How I Fought To Be A Better Mom
I know everyone thinks their kid is the best, I do. But if you just knew my oldest, I’m certain you’d agree.
He’s such a ridiculously good kid.
This is not something I feel I can take much credit for, as the fiber of Hayden’s being has always been inherently good.
He delights in celebrating people, loving extravagantly, doing what’s right, meeting the needs of the least of these. Am I saying that he always remembers to make his bed, brush his teeth or set his alarm correctly? No. I am saying that if you found yourself stranded on a deserted island, eating your last meal— Hayden would give you his portion so you wouldn’t be so hungry.
This is the kid I left at gate D21, just down from the fancy chocolate shop with gold wrappers in the Detroit airport. I couldn’t watch him go through the doors, down the ramp, onto the plane. It hurt too much. Instead, I waved my last goodbye, clinging to any dignity that might remain and searched for the single stall restroom a few yards away. Those yards were arduous, carrying the weight of all those pent up tears, screaming to escape. And so, I calmly opened the restroom door, secured the lock and proceeded to let out a primal cry. I looked at the clock. I determined to give myself precisely two minutes to wail. And then I’d collect myself, join my waiting ride and travel back to my home away from home.
After my dear friend and I returned to the cold two-bedroom extended stay hotel room, I warmed up my soup and cried over it—for four hours. I couldn’t stop thinking about the timid words my big kiddo said as he hugged me goodbye, “Don’t die while I’m gone.” My big kiddo was scared. Truth be told, so was I. But I didn’t want my big kiddo to be scared, and so much more than that, I didn’t want my big kid to be scared and so far away. Man, mothering was so vulnerable. And it was one thing for him to hurt over this time we were forced to spend apart. It was another thing entirely for him to hurt over the words spoken to him about it. “It isn’t real.” “Your mom doesn’t really have Lyme disease.” “ She didn’t really need to go up there, you know.” “ She just doesn’t handle stress well.” I mean, sure, I knew people had made up their minds about my healthcare decisions, about what was real and what wasn’t. None of that mattered to me. I had talked to the doctors, seen the test results, done my researching and my praying, my consulting and my confirming. I knew what was real and what I had to do. And yes, that first day, sitting in the specialist’ office after so many tests and hearing not one but multiple clear diagnosis and then the treatment plans, it did seem impossible.
How could I live in another state for six weeks?
But somehow, miraculously, God brought it all together. And I knew I needed the man who’d put all of the medical puzzle pieces together taking care of me for the rest of what was certain to be a bumpy ride.
Did these people understand what they were saying? Did they understand the position they were putting my hurting kiddo in?
Because of some complications I had in the nerve behind my eye during treatment, I began a course of steroids. This was good and bad. It meant that my six weeks of treatment would turn into eight, but it also meant that while my Hayden was visiting me, I had more energy than the last ten years combined. We went to museums, hockey games, and glow in the dark min-golf, me with my PICC line, infusing away. And once in a while, I’d look over at him and think, “They told you I left you just because.”
Surely these people had no clue of the mom guilt that encompasses leaving your children to obtain any sort of treatment.
During his visit, I asked Hayden how my youngest, Avery was doing with my absence. He reported that every time they went somewhere she would ask, “Will mommy be there when we get home? She’s been gone for a berry berry long time.” It took everything in me not to throw my belongings in a bag and fly home that moment.
But I was fighting the disease for them. I was fighting to be a better mom.
And that’s exactly what I explained to my big kiddo, sitting in the stretchy blue chairs, tears streaming down my face, in the waiting area of gate D21. True, it would be thirty days before I saw him again, but I needed him to understand that I was there, fighting for him. I wanted to be a better mom for him. I wanted to be more present. I wanted to be able to do the things we had done that weekend, every weekend. And also, he didn’t have to be my defender. He could just let the haters hate and go on being good. All we had to do was keep fighting our fights.
We’re all fighting our battles. And here’s the thing: the fight is hard enough already. Before we decide for someone else that their illness isn’t real, or their decisions are poor, can we think about the impact of what we are saying?
Our words have power.
What if we used them for good?