Mother's Day was never really a big deal in our house. While my mom appreciated any cards and gifts we came home with from school, she made it clear as we got older that a simple "Happy Mother's Day" or a phone call home were really sufficient. I grew up considering it a Hallmark holiday, nothing to make a big to-do about, and I carried that feeling along as I became a mother myself. A nice word or card from my husband, step-daughters, and other family and friends was nice but I didn't need anything dramatic.
So it is odd to me that Mother's Day has turned out to be tricky in the years since Eddie made me an "official" mother. Don't get me wrong; step-mothers are definitely mothers. I love my "wicked" step-daughters very, very much and would throw myself in front of a bus for them. But I'm not their mommy; someone else has that privilege and that fact is and will always be totally fine with me. In fact, it shouldn't be any other way. And there is something indescribably wonderful about the moment when YOU are the mommy. The great and powerful Wizard of Mom.
Eddie's labor was crazy and in retrospect a little funny. Scary, painful and topsy-turvy in almost every way, when the time came for me to push him into this world I was way more focused on getting the whole ordeal over with than on the reality that I was about to meet, face-to-face, the little man responsible for all the wiggles, thumps and heartburn I'd been experiencing in the previous months. Immediately after he was born, I experienced a rush of endorphins unlike any other, and had to be reminded by my doula, between my giggles, to sit up enough to catch a glimpse of him before he was whisked away to be surrounded by a crowd of doctors and nurses preparing him for his surgery and trip to NICU. I remember smiling at him, those bird-like, dark brown eyes that shone with righteous anger and indignation at being so rudely brought from his warm, womb-world into the bright florescent glare of "reality." A few moments later, as he was being rolled away in his little incubator to surgery, the ob/gyn called out, "Don't forget to show him to mom."
They paused beside my bed and I got a really good look at him. He was swaddled up to his nose and wearing a tiny hat, but looking at that fussy inch and a half of exposed face, something happened in my heart. It opened up, gained a dimension, broke in two and doubled in size all in one instant. I wasn't able to hold him or even kiss him, but I reached through the circle "window" and touched his forehead. I made the sign of the cross there and said the only words that came to my mind. Nothing profound. With more emotion than I knew how to deal with pouring through me, I whispered, "Hi, baby!"
I would get two Mother's Days with Eddie but I don't remember anything about either of them. They came and went like any other day back then I would guess, with desperate hope and gratitude that my baby boy was alive. I didn't prepare for the coming of my first Mother's Day without him because it had never been a significant celebration so I was surprised when I cried inconsolably the day before. I found on the day itself that I was pregnant with Baby Girl, so I blamed hormones for the tears.
I've got no excuse this Mother's Day. No pregnancy hormones to blame. And, still, unexpectedly, it was a rough one. One where my longing for the one I had lost threatened to overtake the gratitude I have for his life and the life of the two who are still with me. I put on a good face, went to church, worshipped and cried, but dried my tears in time to talk to friends and go to lunch afterward. I enjoyed a warm, sunny afternoon watching Baby Boy run crazy through a local splash-park while Baby Girl clung to my skirts and avoided the water at all costs. But when we came home, I needed to lay down, exhausted by a day of simply carrying on.
I dreamed of Eddie, lying in a hospital bed, the size he was at around eighteen months. He was sleeping, his central line and sterile dressing visible on his bare chest, the thin flannel of a hospital blanket covering him to the waist. I was explaining to a nurse that he was going to need TPN (his intravenous nutrition) and she was going to make sure they got the orders for it soon. He looked good, as he had on his best days when his skin was plump and healthy, his color a nice bronze but not yellow. The nurse was pleased at his liver numbers. It was a good "day in the life." I kissed his hairline, those beautiful, soft little curls, while he slept and waited for... something. I don't know what it was.
When I woke up I felt peaceful. Blessed to have been able to visit him, if only in a dream. To have been able to kiss him and remember with startling clarity what life was like back then. Hope triumphing over anxiety; peace in the midst of turmoil. Beyond my bedroom door I could hear my children laughing, big loud raucous giggles and I smiled. But I didn't want to go out there yet. I wasn't ready to leave the warm, womb-world of my bed and face the harsh florescent light of reality without my Eddie. The one who changed my heart. Who made me "mommy." So I lay there for a little while and thanked God for him. For holding me in the palm of His hand and giving me comfort. I closed my eyes, feeling close to God and close to Eddie, and breathed for a little while. Then I got up. Because life was waiting for me beyond that door. Hope was waiting. Joy was waiting. And two beautiful, smiling faces whose first words upon seeing me walking down the hall toward them was an excited and exuberant, "Mommy!"