You, my darling, are beginning to wrap your head around the idea that “mommy’s belly” is going to take a long time to heal. When I first came home from the hospital, you were sick with pneumonia, but that didn’t seem to bother you. You were so worried about me. The first time you saw me get off the couch, you became very upset, pleading with me to lay back down, “Mommy, lay down, mommy. It will make you better, mommy.” You would obsessively stick a thermometer in my mouth to “check mommy’s temp-a-ture” and you would offer constant reminders to “not worry, mommy. You will be better soon, mommy. I promise.”
This was mommy’s third surgery since your birth two years ago. It was perhaps the easiest to recover from physically, but the toughest emotionally. There was something about my innocent two year-old spending all her waking hours worried about me that crushed my soul through the baseboards of the floor. There was something about coming to the realization that I have no control over my precarious health and, hence, no way to protect you from it. It was something about your own mother being the source of your emotional pain. And there was also the moment that I realized that your mental well-being would be subjected to the whims of my very confused immune system.
You are just two years old, Eva. I should be worrying about you. Worrying about things like whether the red crayon will come off the wall. Worrying about how much Peppa Pig you watch and whether or not I will have to pick you up from preschool early today because of another epic tantrum. I want to be frustrated by your kicking and screaming as I lift you into your car seat, but instead I feel inadequate by my inability to put you there in the first place.
After thirteen years of living with chronic illness, I’ve been able to come to terms with most of the consequences: I have learned to build a fulfilling life around the constant struggles and forced time-outs. But I can’t seem to accept the way my illness has affected and will affect you. The funny thing about that, Eva, is I have a feeling you will be the one to teach me how to accept it. You will be the one to find the strength I need in unexpected places. And you will be the one that will teach me how to smile once again. At just two, your resilience and empathy have left me speechless in admiration.
As you promised, mommy is beginning to feel better. I’d like to say that we should only look forward, not back, but I’d be lying if I told you the road ahead of us is smooth. And so it seems that the only choice for us to pick up our baggage and continue on. If nothing else, we’ll together learn to appreciate the extra weight for how much stronger it will make us.