Mama Bird's Final Journey, Page 2 December 21, 2009-December 29, 2009

  Monday December 21, 2009-Heavy snow and high winds brought some much needed Christmas cheer into our home on Saturday, with 24 inches of pristine white snow blanketing the ground. Since it was so cold, the snow was a fine powder that glistened like diamonds under the outdoor lights after sunset . I was so grateful that Mama was still here with me. The first snow of the season is always enchanting, but when it's just a few days before Christmas and you have a soft, cuddly little bird snuggling under your chin, the day is glorious . As my husband put the lights on our Christmas tree, I wrote out a few Christmas cards and Mama slept. When Mama woke up it was time to clean his feathers again. Mama is very intelligent and he can now associate the sound of a running faucet with the dreaded bath. Retrieving him from his cage for bathing has become a battle of wit and strength between the 2 of us. Instead of biting me, Mama tightly grasps onto the cage bars with a clenched beak and won't release his bite. Bathing did not go well on Friday, resulting in Mama having trouble breathing again.  Several droppings were excreted into the bath water and he had to be removed  4 times so soiled water could be replenished with clean water. Some ideas on how to minimize this stressful ordeal were suggested by members of our message board. As Mama rested in the palm of my hand, a cotton ball that had been soaked in warm water was placed under his vent. Warm, wet cotton balls were replaced several times until hard droppings had softened for removal with Kleenex tissues and Q-Tips. Now, periodically throughout the day, Mama's tail is gently lifted as he rests inside of his cage, so loose, soft droppings can be removed with a Q-Tip. Hard droppings are snipped off with a small pair of hair cutting scissors, without Mama having to be restrained and terrified. On Saturday Mama's foot became weaker, curling into a ball, making standing and walking more difficult for him. On a more positive note, Mama was weighed again yesterday and although he is underweight, he's maintaining a weight of 80 grams. He certainly is enjoying those peanut butter cookies that I made for him. As soon as he sees me taking a cookie out of the tin, he rushes to the front of the cage, eagerly awaiting his treat. Cookie noticed food again too, so all 3 of us have been sharing a peanut butter cookie each night.

Tuesday December 22, 2009- As I pondered over the bygone years of Mama's youth, many heartwarming memories came to mind. In this photo taken 5 years ago, one of my many favorites, Mama was mesmerized by a Winter wonderland and the warmth of the morning sun. Throughout the past 2 months, I felt guilty for not taking enough photos of Mama until I browsed through photos stored on the computer to select favorites to print out and put inside of an album,. I was astonished to find thousands of pictures of my baby and by the time I did choose favorites, I had chosen 700 pictures!  One file in particular made me laugh. I had taken pictures many years ago of dirty dishes and pans in the sink after preparing a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and bird bread for Mama, only to toss the foods into the trash because he wouldn't eat any them. Another file contained photos of the enormous quantity and variety of fruits and vegetables that were purchased, hoping that Mama would eat at least one of them. Mama has given me so much joy over the years and so many loving memories of him are tucked into my heart. Then my thoughts quickly return to reality when I look at my precious baby and see how much he has withered away. Mama had a restless night on Sunday and had difficulty sleeping. Even though his sides were supported by his blanket and he rested on my collarbone, he was disturbed by a rhythmic twitching in his bad foot. Whether caused by muscle weakness, involuntary spasms, pain or a combination of all 3, the jolting in his foot caused his right wing to shutter as well. Mama finally fell asleep at 8 AM Monday morning. When he awoke, the uncontrollable movements in his foot and wing had not subsided. Perplexed by the cause, I considered the possibility of pain because Mama's bad foot and leg looked swollen and he was holding his foot up. Mama was given a dose of Metacam at 4 PM, but his foot continued to jerk 2 hours later. Since Metacam is an anti-inflammatory medicine, I'm hoping that it will bring down the swelling in his leg. Again on a happier note, Mama has been enjoying his Christmas toys so much and he has already shred half of the munch ball ornaments on his birdie Christmas tree. Fortunately, the toy making supply box is always packed with colorful toy components and Mama's tree was re-decorated  with more green, red and yellow munch balls.