Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Mixed Emotions - on my Mom's passing

I've written a lot about my mom and her journey with Alzheimer's, and the slow progression towards the end. As of May 27th, she has passed away. In the week leading up to her passing, we were told it was probably the end. It didn't feel very real though - over the past 4 years, we've been told that at least once a year. I made sure we went in another time to see her though - we'd gone in the week before to introduce her to the twins. I went in with just my Dad and the twins this time and we had a nice peaceful visit - I got some sweet pics of my Mom with the twins. Then Paul and the girls came by for 10 minutes, we grabbed a final family photo and the girls got to have a goodbye moment with her. Well really, we got to have a goodbye moment, they didn't really understand but we got to see them together for a final time. I'm so glad we got to have that visit, and capture it to remember. Before introducing the twins to mom the week before, I hadn't seen my mom since late February before I went on modified bedrest. I'm so glad I was able to visit her before that and have a Mothers Day moment the week before also with her. While we had our final visit a few different staff members came by to see the twins and say goodbye to mom - some of them burst into tears and then were so apologetic about it. But honestly, we didn't mind comforting them - it was sweet to see how much they'd cared about her and how much of an impact she'd made despite being so out of it with her illness. 





Anyways, it was a strange space - thinking she may pass but also not feeling like it was real since we'd been told that before. But as the week went on it began to feel more real. Family and friends stopped by to see her. Finally Saturday the nursing staff said there were some physical developments that indicated she wouldn't last more than a day. My Dad spent the night her last night with her, as he'd always anticipated. Just the two of them and the long last night. The staff had found a chair that turned into a bed so he got a bit of sleep, waking regularly to check in on her. At 6am he was hungry and was going to pop out to get breakfast - before he left he said to her, "don't go anywhere until I get back." He returned at 6:30am and she was still there, though her breathing had changed. At 7:25am she took her last breath with her husband by her side and went to her Father in heaven. My Dad called me to share the news, then my sister. We made plans to head into her residence to all be together after I picked my aunt (my mom's sister) up from the ferry. 

The night was strange for me - the twins slept in hour increments and if they slept longer than that then, one of their older sisters would invariably wake up. When the phone rang with the news, Paul was asleep in the twins room since he'd taken a previous shift with the babies and let me sleep for a couple hours. I missed the call because I was in with the older two getting them dressed. I called Dad back immediately, heard the news, woke up Paul and prepared for the day. We were weary with tiredness but also calm and relieved that mom's suffering was over. As soon as I had a moment I emailed our night nanny and called for reinforcements for that night. I don't think I could have stood the emotions of the day without knowing that that night I would sleep. 

My auntie Lesley and I arrived at Yaletown house at 10:00am. My Mom's body was there in the bed, just as it's been so many other times, but her spirit was gone. Did it feel different than sitting with her any other time? Not really. She had been gone to me for so long that her actually being gone didn't feel any different. I thought it might but, there you have it. The four of us sat around my Mom's bed and talked. We laughed, we told stories. I pumped. It was the full circle of life - the passing of life, the producing of milk for new babies, the relationship between husband, sister, daughters. Both of my mom's companions came to say goodbye - the gathering of things left to entertain her and the saying of goodbye. The tears shed by her friends there were beautiful and that is when we shed our tears - as we watched these women say goodbye to my mom. To this version of my Mom. It was so moving. 

I found this photo of Avelynn's first christmas amongst Mom's things.

At a Celebration of Life in Yaletown House for Mom and one other

Dad sharing

Jenna and I laboured over how to post to facebook about Mom's passing. At first, it seemed silly to care so much about this. Then it hit us that the Facebook post is our generations obituaries. We learn about our news from Social Media, more than the newspapers and this was our way of documenting her passing so that others could grieve, could mourn and could plan to celebrate her with us. We picked our pictures, we chose our words, and in tandem, we made our posts. 


