Monday, July 23, 2007

Mother Lode

I took on the job of mother with my eyes wide open, knowing that there would be difficult times mixed in with all the rewarding times. While the media and even other parents are quick to talk about all the good things involved with parenting – seeing your child’s first smile, their first steps, the fun birthday parties, the graduations, and watching your children turn into fine adults – very little is shared about the difficult things. And, one of the most difficult is caring for a child that is seriously sick or injured.

Stephanie, at Greek Tragedy, a first time parent of premature twins, is struggling to maintain her sanity while her infant son endures surgery to have a shunt placed in his brain. Although to most observers she is doing a fine job of balancing the needs of her family while caring for her son, she feels she is “a mess”. In fact, her son is probably coping and healing better than she is. As mothers, we tend to question our every action and worry about the results of those actions. If a mother doesn’t, she is viewed as cold or less competent, when the reality is that we all have different ways of handling the extreme stress of caring for a sick child.

My friend, Lynnette, whose nine year old daughter is facing surgery to insert a tracheotomy tube, seemingly can go and go like the Energizer bunny with very minimal amounts of sleep. I can hear the worry and exhaustion in her voice, yet she still focuses on the positive. Just this morning she wrote me, “Everything we've been through has made us stronger and more appreciative of the gifts of life; I know this will be the same - in time”. Now there is the mother lode of strength.

I, on the other hand, turn into even more of a control freak than I usually am when one of my children is in the hospital. I expect medicine schedules to be followed, beds to be changed as needed, nurses and doctors to be pleasant and to share with me every detail of what it being done to my child. I demand to know what the professionals are thinking and why they are thinking those thoughts. If the hospital food is not to my liking, I will bring in food I know my child will eat. In short, I know the hospital staff is really, really glad to see my child leave the hospital because it means I will also be leaving.

My Ashley is facing brain surgery, and I am grateful that I have people like Stephanie and Lynnette from whom to draw strength and learn less-controlling ways to interact with hospital staff. Their examples of fortitude in the face of a mother’s nightmare gives me the encouragement I need to be a strong and effective advocate for Ashley during her surgery and recovery, and to care for the rest of my family as well.

We’re a group of exhausted, drained, and perhaps cranky mothers. But we will do everything we can for our children and our families. And I hope that by our examples other mothers can also find the strength they need in times of extreme stress.

Being a mother continues to be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but I wouldn’t change one second of the time I have shared with all my children.

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