I read another blog the other day, a mom describing the pain of watching her child suffer. I recognized her anguish, my fingers hovered over the keyboard, language failing me as I searched for words that would communicate what I was feeling. I vaguely remember my fingers rushing into motion, the clackety clack clack of my typing and the gentle whir of the computer, and then an emphatic click as I hit return.
I know now, as I knew then, that what I was sending was not magic, that it wouldn’t touch her pain. Tonight I realize that when you are the mom and it is your child(ren) whose eyes bear violet smudges in the puffy bags on either side of their nose, there are no words or sympathetic looks that can change the reality that you cannot fix it.
Avery and Briar began their downward spiral this morning, a little sniffle here, a raspy sound there, by 1pm when I picked them up they both sported full blown runny noses, with lips that became more scarlet with chapping through each passing moment. We spent the afternoon bundled in fleece and elbow deep in arts and crafts, my feeble attempt to repel and distract. Why does bundling them up make me feel as if I can ward off anything?
“Come on girl, lets get under the blanket, it’ll be safe and cozy.”
“Here let me wrap you up tight.”
“Honey, mama wants to put a sweatshirt and socks on you, ok?”
It was about 3:30 when Briar first began sobbing, the rawness of the skin beneath her nose became too much to tolerate. Shortly thereafter Avery began sneezing, her eyes welling nearly to overflow at the first one and from that point on they were glassy pools of suffering beseeching me to fix it.
I cracked the Tylenol at 5 and by 7pm after a bath, more bundling and a hot dinner I broke down and unearthed the one bottle of cold medicine I kept after the baby cold medicine backlash. I gave each girl a partial dose. I was crazed, anything to provide comfort. I rocked them, cooing and caressing, tears welling in my eyes and my hands trembling with wanting to heal them. Avery fell asleep at my breast, her lips and cheeks hot against my skin, her brow damp with sweat and her hand clasped tight around my torso.
I lowered her into her crib, careful to hold her shirt so that her skin stayed covered. I tucked the blankets around her form, always so tiny in sickness, and laid my hand on her, memorizing the rhythm of her breathing and the shape of her back in my hand, before leaving.
I crept to Briar’s room, she was sleeping, but stirred as I lowered myself onto her bed. “Cuddle, mama?” almost a sigh. “Of course,” I collapsed beside her, grateful to satisfy a request. We laid together, our hands cupping each other’s faces, and I felt my worry slip, like fighting contractions, I knew that struggling against this, would only hurt more. So I stayed, watching her sleep, proud of the battle she was waging.
Down here at the computer I am thinking of that other mom, thinking of her child and of all the other children and moms. I wish this weren’t so, that they didn’t suffer and that we didn’t feel defeat at not preventing it. I will say that knowing that there might be other moms out there, fingers hovering over a keyboard, searching for words for me and for my girls, well, believe it or not, it helps.