Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Oh, Doctor....Are You Sure You Cut The Cord?

Alexander, on his 1st birthday
I can't even look at this picture today, without my throat getting tight on me. It's a picture of my now oldest, who was one on the day this picture was snapped. He is 15 now.

I had dressed him in his first grown up clothes that day: a navy blue polo shirt and pleated, pressed khaki pants. He looked just like his dad, and his dad was beaming. I was beaming at finally having my baby, at 36 years old.

Looking at my three boys' baby pictures kills me, anyway--I don't know why I do it---torture myself that way, but, I do. Anyway, today...this picture is killing me.

Since the first second I became their mother, I was transformed into their very own "Ripley." I was untouchable, unbeatable and nothing stood in my way when protecting my children.

It became what I lived for, without question, and I rose up to meet my role. When they cried at night, I'd swoop down and lift them and felt as if I were rescuing them from some lonely tower.

They were soothed by only me.

Life continues on this way, with days that trick you into thinking they will never end. You will always be Ripley, you think, armed and ready, to save them from everything.

Then, the day comes, out of nowhere...where the first live superaction heroine they've ever known, is powerless. The day where she can only sit and watch, and is not able to swoop in and pick them up out of their crying crib.

I watch, feeling a golfball in my throat, while my 15 year old firstborn apple of my eye, struggles with a life lesson.*

I can barely stand it.

The Umbilical Cord

Oh, Doctor, are you sure....
     the day he was born and you cut the cord-
     that cord that connects child to mother-
did you make it a clean cut? complete?

Because sometimes I wonder
    when the sound of his cry would cause
     the strange pain, prickly pins,
     "letting down" the milk to meet his need.
     And when, as he advanced to solids and fed with a spoon
     my mouth popped open
     with every attempt to spoon food into his;
     my tongue licked the corners of my mouth
     when the baby food spilled out on his face.

If the cord was cleanly cut, complete
     why the sinking sick stomach in me
     at the sight of his blood after a fall?
     Why is my mouth dry
     when he is the one on stage to say the lines?
     Why are my palms sweating
     when he is the pitcher on the mound?
    *Why does my heart ache 
      when his is broken?

Doctor, could you check?
I think the cord is still intact.

~Jana Vick

PostScript: a HUGE thank you to Shell @Things I Can't Say, for writing the perfect post for me to find today. Thank you, Shell. I needed to read just the words you had for me at your site today. Thank you.


  1. Life just seems to get trickier in this mom business the older they get... doesn't it. Oh to be worried about pre-schools and soothers again. Hope all is well. Life lessons... who would we be without them?
    Take care Empress,

  2. Reading this makes me think of my own mom, and how much ache I must've put her through. Life lessons are the worst, aren't they?

    This reminds me of how I would flip to the back of my book at the beginning of a school year, and marvel at how it looked like Greek to me and wonder how I'd ever be able to understand it. And it wasn't until I went through the process of learning what was in between the front and back that I could understand those later lessons. It seems that this is like motherhood and all of life, in a way - every milestone prepares you in some way for the next. That doesn't make it any easier, though, I'm sure. But it gives you the luxury of looking back to days which you can now remember fondly, when at the time you may have been pulling your hair out over this or that.

    I'm sure that does nothing to help you, but I felt the need to share my thoughts. I hope things work out smoothly for your big guy, and soon.

  3. Ugh. My boy just turned one and it's tough for me to look back on his baby pictures even now. I can't imagine what it will feel like years down the road! My thoughts are with you!

  4. This is beautiful. I feel that way..every single day. I have 90,000 + photos of my girls 3 & 5 on my computer and every time I ad a pc to a post and have to search through the photos..I find myself all choked up.My mind goes back to their birth and then fast forwards to their weddings and college and babies and there I sit with my ginormous lump choking the life out of me. I juts know if I swallow, a flood will escape me.Big Hugs.Take comfort in knowing that he will always be YOUR baby!

  5. Coming from someone who doesn't have kids yet, I can only imagine, but I can say...I'm still my mom's baby. I always will be.

  6. I have nieces and nephews and I absolutely get this right down to my core.

  7. OH, I wish I knew what to say to help you feel better.
    Maybe it's easier with daughters. Mine is with me still on a daily, or so, basis. She's raising her own now. So I get to be gramma and still be the mom she turns to for advice and the "is this normal?" when the grandbaby goes through a new phase.

