I had my oldest son Joey when I was twenty-five. I didn't think that was terribly young at the time, but now that I'm thirty-five and I have a sixteen-month-old, I am amazed at the difference ten years can make.
I've often mentioned that Joey was a surprise. A welcome one; we wanted children and were thrilled to start our family. But there has always been something about being a mother that triggers my awareness of my own imperfections. When Joey was born, he was perfect. A part of me wondered whether the Universe had made a mistake. How could I, someone filled with mistakes and flaws, deserve this perfect little person to depend on me to help him grow up and stay perfect?
I think in verbalizing that question, I've summed up all the anxieties I've felt since having children.
Joey had surgery today. It was minor and simple, but it took up our whole day and required him to be under general anesthesia, which is a frightening thing. He wore a gown, had an IV, and was taken away from me. Wide double doors closed and locked between us. I had no idea how many minutes or hours would pass before I saw him again. Every episode of Grey's Anatomy replayed in my mind, where some random patient came into Seattle Grace/Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital for something simple (like hiccups, for example) and never left.
All day long I wrote this blog in my head, memorizing details and choosing the words to describe my moment to moment emotions. In the end, all of it really only mattered to me. The fear, the worry, the love. The random moments where I was proud and relieved and just wanted to cry for no reason I could understand.
In the end, what mattered is how I saw myself surrounded by other parents who also love their children so much. I was reminded by the hour, by the minute at some points, that my children's health is a gift I cannot take for granted. Tonight I pray that my little boy won't throw up again from the anesthesia, but I pray bigger prayers for the other children I saw today.
Not long after Joey was born I visited a place called Lily Dale, a little outside Buffalo, NY. Lily Dale can be a little controversial, I suppose. It's a community of psychics. The women in my family like to go, mostly for fun, but sometimes for reassurance or hope. It was my first time visiting and I didn't expect much beyond a lot of laughing and a nice lunch. I had both. But I also had a rather unique experience with the psychic I visited. She was a tiny old woman, who held my hands in her shaky ones. She smiled knowingly and said, "You have a son."
"Yes," I said.
"He was a surprise."
"Yes," I said.
"You doubt yourself?"
"Babies choose their mothers, you know."
I was silent. It was a concept I had never considered, and therefore foreign to me.
"They do," she went on. "And your son chose you. It's not up to you to wonder why. What's important is that this boy wanted you to be his mother. He is your special blessing."
I never forgot these words. I don't know how much I can believe the bit about babies choosing their mothers. I love it as an idea, but I've been a teacher for too many years and seen too many lonely and broken children to swallow it whole. I hold tight, too, to my belief that God decides. But her other words, those I have kept in my heart. They are the nest that holds all the love I have for Joey, Noah, and Max. "He is your special blessing."
My heart broke for Joey's fear today. I crumbled more at his bravery. I wished he was still small so I could hold him tight in my arms against my heart. And yet I know what a blessing it is that he is whole and well and tomorrow will be fresh and healthy and strong.
Today made me grateful.