My children didn’t come to me in the usual way. I was there to receive my daughter Tessa when her first mom delivered her many years ago. Two years later I became mom to Reed thanks to his first mom.
Because I missed out on pregnancy, sometimes people wonder when I felt like a “real” mom.
I have loved them both from the the moments I knew of their existence. But the lovin’ wasn’t proven until Tessa was about 3 months old.
My Admittance to the Sisterhood of Mothers
Roger had a conference in Costa Rica one summer, and I didn’t want to miss the chance to travel with him. So we recruited two babysitters — the kind who buy their own airline tickets and hotel room — a/k/a “parents.” My parents.
Listen To Your Mother Show in Denver, 2013
Three-month-old babies have a surprising amount of stuff. Clothing, diapers, wipes, and (in our case) formula, bottles, washing paraphernalia and drool cloths. One of the bulkiest things a baby needs is a bath seat that fits in a bathtub or over a sink. Bulky!
Early in the evening we got a call from our local Kids Night Out program that Reed had crashed into metal bleachers while playing indoor tag. He had a gash on his leg that should be looked at.
Roger and I cut our Date Night short to pick up the kids and their friends, return the friends to their homes, and head to a children’s emergency room.
Reed entered — and later exited — in a wheelchair.
Though in pain, Reed mostly remained his jovial self from the time we retrieved him until the time the doctor said he would need stitches. That declaration broke Reed’s resolve and a full-on panic attack ensued.
First came the numbing gel. Thirty minutes later he was administered nasal versed, which made Reed amusingly loopy (This bed? It’s my best friend!). Finally, he was ready for irrigation and repair.
Roger, allowing his wimpy wife an out, took front-and-center position to hold Reed’s hands and gaze during the procedure. Our curious Tessa was eager to watch. That left me in the background, avoiding eye contact with all things crimson.
#2: The Girl
The next step in anesthesia involved a long needle, presumably to be administered directly into the wound (I wouldn’t know). Tessa, who likes to observe as people get shots and IVs, fixed her eyes.
And then got light-headed. I was standing next to her and was able to stop her from falling by pressing her toward a wall, guiding her gently to the floor. A nurse helped me get Tessa into what had been, an hour before, Reed’s wheelchair.
The nurse got the two of us situated in the next room. Tessa was given crackers and juice and a wet cloth for her sweaty forehead. We began to breathe together to calm her body down.
And then…from the next room, we heard, “I NEED SOME HELP IN HERE!!”
In a flash and of my own making, I became part of an ER episode, certain that Reed had gone into cardiac arrest just a wall away. I was convinced the doc was calling for a crash cart.
Tessa leapt out of bed and we both bolted into the hallway where several nurses were hustling. I peeked into Reed’s room with a vise around my throat.
I didn’t expect to see what I saw.
#3: The Surprise
In a heap on the floor at the head of my son’s bed were my husband’s legs. He had crumbled to the floor, hitting his head on the same wall that my daughter had slid down 5 minutes previously.
Roger had been holding the hands of Loopy Reed, who kept wanting to “help” the doc with the stitches. Why are my legs allllll the way down theeeeere? — he’d ask and point with his whole arm. Roger was charged with keeping Reed’s hands out of the doctor’s way. Having never been squeamish, Roger watched as the doctor probed her finger deep into the wound — into his son’s muscle — to fish out any debris.
That scene, along with the fact that Roger had come down with a cold the day before, was enough to vasovagal him. Moments later — you guessed it — Roger was occupying the family wheelchair.
With ice on his head and an oxygen mask on his face.
I started to laugh at how comical our calm date night had become. I didn’t know where to focus, how to be present for each of my downed comrades. I checked in first with Reed (still loopy, almost all stitched and bandaged), then with Tessa (over her own spell and now concerned about her dad), then with Roger (my dear sweet man, coming back to us and a bit mystified that this had happened).
I remained upright and eventually was able to drive us all home, starting with Reed’s wheelchair ride to the elevator.
On one of these long, schooI-less days, I got a rare cuddle from my teen daughter. She lay with her head in the crook of my arm, the rest of her body sprawled on the couch. We were nose to nose, gazing into each others’ eyes, the way you don’t do often enough because that leads to a soul-to-soul connection, and that means you’re naked and supremely vulnerable.
Vulnerable isn’t an easy place for a teen girl or the mom of a teen girl to live in — or even visit very often.
I looked down at her face — oh, the perfection of her face! Her eyes clear and piercing, lips like they were the model for Cupid’s bow, skin flawless and radiant.
“You’re beautiful, Mama,” she said, mirroring my own thoughts about her.
Apparently she was checking out my skin, too. (My skin on the face that was pointed down toward her, I might add in my defense.) Still with an abundance of love in her voice and eyes, Tessa said,
“Wow. You’re really old.”
I was, at first, filled with shame that I’d had the bad sense to grow older. Shame makes me want to lash out, which would for sure ruin this moment of intimacy.
Instead, I took to heart what she said. I am really old, to her very young eyes. And it appears she does not carry the same judgment in saying so that I do in hearing so. I’ve lived on this planet — I’ve thrived on this planet — for a long time. That’s not nothing; that’s not bad sense. In fact, my goal as her mom is that she do the same.