No one is planning a baby shower. I won’t get any cards of congratulations. Friends are not offering to babysit or calling me with bits of wisdom on my new role in life.
I have become a new mother in midlife but there will be no celebrations. Just a sad realization that time and age are cruel.
It has been a slow progression for years but the transition is complete. The roles are now completely reversed. My baby is 86. As dependent on me as a newborn. My baby is my mother.
My mother has had many health problems in her life and there were many times she was in hospital. So to some extent, I was prepared for the physical needs I would have to fulfil, helping her dress, eat and yes, change her diapers. I had done it before, albeit temporary till she recovered from surgery or an illness. But even when her body was failing her in the past, she was still always the mother; quick to offer sage advice, a shoulder to cry on or to scold you for doing something stupid.
But no one or anything can prepare you for the final stage. The transfer of all the emotional and psychological needs that you once relied on in your mother being now thrust upon you. Your go to person is gone.
I am her advocate and go between for any and all contact outside our family. She looks to me to advise and make decisions regarding her care. I am the one that scolds her for not eating or getting proper sleep. And most of all, I am now her soother and her comfort zone.
Just like when my children were little and I would have to leave to go to work, she asks when am I coming back with such sad and frightened eyes. It’s heart-breaking to witness someone who was once strong-willed and confident become so scared and unsure. But worst of all, there are moments when my mother is acutely aware that this shift has taken place and feels like a burden she can not lift from my shoulders.
It is very hard to navigate this new role. She’s my mother and still deserves respect and dignity even when she can not take care of herself or has irrational thoughts and feelings, just like a baby. She lives only in the right now because there may not be a tomorrow.
I am not sure I am successfully dealing with these new responsibilities. And the emotional toll on me is huge and draining. But as long as she’s prepared to fight, I will be by her side.
I am 51 but I am still somebody’s baby. And I am not ready to give that up yet.
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