breathe

Even 3 years and 3 months after giving birth to my first child, I’m still overwhelmed by the intensity of the guilt I feel when things go amiss with the boys.

I remember feeling like the worst mommy in the world the first time Little Dude scratched his face. I flogged myself with accusing questions. How could I have allowed his nails to grow so long? How is it that I missed filing down that jagged nail? Looking at his face made me wince with guilt. His marred cheek and nose were evidence of my nail-clipping inadequacies.

Then the inevitable happened. The boys began to venture off the floor. As they tried to master walking, running and climbing the stairs, their previously unflawed bodies soon showed the scrapes and bruises suffered from their new-found mobility.

Later more permanent marks of their misadventures began to taunt me. Like the scar above Little Dude’s eye. A reminder of a game of chase that went wrong and the 6 stitches it took to close up his wound. Or the much bigger scar on LittleR Dude’s chest. A token of having to hold my then 10-month-old down while the hospital doctor attempted to cut an infected cyst away and, later, watching him succumb to the general anaesthesia before having the remainder of the cyst surgically removed.

No book or person could have prepared me for the overwhelming sense of guilt and inadequacy that I sometimes feel raising two active little boys through the bumps and hiccups of life. In a job where your main marker of success is the happiness and well-being of your child, these feelings seem an inescapable part of motherhood. It’s unlike any other job I’ve held where less-than-pleasant situations can be controlled, managed or avoided. Jobs where I thrived and felt competent. Where the decisions I made did not impact the physical or mental heath of two young children.

Two nights ago as I sat on a hospital bed with my arms wrapped around Little Dude holding an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth, I was reminded again of my inability to protect my children from all injury, sickness or harm. I stroked his hair watching his chest rise and fall far more deeply and rapidly than I had ever seen or would care to see again. He seemed to struggle with each breath and I struggled with my emotions and feelings of helplessness.

I recreated the events of the day trying to figure out what signs I missed that could have prevented this hospital visit. He had been coughing but was in great spirits. He begged me not to take him to nursery school. He wanted to play outside instead. I complied. It was too beautiful a day to spend inside. He had been pestering me to set up the blow-up pool for several days now. I gave in to that too.

That same night my 3-year-old was reduced to whimpering in his bed. I climbed in with him to give him comfort. He was wheezing, a sound that was foreign to me until then. It frightened me.

It’s raining outside today. Little Dude is talking to himself, playing with his train set on the floor while his younger brother is pulling pieces of play-doh apart with his little fingers. All is back as they were. There are no battle scars to mark our latest trip to the hospital. Still, today, I am reminded of my young boys’ fragility. And that sometimes, all I can do is watch them breathe and hope that it is not the last time I see this familiar heaving. The steady rise and fall signifying life.

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After returning from our two-week long family trip, I had intended to restart my blog on a happy note by celebrating our near-perfect vacation. I will have to save that for another day, I think. Here is one of my favourite photos of our trip just in case I don’t get to writing that blog.

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  1. Welcome back – such a beautifully written post – I'm so sorry Little Dude was so unwell – I totally identify with your feelings of guilt and pain when yuor little ones are ill and hurt. I will never forget Renée falling down the wooden stairs when she was a baby. I cried and cried…much more than even she did. It's obvious that you are a great and loving mother – so try not to be too hard on yourself. These things happen. Hope he starts feeling better soon xxxx

  2. Welcome back – I bet your child will not remember the illness but only the love you gave him through it all. That's what matters.

  3. Hi – found you via Maternal Tales. Your post sums up how I feel whenever anything bad happens to my girl or she gets ill. You would just do anything to save them from going through it. You sound like an amazing mum!

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