseworker loaded up the kids and their bags of things, and pulled out of the driveway, to come in to an empty and quiet house. My nieces are gone, the teenager is gone, the tweenager is gone, and the baby is gone. All that was left was five, who had gotten ready for bed on his own, and the toddler, who was already changed and in her bed, too.
I just stood there, listening.
I heard the ticking of a clock for the first time in months and ages.
And then I started tearing down the streamers and balloons still up in the dining room, left from the toddler’s birthday and then kept up for the teenager’s birthday. Suddenly they didn’t belong anymore, not just because it was not a birthday, or because I was sad, but because I was starving for normal.
Also, it’s one thing to be ready to fight cancer, and another thing all together to invite it to a party.
There will be no cancer party.
So I took the balloons down, and threw the whole mess away.
And that’s when I got on a roll.
I came back to our room, and swept it clean of baby stuff. I packed up all the baby clothes, and moved out the swing and the bouncy seat and the bassinet. I loaded up shoes and gloves and hats and blankets and burp rags. I took the empty bottles to the kitchen, and looked for pacifiers the way kids look for Easter eggs. I took out the trash, and then cleaned this corner, and then that corner, and then over here, and then over there, and then dusted, and then made Nathan move this and move that and then vacuum.
And then I sat down in my chair to type, because there was no baby to rock to sleep, and because this is my grown-up room. There are no babies in here. I could not bear for it to be full of baby things but no baby. It was better for it all to just be done.
And so our room is the first to be reclaimed, for the first time since moving, since our room always mattered the least.
Next – and not today – will be the girls room, which is a disaster of rejected clothes, scattered colored pencils, and snack trash. How can girls be so messy? That room is disgusting! I will tackle it another day, and then their bathroom, which I cannot today even bear to look and see how bad it is. How can girls be so gross?!
The living room will be next, since we got the teenager’s couch moved to her apartment, and then taking the extra baby bed down in the office and putting the treadmill back in there.
And then, after all that, the usual cleaning.
So that when I go into surgery, we will at least be starting out with a clean house.
Later, someday, if the toddler is really going to be here long term, I will decorate her room. I don’t think, though, that my heart dares to deign to even try just yet, though. I don’t think I will believe they are here to stay until the gavel goes down, and my heart doesn’t have any more tickets for roller coasters.
In the meantime, what was accomplished today was all my work that I needed to do, saying goodbye to the other foster kids, and reclaiming our bedroom as our space following the baby invasion. That’s way more than I did in the last three days put together, I think, so I feel good about that, and productive. I hope it was not too much to knock out tomorrow, especially without any extra PTO, and because I really need the entire day each day this week to work and make sure all my patients are taken care of and know what is happening so that I can focus on surgery, or, really, recovery.
Because recovery is what all of this is about, I am sure of it.
Kudos to Nathan tonight, for helping me clean like a crazy person without shaming me or stopping me, and for understanding that “working hard is your coping skill, Emily, and so you need to work as much as you really feel able to do so”. The truth is that I really couldn’t do so much as I do without him, and he was very sweet and patient tonight while I had my grieving spell and avoiding-cancer spell.
He was properly rewarded, though, because Sister Bristol brought him gluten free pie!
I was asked at church on Sunday about how to cook gluten free, so the sisters could make us food. It’s really easy: just leave out the bread (or wheat). You don’t have to look up fancy recipes that use fancy replacement flours. If you want to make lasagna or spaghetti or other pasta, use gluten free noodles (cheapest at Braum’s). But lots of things that I love don’t have to have wheat in them anyway: taco soup, meatloaf, chicken, fish, salads. It doesn’t have to be hard, so don’t let someone tell you it’s complicated.
I just get hives, and think regular chocolate chip cookies are worth the hives, and everyone else being bad allergic just means I don’t have to share. I’m okay with that.
Today, though, was not a good food day. I ate a decent breakfast with the teenager on the drive, getting down some egg and avocado, but couldn’t get down any lunch and poked at my supper. I have been intensely thirsty, though, and guzzling down all the water I can handle. I am excited to sleep all night tonight, and see how that feels better tomorrow – even without cancer in the equation!
I am also kind of excited, for a little while, to see what life is like with just the four of us. It’s like a practice run at being a little family, and I am interested to see how things go with just five and the toddler. Our best respite for now is that both of them are little, which means they are asleep by seven, which gives us down time together in the evenings that we haven’t had with teenagers and screaming babies. Or screaming teenagers and babies. It will be a fascinating experience, this next part of our journey!
Even if we aren’t throwing a cancer party.
Because it wasn’t invited, that’s why.