  8. So beautifully written. I can't even imagine my boys as teenagers...but I know that it will happen in the blink of an eye.

  9. Cord connected or not, a child's connection with their mom is unbreakable. Like the poem :)

  10. I got to watch as my oldest (7) went away for his first big trip over Thanksgiving. He was so good and did so well--but it was a relief to hear his little voice be excited at the thought of coming home. Hard to imagine we give birth to them and then spend the next 18 years getting them ready to be on their own. Life's lessons indeed.

  11. You are wise to not micromanage him. He MUST face, endure and learn these life lessons. Then when he has learned his lesson, you can sweep in and kill the offender.

  12. I'm crying along with you - what a touching poem, and one that hits close to home as my baby is about to turn 3. I can't imagine 15 someday! (That thought was what got the waterworks started, the poem made them uncontrollable! Luckily my still-toddler-for-a-few-more-days is sleeping peacefully on my lap to catch the tears.)

  13. Alright, now I'M all weepy! What a beautiful poem you have included.

  14. I know this all too well. I think for me it is harder for me to let go of my oldest since he is bipolar and I know that age does not display his mentality..

  15. i confess to opening my mouth when feeding baby food, too. it actually started when i babysat, though, which has no connection to the cord.

    i guess i'm just weird.

  16. This is why we treasure every moment right? Because they go so quickly. But on the other end of that is the excitment of getting to see how they turn out. Because of us, or despite us. They are the greatest gift!

  17. i agree treasure every goes way too fast...

  18. I hope your both strengthened by this life lesson. I'd like to think that some day it will be easier, but I think having a baby is like eternally sending your heart to walk around outside your body. I'm sure it will never be painless.

  19. Yes, the earlier years are physically more challenging and the older years, emotionally. Watching as your kids learn life lessons has to be immensely hard. But how lucky is he that he has you to fall back on? Always. You're doing a good job, mama. Baby bird is learning to fly.

  20. Some people are born to be mothers. You are one of them.

  21. Oh I had a lump in my throat just reading this! My baby will be 12 in January, I don't know where the time has gone:(

  22. Oh, Empress, I've been thinking about this very idea so much lately. Thank you for articulating it so well.

    I wish you and Alexander the smoothest of sailing in the days ahead.

  23. Gorgeously written. Just wonderful.

  24. I'm all teary here. I feel the same way when I look at the pictures of my kiddos when they were babes. It hurts and it's wonderful, all at the same time. And that poem? Amazing....wonderful and so true.

  25. Oh good luck darling. And how adorable are you in that picture? And the little guy too of course.

  26. Oh how we would protect them if only we could...

  27. I miss my boys who are now living in different continents from me... Me here in India, one in Europe and one in USA. So I have their pictures on my computer and I look at it every day and feel that special something in my heart....

  28. Awww.... Life lessons can suck for moms. Also, babies should stay babies a little longer. I'm just sayin...

  29. I can only imagine how much harder it gets when the hurts become greater and the struggles more real. When you watch your baby hurt, and cry, stumble and fall - when you watch from the sidelines because there is nothing you can do to stop it.

    My oldest is only in Kindergarden and I have only had a taste of this...but it is bitter and aweful and I don't want anymore.

    By royal decree...Can't you please stop letting them get older????

  30. This makes me teary eyed. And then I look at baby pics and think I want one. Stupid life lessons.

  31. Tears.

    When I watched my then three year old process his first real loss, my heart shattered. Since he was three, he bounced back very quickly (and when I say loss, it was not anything huge - just huge to HIM). But I was rocked, because it was the first time I couldn't fix it. SOB.

    Lovely, lovely post.

  32. Those pics? That get you like that? Are priceless!

    Damn life lessons, though.

  33. my one and only son will turn 15 on christmas eve. This morning as I hoped out of bed I looked over at a photo of him when he was four with his gorgeous smile beaming. Now he is riddled with hormones, trying to fit in and often moody.

