For those of you who don’t know, we are back in the hospital already waiting to have surgery. Lyra stopped tolerating her formula, and she couldn’t live on pedialyte. Upon admittance yesterday we were told they were going to have her go in for surgery ASAP. There was the potential for it to happen last night, but now it looks like it will happen this morning.
A friend of mine sent me the narrative below (in bold) the other day, and I wanted to write about it. She did not write it, but it really struck me. I was thinking about it quite a bit last night, but fell asleep before I could write about it:
Some Mothers Get Babies With Something More
My friend is expecting her first child. People keep asking what she wants. She smiles demurely, shakes her head and gives the answer mothers have given throughout the ages of time. She says it doesn’t matter whether it’s a boy or a girl. She just wants it to have ten fingers and ten toes. Of course, that’s what she says. That’s what mothers have always said. Mothers lie.
Truth be told, every mother wants a whole lot more. Every mother wants a perfectly healthy baby with a round head, rosebud lips, button nose, beautiful eyes and satin skin.
Every mother wants a baby so gorgeous that people will pity the Gerber baby for being flat-out ugly.
Every mother wants a baby that will roll over, sit up and take those first steps right on schedule (according to the baby development chart on page 57, column two).
Every mother wants a baby that can see, hear, run, jump and fire neurons by the billions. She wants a kid that can smack the ball out of the park and do toe points that are the envy of the entire ballet class.
Call it greed if you want, but we mothers want what we want. Some mothers get babies with something more.
Some mothers get babies with conditions they can’t pronounce, a spine that didn’t fuse, a missing chromosome or a palette that didn’t close.
Most of those mothers can remember the time, the place, the shoes they were wearing and the color of the walls in the small, suffocating room where the doctor uttered the words that took their breath away. It felt like recess in the fourth grade when you didn’t see the kick ball coming and it knocked the wind clean out of you.
Some mothers leave the hospital with a healthy bundle, then, months, even years later, take him in for a routine visit, or schedule her for a well check, and crash head first into a brick wall as they bear the brunt of devastating news. It can’t be possible! That doesn’t run in our family. Can this really be happening in our lifetime?
I am a woman who watches the Olympics for the sheer thrill of seeing finely sculpted bodies. It’s not a lust thing; it’s a wondrous thing. The athletes appear as specimens without flaw – rippling muscles with nary an ounce of flab or fat, virtual powerhouses of strength with lungs and limbs working in perfect harmony. Then the athlete walks over to a tote bag, rustles through the contents and pulls out an inhaler.
As I’ve told my own kids, be it on the way to physical therapy after a third knee surgery, or on a trip home from an echo cardiogram, there’s no such thing as a perfect body.
Everybody will bear something at some time or another. Maybe the affliction will be apparent to curious eyes, or maybe it will be unseen, quietly treated with trips to the doctor, medication or surgery. The health problems our children have experienced have been minimal and manageable, so I watch with keen interest and great admiration the mothers of children with serious disabilities, and wonder how they do it.
Frankly, sometimes you mothers scare me. How you lift that child in and out of a wheelchair 20 times a day. How you monitor tests, track medications, regulate diet and serve as the gatekeeper to a hundred specialists hammering in your ear. I wonder how you endure the clichés and the platitudes, well-intentioned souls explaining how God is at work when you’ve occasionally questioned if God is on strike.
I even wonder how you endure schmaltzy pieces like this one — saluting you, painting you as hero and saint, when you know you’re ordinary. You snap, you bark, you bite. You didn’t volunteer for this. You didn’t jump up and down in the motherhood line yelling, “Choose me, God! Choose me! I’ve got what it takes.” You’re a woman who doesn’t have time to step back and put things in perspective, so, please, let me do it for you.
From where I sit, you’re way ahead of the pack. You’ve developed the strength of a draft horse while holding onto the delicacy of a daffodil. You have a heart that melts like chocolate in a glove box in July, carefully counter-balanced against the stubbornness of an Ozark mule.
You can be warm and tender one minute, and when circumstances require intense and aggressive the next. You are the mother, advocate and protector of a child with a disability.
You’re a neighbor, a friend, a stranger I pass at the mall. You’re the woman I sit next to at church, my cousin and my sister-in-law.
You’re a woman who wanted ten fingers and ten toes, and got something more. You’re a wonder.
The part that got to me last night was, “You didn’t volunteer for this. You didn’t jump up and down in the motherhood line yelling, ‘Choose me, God! Choose me! I’ve got what it takes.'” While there is much in motherhood that no one signs up for, there are moments when I think, “I really didn’t sign up for this.” Those moments, for me, have nothing to do with anger. They don’t happen when she pukes on me for 8th time that day, or when she is screaming at night and won’t sleep (although those moments I have other thoughts…. a particular book comes to mind). No, I think that when I am getting news that something else is wrong with her, when I am holding her down and she screams while the perform another test, or when I sign more consent forms for surgery.
I am sure I will think it when I hand her to the nurse and watch them walk into the operating room. I will think it every minute for the 3+ hours the surgery will take. I will think about it when I see her right afterwards. And I will likely think it every day we are in the hospital this time (it could be weeks).
While I may not have signed up for it, I can’t change it. I am not a hero. I am not any more than any other mom. I do what my child needs, and what is best for her. Sometimes, she just needs a little more.