Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Some Mothers Get Babies With Something More...

The following is a long piece, but if can make your way through - it's well worth it. Jim and I have been attending a parents group once a week. It's for parents who have children with neurological disorders. One of the mothers brought this in to share with the group - and now I'm sharing it with you.

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. 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 colour 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 the 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 echocardiogram, 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 yammering in your ear. I wonder how you endure the praise 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 neighbour, a friend, a stranger that I pass in the mall. You’re the woman I sit next to at church, my cousin and my sister-in-law. You’re the woman who wanted ten fingers and ten toes, and got something more.

You’re a wonder.

Lori Borgman is a newspaper columnist and author.


grandma said...

This article hits in the heart of me and again I cry.

Jessica said...

WOW! I'm so stealing this to put on my blog! Thanks :)

Cuzzin Lucy said...

The love of family, what a wonderful thing. It is a cross we all bear. Some just have more weight to carry than others. Barbara, and Jim, I hope your load lightens soon.
Bennett you are the luckiest of little boys to be wrapped in the love of all your family.
Hugs and Kisses

Mummu and Poppa said...

A very well done article that really hits home.

A Mom just wants to be a Mom to her baby.

With so many other duties (daily repeating physio, occupational and speech theropy etc.) one can get bogged down with other activities that can take time away from a mom just taking it easy and being a mom.

Special - Yes.
Hard work - Yes.
Rewards - Priceless!

We can not imagine Bennett in any other family. We are all so privleged and lucky!

Some days we wonder where Barbara finds the time for her and Bennett - but she does. Barbara is a very outgoing spirit and she is not afraid to venture forth and work hard.

Another way of looking at it - a mom does what a mom has to do - and this is Barbara smiling at her 'bundle of joy' with his ten fingers and ten toes, learning to point to his body parts, people and pets in his family, learning shapes and laughing out loud. Every day is a miracle and so wonderous with Bennett. He touhes each of us with his specialness.

We are sure that every day has its challenges but the love that Bennett gives back to all of us is forever in our hearts.


Love and Prayers
Mummu and Poppa.
xxx ooo xxx ooo xxx ooo