My Mother, Myself
It’s 3 a.m.
I’m lying on the floor of our bathroom. The cold tiles feel good against my skin and if I stay prone I can almost fool myself into believing that the worst might be over, that I may have finally flushed this flu/food poisoning/whatever-this-thing-is out of my system.
My stomach rebels, again. I’ve lost count now of how many times I’ve been sick, but still it keeps coming, until I’m left gasping for air in between empty retching.
I’m in tears, and as I choke back sobs, I have to bite down hard against a word, a call, a summons, that almost slips out instinctively.
I am thirty-four years old. I am, by every definition of the word, an adult. Most days I am even a functioning one. I have a spouse and a house and pets and a mortgage and a driver’s license and retirement investments and knowledge of the cold hard truth that when you grow up you don’t get to do everything you like but in fact have to do lots of things you don’t like at all. Yet in that moment I am a child again, longing for a cool cloth against my forehead, the soft hands and softer voice of my mother, her reassurance that she is there, and that all will be well in time.
But I am an adult now, so I swallow the cry unspoken and I make sure I cry quietly, so as not to wake my husband.
Finally it passes, and I lie back down on the cold floor again. The past two hours have taught me that it is likely to be only a brief reprieve.
From the room next door I hear a stirring and then a whimper. The whimper becomes a soft cry, the cry a word:
It is my son, laid low by whatever has also hit me.
I quell my nausea and banish it deep within my abdomen. I stand up, shaky and weak, but I do it quickly, because his cry is getting louder and I can hear the rising fear in his voice. I wash my hands and stumble in to his room.
He is sitting up in his crib, but isn’t really awake. I murmur his name, and he flops back down on to his side immediately. I smooth his hair from his forehead, checking as I do that he is still free of fever, that he has not been sick again. I tuck his bunny back under his arm, give his back a rub, sit in the rocking chair and sing a few more verses of “The Wheels on the Giant Tow Truck Go Round and Round” until I can hear from his breathing that he has fallen back into sleep.
I stand up and creep to the side of his crib. In the darkness I can see his sweet face, peaceful, full of trust, confident that I will always be there to make things better.
I am given only a moment to watch before my stomach begins to churn. I give his hair once last stroke and turn away from his crib.
“Sleep well, my little love,” I say as I close the door.
I square my shoulders. I clutch my stomach. I grit my teeth and go back to the bathroom.
Even in the middle of my own misery, I will always hear him.
I’m Mummy now.
(Featured image credit: kronerda)