After her room was cleaned we went our separate ways before church - home to deal with toddlers and babies, to pump and feed and dress kids for church. I was so flustered leaving for church that I forgot the twins diaper bags, complete with fresh pumped milk and bottles. Thankfully I had pumped on the drive to church so I was able to run to the nearby Rexall grabbing diapers, wipes, and bottles and was only 10 minutes late with enough food pumped for both babies. After church, we left the toddlers at home for bedtime with our wonderful student Xiao, and we joined our family for a dessert tea honouring my Mom at my Aunt's. It was elegant and special. And then we headed home, where the night nanny was cleaning the house and our kids were asleep. We handed over the twins and slept, hard. As I slept my heart was healing, and that night especially it was worth every penny for our night nanny. 





I'm working on pulling together the details of my mom's two Celebrations of Life - it's not sad because it is closure. I'm thankful for the opportunity to honor my mom this way and to love my Dad by being in charge of the details. I am also overwhelmed at times and frustrated at the timing of it all. Why all this extra work and emotion right now? Newborn twins and toddlers at home. A possible house move with no new home in mind yet. Postpartum emotions and grief, mingled. The desperate need to nap, and the timeline that death brings. At times it's all a bit much. At other times my heart is so full from the love and support that so many have offered. We're happy and healthy and I get to spend every day with my family - I love that Paul is home with us until September. I'm so aware of the balance of these two extremes - grief and death in contrast with new life and little kids. Planning a memorial service with two sweet babies curled up at my feet. Talking over gravestones and last wishes while toddlers tear around laughing and giggling and fighting. There's another tension too - one moment the house is calm with just the newborns asleep on me, calm and happy. The next, newborn crying times two.

Edited to Add, after the Celebrations


I’m headed home on the ferry after the second of Moms Celebrations of Life’s (which was the third memorial type service for her). It’s been such an interesting past 5 weeks. Really its been an interesting past 2 months. I was induced with the twins on April 30th - the same day we received an eviction notice! I gave birth on May 1st (our 8 year wedding anniversary) thinking that we had 2 months to move (our family of 6, with newborn twins, and 3 students!). It was laughably ridiculous. We spent that first postpartum week filling in forms and timelines to dispute our eviction since we believed that the landlords were not acting in good faith and were trying to skirt the law. We gained an extra month by disputing, and we really believed we were to fight for justice since we are pretty sure the rental agency has acted this way in the past. I wanted to nap (after being up all night with Paul feeding the twins, and then participating in family life in the day) but instead, we were doing paperwork and attending house viewings (with the twins in tow). So that was ‘special’. My body felt slow to recover as we trekked from house to house. I needed sleep and rest and those felt hard to come by. Somehow in all of that having two toddlers and then newborn twins seemed like the least of my concerns. Which is ludicrous in itself.

I recall one crazy morning in the first week - we were trying to get out the door for a viewing. The house wasn’t in an area I wanted and would have been tight but its the Vancouver rental market and we didn’t feel like we could rule anything out until we saw it. My body was in so much pain and I was feeling all the postpartum weight feels. The kids were shriekier than normal and the twins needed to eat and so did I. I was starving and had eggs in front of me but every time I started to eat something or someone needed me. I couldn’t help but cry - attempting to eat my eggs with tears streaming down my face. Thankfully my husband is sweet, and my mother in law was kind, but it was quite a low moment.

Then there were other mornings, where the twins were sleeping blissfully on me and I had nothing to do but enjoy this last period of newborn bliss. The toddlers were being occupied by their wonderful GiGi (Pauls mom) and the sun was shining. We ate healthy food that was cooked just for us and the world felt pretty ok. This period has been such a crazy pendulum of crazy hard and crazy wonderful.

