Today is US Mother’s Day. I wrote a blog post on the UK Mother’s Day a couple of months ago.
US Mother’s Day is forever entwined in my head with my mother’s death, a beautiful sunny day when I was not yet 30. A hospice patient, lying on her own sheets, with her own pillows, window open wide to the fresh spring breeze and the sweetness of a hopeful world, my mother took her last gasp and that was that. Finally. Peacefully. Cancer did not win. She won. Her way. Her terms. Showing me in her final act how to claim one’s ground, gracefully. It was the 12th of May, and sometimes that day is Mother’s Day.
It’s kind of nice for me to have two Mother’s Days to celebrate. I used to dislike the early, colder UK Mother’s Day. But now I have come to appreciate the chance to separate out being a mum myself from celebrating my own mom. But of course those things are intertwined in ways psychoanalysts have been trying to disentangle for eons.
This year, the taste of my own mortality is ever present. I have been ill and I recently spent 36 hours with all the medical professionals around me suspecting I might have had one of the big ‘nasties’ – I spent 36 hours thinking of the ironies that my brain too might have had cancer, or an aneurysm, worrying that cancer might have spread to my lymph nodes. None of that was true, and I never believed it was, but it does change you to lie in a hospital bed in the deep hours of the morning wrestling with those ‘what-ifs.’ (I wrote about that experience here.)
Every mother, every carer, every parent has those moments where their knees buckle, and they feel the fear. What would happen if they were no longer here? It’s heartbreaking to contemplate. Impossible to imagine. I love both of our kids with every ounce of my being. I can’t dwell in that space or I would crumble.
It was after my recent hospital stay that I told our eldest more details about his birth day. I told him that during my complicated delivery I was not properly anesthetized (my epidural had failed, though the docs debated this). When I heard “the baby is in distress” I begged them to cut me even without pain medicine, to do whatever they needed to do to let him live. How when I woke up from the general anesthesia they were able to use at the last minute I had no pain medicine in me and all I wanted to know was if the baby was okay. (He was.) Once I knew that, then even the nurses were crying in their hurry to get me pain medicine when they realized with horror what had happened. I share this story here, because this love I am writing about is for both of my sons. I need them both to know I would do anything for them.
This blog however, is about raising a child with FASD, so I am focusing here on the thoughts that flashed through my mind that recent night in the hospital, staring down the nasties, worrying about leaving my sons. Worrying about leaving my son with special needs. I simply was not ready, my job is not yet done. There is too much yet we do not know, too many hurdles he has yet to jump. These next years, the teenage years, are pivotal. I must be there. I want to be there. I have to be there.
Motherhood has its hubris. We believe we are the key, the core. Of course I know he would survive and thrive without me. I know others would help him, guide him. But I am his. And he is mine. And this world is a big and scary place for a vulnerable and misunderstood child.
And, sitting here in the sunshine, watching him play, I am thankful we have today. We have this sunshine, these birdsongs, this moment. Some days, I even think we have grace. (Until of course it all dissolves and my uncertainties take over as marble runs sail across the room and the dog must be protected. And the words are angry and the world is not right.) FASD is consuming. It is relentless. It is unfair and it is cruel – a manic and frightening rollercoaster without end.
But no matter how sorry we feel for this child’s reality, we cannot change what happened inside the womb.
We can, however, choose to welcome this day, this moment, the possibilities and the potential. Whatever we as parents and carers have to do to find that inner peace, we must do it. It is a choice. A conscious choice. Just like our children will face a lifetime of having to choose to be positive, an eternity of having to make those decisions to keep them upright and safe despite their confusion and frustration. If we give in to the despair, so will they. If we let those dark thoughts consume us, of course they will too. We have to find the joy. We must.
It is here. If we just sit still for a moment, we will find it. Sometimes it’s in the smallest places – in the position of a small hand on our arm, in the sigh after a little kindness, in the nearness of that tiny foot to our own own. The way this child, who walks this world in such confusion, turns to us with a smile. It is here. The joy is here. Sometimes motherhood means searching in the darker moments to find the light switch. Sometimes they just need to know it is safe, and that they are not alone. Sometimes their souls catch our lullabies, and we won’t know we were heard until years later. Believe. I believe in all children, including those who show us what we don’t know. I believe.