“I don’t want them to have a mother like me,” my daughter said.
I sat in a heap, shoulders bent, my right side propped against the hospital bed.
The children were always on her mind when thought processes were not drugged by the mass on her brain stem, or the drip in her arm, and when for a spark of a moment she communicated.
Two-year-old Sofia danced circles around the sterile room. Hospital visits were part of her life, commonplace as macaroni and cheese for lunch. Dressed like a ballerina, she looked like a pink cloud that bounced with twirls, hops, and skips. Isabella, six-months, was swaddled in soft pink.
She lay, placed in the crook of my daughter’s arm. Her cherry mouth made little round puckers. Her button nose invited touch. She seemed perfect sweetness in miniature.
To watch my daughter’s physical puzzle pieces fail her and her body go rogue was the hardest thing I’d ever gone through. But the emotional process as her girls slipped farther from her grasp, fearful of her and of the machines that kept her alive, broke her heart. I felt I would die with her.
Her arms no longer held, her feet didn’t walk, and her tongue couldn’t talk.
“How can I be a mother if I can’t care for them?” she spelled it out by eye-blinks, while I wrote the painful letters one by one on a white board.
Her anguish bled so deep it thickened the room. It turned nurses to flee into the hallway and weep. The silent pathos with which her round blue eyes regarded those babies drove my mother heart to its knees in grief.
I put my lips next to her ear.
“You are the Mother that God put into their lives. As long as God gives you breath, you are the best and only mother fit specifically for those children. No one. No one else can do it like you.”
I told it to her over and over.
I pushed the words out of my mouth through clenched teeth when every inhale shook like a sob.
“God made you their mother.”
But in a hospital bed, paralyzed, unable to speak, the act of being a mother seemed like a mountain impossible to climb.
“How can I be a mother?” she blinked out the question while we wrote each letter of each word on a big white board.
At some time in all of our lives as mothers, we ask the same question.
“How can I do this?”
“Am I good enough?”
“Could someone else do a better job?”
We might not say it from a hospital bed, but from another spot which seems too much, too hard, or too high of a hill to climb.
Today, my daughter Charity twirls her power chair, her dwelling place, almost like Sofia twirled in her ballerina dress. My granddaughters are becoming little ladies. Charity pushes the button on the arm of the chair. It beeps long and hard, like a clothes dryer that’s finished its cycle. Bella knows its call and runs to her.
Charity’s picture of motherhood has changed. In fact, it doesn’t look like anything she had ever imagined. But she has discovered its core cannot be taken away. She is still the mother God intended for those children. She is the right one for the job. Her role in their lives has inestimable value. The things that matter, those things that will pass on into eternity have not changed. No disease or calamity can them take away.
“What?” Bella, now eight-years-old skids to a stop next to Charity’s throne. She listens attentively, her eyes on Mom’s lips. Charity’s voice is back. Different, each word measured, it’s a special language uniquely theirs.
“OK,” Bella nods. She smiles and throws her arms around her mom. Her cheek presses hard against my daughter’s. The hug leaves Charity’s glasses hanging off one side of her nose.
Bella runs off, happy to obey.
Charity, her glasses askew, looks at me and smiles.
There is pure joy in it.