The one advantage to being a mother hen is that you can gather your little ones close and tuck them under your wing. This may not actually keep them safe, but sometimes the illusion of control is all I need to sustain forward motion for a while. Tuesday morning found me and my husband in bed with our littlest one folded between us and my oldest daughter lying pencil-thin along the edge of the bed behind me. Ahh, I had my entire brood safe and warm with me. Some days, this is all I long for and I don’t ever want to leave the security of that bed. I’m not sure if they’re keeping me safe or I’m taking care of them or the simple act of taking care of them is what keeps me feeling safe, but it works and sometimes I need that.
My husband has over the last two and a half years, suffered intermittently with bouts of severe abdominal pain and illness that, on at least one occasion, nearly left him dead. He is not only my life partner, but my best friend, my rock, my port in a storm. He is my go-to-guy and seeing him crumpled in shock, vibrating in spasms of pain and uncontrolled muscle movements, eyes wide in terror and begging me to help him quaked my entire foundation. We have spent equal amounts of time over the past two years seeking answers to these episodes and holding our breath while praying they will mysteriously cease.
I have made endless lists in my head of commonalities, symptoms and possible triggers, all the while worrying that if I allow any of these thoughts to escape my lips during a “healthy” period, I will immediately jinx us and send him into another illness. So great is my fear that my neighbors, close friends and family all possess intimate details of the episodes and my personal theories of the cause. I am incapable of being stoic, especially when I am frightened.
Since December, we have enjoyed a relatively long period of time illness-free and have been able to let our guard down a little. My husband spent time traveling on business to Europe and South America, both for long, intense trips, and returned home without any difficulties, so we were feeling pretty relaxed. Sunday night, the demon returned. So much for the mother-bear.
I am scared. I hold no real hope that this week’s round of tests will provide any more information than those he has undergone over the past two years. My confidence was not buoyed when both of my husband’s physicians admitted to me that they were mystified. Where is Dr. House? I’ll take a crappy bedside manner. Go ahead and accuse me and my husband of being liars! Search my house for clues. Just fix it, dammit! My wings are not large enough to tuck him under and protect him, and neither one of us wants that anyway.
Forty-seven times a day I remind myself to stop and hold onto the core of my mother bear. I sit still and close my eyes, feeling the strong center of love I have for him and my children. I feel the solid granite of the foundation we have built over the past fourteen years together and try to trust that it won’t crumble to dust. This is a place where I don’t have to wonder what I would do without him – how I would raise the kids alone and how I would deal with my own grief while helping them charter theirs. I can just know that I love him and that powerful connection of the two of us feels strong and immutable. Then one of my girls calls me for something, and I return to the farmyard, pecking, pecking, pecking for anything I can find to keep it together.