When a woman becomes a mother, she must immediately begin to make decisions that, though they may hurt her child, are for the best. I had to do more than most in the way of injuring my child, for the greater good. I had to approve heart catheterizations, open heart surgery, sticks, pokes, tests and exams. The list is so long that I become depressed just thinking about it. But for the most part, had I refused to do any of those things, my son would not have been doing so well, and may not even have survived.
Most mothers have the childs father, her husband, by her side to help with the decision making, or to at least hold her while she cries over it. I didn’t. In fact, when Jack’s father visited him following his open heart surgery he put down his laptop long enough to say “I don’t feel that love you’re supposed to feel for a child.” I have harbored that pain for Jack since then, and while at the beginning, I felt that his father not being involved would be the most hurtful thing to him, I came to accept it and even look forward to a wonderful life despite it. But as the saying goes, “be careful what you wish for,” because since the beginning of the year, his father has made his desire to be involved with Jack known and has requested overnight visitation. We aren’t to that level yet, but he is practicing caring for Jack when he isn’t travelling, and his travel schedule brought him to the house yesterday. Mother’s Day. My day.
But as in the beginning, when I had to make decisions that hurt Jack in order to help him, this time I had to make a decision that hurt me, in order to help him. I live in fear that his father will become involved in his life, and then at some point down the road, he will just decide that he’s had enough, and walk away, as he did two years ago. And yet, I must let him be involved because it’s for the best. At least that’s what people keep telling me. But Jack’s not a typical child, so I am making sure that his father knows not only how to change a diaper and prepare his meals, but also how to recognize when quick breathing is tachypnia, and not just excitement. When blue lips are cold, and when they are circulatory or oxygenation problems. And of course, he is exasperated and frustrated at me for not just letting him take “his” son with him.
Last weekend, I insisted that he attend a conference at Egleston including a panel discussion with CHD survivors, which included a 26-year-old with Jack’s diagnosis who had had two valve replacements already in his young life. Jack’s father actually had no idea that Jack wasn’t done with surgeries and believed that he was healthy and normal. How can that be?!? Everyone I know understands that Jack will have surgeries for the rest of his life and needs special care to ensure that he isn’t put at risk for infections or sickeness. But this guy didn’t know that, and because he donated sperm, the state of Georgia believes that he deserves unsupervised visitation with Jack unless or until he’s in imminent danger. But that doesn’t really work with my personality, so we will do this my way. He will do the hard work and learn how to care for Jack, or I will protect Jack from him, at any cost.
And maybe someday it will hurt Jack to know that I kept them apart a little in the beginning, or maybe he’ll be happy to be alive because I made sure that he would be well taken care of before I sent him out into the world with a man who has been a stranger up to now. It is a daily struggle to do what is right by Jack, especially since I feel that since I was there to make the hard decisions and slept in the hospital those first two months, that I am the only one who deserves unfettered access to Jack. Someone told me that no one can “own” someone else. I corrected her and told her that I did own Jack, and he me. We are a pair and I would do anything to protect and make him happy. And she suggested that in the future, though it may break my heart now, knowing his father may make him happy. And I am reluctantly coming to accept that.
So here I sit heartbroken and angry that my son was not with me on Mother’s Day, and I’m reminded of an ancient native american story: A grandparent is telling her grandchild that there are two wolves living in her heart. One is loving and kind, the other vicious and hateful. The wolves are at war, and only one will survive. The child asks which one will win the war and live, and the grandparent replies, The one which I feed.
Although I want to protect Jack from the abandonment and rejection that I felt, and still feel so fresh, I have to remind myself that he doesn’t remember that he, too was abandoned and rejected at one time. He still has a fresh heart and the loving wolf is being fed within his. Because I’m a mother, I have to do things that hurt him so that he’ll be healthy. But for that same reason, I also have to do things that hurt me. And because I love him so much, so deeply, so completely, I will do this for him. And if he is hurt in the future, I will teach him again to feed the loving wolf. As hard as it is to do, Lord how it is hard, it’s the only way to ensure a healthy future, because if the vicious wolf wins, surely he will kill the whole body from within.
God Bless the Mothers,