Monday, March 2, 2009

It takes a comadre

In Hispanic culture there is a concept called a comadre or co-mother.

A comadre was originally the Godmother in a child's baptism. Being a comadre implied a sacred and lifelong commitment to both the child and to the mother. A comadre was the woman you could count on for absolutely anything.

Today, the term comadre has come to mean a friend so close to you, that you consider her to be your sister/mother. She is best friend to you and to your children.

Don’t do it alone. All women need comadres. All children need the comadres of their mother to turn to.

Hilary Clinton used the African phrase, “It takes a village” to raise a child.

I say, it takes a comadre to be alive and well in this world.

Friday, February 27, 2009

How to pee in a bedpan.

Someday, I swear, you will thank me for this. I wish someone had told me how to pee in a bedpan.


You never even think about it. You assume that when you have to go, you just will. Not.

Men are used to peeing with their feet on the ground. Women are using to peeing either sitting or squatting. A lifetime of conditioning has taught you never to pee in a bed, and never to pee lying down. And there you are, laying in your hospital bed and you’re handed a bedpan. It is not a surprise to find you can't.

1. Get everyone out of the room. The nurse slid a bedpan under me, and then stood there. You cannot pee in a bedpan with an audience. Ask her to leave and that you’ll ring the buzzer when you’re done.

2. If you can bend one knee, do. If you can bend two knees, even better.

3. Relax your mouth. Exhale with a big sigh. “Ahhhhh……” You have to hear a significant relaxing sigh come out of your mouth. You can't just "think" the sigh, you must actually make the noise. This verbal sigh relaxes your body and the exhale makes your muscles relax. Do this verbal exhale several times, and soon, you’ll be exhaling down there.

4. Do not worry about wetting the bed. That’s why the mattresses are covered in plastic. That’s why there are nurses. If you are worried about wetting the bed, it will stop you from being able to pee.

All these hospital lessons teach you gratitude – for all the things you take for granted.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How to recovery from surgery.

When I had knee surgery I thought: you have the surgery, you spend a few weeks in bed, then you go about your life.


Recovery is a long process which has different stages, speeds and time intervals. Your body heals faster than you think it will, but it recovers much slower than you ever imagined.

Thank your body for its capacity to heal and then, respect your body’s need for recovery. Here’s the process.

1. Just out of surgery, gratitude is the mode. Your job is to rest in bed and be relieved that your surgery is Just. Plain. Over. Your body has suffered an invasion and needs to recompose itself, detoxing from the anesthesia. Healing sleep is all you need.

2. Feeling enormously better with each day. Drinking, eating, peeing and pooping. These last two become very important after surgery. They indicate that all systems are working again.

3. You will have little triumphs. You will be able to life your head or roll over or sit up. The first time you sit up, stand up, walk, you will be dizzy. The first time you will be able to walk again. The first time you can use a toilet and take a shower will seem to your like a major miracle.

4. Time to go home. You felt fine in the hospital bed – and now, just getting into the wheelchair, into the car, into your house – and on your bed is exhausting. Everything seems impossible. Hours ago you were chafing to get out of the hospital, and now you’re overwhelmed by the responsibilities of taking care of yourself. Time to ask your friends to rally around. Whenever someone asks you if they can do something for you or cook a meal, say yes.

5. Your wound heals, but then begins recovery of the muscles and joints. Ask the doctor how long the process takes. I kept thinking something was wrong with me, when actually, I was just going through the painful weeks of recovery and getting my muscle tone back. It might actually take 6 months to a year before you are fully recovered. No one ever tells you this when you decide on surgery.

6. It seems like an eternity when you’re trying to recover from surgery. But when you look back, it will seem to have gone quickly. Don’t be impatient. Expect setbacks, sore muscles, visits to the doctors, changes in meds.

7. Then, one day…you will feel recovered and “normal.” Give thanks.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

How to go into surgery.

Here are some tips that I'll share from my recent knee surgery.

Surgery IS a big deal. Mentally and physically. Take it seriously.

Information is power. You need to go into your surgery with a positive attitude. Ask lots of questions. Afterall, YOU are the consumer of this experience. Ask your doctor what would happen if you didn't have surgery. Ask the doctor the risks of your surgery. Ask your doctor how many times she has performed this surgery. Get a second opinion if you are feeling nervous about her ability or about the need for surgery.

Once you make the decision to proceed, believe in your surgery. Attitude is everything.

Plan ahead and "take care of business." Do as much as you can before the big day. Pay your bills, cut your grass, go to the grocery and fill your cupboard with what you might eat afterwards. I Christmas shopped, wrapped and decorated the house before I went in to surgery. Then, I recovered in a happy home, ready for the holidays.

Set up a support system for before and after the surgery. Who will take you to the hospital? Who will see you in the recovery room? You need an advocate at that moment, because you'll be hazy from anesthesia. Who will check in on you daily? Talk to the nurses and doctor if you need help? And finally, who will take you home from the hospital?