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 -Tuesday brought a flood of tears to my eyes, as well as anger and the cause was my 25 year old daughter's immaturity, insensitivity,  her need to constantly have a good time and by her jealousy of little  Mama Bird. I was angry at her for sleeping in bed with clothes, bouncing up and down on the bed to the rhythm of music (she already broke one bed frame doing this),  for leaving a Slurpee container on a new wooden dresser and for throwing her personal belongings and Mama's toys all over the bedroom floor. I also told her that the few gifts that were purchased were being placed in gift bags instead of being wrapped. She turned on me like a snake after telling her about the gifts and her remarks were shameful. I told her that I did everything to make Christmas "normal" for everybody else, bought gifts, made pierogi,  baked cookies and decorated the house and tree. There was no pleasure for me in Christmas preparations this year. Her response was, "That's no fun! I'm second fiddle to a bird. You spend 4 hours with a bird but you won't spend an hour watching a Christmas movie with me! That's a tradition!  I don't think you would spend 4 hours with me or my brother if we were sick! If there's no Christmas I may as well go to my boyfriend's house. I'm not going to sit around here doing nothing, twiddling my thumbs!" Her callous attitude towards Mama and me, and her shallow perspective of Christmas hurt deeply. If she really needed time with me, she could have put on a movie and stayed in the room while I decorated the tree for 5 hours, even if I didn't need help.  Instead, she isolated herself in another room listening to music . I  probably would have watched a movie with her last night because all of the preparations have been  completed. After she left, my son called and we spoke for an hour. He said, "What is SHE doing to make  Christmas for YOU?" My son then asked if I cared if she wasn't here for Christmas. Of course I cared and it wouldn't be Christmas without her. The grand finale of the day- my poor husband fell off of the train steps and twisted his ankle last night. As for my little Mama Bird, he slept in his cage Monday night after a midnight supper of brown rice. He slept all day Tuesday but his foot and leg seemed better when he woke up at midnight. A fresh bowl of mashed potatoes and more crushed pellets were prepared. Mama then dined on the kitchen table, played with some toys (photo), had his tail feathers cleaned with cotton, before he was given a dose of Metacam. After spending 2 hours preening his tail feathers, Mama rested on the sofa with me, snuggling his soft face and warm beak against my cheek,  until 6 AM Wednesday. Moms don't need sleep. Our batteries operate on air.

Christmas Eve December 24, 2009, This picture was taken about 5 years ago and it's one of my favorites. As soon as I got out of bed this morning, my husband hugged me and said "Merry Christmas. Christmas found its way to our home today. Mama is still here with you." I immediately went to see Mama to wish him and Cookie a Merry Christmas too. Although we had our Christmas miracle and Mama was still here for Christmas Eve, his condition had drastically deteriorated overnight. Mama could no longer stand without falling over onto his side or falling forward onto his beak. Each time he fell, he tried to move forward by spreading his wings and flapping or using them like little ski poles to push himself forward. My worst fear now is that he will break a wing by using them to gain mobility. Mama's breathing had also became labored overnight. His tail was bobbing and he could no longer keep his tail down to rest on the cage floor. After taking him out of his cage, he rested more comfortably in the palm of my hand for a few hours and slept. I cried and begged the angels to please come and help him return home today, the most special night of the year. I was certain that Mama was dying in my hand all morning and afternoon. Mama slept soundly all day, undisturbed by the sounds of pots and pans in the kitchen as I prepared food for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner. . When Mama awoke at 7 PM he was offered all of his favorite foods, but he wouldn't eat. He was offered his water dish but his face almost fell into the water when he tried to take a drink He was wrapped in a new, red fleece blanket that was purchased  