Saturday, March 21, 2009

How to Accept Help when You're Pregnant: On Being Pregnant and Living Far from Family

Helping others during difficult times is not easy. I know there have been many times that I have offered to help when I knew a friend was going through a tough time. "Let me know if there is anything I can do to help." "You are in my thoughts." That type of sentiment. And it is always sincere and heartfelt. But whether they come from you or me, they are just words.

In the past when I have been going through a rough time, I didn't really need help. I needed words and supportive energy, but not actual help. With the nausea pregnancy sickness I have been enduring for the past few weeks, I need help. It may be one of first times I really needed help from others in my life. It may be the first time I don't feel able to handle a situation. But help isn't easy. It's hard figuring out how others can actually help and what is helpful.

(Here are the keys to HELP:)
I have found that the most important thing in asking for and obtaining REAL help is to be SPECIFIC. I need to be very specific in my requests. I also need to figure out, for myself, what I actually NEED. And then - this is hard, too - I need to LET GO of control and ALLOW others to do their job: to help.

It can be a process of trial and error. Some people will end up being more helpful than others...depending on my preferences and needs and their abilities to fulfill my preferences and needs (personalities definitely affect helpfulness). Sandy, as my wife, has been the greatest help. Naturally, she would be. She knows me and she knows what to do and she knows what I need. And she also happens to be the most practical and able person I have ever met (she could fix anything that needed fixing...she could do anything that needed to be done...she is one hundred times more practical and able than I will ever be). She helps.

But she also needs to go to work every day and cannot be with me to help all the time. The easiest thing would be to accept help from family members, but all of my biological family members (minus Darah) live thirteen hours away. Still, I have tried. My first response when I started feeling sick was to come up with various ways to get my mother to come to town for a couple of weeks to help me. I could pay her traveling costs and a the cost of child care! I had to get her to come here ASAP. However, while that was my first anxiety response, it didn't work. My mother and whole family - almost every time I spoke with them - tried to urge me to come to them (their reasoning: so they could help me and still lead their normal lives). Well, of course they wanted me to come there.

They want me to come there all the time. They want us to move there. They want to have Darah around. I understand their desire. But this isn't a time for a vacation. The reality is that I am sick and need help. And, really, how much "help" would it be for me to either have to fly with Darah while I am holding back the vomit or for me to make a thirteen hour drive in the car with her? And how much "help" would it really be for me to be stranded thirteen hours away from Sandy smack in the middle of the chaos of my family members and their busy lives? Since I am a high-stress (and I stress the high in high-stress) person, I don't always fit smoothly into my family's way of doing things. I tend to want to have a plan and to follow it.I also have less stamina, and need to have down time; whereas they all seem to do well with a busy schedule and unpredictability. I can get very stressed over small things. Right now is probably not the best time for me to put myself in a situation that could potentially be stressful for me - just being sick every day and having to take care of Darah is stressful enough. But I was feeling desperate there for a while, and so I gave my mom a couple of options - in one of the options, I would agree to stay with her for two weeks if she stayed with me for two weeks. Time passed, though, and my mother kept putting off coming.

Every time I talked to her, it seemed like she was only willing to stay for less and less time but that she wanted me to still hold up my end of the bargain and travel to stay in Buffalo. Once she was cutting it down so that she would only be here for a week and two days, I decided that the two week compromise would not work for me. It's true that my mother has engagements and that it would be difficult for her to leave. I knew that. I was asking her to sacrifice some of her time to help me because I really needed it. There is no one else that I would ask to make that sacrifice - only my mother. But it also had to be on her terms, and that complicated things. She doesn't like to fly on planes, so she had to figure out a way to drive. My father doesn't want her to drive alone. There are a million complications that keep coming up every time I think she is close to coming. I thought I could get her to stay for two and a half weeks and that she could come early this week but she informed me that two and a half weeks wouldn't work. She wants to drive with my Nana who cannot leave until the 29th because she has to go to a lunch in her honor the day before. I thought my mother was telling me the only reason she couldn't come earlier was because Nana could not so I told her "Please, just forget Nana then. I need your help. I would rather have you come earlier." And that's when I found out that Nana was just an excuse - my mom just does not feel she can be away for longer than twelve days. My father and brother are going to meet her and my Nana here for Easter, and then they will all drive home together. So then I was getting very frustrated because I didn't feel like I was getting straight answers from anyone.

And me -a somewhat controlling person, who would love a plan to cling to right now in the midst of this time in my life when I have very little control over my body and physical health, just wants a date and a plan. I finally got my Nana and my mom to agree on the 29th and that is the plan. Sure, I would LOVE it if they came earlier but I know that won't happen. I have a week ahead of me. You wouldn't think that would be a big deal, but for me it is. Every day is a big deal. Every day is a struggle. Help is on the way, but I wish help would arrive. The one thing that does strengthen me mentally is to know that I ALREADY have survived four weeks of the sickness. I am probably half way through. If I got through the first half, I can get through the second. With or without help. At least that is what I have to tell myself.

So, the all-consuming help that I am waiting for with my mother hasn't arrived yet. Sandy and I have been on our own with this for a few weeks. But not totally on our own. A few of our friends have been very helpful. Darah's bio-dad, Adam, and one of his partners (he's Polyamorous) have been coming over once or twice a week to feed Darah. Elisa is a professional and knows what she is doing and Adam assists her (he's great with wagon rides!). They come in and feed Darah, and it's very helpful. What is most helpful is that Elisa is confident in how to feed a baby. Most people aren't and would need me to walk them through it step by step - which wouldn't be helpful and would defeat the purpose. We have also had a friend and her daughter come for a visit once or twice - they fed and bathed Darah. And another friend came over to feed Darah lunch a couple of times. A couple of friends of ours (who are also Sandy's colleagues) have watched Darah for short and long periods over the weekends. And one friend of mine made us a dinner (Indian cuisine - lentil soup, curry, rice...). I couldn't eat it and couldn't stand to smell it, which made me feel sad, but it was a very nice gesture. Sandy and a friend of ours enjoyed it.

So, yes, there have been people who have fallen somewhere along the continuum of helpfulness in their attempts to help. And I am very grateful. It's been a positive experience for me, in the sense that I have had to let go of some control in the process of "being helped." That's good for me. And for Darah, too. She's been great - so friendly with others and such a friendly little person. I cannot wait until I feel well and can be the Mummy she needs me to be.

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