"I got a bad feeling about this." ~ Han Solo, all three original Star Wars movies.
The months we spent pregnant were wonderful. Bruce was not with me for the previous births and he was enjoying the growing belly as much as I was. He got into it just like a new father should have. He catered to me, bought little things for his son and glowed at times, just like a maternity glow for a mother. He was very excited about the life we were starting together, telling me often how much he looked forward to being a father. It made me feel so good to have him, maybe too good. I began to get the feeling that things were going just TOO good for me. I could not have all of this without something happening to pop the balloon that I was in. I started to worry that because Bruce was so lighthearted and hopeful that perhaps there was something that was going to happen to him. Then when I really started to think about it I would worry that there was something that was going to happen to the baby. Maybe I had pushed my luck with the first two pregnancies and this one was not going to end well. I know that sounds so pessimistic of me to say, but I really thought that things were just coming together so well that it was bound to all come to a crashing halt.
I talked to my mother probably two times a day when I was pregnant with Bodde. I told her all the time that I thought something was a mist, something was just not sitting well with me. She asked all kinds of questions: Are you feeling okay? Are you getting enough sleep? Do you think Bruce is doing something he shouldn't be? She meant well, but I told her it was beyond any of that, especially the Bruce one. I told her that he was so happy and carefree that he was the only reason I wasn't a crying mess. She told me that I was a 'nervous Nelly' and that it was just hormones that were kicking in the closer I got to the third trimester. It was around Christmas, so she was sure that had something to do with it also. Just emotional from the pregnancy, getting bigger, getting more difficult to get comfortable, she told me that I needed to get a massage and relax, things were going to be fine. She told me to keep in mind that God loved me and was not going to let anything happen to this baby. She had been praying for a healthy baby and that was what He was going to give me.
We moved closer to the due date and I got much larger. Bruce thought it was cute, I thought it was getting a little over done, and my mother was enlisting my boss to take pictures of me at work and email them to her so she could see her grandson grow. It was hilarious, she was so excited about that baby that she was leaving all kinds of messages for him, telling him that he had the coolest Grandma ever and she would soon be there to spoil him to pieces. She left messages for Bruce with my favorite recipes and movies to rent, even if it was a chick flick he would have to watch them because I was the Queen with the baby in my belly so he had to do what she told him. It actually worked because he did end up watching some of my favorite movies, and yes, he did like a couple of them! ( By the way, I never spoke of this...) She was sending me chicken n dumplings in the mail because I could not find Sweet Sue in the stores, and had not nearly enough patience to cook them all day long. She was planning to take early retirement from the VA a couple of months after Bodde was born so she could come to California and live with us. She was going to help us buy a house with her pension and retirement, as long as Bruce would build her an Grandma Bungalow in the back of the property. That is what she called it, her GB back in the yard. She said that she wanted a place to get away, but wake up to the laughter of her grandchildren in the morning. She was getting more and more California crazy with each passing day. And I, of course was thrilled that we would be together with this baby, after so many years of watching from afar we were finally going to be able to see my children grow. I was going to be a mommy, and she was going to be a Grammy. We were busy planning life, but I still had a sense that there was something there, something just waiting to come along. The closer we got to delivery day, the more it festered in my head.
The end of January was my mother's favorite time of the year. Know why? Super Bowl Sunday! If there was ever a woman who loved football, it was my mother. She knew every rule, every player, every play...she just loved her football. She was a lover of Terry Bradshaw and the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was a Dallas Cowboys freak. To say that Super Bowl Sunday in our house was quiet and lovely would be like say that Jerry Springer and Barbara Walters have a lot in common. Oil and water, baby, oil and water. So later in life, when I fell in love with another Dallas Fan my mother took no mercy on us when the Boys were doing bad. She would call during a game when they had just messed up in some way and taunt us on the phone, or in most cases...a message on the answering machine. "Hey! Why aren't you answering the phone? Are you crying? Are you wishing that Troy Aikman wasn't so old and he could magically reappear and save this sorry team?' or "So, do you think it says in the playbook to blow the game in the last 30 seconds, keeping them out of the playoffs again yet again?..." (hysterical laughter following) or "When you think Jerry Jones will buy a whole new team? He sure needs one!" She was relentless. She was hysterical. She made Bruce laugh really hard, and he loved to laugh. She called at least three times on Sundays, just to discuss games and certain plays. Football Freak!
