Asking for Help is Hard: Chapter 4

When you’re the one wanting to help, but can’t seem to help enough.

My sister is a new Momma. Do you remember those fuzzy days of needing help, but not knowing how to ask for it without feeling like a complete failure? My sister is a much stronger Momma than I was 6 weeks in, that’s for sure. If you’ve been following my blog over the last few weeks, you know about the devastation my family is going through with my very ill 6 week old niece, now on hospice. Yesterday, the hubs & I packed up our daughters and headed to Detroit to spread some love and see what we could do to lend my sister & her family a hand in their hour of need.

When we arrived, my sister was cracking a joke about how they are still new parents. They were cleaning the floor from a post-bath poop from my niece. I was so happy they were joking… and relieved they were still dealing with something relatively normal. Their lives have not been normal in over 3 weeks. Or, well, what’s normal when you have a new baby, healthy or sick? I try to relate to what they are going through and it pains me that I can’t. The odd relief/guilt-combo I feel over having 2 healthy children overwhelms me at times… especially when my 2 healthy children act extra healthy by causing trouble, driving Momma to grab a beer. Cue more guilt. 

When we visited 2 weeks ago, things were so far from normal. Their lives were spent in the NICU. Now that they are home, things are still frustratingly unconventional, to say the least. My BIL so eloquently states much of what I saw first hand yesterday. During one of the times I held my niece, I quickly learned how fast a moment can turn scary when something I used to consider simple as spit-up occurred. Since she’s lost the ability to cough herself, my sister & BIL had to physically vacuum her spit-up/mucus. They have been dealing with this for a week now, but my first experience, as a medical-dumbass, was not cool. Everything was ok once they suctioned her spit-up out of her throat & nose via a tiny tube & vacuum. Remember all of those clothes that were stained from projectile, post-nursing spit-up? I believe my sister & BIL would pay to have their baby spit up on their wedding attire right now. My niece is amazing & tough, but can’t do much on her own. Less than a newborn, if you can wrap your brain around that.

After feeling incredibly dumb & emotional and then stupid for being so emotional, I fed my own family lunch, and inquired as to what I could do for my sister & her family. I realize this is something every single person that walks into their house likely asks these days, or at least, I hope it is. Like the title of this series, my sister & BIL had a difficult time expressing exactly what we could do for them, so I had to list a few randoms off the top of my head to kick if off, then they got the idea. Oh, she actually wants to help do something other than add yet another batch of food to the grief buffet?! Yes! I’ve always been a doer, a fix-it-myself kinda gal, so doing whatever I can to help others is important to me. I can’t be there to do my sister’s dishes, clean her kitchen & bathroom daily or even every other day. But, I did make the most of the time that I was there yesterday. The hubs ran a couple errands, vacuumed the entire house & even fixed a couple of cupboards for them. We juggled our tasks between diffusing accidents, messes & fights from our own two annoyingly healthy kids. The last couple hours we were there, we took a break from the chores to simply spend time with the three of them: cried with them, talked with them, sat with them, held Delaney with them… these hours were very much cherished.

On the trip back to GR, I was exhausted, but glad we could visit on a day when they seemed appreciative of some visitors. However, I still didn’t feel like we did enough. Once that got into my head, I over-analyzed everything, wondering if my inherited foot-and-mouth-syndrome self said too much, too little… didn’t make them laugh enough, talked about myself too much… ugh. I love all of them so very much, but the fact is, there’s not much I can say or do that will change their situation. We need to embrace these moments we are facing the best that we can, and we need to let them know that they are not facing these demands alone, and we did that. Whether my niece lives for another day or another decade+, this is life, and my sister’s life is tragically challenging right now. I also have to accept that no matter how many chores or errands the hubs & I help with, I’m no miracle worker.

This chapter in my asking for help series is a unique, yet frustrating one; sometimes, the help people need & really want may seem impossible. I’m not giving up on my tenacious niece, and I’m doing whatever my capabilities will allow, while continually reminding myself that I’m not a magician and I’m certainly no saint; I can’t help or fix everything my heart wishes to fix.

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