I became amazing.
In the span of one bronchoscopy — the real thing, the right test that showed us that her airway was 70% constricted — I went from that crazy, unhinged, unreasonable mother at whom everyone shook their head to the heroine of my family. My stubborn insistence on nursing her past her first birthday became a gift all acknowledged as selfless and stroke of genius. My willingness to hold her when she cried, carry her in a sling against my chest, sing to her and not utterly fall to pieces at the news of her upcoming cardiac surgery — all of these were held up as Brilliant Motherhood Personified.
Just look at her. She’s an incredible mother.
I felt like grabbing everyone who said that by the shoulders and shaking them, not just then but for years to come, through all of the followups and complications and all of the diagnoses and procedures, and saying “WHAT. IS. MY. OTHER. CHOICE?” Truly, I have never understood this statement, kind-hearted and well-intentioned as it is. It’s a statement that claims there is something magical about a mother who does the right thing for her child; there is something truly special about a mother who listens to her instincts; there is something miraculous about a mother who puts her foot down and says “I will not stand for my child’s discomfort a moment longer.”
Truly, that mother is all around us:
She is saying “no” to homework for her sensitive eight-year-old.
She is walking away with her back turned from her kindergartener who is sobbing, knowing that her presence only makes him cry harder and that he’ll have a great day in his classroom once she’s gone.
She is pushing the pediatrician to look in her toddler’s ears just once more because she knows there’s an infection from the way his nose is running.
She is feeding her six year old the same chicken nuggets and carrot sticks every night because dinner is not the battle on which she wants to base their relationship.
And she is me, standing in a hospital room with four-month-old Sammi, who is screaming and screaming against my chest, IV under a splint in one arm, unable to nurse because her breathing is too fast. She is me, begging the nurse to do something, knowing this is not how Sammi cries, knowing that being held and sung to is always enough. She is me, shocked beyond words at the suggestion by that nurse that Sammi’s pained, hysterical wailing could be soothed by a Baby Einstein video, shocked and stunned that the nurse would shake her finger at me and tell me that I should know by now that babies cry sometimes and we don’t always know why.
She is me, four hours and a nursing shift change later, drenched in sweat and holding Sammi in the crook of my arm in a hospital bed, both of us deeply asleep after the new nurse discovered that Sammi’s IV had infiltrated the tissue of her arm, filling her skin with IV fluid from the tips of her fingers all the way to her armpit. With the IV removed, the screaming had stopped, and Sammi and I had collapsed, utterly exhausted, into that bed to sleep, pressed into each other for the rest of the night.
I was an amazing mother when I was preparing and getting Sammi through every surgery, but I was an amazing mother like all other amazing mothers every time I listened to that voice in me that told me something was wrong. That’s not amazing, really. That is what motherhood requires of us.