I mentioned earlier about my growing anxieties during pregnancy, but there was also something even bigger happening on Mr. Pencil’s side. During my first trimester, we found out that Mr. Pencil’s father was diagnosed with cancer. Since his parents were divorced, we barely saw my FIL  — maybe two times in our almost 7 years of marriage – because he lived in Portland. He lived with Mr. Pencil’s grandmother, who was suffering from dementia.

A few weeks after I found out I was pregnant, Mr. Pencil had to fly up and stay with his father to help him recover from the tumor removal surgery. Mr. Pencil wanted to be near me and felt bad for leaving me alone, but he was really needed by his dad. Since I had really bad morning sickness, I stayed with my parents while Mr. Pencil helped his recovering father for two weeks. Even though we talked on the phone each night, it was rough. My FIL was having a very difficult recovery. He did not heal well, and he was emotionally in poor spirits from not being able to eat well. Living with a grandmother suffering from dementia sure didn’t make it any easier either. But this is what family is for – to be there when it matters the most.

After a while, it was obvious that my FIL’s health was quickly deteriorating. He began to lose weight rapidly and the doctors told us it wouldn’t be long. Although my FIL was not very close to the rest of his family, my SIL decided that she was going to move Mr. Pencil’s father into her home. She had a pretty full house with 2 little boys and a cute little corgi. But Mr. Pencil’s family thought it was the right thing to do. After a lot of logistical planning and financial meetings to sell the Portland house and move everything to California, my FIL was settled in to spend the rest of his days at my SIL’s house. His grandmother was too weak to be moved and they decided to have her stay at a good nursing home for suffering dementia patients. Her current nurse was to visit weekly and give us updates on how she was doing.


We spent the holidays knowing that this would probably be the last with my FIL. I was about 6 months pregnant at the time, and my FIL was so very excited and happy that we were having a boy. Turns out that there’s a very important tradition in the family when the eldest son’s son has another son. There was a lot of talk about genealogy and how my FIL would think of his future name. It was truly a bittersweet time because we knew the death of my FIL was very near, and we didn’t know if he would make it to see our little baby being brought into this world.

Many people go through what I was going through, and I just had no idea what it was like for them. People wanted to ask whether I thought it was going to be a boy or girl, if I was going to decorate my nursery and all these other baby questions. But the truth was that those were the last things on my mind. Death was around the corner and it was going to affect us greatly. I would smile and give short answers, but at home things were grim. Mr. Pencil and I constantly had to bounce back and forth supporting each other. He needed to be at so many places at once, and I needed to remain healthy and calm.

After the holidays were over, things moved even more quickly. Mr. Pencil’s grandmother passed away. It was hard because she was in so much emotional distress and the family had to take care of her daily physical needs, such as trips to the bathroom and feedings. FIL actually was in such bad shape, he was never told the news of his own mother’s passing. He himself was on his deathbed and soon enough, his mind also started to fade. It was a very sad time of just waiting and trying to spend as much time with family as possible.

There’s something different about losing a family member when you are close and have all these fantastic memories together, versus losing someone you hardly know. When you barely see or talk to each other… there’s a lot of sense of regret, wanting to make up for lost time, wishing you had said this or that. I watched Mr. Pencil go through one of the most difficult parts of his life. He was losing his father, while becoming one himself.

Mr. Pencil was driving an hour to my SIL’s house almost every night after work to spend the last days with his father. The doctors kept saying “any day now,” but my FIL clung on. At that point, being 7 months pregnant, I knew that Baby Pencil was never going to meet his grandfather. Mr. Pencil felt so bad for leaving me behind to take care of all the logistics, and I felt terrible that he was having to go through so much all at once. At least we were equally concerned for the other, we said.

When I got the call that he had finally passed, there was oddly a sense of relief. FIL was suffering so terribly, and everyone was just standing by for the inevitable. It seems like a horrible thing to wish or hope that someone’s pain would end in death, but when you watch a loved one just barely being able to live, sometimes the right thing to happen is death. They aren’t even really living anymore, especially when their mind is gone. I’m really glad that he passed in a home full of his family members. Even though they had all not seen each other for years, they came together for this time and paid their respects.

It would seem like things should end there, but it didn’t. I’ve never had to experience a parent die, so I didn’t realize that the children are the ones who handle all of the “adult” issues like selling the home, selling the car, handling the retirement funds and bank accounts, making funeral arrangements and so on. It is really hard to do so many logistical things right after someone passes.

So many people were concerned about my emotional health, since stress is really bad for pregnancy. But how could I think of myself during this time? I did try to breathe and not get too emotional, but during Mr. Pencil’s eulogy I couldn’t stop crying. How tragic that my FIL died, not even knowing his mother passed only a week before he would. And for my dear, husband… to handle two deaths while awaiting the arrival of his future son all within a few months. I admired how he was able to be such a responsible, loving and obedient son. I will one day tell Baby Pencil how his father handled this period with grace and love.

Even now, it boggles my mind how much happened everything during my pregnancy until now. Luckily (or unluckily?)  it was mostly emotional, not physical difficulties. Anxieties, watching my sister go through IVF, and two family deaths. It was the time when Mr. Pencil and I grew the closest we had ever been. It made me feel like we could go through the hardest times in life and still be there for each other. In a way, it helped me believe in “us” more as a couple. And after all that, we were going to be hit with the craziest change in our lives — becoming parents.

It also amazes me to see the circle of life. Into the world we are born so helpless, needing help to eat, go to the bathroom and in need of the most tender care. When we leave this world, we need the same exact things! It is so interesting and perfect and awful how everything works in this cycle.  I got to see it right before my very eyes.

Baby Pencil, one day I will explain to you everything about your FIL and your grandmother. They would have loved to meet you. And it’s crazy how much you look like your grandfather! He would have been so proud and he loved you so much even before you were born.