The twins turned two weeks and it was Mother’s Day. Trying to navigate the emotions of that Holiday - who is it for? Me as the young mom in the trenches? Or my Mom, as the legacy mom? Ultimately I didn’t feel comfortable bringing the twins to the nursing home until they were at least 2 weeks old (they were a few days shy) so I decided we would celebrate her that coming Thursday on our weekly visit and that the gift would be resuming the visits sooner than I really felt up for. It’s a lot of work to get the whole crew downtown to see her and life was a big hectic. Getting to this decision though was a real whirlwind of emotions and tears - guilt and grace battled. People kept telling me as a mom with new babies to give myself grace and make sure to rest. But people also wanted me to see my sick mom on Mother’s Day, which always had the potential to be her last (and in retrospect, we know now that it was). Who do I listen to? It can't just be about me, but it can't just be about her. It felt like too much. I was trying to get out the door for a birthday dinner for my sister but Paul and I were talking about this and it was super emotional - finally later than I needed to leave I hoped in a taxi with the issue somewhat resolved between us. As the taxi made its way across town, I pumped. I was emotionally drained but really excited to get out for dinner with a bunch of girlfriends at a favourite restaurant (Bier Craft on Cambie) to celebrate my sister...all without any kids! Not even the twins! I loved being out and feeling like a full free adult. I also had a bottle of breast milk in my pockets and the least flattering undergarments on complete with hospital undies and pads. Again, such extremes. I was so thankful that my babies were able to take bottles so I could have moments like that for my sanity - at that point, I was still trying to breastfeed also but it wasn’t very successful.

Days later we ventured downtown to see my Mom - we spent an hour or so with her and Dad, the two older girls, the twins, and me and Paul. The twins were a big hit - so many staff members came over to meet them. Yaletown house is like an extended family for us - between Jenna and I, we have had 4 pregnancies since Mom has been in, with 5 babies being born during that time. The twins were great, and Avie was so proud to show off her babies. I couldn’t tell you if Mom knew what was happening - but I know it meant a lot to Dad and I felt good about being there.

One of the staff members there had had twins and gave me great advice, that it was worth it to spend money on help for the twins. She said that this was the time to use any savings - that you could earn money later but you couldn’t regain your sanity. I loved it. So when the twins were two weeks old we planned for a night nanny to being 3 nights a week. We had help until they were 12 days old and on the 14th day Diana came - and boy, was she worth every single spendy penny. She took care of the twins from 9pm to 5am - and I slept hard. I got up once the first and second nights to pump but the third night I accidentally slept through and continued that after then. We had planned to have her for 3 weeks. I credit her with a great portion of what sanity I had. By the third night each week you would begin to wonder if you needed her - we felt great. Then the first night without her would happen and oh my, we knew we needed her! Not only did she take care of the twins but she would tidy the whole main part of the house, do laundry, wash dishes, etc. If you have young kids you know how messy they can make a house and it was such a blessing, almost equal to the sleep. We also started having a mothers helper 3 mornings a week - a college-aged girl from church. This was a huge help! This meant that we could either get stuff done or nap. So so so helpful. Plus she is just lovely to be around and the girls love her.


I should probably note that we've found a home! Details to come soon but as we move in 11 days and are packing and dealing with kids, so its a little bit hectic....as per always. Though the relief is palpable to no longer be worried about where we will live - we have a house, the Celebrations of Life are over, and the arbitration with our current landlords in their illegal eviction of us is settled. We feel thankful and at peace, if slightly overwhelmed with the move! I feel this post is disjointed but currently so is life. I've written this over three weeks - with babies in arms, alone with a glass of wine, on a busy ferry, as toddlers bounced around - the moments to write have been disjointed and therefore, it stands to reason, that so would be the post. Bear with me - it helps to write, even if I don't have the time or heart to edit
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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Colton & Charlotte’s Newborn Photoshoot

One of the most exciting and fun things about having twins is the opportunity for adorable photos. These two little buddies make my heart smile so often with their adorable poses and sweet sweet baby cuddles. One of my first thoughts when I found out it was twins was, wahoo cute newborn photos! As always, we used my dear friend Laura of Paraphrase Productions and as always are very happy with the results. She did Avelynn’s photo shoot and Bailey’s. I was so excited to mirror both of their shoots with this final one. Laura did an awesome job, as per always. 


The whole fam-jam; how are we a family of 6?!?

Kisses from Bailey


Avie & Charlotte

Bailey smiles with her entire face and I love it.