for him for Christmas, then he was placed inside of his basket with a tiny teddy bear. Mama's eyes were bright and alert as he watched me finish cooking dinner. My husband sat at the kitchen table next to Mama to catch him in case he tried climbing out of his basket. While cooking, I kept checking on Mama and noticed that his breathing took on a much faster pace and that he was making his little cricket sounds, which have always meant he's afraid. Mama was returned to his cage where he could feel more secure and Christmas Eve dinner was placed on the table. Although my appetite for food vanished weeks ago, I tasted one of the pierogi and when Mama saw me eating, he tried climbing over the tooth pillow to get to the front of the cage again. Mama was offered pierogi filling, but he refused it and opted for plain mashed potatoes instead. He ate with the same pattern of taking a few nibbles of food then napping a few minutes. After dinner, Mama was brought into the family room to see the Christmas tree and to rest with me on the sofa. Although Mama tried to sleep, he just wasn't able to get comfortable because he was too weak to  balance his reclining body horizontally. His tail was elevated, causing him to tip forward onto his beak. So we went back into the kitchen to the chair he is familiar with and he slept as I pet his cheek patches and the back of his neck. He woke up crying and hungry again at 11 PM.  My cooking ideas have gone stale and I just don't know what else to offer him. So the  pierogi came out of the refrigerator again and some of the potato cheese filling was warmed in the microwave for Mama.  He still loves pierogi and he ate  all of the filling then had  a piece of a peanut butter cookie for dessert. After eating Mama slept cradled in the palm of my hand  again until 1 AM. He was then placed back in his cage.  I was exhausted and started falling asleep on a kitchen chair. I peeked into the kitchen 15 minutes later and Mama was sound asleep with his head tucked into his wing.

Christmas Day December 25 2009--Christmas morning brought more sadness since Mama was even weaker. He was given the Octopus Pinata toy that Santa had left for him, offered more water and food, then taken  out of his cage to rest in my hand. My sorrow for my sweet precious baby was profound. I sobbed and begged the angels to please help him to return home on this special day, but the angels did not answer my prayers this time either. My husband and daughter knew that I had no desire to open gifts this year. When Mama feel asleep, I asked them to bring the few gifts into the kitchen so they could open their gifts at the kitchen table. As I held Mama, my gifts were opened for me by my daughter. She gave me a beautiful, champagne colored, brocade photo album with a note. Part of the note said, "Thank you for trying to infuse some class into my life. Mama was always a classy bird, so he deserves a classy photo album." She also gave me a small photo album that had pink clouds on it and the words, "The Journey". My daughter has a good heart and in the end she usually does the right thing. Mama stayed awake, bright eyed and alert throughout the day but he was noticeably upset during dinner as his breathing became  more rapid, labored and his tail was bobbing. I think that 4 people at the dinner table was just too overwhelming for him. Even though it was just my  85 year old Mom and the 3 of us and dinner was very simple, the quiet conversation caused too much stress for Mama.  Mama ate some mashed potatoes while we had dinner but he wouldn't even taste the potato stuffing that he loved so much at Thanksgiving. I spent most of the day in the kitchen sitting next to Mama or holding him, while my family enjoyed the tree and "The Christmas Story" movie in the family room. Mama was offered scrambled eggs again in the evening and he ate some with a piece of a peanut butter cookie. Since he was resting comfortably in his cage after eating, I spent an hour in the family room talking to my mom. I showed her some of my favorite photos of Mama as well as Mama's journal. I also sang the lullaby that I made up for Mama about 10 years ago. Mama heard this song almost every day of his life since the little ditty popped into my head,  "Pretty Girl with the Golden Curl." This brought on another wave of tears. Christmas 2009 came and went without me even knowing it was really here. Christmas was just another day  of taking care of my sweet, precious, very sick baby. At midnight, Mama was resting comfortably in his cage so I put on a DVD, White Christmas, laid down on the sofa and fell sound asleep by 1 AM.

