As I got on the elevator at the Ronald McDonald House this evening, a sweet volunteer looked at me and asked if I was alright. I swallowed, smiled and nodded, afraid if I opened my mouth, I would lose it in front of this kind stranger. She explained her inquiry, “Honey, I’ve seen that look on many a mom’s face around here.” Hmm. Now that’s the first time I’ve been called a mom. Identified by an outsider as a mom. Do I look like a mom?
I don’t have a child I’m toting around. I don’t get to plan around feedings or naptimes. I don’t get to take a child home to a halfway done nursery (yet). I don’t get to dress him up in all the cute clothes, swaddle him in the blankets, or hand him the stuffed animals and other sweet comforts friends and family have bought for him. I didn’t even look like I was pregnant and was wearing normal clothes the day I delivered at 27 weeks. So, no, I don’t I don’t really feel like I’m a mom.
This perfect stranger didn’t see any of these outside signs of motherhood, but she saw my soul. She saw the heart of the mom who had been by her son’s bedside all day long. Don’t get me wrong, Struthers is still thriving, but it was just a tough day for both of us. It was a lot of little things, each of which I wished I could take away for him, but none of them overly concerning to anyone but his mom. He was breathing well on his CPAP, just working a little harder for it today. His heart was beating regularly, just a little higher rate than normal. His every 4-hour “cares” seemed to stress him out more than normal, and he practiced using those lungs and cried loud enough for us to hear it outside his isolette. I guess I know I’m a mom when I know that his breathing, heart rate, and general demeanor aren’t his norm. I guess I know I’m a mom when I sit there and wonder whether to let him “cry it out” or soothe him. I guess I know I’m a mom when I just don’t want to leave his side, and my impulse is to sing to him all night long. So there’s no doubt my heart knows I’m a mom, but there’s something about this whole NICU experience that just seems surreal. Because at the end of the day, I walk out without my kiddo.
What mom does that? Straight from the heart, but I promise I’m doing OK. Please keep us all in your prayers– Cami