By Jamie Krug
I am the greediest mother.
I have written about the hand-wringing and soul-crushing that comes with being Owen’s mother. I have told the tales of heart-soaring and hope-reviving moments, too.
At the beginning, we weren’t allowed to stretch our dreams too far.
We had arms and legs moving. Eventually, he was breathing on his own.
We were given smiles, there was the gleam of recognition in his eyes, he reached for something. He reached for us. He dragged himself around on three limbs, then four. Countless hours of intense therapy later and he was standing, then there were steps. Then multiple steps. He was breathing and eating and walking.
I wanted more. More more more more more.
I wanted words. And we got a few, slowly, but they came. And then they stopped coming. And my greedy little heart wanted to hear what else could be said by the tiny little voice coming out of those perfect rosebud lips. But it seemed like there was only so much he could say. We had five words, then ten, then twelve. Then only ten again.
Then this. The questions we thought we had answered went up in smoke. “We don’t know,” they told us.
And he had no clear path to the future, there was no vision of what it might look like–or sound like. The silence was deafening.
The day we found out about the stroke a week after he was born, when the devastation was written on our tear-stained faces, when it registered as the shocked expressions we wore like masks, we were given a gift. I didn’t know the enormity of it at the time, but it has carried us through so much uncertainty.
Kim, one of the NICU nurses who treated Owen, the same woman who taught us how to bathe this fragile creature of ours that we had just met, framed this news for us in a concrete way we could wrap our heads around. She told us that, “This stroke, it is not the end of him. If his brain would normally go from Point A to Point B to hold a spoon and Point B isn’t available, if it’s damaged, then his brain will find a pathway to Point C or Point D and so on. He will still hold a spoon. It may take him longer and it may not look the same as the way the rest of us hold a spoon, but he will do it.”
And he did, he held a spoon. He did it later and more awkwardly at first, but he can hold a spoon. And that for me is symbolic in a way that I would never have previously considered flatware to be. But that’s so much of what Owen has become–the boy that makes me elevate spoon-holding to a spiritual experience.
And though he’s come so far, though he can hold a spoon, and walk, and is learning to read, and can talk, I want more. At some point I would have been grateful for just the walking or just the talking and now that’s not enough.
I am greedy. I am greedy because complacency means the death of progress for him.
And I should be grateful for what we’ve gotten, for how far he’s come, and I am. And yet that’s still not enough.
I am the greediest of mothers. I want more.
And I want it to come easily. And I know that that’s a pipe dream, but I will stubbornly dream for it anyway. And we are finding out now that for so many things for him, “Point B” is not available. And apparently neither is the rest of the first half of the goddamn alphabet. So there is further for those new pathways to travel, and forging new roads takes time. It just takes so much time.
And somehow, while I’m watching him move forward, it also means watching him fall further behind. And that is heartbreaking. Because he knows now, he gets it. And so I want to speed this all up, to gather the words he cannot find and hold onto them for him, to hand them to him when he can’t reach back into his brain and seize them himself.
But I can only spoon-feed him for so long until he needs to hold the spoon and feed himself.
And it’s not happening fast enough for me, for him. He has words, but not enough. And I don’t know when he will get them, if he will get them. And I want more for him. I am supposed to be grateful for what he has done, for what he can do. And I am, my god am I ever.
It is not enough. I want more.
I am not ungrateful, but I am not satisfied. I am unable to look back and merely be appreciative that he is not the drooling, silent, immobile and unresponsive boy that they warned us he might be.
Because I am dreaming bigger for him. Because I refuse to accept “good enough”.
Because I am the greediest mother.
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