Saturday December 26, 2009, Mama's crying woke me at 3 AM. He was taken out of his cage, wrapped in his red blanket and he slept over my heart. Because Mama was so weak, he kept sliding downward, even though I had one hand over his back. Each time I moved him up closer to my face he would get upset and cry. He just wanted to sleep and have his face stroked. Throughout the early morning hours, Mama's entire body would suddenly shudder for a split second, every 5-10 minutes while he slept. I wondered if he was having nightmares. At 5 AM my daughter moved the rocking chair back into the kitchen and Mama was rocked until 8:30 AM. When Mama was placed back inside  of his cage, he fell to his side. I grabbed another one of his blankets, cut it into small pieces then rolled the pieces to make small bumper guards. One was placed on his left side, one in front of his face so he could rest his head on it like a pillow and the tooth pillow was on his right side. Mama immediately relaxed with the soft support and fell asleep with his head tucked into his wing. Mama was still sleeping when I awoke at 11 AM and he was no longer shuddering and his breathing was much better. His tail was  also resting on the cage floor normally instead of being elevated,  bobbing and pointing sideways. Mama seems to have lost the use of his tail muscles about a week ago. I noticed that his tail was turning outward, away from his body.  In the afternoon Mama was thirsty and he ate a millet seed spray that was near him.  He went right back to sleep again and slept for the remainder of the afternoon. When I walked past his cage in the early evening,  his eyes opened, he stretched his neck and head up high while trying to pull  himself over the tooth pillow again with his beak. Today he lost the bright look of life in his eyes. I placed him on his red blanket again and rocked him for an hour in my rocking chair. My husband heated some of the soup from Christmas Eve on the stove so we could have dinner and he poured some in a mug for me. When Mama saw my husband eating, he tried pulling himself up and out of the red blanket--signaling that he wanted to eat too. Scrambled eggs were made and Mama ate them with more millet seed inside of his cage. Mama stayed awake for a short time, before falling back to sleep. As he slept, Mama's frail little  body wobbled to the right with each breath that he took until he cried for food again a few hours later. He was very hungry, ate a large portion of brown rice and millet seeds then he played with his birdie Christmas tree--again! The munch ball ornaments have been replaced 3 times already. Then at 2 AM, Mama was crying and hungry again. This time it was pot luck for Mama. Some potato stuffing was warmed in the microwave and Mama ate about 1/2 of a teaspoon then went back to play with his Christmas tree.  I honestly thought he was going to die in the palm of my hand several times over the past 3 days. Each time he looked as if he had stopped breathing and his body would get as limp as a rag doll. I kept telling Mama to close his eyes so eternal slumber could free  him from his weak and ailing body. Prayers from so many kind and  caring people, Mama's strong will and the food that he is eating, are keeping him alive. Even though Mama is very weak and very disabled, he seems comfortable, free from pain and he shows me everyday how much he still wants to be  here with me. Even though he is breathing faster, he thankfully is not breathing with an open beak,  wheezing, gurgling, gasping for air or making a clicking sound in his throat, all typical of respiratory distress. I know Mama is telling me to hold him, love him, comfort him, and to stay with him until the end.  So I continue to wait patiently, staying close to Mama, tending to his needs and praying.

Sunday December 27 2009 Mama's health remains very poor and now he seems to have lost his appetite as well. Although he was offered all of his favorite foods on Sunday, he would only eat millet seed spray and drink water. His breathing was rapid and he was sleeping in my hand throughout the day. I have been placing a piece of another fleece blanket, about the size of a handkerchief, in the palm of my hand so he can have a little more support and comfort when resting at this angle. He's more comfortable and he can breath easier when being held like this. Mama was rocked in my rocking chair all day Sunday. By late afternoon, Mama was placed inside of his basket so I could take him into another room where I could rest my arms and legs for 2 hours. Both of my elbows ached from holding him  so close to me with one hand petting him with the other hand for over 2 months. My feet had become so swollen from sitting in the rocking chair for prolonged periods of time that if I didn't put them up I was concerned that my own health would fail and then I'll be useless to Mama. Mama did not want dinner and he even refused his peanut butter cookie, but did take a few nibbles of a vanilla spritz cookie. Yesterday was a sorrowful day. Although I sobbed uncontrollably throughout the day, my tears were not for myself but for my poor baby who was still struggling to hang on to life. Mama still had enough strength to use his wings and he kept flapping them, trying to move onto my hand or to move around in his cage. I was very worried that he would injure or break one of his wings. After putting him back inside of his cage at midnight, I heard his wings flapping and when I went in to see him, he had one wing caught behind the tooth pillow. Each time I tucked him in between his bumpers, the same thing happened. Mama just did not want to be inside of his cage. He wanted to be out of the cage with me. Mama was taken into the family room so he could  sleep on the sofa with me. His red blanket was placed across my chest and one of his little bumpers was placed by my chin so he could rest his head comfortably and sleep. The house felt so chilly last night, even though the heat was on 72F. A morbid feeling of death enveloped my soul because I  knew Mama's impending death was now  very near. Another  fleece blanket was put over my arms and across Mama's basket,  creating a warm, cozy place for him to sleep. Mama seemed to enjoy the soft enclosure and continued to sleep  until 6 AM when I put him back inside of his cage.

