Jewish World Review May 10, 2002 / 28 Iyar, 5762

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Some mothers get something more

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Expectant mothers waiting for a newborn's arrival say they don't care what sex the baby is. They just want it to have ten fingers and ten toes.

Mothers lie.

Every mother wants so much more. She wants a perfectly healthy baby with a round head, rosebud lips, button nose, beautiful eyes and satin skin. She wants a baby so gorgeous that people will pity the Gerber baby for being flat-out ugly.

She wants a baby that will roll over, sit up and take those first steps right on schedule (according to the baby development chart on page 57, column two). Every mother wants a baby that can see, hear, run, jump and fire neurons by the billions. She wants a kid that can smack the ball out of the park and do toe points that are the envy of the entire ballet class. Call it greed if you want, but a mother wants what a mother wants. Some mothers get babies with something more.

Maybe you're one who got a baby with a condition you couldn't pronounce, a spine that didn't fuse, a missing chromosome or a palette that didn't close. The doctor's words took your breath away. It was just like the time at recess in the fourth grade when you didn't see the kick ball coming and it knocked the wind right out of you.

Some of you left the hospital with a healthy bundle, then, months, even years later, took him in for a routine visit, or scheduled her for a well check, and crashed head first into a brick wall as you bore the brunt of devastating news. It didn't seem possible. That didn't run in your family. Could this really be happening in your lifetime?

I watch the Olympics for the sheer thrill of seeing finely sculpted bodies. It's not a lust thing, it's a wondrous thing. They appear as specimens without flaw -- muscles, strength and coordination all working in perfect harmony. Then an athlete walks over to a tote bag, rustles through the contents and pulls out an inhaler.

There's no such thing as a perfect body. Everybody will bear something at some time or another. Maybe the affliction will be apparent to curious eyes, or maybe it will be unseen, quietly treated with trips to the doctor, therapy or surgery. Mothers of children with disabilities live the limitations with them.

Frankly, I don't know how you do it. Sometimes you mothers scare me. How you lift that kid in and out of the wheelchair twenty times a day. How you monitor tests, track medications, and serve as the gatekeeper to a hundred specialists yammering in your ear.

I wonder how you endure the cliches and the platitudes, the well-intentioned souls explaining how G-d is at work when you've occasionally questioned if G-d is on strike. I even wonder how you endure schmaltzy columns like this one -- saluting you, painting you as hero and saint, when you know you're ordinary. You snap, you bark, you bite. You didn't volunteer for this, you didn't jump up and down in the motherhood line yelling, "Choose me, G-d. Choose me! I've got what it takes."

You're a woman who doesn't have time to step back and put things in perspective, so let me do it for you. From where I sit, you're way ahead of the pack. You've developed the strength of a draft horse while holding onto the delicacy of a daffodil. You have a heart that melts like chocolate in a glove box in July, counter-balanced against the stubbornness of an Ozark mule.

You are the mother, advocate and protector of a child with a disability. You're a neighbor, a friend, a woman I pass at church and my sister-in-law. You're a wonder.

Happy Mother's Day.


JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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01/18/02: Kids, take note
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06/29/01: A Dog's Best Friend
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© 2001, Lori Borgman