“We’re keeping an eye on it.”
I knew my mom had an ongoing gynecological issue that was being ‘monitored’ by her primary care physician, and I was content to hear her standard answer whenever I’d ask what her doctor said about her condition after her yearly check-ups.
Because the gastroenterologist could not finish mom’s colonoscopy, however, due to the severity of her pelvic organ prolapse, we could no longer just ‘keep an eye’ on it. This is completely new territory for me. I’ve learned more about pelvic organ prolapses, pessary devices, incontinence, and caring for my aging mother than I anticipated during this particular season.
Thinking about how my mom was with me for my first gynecological exam when I was a teenager, I now found myself siting with her in a similar exam room, meeting the gynecologist who would consult with us about her condition. Somehow I felt as if I earned a certain right of passage as a caregiving daughter since stepping into this new arena.
Surgery was the first solution we discussed – one that is the most successful and permanent when dealing with prolapses. I have accepted the fact though that my mom wanted to try other viable options and wasn’t comfortable having surgery yet. I’m okay with that decision because it’s her body and her health.
The best solution for her at this time was having a pessary inserted. According to her GYN, this little device is doing its job so far, “keeping everything in place” and giving mom relief from the discomfort she had been experiencing for more years than I care to guess.
Having conversations with mom about bladder incontinence, a common symptom of a prolapse, no longer makes me uncomfortable. I crossed a new line in caregiving when I handed her a pack of bladder leak pads to try. She had a pack of her own — large, thick ones — so she was appreciative to have another option to use. This little exchange gave us an opportunity to talk about how often and when the leakages occur, and we agreed this will be an item of discussion for her next GYN appointment.
My dad is from an older generation and does not care to discuss mom’s bladder incontinence and gynecological issues; it makes him uncomfortable. I have accepted the fact that he will not be entering into these particular decisions and discussions. I have to be okay with that; therefore, I made a mental note to myself to cover this area of mom’s care without dad’s full involvement.
One last revelation happened at the grocery store of all places. While searching for the right bladder leak pads for my mom, a fellow caregiving daughter was picking up a pack for her mom. After discussing the brand and type she preferred, she looked at me and said, “We’re next, you know! I can hardly sneeze or laugh anymore without…well, you know.” I stared after her, struck with the thought that I could be headed down the same road as my mom in the next ten to twenty years.
How would I want to be treated if I were the one dealing with a prolapse and increasing incontinence issues? With dignity.
My goal, therefore, is to treat my mom with as much respect as I can while we navigate this condition together. I promise to try to honor her wishes, while stepping in closer to help care for her through this particular season.
Tammy Stauffer is a Certified Christian Life Coach, and has also completed the Foundations of Biblical Counseling program offered by the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation’s School of Biblical Counseling.
She lives in Elizabethtown, PA with her husband of 32 years, their elderly mini-dachshund who is in ‘assisted living’ in their home, and a guinea pig. They have three adult children and eagerly await grandchildren (no pressure!).
Tammy recently resigned as president of a non-profit organization in order to devote more time to family, especially as an additional caregiver to both her parents and her mother-in-law.