10.19.2018

glimpses

Before he came into the world, I used to have glimpses of myself with him as a baby at the beach, the two of us plopped on a blue and yellow sunflower blanket, his blond curls caught by the wind. Imagining him older, I'd see us walking silently through a pine forest, looking up through the trees, watching for woodpeckers, hearing the creak and squawk of rubbing branches in the canopy. At some point I thought perhaps we'd fly with him to New York, to France, to Italy.

Now I walk alone with my dog Nellie across a vast field, tears trickling down my cheeks. I call her and she runs to me. Half-heartedly, I play hide-and-seek. She understands and can do so much more than her human brother. I get glimpses, but mostly I feel so little semblance of what I think parenthood must be. My fitful grief gets all balled-up with loss of hope, expectation, ambition, dreams.

It was hard enough knowing much of his brain's white matter was missing. Worry. Then my planned cesarean turned into an emergency. Fear. Then he needed help breathing and eating. Anxiety. Then he failed to thrive and barely develop. Guilt. Then we learned he could hardly see. Despair. It took him years to crawl and walk, and he has spoken just a single word—Mama—once. Misery.

Then he started to seize.

We keep him alive. Keep him fed, keep him warm, dry and clean. Try to control his seizures. Like any parent, we love him immeasurably, but beyond occasional smiles and giggles, there are very few glimpses of normalcy or happiness in our infant-toddler-teen.

In my lowest moments I think of good, productive and exciting lives wasted on years of soiled bibs, dirty diapers, sopping garments, sleepless nights, hopeless futures, monotony. Had our son been born healthy, I consider the freedom we'd be moving into with a child old enough to be alone. I juxtapose that glimpse of liberty with a heavy one of wondering how long my body and spirit can withstand the burden—my child's weight, his restlessness, his seizures, his behaviors, his need. I glimpse that burden in the mirror. I feel his trouble settling inside of me.

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