I've only witnessed one death before - Rich's mom. I do have first hand experience with a birth from the mother's perspective, though. I'm seeing parallels I hadn't expected.
I took two months off of work when I brought a person into this world. I should allow myself to take at least a few weeks to escort someone out of this world.
Things are different now than they were a few weeks ago. For me, when Rich went into hospice, it was like the difference between being pregnant and being in labor. Yes, everyone recognizes that pregnancy is a thing and there are some limitations to it versus being decidedly not pregnant. But being in labor is more intense.
"Why are you being so dramatic and noisy? Yesterday you were pregnant and you weren't like this. Geez. If it's so unpleasant, just stop doing it."
"Yes ... I am ... technically still ... PREGNANT ... as this person has not ... EXITED ... my vagina yet ... but this TRANSITION is much harder than him just ... hanging out on the inside. Now go away and make me a sandwich!"
Yes, people visited you when you were pregnant. You went to work when you were pregnant. You had sex while pregnant. You traveled. You tried new things. You laughed. You took care of yourself because there was a person growing inside of you.
But when you are in labor, you don't give a shit about anyone else but the person you are escorting into the world. You don't even really care about yourself. Lady parts are getting straight up ravaged and your only concern is that other person making it through safely.
So it is with hospice. Only instead of a few hours, it's weeks or months. And it's important. And there are no do overs.
Like a birth, there are circles of people this affects. Right now, the Stryker clan is collectively going through a joint labor of escorting a loved one out of this world. We all handle that situation very differently. And just like nine women can't make a baby in one month, adding people to this process doesn't make it easier.
While most of this will just be a blur once it's over, there will be sounds and smells that trigger memories. The hospice nurses make great death midwives but they're not living it. I've been with Rich over 15 years. His father and brother have been with him over 40. Ian has been with him his whole life. Yet everything is different once the walls start thinning.
Rich talks about "going" a lot. It's hard to softly walk him to the moment when he can leave us behind and not use ourselves up in the process. I hope that once Rich is gone, we will be able to enjoy the peace he will have. And while we may be a little beat up from the ordeal, I hope we can all be proud of how we got him through safely.