I see you, mama. You are smiling at the nurses as you talk to them outside your child’s room, but I see the worry etched across your forehead, the exhaustion in your eyes. I see the weight of your fears, causing your shoulders to curve inward. You make small talk and laugh with your child’s therapist, but I see the tears hovering at the corners of your eyes, feel you taking deep breaths to keep your voice steady.
I see you, mama. You’re standing in your child’s doorway during morning rounds, listening to the medical team summarize your child’s last 24 hours and discuss decisions for the day. You know your baby best, you’re her mama, but I hear the nervousness in your voice as you ask your clarifying question, as you wonder if the team might consider this option versus that one. I’m a witness to the tension in your smile as you kindly thank staff member after staff member as they enter and exit your room on the day you are admitted, or the day your child is clinically deteriorating, or the day you are discharged. You are totally overwhelmed, but you are so accommodating because you want everything we have to offer for your child.
I see you, mama, as you walk down the concourse toward the cafeteria to grab a bite to eat. Your head is down, your shoulders tensely elevated. You are exuding anxiety as your thoughts block out the world around you. I smile as you lift your baby up, grinning as hard as you can at him to get him to display his toothy grin. My spirits lift listening to your sing-song as you draw your little girl into a fit of giggles. I know the rapid beating of your heart is hiding just behind the armor of your chest as she snuggles against you, your calm demeanor hiding your fear to protect your little one. I see you mama, as your breath catches when the medical team tells you they have a surgical date…or when they tell you surgery is rescheduled…or when they tell you surgery is cancelled. I feel your steps back and forth as you pace the waiting room, waiting for the word that the next step of surgery is completed, that your little boy is doing well, that surgery is over.
I see you, mama, your wide grin when the social worker pauses at your bed space just to tell you congratulations on your newborn baby. You’ve been robbed of the typical, joyful experience. Yours has been filled with much joy but also debilitating fear. I see your face brighten, the hopeful anticipation in your eyes, when I ask, “do you want to hold your baby?” I see your shoulders relax and your lips gently brush his head as you soak in his smell, feel the rise and fall of his chest, the first time you get to hold his tiny body. I see you, mama, as you absent-mindedly rub your little man’s bald head, happily listening to me describe his current progress, but all the while I can see your wheels spinning, thinking about the impact his next round of chemo or her next surgery will have on that progress. We are hopeful and happy when we hear you’ve gotten the call that organs are available, eager to shepherd you and your little love to the post-transplant phase. But I see you, mama. I see the weight on your heart of the knowledge that these organs belong to another mama’s baby. I also see the hope that these organs mean a new beginning for the most meaningful being in your life. I see you.
Hardest of all, I see you, mama. I see you as you hold vigil at your girl’s bedside…as you gently stroke her hand and forehead…as you whisper promises to his ear…as you beg him to stay, as you whisper to her that it is okay to go. I see you as you bravely tell the medical team to stop. I see you. I will never forget you. More importantly, I will never forget your little girl with the bright eyes or your young lady whose laugh radiated across the room. I will never forget your little boy with the great big smile or your young man who was fighting so hard for adulthood. You might leave our walls and our grounds, but the heart and fighting spirit of your love will never leave our hearts. Your strength and love have forever left your mark on us. There is tragedy in our walls, but most of all, there is love.
Please don’t ever doubt, we see you, mama.
Editor’s note: ‘I see you, Mama’ was originally posted on Laura Kohus’ blog, Henry’s Heart. We thought it was a beautiful depiction of what many parents may experience while their children are being treated in a hospital, and wanted to share it with you. While Laura does work at Cincinnati Children’s, this post is not about actual children she has encountered. It is purely fictional and only contains references to experiences that may occur in the inpatient pediatric setting.