Mom: When care is beyond our control
Ten fingers and 10 toes. I soothe. I swaddle. I inaugurate and caress my crying, cooing newborn cherub to my chest. I drift into the epi-duo-real ecstasy that we two are an omnipresent one.
Filtering out the world beyond our shared bed, he is perfect and safe in my embrace, and I in his. My tears fall on his head, his drool drenches my gown, and I feel them stream together somewhere, singular in sustenance.
Life since that first hospital room has been mostly simple with my sweet and silly 7-and-a-half-year-old second born. He survived a broken leg while sailing through potty training and dry skin cured by homemade coconut oil from his great-grandmother in India. Most doctor visits have been “well” and we never needed to check boxes on medical forms that indicated deviation from “normal.”
Today, he bounces heavily on my lap, verging on being bigger than me. I embrace him as we rock together on a single seat in a scarier satellite hospital room 30 minutes from home.
“There have been changes in his numbers,” I vaguely hear.
I awaken to anxiety and slide us slightly back on the seat to avoid a freefall to the floor. The silk scarf seems to scrunch tighter around my neck, where minutes ago it felt supple and stylish.
“There’s also a decrease in the size of the right pupil, which I will talk to you about further, but I want you to keep a close watch for any changes and call immediately if you notice anything.”
I squeeze my son to comfort him, and me. I fear the reality that may soon be relayed upon us.
Outwardly the space is calm compared to the chapter before, when the assistant threatened, “You will need to strap your son down if he does not cooperate.” She attacked his brown eyes with drops of dilating liquid, using a delivery mechanism that, to him, looked like a gun set to fire.
I imagined the sound as it penetrated his squenched-up pupils. I told him to be brave, that it was just an eyedrop. But I flinched internally myself, recalling the burning of a boy’s eyes in “Slumdog Millionaire.” I reminded myself that was not close to reality here.
As the ophthalmologist’s lips moved, I let his words flow over but not reach me. I wanted to reserve space for the calmness that parents fake in the moments before hearing bad news about their children. I suddenly knew what they already experienced — when a doctor’s lips cease to speak, the space afterward can forever change our lives.
Could it be glaucoma? There is a family history. Blindness? Please let it be treatable. I waited for the diagnosis as I snuggled with my sweetie/son.
Thankfully for us, the news was a blip compared to what it could have been, and the blimp that is for so many.
He needs to wear glasses. Not the end of the world. I let myself find more seat to relax back on. I’d been prescribed the same at around his age.
I think of an array of reasons why this moment feels pivotal, though probably much more to me than to him.
I sense the dawn of a new visible chapter in our lives, from scouring for superhero glasses, family photos now reflecting the frames, assuaging him after children tease him. More doctor visits, more forms, more drops. His learning responsibility for his glasses and appreciation for his sight.
I feel closer to him than ever before, and a new healing human kinship with the millions of brave and inspiring families whose kids have various afflictions from allergies to autism to AIDS. I pray for them.