Most days I’m a normal mom. I do normal mom things, think normal mom thoughts, feel normal mom feelings. I’m woken up by Mark mere minutes before he heads to work, having completed his whole morning routine with Austin at his heels, asking endless questions, knocking over his juice, begging to be held. The boys and I stand at one window and then race to another to get in as many waves as possible before Mark disappears down the street. After a drawn-out breakfast with much prodding, I drag them to the babysitting room at the gym so I can work out, then surprise them with their bathing suits and a trip to the pool. Braedan splashes and jumps and doggy paddles around. Austin is blissfully unaware of the sadly questioning looks he garners when people see this robust and seemingly healthy child with an eight-inch scar cut across his belly.
Most days we play, laugh, make a mess. I get fed up and yell when they fight over “my special crayon” or spill the cup of milk I just (just!) reminded them was there. We have a new ritual lately, one Mark introduced during their recent “boys’ weekend.” Everyone piles their hands on top of one another’s, counts to three and shouts “Buddies!” while throwing our hands high into the air. After Mark left for work the other morning, Austin came running in with a forlorn look on his face and dramatically announced (in his funny backward talk), “One . . .two. . . fee, buddies. Forgot!” We’ve been “raking buddies” and “Candyland buddies” and “hot dog buddies.” And, this past Wednesday, we were, yet again, “hospital buddies.”
There we were again, like we were stuck in a sick and twisted time warp, back on the Pediatric Oncology floor. Just two nights this time, no big deal, nothing like the 14 and 15 day stays we had a year-and-a-half ago. This is different. I mean, this child is healthy. He’s been in remission for an entire year now. I just watched him run, jump, play. He’s growing and talking and peeing in the potty. This is not a sick child.
But there’s a shadow, a little blob we’ve been following on his recent CT scans and we have to know what it is. So, it’s biopsy time and suddenly I’m that mom again.
I’m the mother of a sick child, a role I’ve played for far too long already. I’m the mother other people look at with sympathy, pity, fear. It’s a glance you get when you’re one-handedly pushing your bald baby through the halls of the hospital while dragging an IV pole along behind you. It’s a look you get when you step off an elevator following behind your “sleeping” (read: sedated) baby on a bed, being pushed to his next procedure. It’s a look of sadness (poor them), wistfulness (wishes for them) and gratitude (glad I’m not them).
I got the look Wednesday afternoon as I stood pacing outside the room where the biopsy was happening. They’d said it would take an hour, maybe one-and-a-half, and now it was two hours later and I was tired of sitting and listening to horrible families sue each other on court TV. There was one other couple there, a woman standing by her husband who was on a bed in a hospital gown, awaiting his turn in the same room. When the intern came out to reassure them they’d be right up “as soon as we finish with the baby,” the woman turned and gave me that look.
So I’m back in that mode, now waiting and worrying, not sure what our future holds. Results might come back today, might not arrive until Monday. We expect it to be nothing, scar tissue or some benign blob in his little tummy. He seems so healthy, life seems so normal. But we never know. So again, today, I am that mom.