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Mama Instinct or Mama Grief Talking?

Probably Mama Grief… but you just never know.

Last month we attended a tribute service at the Hopkin’s Children Center. The guest speaker was a mom that had lost her son to leukemia. Her story started with a happy, healthy, 3 year old that was full of energy. One day he was complaining of being tired…

Then began the roller coaster of finding out that he had leukemia, receiving treatments, going into remission for years, only to then lose him to another onset in his early teens.

The details of her story are fuzzy to me, because as I sat there with my husband, I was preoccupied with thoughts of April Rey. While we sat in a room full of bereaved parents, I felt like we were the only ones with tears just streaming down our faces the minute we arrived. I was in another place and just trying to hold myself together- and failing miserably. But it didn’t matter. I knew everyone there got it. They all understood.

As we heard her story, I couldn’t help but think of our older daughter, Caroline. Losing April was devastating. I can’t, however, imagine finding out that your healthy 3 year old has cancer. And I can’t imagine losing another child.

All we wanted to do was run out of the room and hug Caroline. We did that as soon as possible- we didn’t even stay for the entire tribute because we wanted so badly to go and hold her and see her smile.

And then time went on. Life as usual. Grief setting in occasionally and unexpectedly as it does.  

Yesterday, when I was dropping Caroline off at school, she started complaining to me that she was tired. I honestly thought nothing of it. She’d been exceptionally quiet in the car ride over, instead of playing car games like she usually does. I figured it was just an off day. We’re all allowed them!

She looked at me before I left and said, “But, Mama, how will I rest here?” Her teacher told her she could sit down during play time if she needed to. I left her at school and didn’t think twice about it. I felt bad that she was so tired, but honestly didn’t think anything was wrong.

When I returned to pick her up, I sat in the parking lot, since I was early, and watched as she played outside. She ran and ran and ran. She climbed up the playground set, and chatted with her teacher, and just looked to be having the best time. I smiled with relief. I’d felt bad for leaving her, but it was good to see her enjoying herself.

As I walked in a few minutes later to her classroom, they called her name to come get her things. She greeted me at the door with a frown and said, “You can pick me up.” Usually we’d be racing out the door together and talking all about school.

I asked if she was okay. She replied that she was just really tired. I scooped her up in my arms and she held me tighter than she ever has. I could feel her shaking. I stood with her for a bit and made sure she was alright. She seemed fine. It rattled me though, and I didn’t quite know why.

I told my husband about it later in the day. He made the comment that we’d have to keep an eye on her. I felt nervous as I told him. Again, I wasn’t quite sure why.

It wasn’t until 3 am that I woke up and realized- this woman’s story from the tribute service was in my mind. I had become frightened that our healthy daughter was going to have something wrong, and that we’d lose her. I know, I know, it’s quite the leap from just a few comments that she’s tired, to worrying about losing her to cancer.

I was suddenly wide awake and as worried as I could be. I knew it was silly. I knew it was way over the top to even be concerned about something like that. But that mom’s story had stuck with me. The devastation. The surprise. The shock of it all.

Then I sat there thinking about all of the times that she’s told me she’s tired lately. It’s every day. She’s even asked to take an early nap (I was impressed and wrote about it here when it happened).

And suddenly all I wanted to do was hold her. I wanted to selfishly wake her up and hold her all night.

And I wondered…

“Would I have worried about something like this had we not lost April?”

“Do other moms that haven’t lost a child, think this way?”

“Did we go to the tribute service, not for April, but to hear that moms story? To prepare us for something?”

“Was there a reason we were there that day as opposed to staying home like typically would have?”

“Will I ever not worry like this?”

“When do I take her to the doctor without looking like a fool?”

“How do I balance my worries, with that of having my daughter go through tests?”

And then I heard her call “Daddy?”

I jumped up…never so glad to hear my daughter’s voice at 3 am. She immediately told me she didn’t feel well. She said her throat was hurting, so I got her some water. I then asked if I could hold her for a bit. She said “Sure.” I snuggled in and stayed awhile.

“Mama? Why are you staying so long?”, she asked.

“I just love you so much.”

A few minutes later… “Okay, Mama. You can go now. I love you and goodnight, again.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. Usually she begs me to stay as long as possible, and I don’t, of course. Tonight I wanted to stay as long as possible, and she totally kicked me out. LOL!

I’m not someone that worries like this. Clearly, I’m the mom that leaves her child at preschool even though she has informed me that she’s tired and asked to go home. I’m the mom that feels bad about it, but knows that my daughter can also be dramatic and convince herself that things are worse than they really are.

At the moment I don’t know if it’s my mama instinct kicking in and I should listen to it, or if it’s just my mama grief kicking in and I should silence it. I know for sure we’ll keep an eye on her and take it seriously if the symptoms persist. I know for sure that I hate worrying and hate thinking about things like this.

I also know for sure that our daughter is full of energy, and so happy, and seemingly perfectly healthy (most likely this is still the case). She rides her bike daily, she’s got incredible strength that she shows off at gymnastics each week, she climbs and runs and enjoys herself.

So, when is a bruise just a bruise, or something more?
When are pains just growing pains, or something more?
When is tiredness, just tiredness, or something more?

These are the questions, that as parents we have to figure out and trust our instincts…


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