The Big Question

There seems to be a standard set of questions we get asked at various stages in our lives. When you’re a kid, the question is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” In high school, it’s “Where are you going to go to college?” Once your schooling is done, the career questions start to pop up. After you’ve settled into a career the next big question is, “Are you dating anyone?” which in time turns to, “When are you going to get engaged?”

“When’s the big day?” is next on the agenda. Then after the wedding comes, “Are you starting a family soon?” Once the first baby arrives, then people ask if you’re having more or, if you have a couple children, “Are you done yet?”

After those momentous life occasions, you get a break until you turn 55 and then, like clockwork, the inevitable question comes, “When do you think you’ll retire?” Since I’ve already passed that milestone age, that question has been broached to me a number of times.

Some people seem to get offended by the retirement question, either thinking it implies that they’re getting old, or, like numerous people I know, they’ve just started a new career track and retirement is a long way off in their mind.

But, in reality, I don’t think there’s really anything at which to take offense. That question is typical small talk for Baby Boomers and those people in their lives. It’s as innocuous as asking, “What do you think of the weather we’re having lately?”

I personally can’t see myself ever completely retiring, since I have what I consider a dream career that’s a mix of writing books, articles and screenplays, proofreading, copy editing, photography, modeling, acting, and helping people obtain true health. I work from the comfort of my home office and I get to pick and choose which projects I want to work on.

Besides that, I was a late bloomer. I worked in the proofreading field after I got out of school, doing that the first four years of our marriage but, after we started our family, I took a 15-year hiatus to raise our four children. When our youngest child started second grade, I took a part-time job proofreading a series of local newspapers. Our office closed its doors shortly after 9/11 because of the instability of the economy. From there, I set out on my own as a freelance journalist and gradually expanded my business. Technically, I’ve only been at this career for 20 years — I’m relatively fresh.

That being said, I’m starting to notice that people all around me are choosing to retire, including friends, neighbors, and extended family members, so the subject has been on my mind lately. In 2019 my two older brothers (Irish twins) turned 60, and my oldest brother (the amazing comic book artist Gordon Purcell) told me that he’s now basically semi-retired and he’s OK with that.

Perhaps I’d give retirement more thought if my husband was retiring, but he’s enjoying what he’s doing so there are no imminent plans for him to hang it up. Maybe when he hits the 40-year mark in 2023, he’ll consider it, but he’s happy where he’s at for now.

As for me, I’ve got a full plate between promoting my Heaven Intended Civil War trilogy and my next series of books which is scheduled to be published later this year. I keep telling people, “You have to make hay while the sun’s shining — the sun’s shining bright on my career now so I’ll keep plugging away.” There are days when it’s a grind, but I have an overwhelming sense of feeling lucky and blessed that I have these opportunities. Besides, if you really love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work anyhow. It’s just one adventure after another.

Life at this moment is a bit of a juggling act as I’m not only putting in a good deal of hours with my career, but my parents are getting older, we’ve got children and grandchildren we want to spend time with, and we enjoy traveling and staying active.

As busy as the days are, I’m choosing to love every minute of every day, and I plan to make 2020 the best year yet. Hope you can say the same thing too. Here’s to a healthy, prosperous and beautiful new year for all of us!

 

 

Special Delivery…

For years I dreamt of becoming an OB nurse. After the birth of our third child I put my name on the wait list to study nursing at FVTC. By the time my name made it to the top of the list, we were expecting our fourth child so I decided against going back to school. On Monday, September 30, 2019, my dream came true and I got the chance to be a nurse/midwife for a day.

 

Our daughter-in-law Emily and son Nick were due to have baby #3 on October 11. This past Sunday after Mass, Emily was anxious to get home because she had a backache. It made me wonder if she would be going into labor soon because that was always how my labors started.

 

On Monday I got a text from Nick at 6:14 a.m. “Emily’s been up this morning since about three having contractions so just a heads up that we might need you at some point in the a.m.” Before heading to their house, I passed the word along to my husband and Nick’s three sisters. Sage advice from Nick’s oldest sister (mother of three) at 8:47 a.m. “How to know if it’s real labor: 1) if you can’t take a nap/sleep 2) if you can’t reprimand your kids during a contraction.”

 

Next message to the family from Nick at 8:49 a.m. “Things have slowed down.” Emily, who works from home, decided to take the morning off so I went back home and she and Nick took their son to preschool.

 

Message from Nick at 10:39 a.m.: “Emily just woke up from a 90-minute nap so we are taking that as a good sign.” A good sign because Nick was scheduled to be in DePere to shoot a commercial at 1:00. Emily decided to go back to work for the afternoon and I was scheduled to watch the kids after they went down for naps.