Prepare your body. Surgery and anesthesia are very hard on the body. One week before your surgery: stop drinking alcohol. Give your kidneys a rest. Take your vitamins. Stay healthy. Two days before surgery stop eating meat. Start eating lightly. One day before surgery, consider a juice and soup fast. You don't want your intestines filled with matter... While you are under an anesthetic, your intestines stop working. You don't want to be post surgery, sore, tender, immobile, and worry about pooping. You will have plenty of other things to worry about. Drink lots of liquids. You want to be very hydrated before surgery.

Your hospital survival kit. Hospitals charge you for absolutely everything, so take needed items and some comfort items. Washcloth, (not only for washing, but for having friends soothe you and refresh you) toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, lip balm, body lotion, sleeping mask, pashmina, light blanket, several changes of underwear, big baggy T shirt, slippers, book, knitting, cell phone, cuddly soft socks, Ipod.

Sleeping in a hospital is very difficult and the sleeping mask will save you. In a hospital the nurses come in all night long, turning on the light, to check your temp, give you meds, and interrupt you every time you manage to fall into a light sleep. The eye mask excuses you from having to make contact, be polite or even opening your eyes. You want the light blanket, because your hospital blanket will probably be heavy, and if you have had surgery, you want warmth, but not heaviness weighing on your sore body. The cuddly soft socks help, because you can keep your feet warm and then just lie under a sheet. The pashmina, is for keeping your upper body warm. Between socks, light blanket and pashmina, you are able to deal with all your temperature zones -- and this is crucial in your comfort.

I also brought two different shaped tempurpedic pillows. Getting comfortable in a hospital bed, especially when you've been lying in bed for days, is hard. You put them under your neck, your arms, your knees, your sides -- anything to do to get comfortable. If you are comfortable, you heal faster.

You check in. You go to your room. Be calm, listen to your music, and all will be well.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mothering Myself

...And letting myself be Mothered by my friends.

That's what women friends do. We Mother each other.

Like right now. I'm home from knee surgery, immobilized in bed. This queen bee is not used to not doing ten things at a time, especially during the hectic and fun holiday season. But this year, it has to be different.

Judy took me to the hospital and has Mothered me ever since. Visiting me, getting me out of the hospital (no easy feat!), buying my meds, injecting me with antibiotic (she gives THE best shot), and listening to all my cares and woes. She picks up my mail and well, it is endless what she does for me.

Yesterday Marieke grocery shopped for me and then entered my kitchen to cook a masterful asparagus and fresh pea risotto, a fresh salad, sliced strawberries. Gourmet comfort food made by a loving friend. As she was cleaning up, Susan showed up with a bath chair and helped me bathe and dressed my scar.

The last time I lay in bed and had someone cook for me when I was a child. The last time I had someone help me bathe was when I was a child.

This is what women do for each other. We Mother each other.

It is hard for me to be Mothered. I am so used to doing all the Mothering. But I am sitting back and letting them help me, because the day will come when I will do the same for them.

My women friends are Angels. And beautiful Mothers.

P.S. So if you don't hear from me for awhile...I'm recovering from surgery and...being Mothered.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

My son, out in the world.

My son is celebrating his first Thanksgiving away from home, in another country. He has taken his place in the world. He made his own travel arrangements. He chose his wardrobe and packed his suitcase. It was up to him to make sure he remembered toothbrush, credit card and hostess gift. "He arrived," teletexted my cousin, “and looks great and is nice and smart and sweet.”

That’s what a Mother wants to hear.

She also wants to hear that he shooed the hostess away from washing dishes and took over the chore himself. (Hmmm..he never shooed me away from the dishes! Maybe I have this to look forward to.)

This is what all those early years were about. All the work you do with your children, about making beds and picking up their clothes and table manners and hostess gifts… All the teaching, cajoling and punishing, which makes you tired of the sound of your own voice…really does kick in at a certain age.

This is the person you were dreaming of. A warm, considerate, compassionate, grateful, joyful person., taking his place, out in the world., creating a satisfying, lovely, inspiring life for himself and others.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Will you regret it later on?

One August during a curiously stressful visit by my Mother, it was time to decide whether I’d take the children to her house for Christmas—a 12 hour trip in two airplanes. Experience had taught me that reservations had to be made then, or it would be all sold out.

I wasn’t ready to make this decision just yet because I was feeling bruised by her negative manner.

Dr. Janny to the rescue. She's my best friend since junior high school who, today, is a wonderful psychiatrist.

“What I always ask my patients is," she said, “If you don’t go, is this something you might regret in the future?”

“If it is something you would regret in the future, then don’t even think twice about it and do it. But if it is something you won’t regret, then you’re off the hook.”

I immediately made the reservations.

It turned out to be my Mother’s last Christmas.

Now that she is gone, it is clear to me that her stressful visit in August was because she was not feeling well; in fact, she was dying. But we didn’t know it yet. She never said, “I don’t feel well,” she just acted grouchy and difficult. She acted the same way on her visit to my brother, puzzling him at the time as well.

Now we look back and understand everything – and have no regrets. We take comfort and rejoice in the memories.