Scud missile skies broke this morning, a fitting way to commemorate the day I entered into motherhood seven years ago.
Pre-Real Thing, I had a kind of pastel-hued, soft-focus vision of what motherhood would be like. Not quite Precious Moments, but no clouds marred my clear blue horizon.
Twenty-seven hours of labor later, scud clouds were gathering. Doctors thought the long labor put our son at risk of infection and prescribed a weeklong stay in the NICU so he could receive precautionary IV antibiotics.
“He just got here, and now he’s gone,” I remember my husband saying in dismay, after
Owen and dad get acquainted in the NICU. 9/25/05
they took him away, down the hall to the neonatal intensive care unit. My words, I no longer remember. But I remember my tone. Mama Bear at her grizzliest. He’s not going anywhere. I did not go through the hell of that labor only to have something happen now. He will come home. He will be fine.
He was fine, as far as the birth went. No infection showed up. He did come home after that week. The fantasy didn’t, its pastel blue shards swept into some wastebasket, where they belonged.
I didn’t come home, either. Oh, my body did. I slept in my same old bed, parked the car on the right side of the garage, went through the kitchen motions. But that week inflicted permanent changes to my psyche. I learned what will and determination really meant that week.
Until he was four and a half and diagnosed with autism. The scuds returned then, gathering, thickening, blocking out the light completely for a while. Then, as we plunged into the world of special education and therapy that’s not covered by insurance and behaviors that make lots of people uncomfortable, I learned what will and determination really meant.
Until this summer, when all the therapies and medications and techniques and school routines that had helped us to make fairly steady progress suddenly seemed to stop working. When I’d go into the garage and shut the doors and scream to the walls to release my frustration. And then open the doors and make myself go back inside the house that seemed trapped under now-leaden skies, where my six-year-old with the atypical brain was struggling to cope with the regular world. That’s when I learned what will and determination meant.
Owen scaling a rock of his choosing, Mackinaw City, July 2012
Until three weeks ago, when the school year we’d so anticipated got off to a rocky start. And then some rocks became boulders. And then we realized that those boulders were too big for our son to navigate, we reached in – boosted by others — and hauled him out to a place where the rocks are stepping stones. That’s when I learned what will and determination meant.
Until I learn it anew some date in the future. For now, the scuds appear to be clearing again. But now can be as fleeting as those puffy, smoky clouds.
Motherhood is unique. Maybe for others the experience really is pastel and soft-focus. Today I celebrate the anniversary of mine: Every shade of gray. Loud. Messy. Urgent. Scary. Exhausting.
But also profoundly touching. Humbling. Revelatory. Enriching. Ferociously amplifying of every emotion from guilt to protector, from duty to love.
Thank you, Owen. Happy birthday.