Friday, March 6, 2009

Upon Hearing Wonderful News

One of my best friends has just told me that she is pregnant. I could not be happier for her, her husband, the future child they will have. I cannot wait to meet this person as my friend is one of the singularly most wonderful people on the earth and her child will be, well, most welcome.

And then I find it gives me pause. I think about how she will soon have a three month old, a nine month old. Her child will all too rapidly be one, an age Willa is fast approaching and suddenly the ground beneath me, that I had thought fixed, permanent and unchangeable, shifts. Fissures sparkle and I realize that I am standing on pack ice in the middle of a polar sea. A crevasse opens and on the one side I stand in mittens and hat and on the other are the mothers I can no longer sit with at the table. They will be rescued. I will have to turn back to the ship, frozen in ice, an artic explorer writing a ship’s log of fear and sometimes desperation.

My friend’s child, this unborn possibility, will lap Willa within months of being born. Developmental milestones will be tossed to the annuals of its personal history and we will still not be eating, not walking, not talking.

I haven’t quite dealt with this yet. While I managed to make my break with Willa not being the typical child we expected I guess I haven’t made the break with the typical mom I thought I was to be. I am scared that the people I know are going to have children, and we will recede into our invisible city, forever inhabitants of a place no one can join.

Today my invisible city feels empty, apocalyptic. Drifts of snow piled in cabin corners, ice on broken windowpanes and roving polar bears. My friends will soon be separated from me, my experience apart that much more from their own experience, their own commonality of motherhood, the concerns of the typical child.

Will the interest in our life, like all novelties, fade in the glare of a sun not meant to shine on what is frozen? Will the eyes of our friends soon have to look away toward what they can use, toward what they can share, away from what is so completely foreign to the child they will have lying in the cribs of future nurseries?

As Willa gets older I see ever more prominently what is not there. When you have a child with developmental delay you make all these rationalizations, well they aren’t that far behind, with the adjusted age… It’s a lie of course, and as they get older the gaps widen and you, as the mother, fall in.

I’m tumbling down into one of these gaps. I feel miniature. I can hear the chatter from the world above. I’m part of it but somehow parallel to it. I am a mother but I am not the mother my friend will be. I’m not the mother I thought I was. I’m not the mother my other friends will become. I will be wearing blue when they wear red. I will be drinking when they eat. I will see when they close their eyes to sleep.

I know I am not alone. I know there are legions of mothers like me, living in cities of their own. But this is the first time. The first time knowledge has come home to roost. I know too that chasms exist between mothers with different children. I will do everything in my power to throw lines across the void, tie together rope to make a bridge, send out flares from below, write letters and put them in bottles to float off towards horizons I can no longer reach. I will talk and share and I will be patient too. And I will congratulate my friend with great love in my heart because she is going to have a baby, a beautiful baby soon and I would not want anything less for her.

I hope our children can become correspondents, from one city to another, one world to the parallel one. They can send letters across. Children can do anything. I have to gather the stationary, hoard postage, ready my girl for reaching out from deep places and taking hold of friendly little hands; the hands of her future friends.

Back on my ship, frozen in ice I finish my entry and walk up to the top deck. It is the permanent arctic night and up above plays the aurora. I see impossible colors and shapes. There are others who see these strange phenomena too. I have to remember that. And to these mothers I look now and extend my mittened hand once again. I feel fearful but warm, excited for what I will discover and sad at heart for the distance between old friends and myself. I feel numb sometimes too. But I look up, and there is the aurora, there is Willa, there is my life and my greatest joy.


Chrystal said...

Beautiful and heartbreaking.

And I so understand where you're coming from.

Jen said...

It's the comparing; always the comparing.

I have several friends who have children right around Evan's (my son with Down syndrome) age. Even now, as he approaches his third birthday, I still find myself struggling desperately to find ways in which he is more like them than he is different. Sometimes I'm successful; other times, not so much. I should know better by now. And yet, I continue to compare.

Extraordinary post.

Katherine Wolkoff said...

How could anyone forget about a force as hot and burning and noisy and amazing as you and Willa!

colin said...

You do compare and wish that the milestones will be met and all will become well.

The years pass and you see your child not achieving what the typicle child will achieve.

Then one day you wake and realize it does not matter, because although your child is different, they have already achieved so much more then the child next door. Far more goals have been met, and milestones laid. And you then look at the huge smiley face and realize how unique and perfect they are. You stop comparing and suddenly a whole future opens up.

anahita said...

Yes sure one day you stop comparing and you start to see that your child has already achieved so much and that she is happy to live and loves life.
I really think my son is so happy to live and it makes me see things differently.
But anyway the gap between me and other mothers will always exist.that's how i feel.And to be honest I am not interested in socializing with other mothers of young kids ,not only because it still hurts also because they can't understand my preoccupations like i wonder when my son of 7y will be able to tell me mama i love you or when he'll be toilet trained during night ..let alone all my fears related to scoliosis,cancer,heart...

anyway some days i'm more sociable than others and my invisible cities easier to live in.

I so like your idea of invisible cities.

Molly said...

you are teaching us all how to do it. how to be mothers. to be fierce and devoted and loving and thinking. you are teaching us all how to live.

Anonymous said...

I'm not one to believe that things happen for a reason or for the "best", but how extraordinary that Willa and other families have you to bridge that gap and bring us together. Your journey is different, but we are all on path.

Lauren said...

heath - you are my hero, all of ours. whatever color you wear, and whatever time you sleep, or eat...

Anonymous said...

I wish you like this poem, I feel is as beautiful as your post from today "My Dream Deferred"

Welcome to Holland
by Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this...

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome To Holland".

"Holland?!?" you say, "What do you mean "Holland"??? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy"

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills...Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy...and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned".

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away...because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.

But...if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things...about Holland.