The joy on Avies face is amazing

The twins and mom

Over Dad's shoulder - love Colt's face here


We have pics of Colty and his two older sisters this way - they look the most alike here.

Avelynn, Bailey & Colt

Dad and his daughters

Paul and all 4 kids

Sweet Char



The pair of them


Love

Colton - our boy!


In their bed



And there we have it - our last newborn photo shoot. Thanks again, Laura!
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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The third and fourth Baby Morgan's have arrived!

They're here! Morgan babies 3 and 4, or the Morgan twins, are here! Colton John Edwin & Charlotte Abigail Lois arrived 2 weeks ago (today!) in what was a pretty wonderful twin birth experience. They joined us May 1st at 10:14am and 10:19am - which is also our anniversary! 8 years, and 4 kids later. I've started to write our their birth story but in the meantime, I can proudly say that all went better than anticipated, Paul got to deliver our Baby A, Colt, and I got to push both babies out. It was pretty epic. And for those that noticed - yes it is very intentional that the twins both have C names, after Avie & Bailey. With 4 kids, alphabetical seemed strategic :)



Baby A is our boy, Colt; full name Colton John Edwin Morgan. Colton, meaning from a dark town (or coal town). We were torn on what to name him for the longest time - we had a D name we liked as much as we liked Colton. But once we realized that we could call him Colt most of the time, we were 100% into the name. John is Paul's middle name (and my Dad's middle name, my grandfather's name, Paul's great grandpa's name, and between the two of us we have 2 uncle's named John and 3 cousins). Edwin is Paul's Dad and other Grandpa's middle name. 



Baby B is our youngest girl, Charlotte; full name Charlotte Abigail Lois Morgan. Charlotte, meaning "petite" or "feminine", was picked because we liked it. I LOVE the idea of having a little girl called Charlie, and Char (soft ch), and Paul has been calling her Lottie from day one (mostly so he can say, "well lottie-dah").  Abigail because again, we just liked it. We had almost named Bailey Abigail but figured "Abbie" and "Avie" were just too similar, but this way we still get to use the name we liked so much. We picked Lois (meaning "more desirable" or "better") to honour my Nana (whom I love dearly and is a giant gift to me). Plus that means her initials spell CALM. Hoping that that is somehow a foreshadowing of her life. Right now she's lying in front of me on the couch sleeping, so far so good. 



So far having twins is awesome. It seems totally normal now that there are two babies. It was barely real until it came time to push Char out, and since that moment that I held two babies, it's been our new normal. It feels like the same newborn stage as the other two - just a bit more baby, a bit more feeding, a few more diapers, and a lot more snuggles. I have been surprised by how normal it's all felt. Awesome, and normal. Exhausting and normal. I won't pretend we aren't dealing with the classic newborn start to life - eating all night to gain birth weight. Pumping and feeding and diaper changes. But it's all so much the same as it was with our other two newborns. Yes, there are two of them, but honestly, it doesn't feel like that many more diapers or that many more bottles. I think we got so scared by the idea that it's falling short of that fear and I'm thankful for that. All that being said, if twins is your first or even second child, whoa boy, I bet it would feel like SO MUCH MORE. There's something about the fact that baby three was already always going to be insane, that makes twins added to that not super crazy. If this was my first? Oh man, I remember the fear and uncertainty and anxiety and emotions of that first newborn/postpartum time. Can't imagine THAT with two. As far as I know (as far as we've planned) these are our last babies - we've always wanted 4 kids. I have gotten to soak up each stage, and say goodbye to each stage as it ends. My last pregnancy, my last labour & delivery, my last newborn hospital stay, my last 'first-two-weeks-postpartum', etc. Soaking up these newborn baby snuggles, embracing what there is to love about this stage and moving past the hard moments. PLUS - we have lots of help! Paul's mom was here for the first week, my aunt was here for most of the second week, Paul's Dad & stepmom took the kids for the weekend, and we have a lovely girl from church over three mornings a week to help AND have a night nanny 3 nights a week for a month (started this week and oh my goodness sleep is amazing). The help keeps us sane as we navigate the needs of 4 tiny humans, aged 3 and under. 