    The photo makes me cry regularly particularly because a simple tickle attack and cuddle no longer heals his wounds. No...the cord is forever there and from the moment he was born I realised that our children bring us the most wonderful joy and love along with the most intense pain.

    its a mystery

  34. This motherhood business just gets harder as they grow?! I can only imagine how it must feel to sit back and let them learn. Just remember to be there for him in the process. You're a great mom Empress.

  35. When I look a pictures of my kids when they were babies I get teary eyed, too.

    Then I remember changing poopy diapers and it pretty much vanishes at that point.

  36. I am further enamored with you for making an Aliens reference. Ripley is damn right. Any good mother is - and you are for sure.

  37. Gah. I'm so glad I read KLZ's comment first. I thought you were talking about Ripley's Believe it or Not. Aliens makes so much more sense.

    I love this post. I get wound up when my kids get a runny nose or boo boo on their knee. I can only imagine how it will feel when real life lessons come our way.

  38. Is that YOU Emp?

    You know, one mother told me that when her son was born by C-Section, they had trouble getting him out because he was clinging to her rib cage as they were pulling him out!!! (So it may not just be the moms that have trouble letting go.) I'm so sorry about the necessary but painful life lesson.

  39. Hi heart (and yours) will mend soon. You are a fabulous mom.

    ( P.S. Look at your piles of hair, woman!)

  40. That was absolutely beautiful. Alexandra, I love the picture of you and your handsome little man. I'm so sorry for what he's currently struggling with, but rest assured that you have done an amazing job and have given your son all the lessons he needs to handle this and any other complication that may appear in the road ahead. You are still super momma no matter what you may think :)

  41. I love this! Every stage makes me marvel at how quickly the last one went by. I can't figure out how they seem so endless, and then when the stage has passed it feels like the blink of the eye. We haven't even reached toddlerhood, let alone the teens and I already feel/fear the tugging of the cord.

  42. My oldest is thirty-four. That cord is still intact. It's never not. I swear.

  43. That is a beautiful poem. I am not looking forward to those teenage years. With two daughters close in age, we are in for an adventure! Hang in is just another phase!

  44. I think my son is slowly preparing me for the teenage years already. He's got a stubborn streak in him - I don't know where he gets it - can't be from me! (((hugs)))

  45. I am feeling so much right now, reading your post and the poem, and I am having a hard translating it into written words. I absolutely feel it, Alexandra - I mean, some version of what you are talking about. I am always looking at my 6 year old, trying to picture him a year ago, 2 years ago, 3 years ago...I am SO excited watching him grow, having alot of my questions answered (e.g., what will be like? what will he be good at in school? what kind of friend will he be?) and at the same time it breaks my heart to know that I can never go back and hold him again as a baby, a toddler, a preschooler.

    And it's so true that there does come a day (and I am guessing more and more days) when we will feel powerless as mothers. I see this in my mother, who still cries over worrying about my brother. At this point she honestly can't do anything. And it kills her to see her children in pain.

    The poem is beautiful. So true.

    I am sure that whatever Alexander is going through, that he is okay with you by his side. Sometimes they need to find their own way. The most we can do is be there and love them.


  46. My mother cried on my shoulder last week. For a few moments she refused to speak, wouldn't tell me why she did.

    And then she told me that watching me with my children was like a flashback in time and that she couldn't be old enough to have a son who is now 40+.

    I think that she is more upset that I have lost some hair than I am.

    I am beginning to understand it. My oldest will be 10 in a few weeks and I see so many changes. The baby is long gone and so is the toddler. He is still very much a boy, but I see signs of a teenager.

    We have time, but that is what I said last week when he was only 10 months old.

  47. So what you're telling me is that motherhood does not get easier and perhaps gets even more difficult? Say it ain't so!

    Can I say how much I am strengthened by the wisdom and experience of the bloggy moms I know and love? I think about the post about your son at the parking, saying "Kindness. Kindness" to a mean kid and it gets me every time.

    Thanks for being a mommy mentor for me. xoxo

  48. Gah. I watch my 8-year-old struggle with friend issues and I can't even imagine what the teen years will hold. :P

    Gave you an award today, lady:

  49. It is so very hard to watch our kids struggle through a life lesson. It's harder than learning one ourselves. So, hugs to you, Mama, and wishes that he will get through quickly.

