It was only with the greatest powers of self-control that I did not burst into tears in front of Ben today. You can imagine why I don’t want him to see me cry. I’m supposed to be there to support him, not to make him wonder if there’s something he should be crying about, or to feel responsible in some way that he made me cry.
I looked away. I looked up at the clock. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t you dare cry. And then I looked back at his beautiful face, a sheen of sweat and oil from three long days in the hospital, fever and exertion as well as strength and grace shining there. And I got myself under control.
He had just gotten from the bed to sitting to standing to walking a few steps and turning around to sitting down in a high-backed wheelchair. That, my friends, is an amazing feat. I had been sitting across the room tapping away on my thumbs and forefingers. My eyebrows had been plastered up somewhere near my hairline. My lungs were not moving. My mouth might have been hanging open. It was a tense moment for me.
But, he did it, my boy did it (despite, I hate to say, two nurses lacking, um, finesse). And then said he was feeling nauseous. So, at that point I came over to hold the salmon colored plastic basin under his chin. Mark stood behind him holding an ice pack on the top of his head. He was adjusted to an angle that was comfortable. He was looking straight ahead.
We just were there, having a family moment, I guess you could say.
And suddenly I was flashing back on his birth and how he came a little early and had trouble regulating his body temperature so we spent days in my bed, skin to skin. I was right back there in those first days of his precious life, holding his little naked body against my naked chest under piles of warm quilts. And those were some of the most incredible mama moments of my life, my temperature keeping his temperature even.
Right in front of me is this boy-almost man (who, I must say looked a LOT taller when he stood up out of the hospital bed). Right in front of me, my baby-boy-man, and I was standing there doing something, whatever I could do, to ease his suffering, and the tears, I could feel them coming to the surface.
Today has been a hard day, the second day after surgery always is harder than the first. Hard only in that he is feeling more pain and he’s having to do all the hard stuff, like MOVE, when what his body would actually like to do is be still. Hard for me, because I’m the mama.
We all know he has to do the hard stuff, I mean, it’s not like he hasn’t been in a hospital situation before, but that doesn’t make it any easier. However, he knows the routine and he’s got quite a strong spirit. He does not complain. He does not cry. And later, when Dr. Cho came in to check on him, asking, “How are you doing today?” Ben said, “Great!”
Oh! Haha…I wasn’t going to say that!
When I first arrived this morning [with Mark’s fried egg sandwich, our lunch in a cooler bag, my laptop, my knitting (which I have not touched), a novel about photography, a book of Rumi poetry, my sketchbook and pens, etc. etc. etc. (as if I am going to have a lot of free time)] I went straight to Ben’s bedside to do my job: hold his hand. He was resting after a difficult morning in which the above-mentioned nurses manhandled him after first opening an ice bag on his head, drenching him with ice water, and in which his catheter was removed. Ouch.
For a while I just sat with him, his cool hand in mine (one of my most important hospital jobs). I stared at the wall and watched his face as he rested peacefully. At some point he called Mark over to hold the pee bottle for him (one of Mark’s most important hospital jobs), and we all were quiet as we waited…and waited…and waited. (It takes time.)
“I love you guys,” he said into that quiet.
Mark and I looked at each other across his body. I think we were both feeling the love spilling over. It was such a vulnerable and tender expression of gratitude. And unexpected. My heart broke quite open.
In the days before this surgery I kept feeling him push me away and I knew that it was okay, that it had to do with self-protection. If you let Mama and her emotions in too close you might feel them too. In those days he actually really needs Dada and his self-contained, humor-laden, no-nonsense attitude. But when I show up at the hospital every morning, I see his IV-encrusted hand raised above the hospital bed rail, waving little waves at me as he says, “Mama” in a croaky little hospital voice. I spend most of my time there sitting by his bed, my love spreading into him through our hands.
My most important hospital job. Actually, my most important job…period.