There’s a saying that goes “A mother is only as happy as her least happy child.” I don’t know who said it, but it’s a famous quote that happens to be true about any mother who is connected to her children in a meaningful way. This extends beyond empathy and love to a primal desire to protect. Think lioness sprinting across the Serengeti plains to intercept a predator headed toward her cub. Now come indoors following that chase and the lioness might be seen having a cosmic connection with a vodka on the rocks in a dark kitchen after the cubs are asleep. Or making promises to God in the middle of a restless night. Like any female animal, when a woman’s child is in danger, it’s like pulling the pin from a hand grenade. The resulting explosion reverberates through the woman’s mind, body, and family. Perhaps the immediate world. Certainly the surrounding plains.
One of my children had surgery last week. The months leading up to the surgery were filled with tests and scans and more tests and results and discussions of results by various medical people I would never meet. Internet research into symptoms and procedures ruled my days and fueled my anxieties. Here I will revise the famous quotation to read “A mother is only as healthy as her least healthy child.” And when the child is an adult, the mother must relinquish control because adult children call their own shots. This is very hard for mothers who have their control mechanism lodged in their frontal lobe with a big neon sign over it that says DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ADJUST.
I plead heredity here. When I had my first C-section and no one was permitted into the recovery area except medical staff, I opened my anesthesia-hazed eyes and saw my father hovering over my bedside with anAuthorized Medical Personnel badge clipped to the pocket protector on his shirt. I recall my thick voice saying, “DAD?! How did you get in here?” and him assuring me he had been extended a professional courtesy to come see me because he was on staff at a hospital in another state, and I automatically responded “WHAT??” because even though the morphine drip removed any idea about what the hell he was saying, a distant part of me knew he was a salesman and not a doctor. Which in retrospect makes sense because only a salesman could talk his way into a restricted area. What I do recall is him leaning over the metal railing of my bed whispering, “Hello, beautiful.”
Husband and I spent eleven hours at the hospital the day of my adult child’s surgery last week, and they may have been the worst eleven hours of my life. For a while it seemed like they would go on forever, but then the surgeon walked into the waiting area, looked directly at me, and said, “Are you ready for some great news?” It meant I got to lean over the metal railing of a hospital bed and say, “Everything went perfectly. You’re just fine.” It didn’t even matter that what came before was the most dreadful month in memory. In the end, family history will tell that it wasn’t about me at all. It was about the cub. Feel good forever, sweetie. If you will, I will.
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