Benjamin Button Effect: What Do You Do When Your Mom Cries Out Like a Baby?

3728905329_4b47a1b5cc_bIt was around 8pm last night when I started watching some of the videos I had taken of my mom. In the more recent ones, she is yelling — a lot. That’s all she can do. She can’t talk. I take these videos because, I feel like people don’t believe me when I say, ‘I think she’s in pain.’ And because past is prologue — I once had to show my video of her crying to the nurse at her home and the hospice team in order for them to give her morphine and up her Haldol — I take videos so I am always armed with evidence.

And they wonder why caregivers lose their minds…………………………

As I watched these videos of her yelling, her face twisted and anguished, I told my boyfriend who was watching these 30 second snippets with me, that someone in my support group said that mom probably has the mental awareness (she used a different term, I think) of a baby.

Haven’t you ever seen a baby cry? 

No. I mean yes, but not really. And if I happen to be around someone with a baby (which is rare), I give them back as soon as they take that long inhale right before the wailing commences…… and then I walk away. The fact of the matter is, I never grew up with or around babies.

I’m certain, as a kid, all of my imaginary friends were successful professionals in their 30s.

So last night, as I watched mom yell…. I pulled up YouTube and typed, “crying babies.” I probably watched four or five videos of little sweet faces, completely twisting and turning beat red, as they cried…….. puffy lips quivering, eyes squinting, tears rolling down their tiny faces. Believe it or not, I could actually see a little bit of my mother in those faces. Her mouth turns upside down into a frown, her eyes squint and she’ll start yelling………………………. Sometimes a hug will calm her down; sometimes you have to let her yell it out. My mother can’t tell me what’s wrong, so you do what you would do with a baby — you do a mental checklist:

Is she wet?

Is she hungry?

Is she thirsty?

Is she comfortable?

Is the music too loud?

Is she cold?

I always joke that if I have a baby — barring any health issues — it’s going to be a walk in the park. A total breeze. After all, you can pick them up to comfort them, You can take them with you in one of those neat backpack thingies, you can arrange them yourself so you know they’re comfortable, their poop is much more manageable (even cute?), diapers are much easier to get on and off, bathing is a no-brainer and, and up until a certain age, you’re stronger than they are, and best of all, they eventually learn to tell you what they need, and maybe, they’ll even make you laugh……………….. and that’s what makes it all worth it.

Or at least that’s what I think. I have three cats and a dog.

There are very few joys attached to reverse parenting. You have to work very hard to find the funny. You also have to mentally force yourself to view your circumstances differently (or die trying, because this disease will kill you, too): This is a choice, this is a priviledge to help my loved on on this horrible journey, I get to do this, I get to play this role in my parent’s life. This will pass. 

It’s also a very lonely experience. Unlike parenting a newborn, very few people come out to celebrate your achievements — hey, I heard your mom didn’t spit in church today! That’s AWESOME! Here are some flowers — in fact, I feel like as each day turns into the next, seasons change, birthdays come and go, babies are born, babies learn how to walk and talk, you’re mostly forgotten about. People move on. That’s life. That’s the point of life.

We’re not meant to live in some damned and demented limbo-land.

And you people want to live to be 150 years old.

The mere thought of living to be 150 years old makes me want to cry.

>>Flickr pic by Chalky Lives


  1. My 90 year old mom has terminal cancer. She had been healthy all her life and up until her cancer surgery last june ( her right eye had to be removed) she was still driving. I took care of her as long As I could but unfortunately it became too much for me by myself. I hired a caregiver 9 hours a week but it came down to her constantly wandering at night due to sundowners and frequent falls. So 3 weeks ago I placed her in a nursing home. She is on hospice for pain control. It took about a month of trial and error to get her new meds straightedge out so she would not be drugged or dizzy all the time. It is so distressing to visit her in the nursing home. Everyday is different. One day she was talking to me the next she just had a blank stare and mumbled jibber ish . She has told me she is ready to die. She even stopped eating and drinking for a time. I am a retired nurse. Those people don’t like to see me coming in the door. And I am there every day at different times. I know my mother, I can tell by her facial expressions when she is in pain. Unfortunately when I ask for breakthrough pain meds it takes about 30 min to get it. I have been known to stand in the hall and yell for a med aide if they take too long. I have pointed out to them I have hospice so she will be pain free. They just look at me like the don’t know what I’m talking about. I will always be her advocate. I hope those people are never in a situation like hers. Nursing is not just a job. You have to have compassion.

  2. I totally agree with that longevity statement. I don’t see the joy of living so long you outlive all your friends agemates, spouses, and possibly children. I don’t see a joy in being in a condition you don’t know what is happening, can’t remember what you said 5 seconds ago, and spend your days praying for death. That’s my mom right now. But after watching a documentary by Terry Pratchett yesterday and seeing a man die using an Assisted Death company in Switzerland, I’m against that too. It’s a conundrum.

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