Monday December 28 & Tuesday December 29 2009 Mama had managed to pull himself up to the front of the cage again and was sleeping on his side, next to his mirror when I awoke on Monday morning. One of his bumpers was placed by his right side for more support so he wouldn't be leaning on his side. The folded paper towels that were in the 2 cage corners where he sleeps and plays were removed so his foot could have more traction. The bathtub mat was checked every 30 minutes and any droppings were quickly removed with a cotton ball. Mama slept peacefully on Monday until  3 PM . When he woke up he was offered some scrambled eggs but he only took a few nibbles then fell back to sleep. Mama was also given a few drops of water with a tiny syringe. After Mama ate,  I tried holding him in the palm of my hand with the small piece of blanket to rock him, but he resisted and flapped his wings. So instead of holding him, Mama was placed in his basket and his red blanket was arranged so he would have support on his sides. Mama was also covered with a small piece of his blanket to keep him warm. My baby rested comfortably in his basket all evening.  Later Monday evening, Mama fell into a very deep sleep and I was unable to awaken him. He did not respond to my voice or touch. I took him into the family room, put the Christmas tree lights on and laid down on the sofa, holding Mama in his basket close to my heart. With one hand wrapped around the handle of the basket, to make sure the basket didn't fall off the sofa, my other hand gently stroked Mama's crest and neck. Again, I felt chilly because I knew that my baby was slowly fading away into another world.  My shoulders were covered with another fleece blanket and I shared the blanket with Mama, draping  part of the blanket across his basket. Mama slept peacefully throughout the night and his breathing was becoming  slower and more difficult to detect. Throughout the night, I continued talking to him, singing to him and stroking his little head. By 3 AM Tuesday morning, Mama had his head tucked into his wing and was still sleeping.  I checked him again at 4 AM, 5 AM and 6 AM and he was still sleeping comfortably. Now I too fell into a deeper slumber and woke up at at 9 AM. When I awoke, Mama was looking up at me with his eyes open. As soon as I touched him I knew that his battle with death was finally over because he was already cold and stiff. Mama had passed away peacefully in his sleep.  Because my little angel lingered on for 2 months, and because he enjoyed life to the fullest up until Christmas Eve, I am at peace with Mama's death. My prayers were answered and Mama passed away close to me at home in his sleep, surrounded by my love and the soft glowing lights of our Christmas tree. The most difficult part of today was taking Mama's cage apart and putting away his toys. Seeing his cage empty made Mama's death a stark reality. A few hours after Mama passed away, his feather's were washed with warm water then blow dried so he could be placed to rest clean. Mama always took pride in his feathers. Last Wednesday, even though he was so disabled, he spent 2 hours meticulously preening his tail feathers. It just didn't seem proper to lay him to rest with soiled tail feathers. After Mama was cleaned and dried, he was wrapped in a clean red blanket and laid to rest in a container with his Christmas tree toy, his favorite beads that he played with for 15 years, his cuttlebone, a few of his feathers and other items that he enjoyed so much. During the past 2 months, I have learned the true meaning of "a pet is a lifetime commitment" and the true meaning of "a forever home." Although taking care of Mama during his illness was exhausting and it was so  painful watching his health decline, I would do it all over again for him or for any pet that I loved in a heartbeat.  Having Mama euthanized would have been "convenient" and  much easier for me, but I know  in my heart, this would not have been easier or pleasant for him.  I will always be grateful that I chose the "runt" of the clutch. For such a small bird, the unconditional love, companionship and joy that he gave me for  15 years will never be forgotten. Mama was one of the greatest blessings in my life and I loved him with all of my heart and soul.



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