I didn’t know I was still carrying energy around a long-ago event until my daughter told me about my grandson waking up inconsolable with a fever.
Ah yes. I remember those feelings. That sense of helplessness. Of worry and fear grappling for dominance in my mind.
She was three months old. Thanksgiving. She’d been fussy for a couple of days. I asked Wanda, our next door neighbour who was a pediatric nurse, for help. What do you think? Should I take her to a doctor?
She’s just teething, Wanda asserted.
I wanted to believe her but the next day when she would not stop crying, (Alexis never cried as an infant) I insisted we take her into the Children’s hospital emergency room. We were on our way to my then in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. Dinner can wait, I told my then husband. This is more important.
I remember when they took her from my arms and placed her on a cold steel examining table.
I remember when they put a tiny IV needle into her scalp.
I remember holding her and trying to soothe her and all the while she is mewling and I am forcing myself not to cry because I need to be calm for her.
She was admitted to hospital that day. An infection. A spiking temperature.
She was there a week.
I only went home to shower and change my clothes.
I could not leave her alone no matter how kind and caring the nurses and doctors.
I could not leave her alone.
I had forgotten about those moments and days 34 years ago until I heard about my grandson. He is okay. Whatever was ailing him passed through and he is once again his sunny self.
I am grateful.
That he has weathered this storm, whatever its source and that I can breathe again through memory, letting time wash away the traces of those moments and days long ago when I felt so helpless, so incompetent and like such a failure as a mother.
How could I not have known when first she started to cry that it was something serious?
How could I not have immediately whisked her off to the doctor?
And I smile.
I never wanted to be ‘one of those mothers’ who was constantly dragging their child to a doctor imagining the worst.
I wanted to assume the best. To be calm, collected, thoughtful in everything I did.
Years later, when Alexis was about 12, she’d break her foot climbing the doorframe to the kitchen (I know. It was a thing to do.) Not wanting to foster her assertions that something was seriously wrong after having listened so many times to her cries that a fall had resulted in a break which ended up with unnecessary x-rays, I put ice on her foot and told her if it was still hurting in the morning, we’d get it checked out.
Sure enough, this time, the break was real.
And again, I wondered, how could I not have known? How could I be such an incompetent mother?
I’m smiling as I write that. I think being a mother has taught me more about acceptance of my limitations and fears as well as made me aware of my blind-spots and ego’s need for reassurance than anything else I’ve ever done in my life.
Being a mother humbled me. It still does.
And being a YiaYa has given me the gift of remembering those places where old fears still linger, where charred spots in my psyche can still burn.
And I say a prayer of gratitude. And I say a prayer of hope. And I say a prayer of remembering what it means to be human.
We do our best and our best is all we can do.
As part of the course I’m taking online with Orly Avineri, the invitation was to take one image and repeat it 3 times in a journal page.
This page in my altered book journal, My Mother’s Prayers, is called, A Prayer for My Inner Child — it became 3 prayers, one for my inner child, my present me and my future me. My mother always lit candles for her children, particularly when something was going on in our lives. I’m pretty sure, 34 years ago she burnt a candle and prayed for Alexis every day.