 

Next message to me from Nick came in at 11:43 a.m. “It sounds like she’s still having consistent contractions, they’re just spaced further apart. Is there any chance you could come over around 12:25-12:30 to help with naps? I’m just a little worried that the more she strains herself with the kids it might send her into labor.”

 

I drove over and helped get the kids down and then Emily went back downstairs to her office. When the kids got up from naps, I took them outside to play. At 3:16 Emily came up from her office. She was laying on the couch at 3:23 when the kids and I came back inside. Around 3:30 she told me she was definitely in labor so I called Nick.

 

Shortly after that Emily’s water broke and at 3:37 we called her obstetrician and were told to head to the hospital. My husband, who was on his way to the dentist office, called to check in on us at 3:40. I told him that I was taking Emily with the kids to the hospital and asked him to tell Nick to go straight there. The commercial shoot wrapped at 3:40 so Nick was heading back to town when John got a hold of him.

 

Meanwhile, Emily and I got the kids in the minivan, even over her preschooler’s objection about not having his shoes on. We jumped into the vehicle to start the 10-minute trip to the hospital. Emily told me to drive as fast as I could because she was in heavy labor. We pulled out of the driveway around 3:42 and at 3:44 I called 911. I asked Emily what the quickest route was to the hospital and she said the street with two roundabouts. As we approached that street, Emily told me to pull over. I rounded the corner by an elementary school and parked the van.

 

Emily crawled through the vehicle to the back while I was on the phone with the dispatcher. I asked Emily if she wanted me to go see if I could bring her into one of the nearby homes. She said no but asked me to come to the back of the van. I got out of the driver’s seat and opened the hatch and saw that Emily was laying down with her feet facing the front of the van.

 

All this time I was on the phone with the dispatcher who was asking me numerous questions that I didn’t have the answers for off the top of my head. How old is the patient? What is her address? How far apart are the contractions? I crawled into the back of the van and could see that the baby was crowning so I set the phone down so I could concentrate on the baby and Emily. I looked around and didn’t see any emergency lights, so I knew that it was up to me to help Emily deliver the baby.

 

At this point, I could see more of the baby’s hair as the head was being pushed out. Emily squeezed my hand and gave a push and the baby’s head came fully out. She took a breath and said something like, “The pain is gone now.” Surprisingly, I felt a sense of peace or “I’ve got this” once the head was out. I cradled the baby’s head in my hand and seeing that its color looked good, I talked to the baby and stroked its face while I waited for Emily to push it out the rest of the way.

 

At a quick glance, I was pretty sure it was a girl (even though most people, other than her big brother, had guessed it would be a boy). Once the baby was cradled in both my hands, she let out a cry, which I heard with a great sense of relief. I asked Emily what I should do with the baby and she said to lay it on her stomach. I did that and just then I saw the firetruck pull up. The paramedics hustled over to the van and the first one there brought a blanket to cover the baby with and then suctioned her mouth out.

 

Lifting the blanked, I confirmed that the baby was indeed a little girl and I asked Emily what her name was. “Margaret Nicole.” I stroked Margaret on the back and told her how much Grandma loved her and that I have loved her since the moment I knew that she existed.

 

The paramedics got a stretcher and loaded Emily and the baby onto it and took her to the ambulance. I turned my attention back to her big brother and big sister who had watched the whole event from their car seats without making a peep. At nearly 4 years old, her brother had a lot of questions, and being a fan of trucks, was interested in the firetruck and ambulance and why there was an “emergency.” Big sister, age 2, just kept saying “Baby” and “Mommy.”

 

After 10 minutes the ambulance left for the hospital and me and the kids did too. By the time I got them up to Emily’s room in the labor and delivery area, Nick was already there holding his precious new daughter. The birth time for Margaret Nicole, who weighted 6# 14 oz., was recorded as 3:52 p.m. I refer to Emily as a pioneer woman for being so stoic and brave and keeping her calm throughout this whole event.

 

The Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels is observed by the Catholic Church every year on October 2, but I truly believe that Emily, Margaret and I had our guardian angels standing guard over us that day. St. Margaret is the patron saint of childbirth, so I’m sure she was with us that day as well.

 

People ask me if I was praying while Margaret was being delivered, but I was so focused on what needed to be done there was nothing else going through my mind. Thankfully, God knows our prayers even before we voice them, so I know He had everything under control.

 

Monday was one of the best days of my life but I’m retiring from my nursing career. It may have been short-lived but the lasting impact from that incredible day is the unbreakable bond I will always have with my amazing daughter-in-law Emily and our sixth grandchild, Margaret Nicole, who allowed me to be an active participant in of one of the most miraculous events any person can ever be a part of — bringing a precious new life into this world!