Speaking of 4 tiny humans, we are now a family of 6. 6! How is that possible?? Are we adults now? Bailey and Avie are so into their new siblings. Avie is in love, and Bailey is fascinated. Avie picks a baby at different times in the day and asks to "hold that baby" and will not accept any substitution. She will hold them for 10-15 minutes, stroking their faces, whispering sweet nothings, singing them songs and generally being so stinking cute. Bailey pokes at their faces and says "hi!", which is really all she says regularly in life. It's sweet in its own way. Balancing 4 kids is certainly interesting - the biggest pain point in the day is the moment after the older two wake up when we desperately want to still be sleeping after the night with the twins. But after 9am we wake up enough to rally and make magic happen. And there's always nap time - sleepy newborns sleep a lot, and the older two have naps that overlap by 30-60 minutes, so that time is gold to us. Pure gold. 

We also had our newborn photo shoot! Laura of Paraphrase Productions was AMAZING as per usual. We got to match and mirror some photos from our previous newborn shoots and get some great twin shots. Even Paul, who hates photo shoots, got into it. It helps that it was Mothers Day and he realized his cooperation was a great way to give me a free mothers day gift :) 



And there you have it! Our last baby announcement - and one that is double the fun. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Master Bedroom - Newborn Days

This is our third preparing for new babies. We obviously get the nursery ready, but usually, a super important part is also preparing our master bedroom! I thought I'd take a moment to share some of the things we make sure we have prepared in our room for newborns.

First up - our bed. When things in my life are especially hectic, it helps me to have tidy spaces. In the newborn time I find there is a chunk of time that I am in my bedroom and if it's out of order, I find it hard to feel calm. I try to put my clothes away each day, and I like making the bed so that the room feels pulled together. The problem with the bedmaking is that to make our bed "properly" there are throws and pillows involved - by the time it's made it's pretty but you definitely don't want to mess it up until bedtime. The other truth about the newborn time is to try to get as much sleep as you can - napping, as they say, "when the baby naps". If my bed is made up fully I don't want to mess it up by napping. So during the final months of pregnancy (when I also need to nap a lot) and the first months of newborn life, I implement a half made bed plan. It keeps the room looking and feeling tidy, but is basically no effort to take apart for a nap.


You can see our monitor on the nightstand - linked up to all four! cameras.

Second up - baby/babies bassinet. We start for the first 1-2 months with the baby in our room in a bassinet. Since we have middle of the night feedings to contend with we like having them nice and close. We were given this bassinet and I upgraded it a bit to help it match our room. We like to leave it at the foot of our bed so it's somewhat equally between us :) Paul mostly gets up in the night to grab babies and bring them to me in bed - though who knows what it will be like with twins!




We also keep stuff under the bassinet - pump stuff on the right in the black bag. On the right, we have extra burp clothes, muslin blankets and woombies (great little sleep sacks). I'll add sleepers for the babies once we know their sizes.



As babies grow (and sleep longer and are more aware of what's around them) we move them to a pack n play in our closet. Right now Bailey naps in here since it's dark, and with the sound machine, it's a perfect nap place. Also, hey there baby belly in the mirror. 


I also like having chairs in the room - either to breastfeed in or just to have a place to sit and chat with Paul away from the rest of the house. It's also where I pump - private and comfortable. 



And lastly, probably one of the most used spots is our change station. We use the same change pad and change cover we have in both kids rooms (that way they are all interchangeable). We also lay a waterproof pad over top so that we get to change it less often in case of accidents. In our room, we use an Ikea Kallax System with inserts from Target. In the top left, we have diapers (newborn size, Bailey Size & nighttime for Avie & B), bum cream and wipes. Top right is random baby stuff for newborns. The two bottom inserts are both books and toys for the older girls. We also have a playmat for babies under the bed as they get older. 


And with that, I think we are 100% complete all baby prep! These were the types of things we could put off but all this baby waiting means we can get it done. Thankful for the extra time. 
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