  50. I think every mom feels this way. Earlier in the year when my son started kindergarten he was having trouble making friends. I was so worried when he would say "No one at school likes me. But I don't care if I don't have any friends." You can always get them a tutor for the academics. But navigating socially, you just can't do it for them. I'm relieved to say he's found his footing and has definitely made friends. But it's absolutely true that as mothers we feel what they feel.
    Good thoughts to you and your son.

  51. It is so hard, so so hard, to watch them struggle with anything. I am sorry for the anguish you feel as a mom watching her child face pain, and I am wishing him strength as he faces- and conquers- this lesson (hugs)

  52. Such beautiful writing. You make me ache for when my kids are grown, and I don't even have any yet!

  53. You made me tear up. This parenting business is bitter-sweet, isn't it? Thank goodness for us, though, that the sweetness overrides the sad. Hang in there. I hope your son has a lighter heart soon.

  54. Ok, so I don't know what happened, but there seems to have been a massive release of dust in the air here and now I've got tears. Why does that seem to always happen when I visit your blog? In a good way of course.

    And while I liked this post, the thought of D1 being 15 sort of freaked me out.

  55. My son is not aware that the cord has been cut. He's almost eight. I'm ok with it. His life is not going to be easy. He'll always need the tether. As will I.

    I know. You know.

  56. I guess this one is from the other side of the table. We have five grown kids. I've always kind of envied the mother/child connection. I love my own, but there is just something special about "mom."
    Love your post and hope it goes well...

  57. Oh those moments when the love you feel sweeps over you like a tsunami.

    I wasn't prepared for that. I knew I would adore them with every ounce of my being, but the pain of pure love. Hurts so good.

    Hugs to you my friend.

  58. So lovely!

    I only have one; and although he now has a child of his own; there is always a little tiny piece of the cord that has never been, nor ever will be severed. He'll always be "my baby" even when he's 50.

    Thanks for another lovely post; and a happy belated birthday to Alexander!

  59. cece says:

    I can't even imagine. I get hurt now when a kid won't play with mine on the swings.

    Good luck, thinking of you and Alec.

  60. Empress,

    Late to the party, but nonetheless, here.

    Belated birthday wishes to your boy/man. I, too, torture myself with the pics, but mostly the one that kills me are the videos. Seeing them as babies, hearing their baby voices. Oh, I tell you, it undoes me every time.

    And that primal cord is so strong, nothing will ever sever it. My 16 year old daughter got body slammed in her soccer game yesterday. A whallop of a noise when she got hit, a slam that sickened me and brought me to my feet instantly and onto the edge of the field. She jumped back up because she is a fierce warrior and would rather suffer than let her team down. She is their captain and their defender. I knew. I never, ever interfere at times like this, but I knew. I yelled to her coach to pull her out. Even though my girl had nodded to the ref that she was fine and to let the game continue, I knew. And against my husband's protests, I called to her coach and told her to pull her out. A new mother herself, the coach did just that. By the time, my girl reached the edge of the field, she was sobbing, gasping for breath, limping and scraped up big time. She had rolled her ankle, which is sadly too common of an occurrence, after a bad ankle break from a soccer mishap a few years ago. Her ankle was already swollen. She'd gotten the wind knocked out of her big time. She had a lump on her head and she was very dizzy. If I hadn't known, she would have continued to play and the injuries could have been much worse.

    There is nothing in the world stronger than the fierce bond of mother and child.

  61. So beautiful.

    I experienced the mommabear love the first time when my oldest was about five.

    We walked down to the end of our street so she could go to a play date (we lived in a rural area).

    Two dogs (bully-breed types) came a running out at us from their house and as my heart stopped, I shoved my daughter behind me and hollered those two dogs back to their porch. It still amazes me to this day that I, without hesitation, would have taken bites or worse for that little-bit.

    You have made me cry!

  62. It's hard to see our kids in physical or emotional pain and stand by helpless...that first heartbreak is the absolute worst.

  63. That's a fantastic poem, and so so perfect for this post. I can't even imagine what I'd do on the day I absolutely have no control over the hurt and pain that befalls my own kids. I can only take comfort in the fact that I think it helps our kids to know that we're there, even when we're powerless to influence the outcome of their hopes and desires, or to alleviate their pain.



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