It’s 10 pm at Children’s Mercy, and there are two of us in the elevator. It doesn’t take more than a glance to know we share membership in the fellowship of mothers with really sick kids. She carries the weight under her eyes, so either it’s pretty new or it’s gotten worse. I’m an old hand, 31 with the posture of a 50 year old. I have been finding vending machines in hospitals for over 11 years now.
on motherhood, hospitals and surviving
She wears socks with sandals. It’s not so much a fashion statement as a necessity. She will slip into a dark, cold room and sit tentatively in a vinyl recliner until the beeping is consistent and her child’s breathing settles into a pattern. When all is calm, or as calm as it will be, she’ll slip the sandals back on her cold feet and slip quietly out, to find food or to make a phone call.
Tonight, I’m the lucky one. We’re here for something routine, fairly non-invasive, and he’s healthy, all things considered. She carries the heaviness of a child’s fear. I don’t have to say anything, because our eyes meet and I understand and she understands. It hurts and it’s beyond exhausting, and you can’t know it if you haven’t walked it. I know stepping out for a grilled cheese sandwich could suddenly, shockingly be goodbye, and so does she.
We are mothers, and we will wait quietly for the bleeding to stop, for the crisis to end. We will find reserves of strength we never knew existed as we fight for our children. We will put them in the car and take them home with a surprised kind of joy, every time. We will be so, so thankful for today.