A few days before my second Mother's Day, my son had a seizure.
We were home alone. Sick with a slight fever, my husband and I split the day to care for him. On my lunch break, I took our fourteen-month-old to the local urgent care clinic, and got confirmation of an ear infection. It made sense, though he still seemed . . . off. Disoriented.
He took a nap post-outing and I worked quietly at the kitchen table downstairs. When he woke up, we cuddled up on the couch with a granola bar and a sippy cup of water. His attitude was happier and less cranky than earlier, though he still felt hot to the touch.
I put on Pocahontas, halfway continuing to check email, and then one of my best friends called. We chatted aimlessly, catching up and laughing, and Ezra put his head on my lap with his favorite blanket. Maybe five minutes later, I felt him jolt suddenly, the kind of startled movement that happens when you're on the very edge of sleep.
And that it happened again. And again. And again.
Confused, I pulled him back from my lap to my arm, still talking, and then a current of fear and panic raced through me. He was convulsing steadily with an ashen face, glazed-over eyes and a contorted body. I hung up, stood up, and started dialing my husband's phone number before thinking, "Wait, what am I doing, call 911." I had never seen a seizure in real life, and especially not happening to a little kid. The fact that this was my son, my baby, felt unreal. Fake.
I had that sort of out-of-body experience where half of you is doing, feeling and thinking one thing, while another is doing the exact opposite. Inside, I thought my child was dying and the sight of his shaking form severed me to my core. Outside, I spoke to the 911 operator firmly, answering her questions, checking his breathing, taking my own deep breaths. When an officer arrived, I opened the door and informed him the seizure had stopped, no he didn't lose consciousness, no he didn't throw up, but no, he wasn't making any noise or moving. I trembled violently, my body taking over where my son had left off.
The paramedics came. The rest was a blur, but we made it to the children's hospital where my husband and sister met us. Seeing my little boy on a stretcher as he screamed made me feel like a shattered piece of glass, as I simultaneously tried to reassure him it would be okay, he was okay.
He was, thank god. He had what's called a febrile seizure, which occurs in young toddlers when their bodies can't cope with an unexpected fever spike. It is fairly common, though I had never heard of it. A small percentage of kids have another one, and while the seizure isn't harmful, the nurse confirmed how terrifying it can be to watch. She also reminded me it wasn't my fault, which I didn't realize I needed to hear until it spilled out of her mouth.
Four hours after the worst three minutes of my life, we came home. E was already in better spirits. He ate dinner, drank milk and kept saying "good dog" to my father-in-law's lab playing in the backyard. Our care team reassured us: E would be completely fine, just a little tired and cranky for the next few days, which is what happened.
And even though I knew we were in the clear, I couldn't get the feeling of his lifeless body out of my arms. I couldn't stop remembering the fear of seeing something happening to your baby, completely outside of your control, and not knowing what the hell to do except make that awful call and pray to God help came soon. I couldn't shake the sense of wondering if it would happen again.
This is motherhood, though.
Feeling like your heart is walking around outside your body. Fearing the worst without succumbing to the depths of worry. Always, always, always striving to protect. Offering confident comfort to a little one without actually knowing how it'll all turn out. Doing your best and realizing you can do everything exactly right, and bad things still might happen.
So this Mother's Day, I'm focused on the little things. Listening to my son giggle as my mother, who drove six hours out of her way to be here, makes cinnamon-raisin toast for breakfast. Holding him while he sleeps and looking at that precious, tiny face. Receiving a cup of coffee from my husband, equally emotionally exhausted; getting text messages of support from close friends who say things like, "Hang in there," and "That must have been so frightening" and "We're praying for you." Hearing from my grandmother, who in a tight, clutched voice explained how she knows what it's like to be scared with your kid, because she lost one of hers, which makes me count my lucky stars a million times over.
I am so grateful to be a mother, and be mothered.
To the women raising children in all their wild, needy wonder: I see you.
To the fathers finding their own parenting path, and supporting the glorious women and mothers in their life, I see you.
To the grandmothers who have been here before, and still listen and advise, I see you.
To the mothers who have lost their baby, I see you.
To the women who have lost their mothers, I see you.
To the mothers full of grief, or taking it all for granted, I see you.
To the women who ache to mother, I see you.
To the mothers who see their babes in pain, who wish they could make it all better, I see you.
To the women who have learned or taught themselves to mother, with or without a child, I see you.
To the women who lift up while rising, even when they are crushed, I see you.
To the mothers who aren't sure if they're doing a good job, I see you. (And you are.)
To the women who are relieved beyond measure at the gift of life, I see you.
To my mama who never takes no for an answer and has patience in droves, I see you.
To my husband who lets me cry at happy hour and makes the best of everything, I see you.
To my son who reminded me why motherhood matters, I see you.
Happy Mother's Day.