I saw a friend the other day whom I hadn’t seen in a while, and I was surprised to see she is very pregnant. After a hug of congratulations I asked her, “Do you know what you’re having?”, because it’s inconceivable to me that someone wouldn’t find out and plan for the arrival.
I’m a planner. I know that some women are “fly-by-the-seats-of-their-pants” gals, but not me. If I can plan it, it’s more likely to happen, and I feel better about it.
I know I’m not alone in this. Women pick out their perfect wedding date, sometimes no matter the day (07/07/07 anyone?). Scheduling C-sections and inductions is becoming a more common practice for parents who want to choose their child’s birthday.
When I was pregnant with twins, my husband wanted me to schedule a C-section so he could plan to have the day off work. I briefly discussed it with my doctor, but the babies had minds of their own and were born five-and-a-half weeks early (but on New Year’s Eve, so two tax breaks — yay!). Since their births, I realized that sometimes there are things in life — like births and deaths — that you just can’t plan.
I had looked forward to and planned the day when my sons would go off to kindergarten together. What I didn’t plan on was one of them having brain cancer.
A mere two weeks after they attended their kindergarten round-up, the older of the two, Joey, had a grand mal seizure. Scans detected a tumor in his brain that was inoperable. His doctors originally told us that he wouldn’t live through the summer. But thankfully chemotherapy and radiation extended his life a little longer.
He did end up going off to kindergarten with his twin brother, but he also spent time in and out of the hospital. Each time he was hospitalized, I didn’t know if he would ever see his bed at home again. I knew that he would eventually die, but I didn’t know when he would die. It was definitely something I could not plan, so I spent a large amount of time imagining how it would look, what it would feel like, and what I would do.
I imagined the effects the tumor would have on the rest of his body. I imagined how I would say good-bye. I imagined what his funeral would be like and what I would say to people. It was my way of controlling the uncontrollable. Planning for the unknown.
He was in the hospital for Thanksgiving, and all I kept thinking was please don’t let him die on a holiday. I didn’t want to have any holiday or special day marred by the “crapiversary” of his death. Even though he missed his favorite Thanksgiving food — mashed potatoes — that year, he did get to come home.
That Christmas he was joyful, and we were fortunate to enjoy one last Christmas with him. He was happy and silly on his shared New Year’s Eve birthday with his brother. I felt like I could breathe a little sigh of relief again — until February came, he was in the hospital again and I was thinking please don’t let him die on his dad’s birthday.
One of the last pictures I have of him smiling popped up in my Facebook memories recently. He was in the hospital, but his aunt had brought him a donut. I remember how they talked that day, and I remember how his laugh sounded — weak, but just like him.
We pulled him out of kindergarten in April, almost a year after his diagnosis. From there, it became a watching game. Watching for signs of decline. Watching for weakness that hadn’t been there before. Watching to see if he was losing function.
April became May, and I spent the entire month pleading with the universe, please don’t let him die on Mother’s Day. Please don’t let him die on my birthday.
He lived three weeks past my birthday and died on June 10 — an insignificant day for us until now. Here’s the kicker, though: Because of church regulations and other funerals, he couldn’t be buried until June 15, my husband’s and my wedding anniversary. I spent so much time willing him not to die on a special day that I didn’t even think about the day we would have to say goodbye.
Three months after we buried Joey, I was pregnant again. Joey’s baby brother would be born in June, and I spent my whole pregnancy thinking please don’t let him be born on June 10.
He wasn’t. He showed up two weeks later.
I couldn’t have planned it better myself.
These days, instead of so much planning, I try to live for today — because that’s the only thing that’s guaranteed.