Today was the worst day.
Today was the best day.
Today was the day the doctors thought my son had a tumor. And the day they discovered he did not.
The headaches started about a year ago. Always accompanied by nausea and eye pain, they were awful for my little guy. At first they came about once a month. Then twice. Then more. I spoke to the pediatrician several times about them. We visited the eye doctor numerous times about them. But they always seemed manageable. Until yesterday.
When I picked my son up from school yesterday he could barely walk.
“Carry me, Mommy,” he said.
His face was white. He had dark circles under his eyes. He looked so bad my heart started beating far too quickly in my chest.
I carried him and his backpack and lunchbox in one hand as I called the pediatrician with the other. We were seen an hour later and told to wait for a call after they spoke to the neurologists.
I waited. And waited. Every time the phone rang I leapt to my feet.
Finally the doctor called.
“If the headache goes away tonight or tomorrow morning, it can wait a few days. If it persists, he needs to be seen right away. The neurologist will meet you at the ER.”
“What’s the worst case?” I asked.
“A mass,” she said. “A tumor.”
The headache persisted. My son woke up moaning at 2am. Mumbling at 3am. Screaming at 5am. I grabbed him and his lovies, Smelly 2 and Cuddles, and drove in the dark to the ER where we stayed for the reminder of the day as my son was poked and prodded and tested and questioned.
I held it together well. I kept telling myself it was going to be fine. He was going to be fine. It had to be fine. IT WILL BE FINE.
I didn’t lose it until they slid his tiny body into the MRI machine. Seeing him there, hugging his lovies, dwarfed by the massive equipment, broke my heart. The tears fell silently out of the corners of my eyes. I kept wiping them away and damning them to stop. Just stop. I didn’t want the nurses to see. I didn’t want my son to see. I had to stay strong.
But how does a mother stay strong when her baby, her heart, her life is at risk of something so catastrophic? How does a mother stay strong when everything could fracture and break in a moment? How does a mother stay strong when she would trade places with her child in a heartbeat? When the person she loves most in the world is hurting and she can’t take away the hurt? When her child is in danger? When she would give anything, anything, to make her child OK. How does a mother stay strong?
She just does.
For her child.
She just does.
I wiped the tears and smiled at my little man when he slid out of the machine. I hugged him and held him and told him how proud I was of him. How brave he was. And as I snuggled my face into his unwashed, unruly mane of yellow curls I prayed. “Dear God, make him OK.”
And he is. The MRI was clear. The diagnosis was migraine. I felt every fiber of my body melt with gratitude when the doctor told me the brain scan was “pristine”. Migraines are no picnic. But it could have been so much worse. So, so much worse.
And for many mothers and children, it is so much worse. And for those mothers and children my heart breaks. Splinters into a million little pieces. I know our good fortune today is not shared by every family. And that is devastating. The fear and stress I felt today are daily realities for many families. Families I saw today at the hospital. Families I am friends with. Families I love.
So for today, I am grateful. It was the worst day. It was the best day. It was a day I pray to never relive. It was a day I am endlessly grateful for. Because in the end, it was the day my son was OK.