So in 2000 when the St. Louis Rams went to the Super Bowl, I was sure that she would be calling all throughout our Super Bowl party. The Rams scored. No call. The Rams score again. No call. We were hosing a lot of people in our tiny apartment that year so I really kinda didn't pay attention. I did think it strange, but maybe she was watching it somewhere else. All I knew was I had chicken wings to sauce and potato skins to dress. Being pregnant during the holidays and Super Bowl Sunday was the best! Finally, the Rams win the Super Bowl and I thought for sure she would be calling. We watched the ceremonies, saw Kurt Warner, got a phone call from friends at a party in St. Louis, but no call from my football loving mother.
I finally picked up the phone and dialed her number, feeling full of pride for my hometown and ready to give her some trouble for not calling me on this of all days. It rang. It rang again. Several more times it rang until finally she picked up.
"Well, I guess you can die a happy woman now, huh?"
There was silence.
"What?" she asked in voice of disbelief. Almost as if she were shocked. "Why would you say that?"
"MOM! Your Rams won the Super Bowl! Why didn't you call? I thought for sure you would have called during that amazing game...what's going on?!" I was still carefree in my tone. I was sure that she would be happy that they won, that she finally was in a town with a Super Bowl WIN! She, however, was not.
"I'm not feeling too good. I don't want to talk right now. I will call you later. Love you." She hung up. I stood there motionless. It was the shortest conversation I ever had with my mother. I had a bad feeling, a real bad feeling after that phone call. Bruce told me to say something to her, but the look on my face told him that something was wrong. I told him about the exchange of words that I had with her and he assured me that she was just not feeling well. He said that I should have a good time, stop worrying, eat some food and relax. I was able to do that, and soon I was lost in conversation with good friends. I called much later in the evening, but she did not answer. I figured she was just tired and sleeping. I told myself that I was just being paranoid and I should just go to bed myself, it had been a very long day.
I know now the repercussions of that sentence. What I said to her was nothing short of a kick in the gut to her. You see, what I did not know, what no one knew, was that the cancer was spreading throughout her body at that point. It had been growing tentacles and worming itself through organs like they were fertilized pockets of health that needed to be destroyed. It was taking over her body and she knew it. She was not telling me, but she was telling a few of the people around her that she just did not feel right after her gallbladder surgery 5 months earlier. She was complaining to her doctor back in the summer that she was having pains in her side. He chalked it up to gallbladder because first, there was family medical history of gallbladder problems, and second was the fact that my mother was overweight. I remember the day of her surgery. I was working and I specifically asked my boss to use his phone at his desk to call and check on her. Her surgery was delayed for some reason, but she eventually had it and recovered from it just fine. Two months later she was at my wedding, and I could not see anything that was different. She didn't look sick to me. She was hiding it all from me because she did not want to worry me. She probably was also not wanting to admit it to herself. She hated cancer. She lost her brother to it and also had had to watch the slow, horrible demise of her sister who battle with the beast. It was a huge fear of my mother's. She was always sending me information about Ovarian Cancer because my paternal grandmother died from it way back when. She was always telling me to keep up with my OBGYN and get my tests done, you can never be too careful. Well, somehow in all her literature and all the signs that she had, she missed the warnings. Or perhaps she expressed those fears and her doctor did not listen because of her obesity. We will never know. What I do know is that this is now the beginning of the end. This was where I started to see real signs that my gut feeling was not such a fantasy fear of mine. It was very real, very intense, and it was happening at a time in her life that should have been so happy and hopeful. Her life was rapidly coming to a pain filled end in a shocking sequence of events that left me, and everyone who knew her, with a tidal wave of pain, disbelief, anger, and catastrophic sadness that still washes over me from time to time. I had no idea this was coming. No warning at all. And to think, I spoke those words to her. "I guess you can die a happy woman, huh?" I don't think I will ever be able to get past that.
Next part of the story gets harder. I find wonderful joy and immense grief are two hard pills to swallow simultaneously. Bodde is born and one month later, she's gone.