Love is a painful process. Obvious, not new information, but as real as crawling across the overflow of needles from the sharps boxes on your bare hands and knees when you are staying with your sick child. I consider myself incredibly lucky, because my husband and I trust the surgeon who is in charge of what is highest and most important – Daniel’s life. I know that when he makes a decision he weighs a hundred, maybe a thousand, different details of how what he recommends to us will affect Daniel, and our family.
I can no longer count the number of nights I’ve spent laying next to Daniel, either in his hospital bed with him, or next to him – weeping my love for him onto the pillow between us with each tortured beat of my heart. Trying to keep the sobs silent, so he can sleep. My precious, beloved Daniel. The boy with the perfect home birth. No one could have convinced me that I would give birth at home on my hands and knees in a tub of warm water with a midwife watching my infant’s perfect peach-fuzz head crown as God only knows what else was emerging from my wide pregnant behind at the same time.
I was brought into the world already bound by a complicated contract that involved “saving my mother’s life” (her words, repeatedly over the years, not mine) her perfect, precious shield when the woman my father was having an affair with at the time showed up at our door to inform my mother of their relationship. This type of thing continued, continues to this day, as my father slips away in his dementia. Whatever my parents believed about love seems alien, if anything, in comparison to what I feel for Daniel.
We drifted for hours in that birthing tub, as the midwife patiently kept warming the water for us, lost in the mystery of what we had just experienced together. We were hypnotized, transported to a place of such intricate, utterly natural, beauty that neither of us could bring ourselves to break the spell. I certainly couldn’t. You nursed on and off, amazed, comforted, eyes so wide-open and blue it was easy to disappear into them, to lose time, immersed in a mystery far beyond anything I’d known before.
Now, since your second birthday, I’ve been feeling the clock tick down the moments of our time together, wondering how a heart can still function when it is broken time after time after time. Each decision made regarding your care weighed down by the unbearable guilt of knowing that it will take pain, pain I’m choosing to allow you to go through, that I cannot take upon myself instead, to keep you with me for a few more ticks of that damned clock. I wonder too, how long your will to live can withstand the tests you hate so damned much. It would be one thing if you wrote beautiful poems that inspired others, and found meaning in your suffering, but we haven’t been that lucky my love. For the most part, what you’ve found from your suffering has been only that, suffering. Not that you don’t recover, of course you’re resilient, but sometimes you cannot hide the accusation in your eyes, dear one, “Another poke Mom? Another procedure, REALLY Mom? This is the bargain I consented to in the tub 12 years ago when everything was soft, even the light, and warm; all rounded edges with no sharp corners, the hardest part of it all the nub of your nipple waiting for the suck of my cupid’s bow mouth, to release the sweetness of your colostrum and your milk to fill what I didn’t even know as hunger yet?”
Daniel, my love, it was never my intent to violate the sanctity of those moments. My breasts still ache with emptiness, useless to you now, no longer conveyors of comfort, but rather a mystifying remnant of a part of our relationship that ended long ago, and now do little but absorb the wretched sobs torn from your fearful lips, sometimes absorbing the blows of your young man’s fists, saying, “No, damn you, No!!” “This isn’t what you pledged to me early in that misty morning of September 10, 1997! I want THAT life back – the one we thought we had been given, the one with years of happiness and adolescent rejection and slow reintegration until the day I handed you my own child, the day I could acknowledge what we both thought we had forged during those months and hours of pregnancy and birth, and I could witness YOUR tears and know that some circle, some cycle had come round, had come round right.”
That is not the future we have though. You know I am waiting for you Mom, back in our hospital bed, to do the best you can to salvage what is left to us. As always, with a heavy heart, I will return to you beloved Daniel and at least do all I can to make something of beauty from what the random twist of genetics stole from us the day you were conceived. Whatever the pain still in store, whatever the suffering still to bear, the magic we had those first few hours can never be taken from us. And I will carry that magic, whenever you can’t, for both of us, for as long as that twisted, sadistic clock gives us in ticks and tocks. We are still that mystery, imperfect for certain, of mother and son. Our lives give honor to that, and it is with honor, with the deepest love and respect, that I will return to you now. You are my love, you are my life, we are who we are, and there is something of honor in each moment we live together.