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Sick with motherhood

I’m watching my 10 year old son move in and out of a sleep much lighter than I wish; his breath too rapid for my comfort.

He’s disturbed.

So am I.

The muscles in my neck are tight. So are his.

I realize just now my jaw is clenched. His knees move back and forth; the rapid shaking an effort to release his fear and pain.

He’s home sick today.

I’m home sick today.

But his sick is of the variety that comes and goes. And while it seems as if it will never pass — especially when you are in the throes of throwing your insides up — it will, God willing, pass.

But my sick is different.

It’s not viral.

It’s not contagious.

And I can’t be sure it will ever pass.

My sick is a panic turned into a tension turning into an ache.

When my son was little, I remember remarking what a trooper he was when he was sick. The mess was often minimal — even as a toddler he would make it just in time to vomit into the toilet; he’d hardly ever cry after — and his needs were easy to address.

I would ask him, “What do you need?” And he’d say:

More water in my sippy cup.

Some toast with jam.

A new Wiggles video.

He knew he was sick. But he knew he would feel better. We told him so, after all.

But my son is older now. And his simple desire to feel better has turned into grief that the world has inflicted such suffering on him and the anxious worry that he will never feel better again.

“Why me?” my son shouts with a burst of sudden energy.

I don’t know how to help him.

I sit next to him as he finally closes his eyes and he lets me smooth his hair off his forehead and lets his head rest on the back of my palm.

I count the freckles on his right cheek.

1 – 2 – 3 – 8 – 12 … when did he get so many freckles?

I remember we used to count them one-by-one in the bath and I’d point out when there was a new one.

But that was years ago.

Years before the lump that sits in my throat. The lump that will surely turn to tears in

5-4-3-2-1…

My son is older now.

It’s no surprise to me.

I saw it coming.

But still I am sick with motherhood

The kind of motherhood you catch when your child suddenly becomes more than a child and his needs more than a child’s needs.

The kind of sick you feel when you realize that slowly, slowly your power to heal weakens.

And he will soon need to learn how to heal on his own.

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