on motherhood

The cough that woke me up was the last in a series of three, and it was the one that made my heart stop. Oliver was sleeping on our floor on Sam’s side of the bed, covered in the fluffy red blanket he got from Santa this past Christmas. We’re not thrilled that our son comes into our room each night, but, we’ve chosen to pick our battles, and the bedtime struggle with our five-year old is not a battle we have energy to fight lately.

I must have heard the first cough, because I vaguely remember it. It was the last one, though, that woke me fully. The deep, wet cough — a cough that seemed too loud to have come from my little boy — was followed by a sharp intake of breath. The inhalation was more of a wheeze than a soft breath, as if my son was struggling to pull air into his lungs through a straw. Fully awake now, I held my breath and went perfectly still, waiting to hear the sound of Oliver exhaling.

One second passed. Then two. And three. And still, there was silence.

Finally, he exhaled, quietly and slowly. After another small cough, one appropriate for his size, his breathing settled into a steady pattern. He was asleep and unaware.

I continued to listen, eyes open and staring upward in the dark, but not seeing anything. My body was filled with adrenaline, every nerve on edge. As the minutes passed, my panic subsided, my own breathing calmed, and my heart slowed, resuming its regular pace. As my son’s sleep noises returned to normal, my eyes finally closed. His rest and comfort assured, I was able to return to sleep.

Motherhood, I thought as I drifted off. This is what it’s all about.

This morning, I was up before the rest of my family, before the sun had risen fully. I sat at the desk in my darkened office, writing, taking advantage of those few moments of morning silence before I had to leave for work. After a while, my daughter tiptoed into the room with Oliver following a couple of steps behind.

I hugged them both, their arms squeezing me tight in response. I felt grateful.

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37 Responses to “a change in plans”

  1. Courtney — January 30, 2011 @ 5:58 pm

    Absolutely beautiful and well said post. God Bless you and your family. Your father is in my prayers.

  2. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite.com — January 30, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

    MJ this post made me teary. What beautiful words. Your dad is lucky to have a daughter like you and your kids are lucky to have you as their mum. What a wonderful support network you have – I *love* the idea of the friendship line. You will all be in my thoughts tomorrow and I know that all across the world, people are holding hands in a virtual friendship line with you xoxoxoxox

  3. bunkycooks — January 30, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

    I hope all goes well tomorrow. We have been through so much and so many surgeries, so I understand completely how you and your family are feeling right now. Well wishes and prayers will be headed your way as you go through this stressful time.

  4. Jennifer Hess — January 30, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

    And we’ll all be out here, keeping you, your dad, your whole family close in our hearts, sending strength and our best wishes your way. xxoo

  5. Kim at Life as a Foodie — January 30, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

    I am so sorry to read of your father’s health troubles. For all the whining I do about my family it pales in comparison to things of this nature that force us to wake up and re-evaluate not just our plans, but our priorities and what or who matters most.

    Your father and your family will be in my thoughts tomorrow. I wish your father the best for a speedy recovery.

    Sending all of you hugs and prayer from Vegas.

  6. justcooknyc — January 30, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

    so sorry to hear this — i’ll be wishing you and your father the best

  7. amy — January 30, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

    You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  8. SMITH BITES — January 30, 2011 @ 6:28 pm

    While I am so very sorry to hear that your dad will have surgery tomorrow, I am very, very glad that you’ll be there with him, that you have your family for support and we’re all here sending our best thoughts and prayers for a successful outcome and a speedy recovery. hugs to you MJ

  9. Liz the Chef — January 30, 2011 @ 6:28 pm

    We are all right behind you – love and hugs across the miles, Liz

  10. Pam @ From Apples To Zucchini — January 30, 2011 @ 6:37 pm

    I know I already “tweeted” you, I want to tell you again that you, your Dad and your whole family are in my prayers right now. I am glad that you were able to get back to your Dad so quickly. Lots of hugs!

  11. Lana — January 30, 2011 @ 6:41 pm

    I just sent my dad back to Serbia after his 2 month visit with us, and your post made me cry. Your daughter’s card is beyond sweet and I know that your father will recuperate fast surrounded by all the love you give him. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  12. Mauna — January 30, 2011 @ 6:50 pm

    I’m in favor of the virtual friendship line. Here’s to a swift and speedy recovery for your father.

  13. SaraOneTribeGourmet — January 30, 2011 @ 6:53 pm

    Dear MJ, my thoughts and prayers are with you & your dad. I have been through a lot with my mom’s breast cancer and dad’s heart bypass….thankfully both are doing fine…I feel blessed.
    Please keep your spirits high and know that our thoughts are behind you and your family. Your dad is in my prayers. xo

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  15. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — January 30, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

    Such a beautiful post… I hope everything goes well tomorrow. You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers!

  16. Maureen — January 30, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

    A beautiful message about families. God bless you and your family and he will be in my prayers.

  17. Kate — January 30, 2011 @ 8:07 pm

    MJ, Your post was incredibly emotional and touching. I was getting choked up just reading it. My heart goes out to you, your father and your family as you go through this tough time. ~Kate (@KDBabbles)

  18. Whitney @ Nesting Season — January 30, 2011 @ 11:51 pm

    Well, here I am crying and I only learned of your existence a minute ago, when a tweet from Creative Kitchen caught my attention, and led me here, to this beautiful post. I hope it brings some comfort to know that this shrinking world of ours can so easily pull people in to your little corner, bringing with them new thoughts, and prayers, and light. Sending all of my best to all of you.

  19. Jayne — January 31, 2011 @ 4:34 am

    Wishing your Dad a speedy recovery. I will be thinking of you and your family today. x

  20. Lael Hazan @educatedpalate — January 31, 2011 @ 7:49 am

    A sad but well said post. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
    Thank you for also posting the beautiful note from Madeline! Good luck to you and your family.

  21. Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — January 31, 2011 @ 11:49 am

    I’ll be thinking of you and your family today and prayers will be said. For your father’s safe recovery and for your and your mom’s strength to see him through this. Take good care MJ. XOXO

  22. Lynne — January 31, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

    Count me added to the friendship line of people linked together keeping your family in our thoughts and prayers.

  23. Lynda — January 31, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

    Merry,
    Best wishes and thoughts for your father and your family. He’s so lucky you can be there.
    Take care – Lynda

  24. Rachel winter — January 31, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

    Mj hugs to you hope today’s surgery is successful. Love you

  25. Liz — January 31, 2011 @ 3:40 pm

    My thoughts are with you. My grandmother had a brain tumor removed a few years ago and she came out of it just fine. I hope it is the same case with your father and that you continue to provide comfort to one another for years to come.

  26. Mac — January 31, 2011 @ 11:14 pm

    MJ, I’ve been away from twitter all day but have certainly had you in my thoughts and prayers. My heart is drawn to you and your father because my Dad, whom I love and adore, is 77 with several health issues. There’s just something so special about all us daughters and dads who are close. I’m so glad you could get home quickly! Your father is very lucky to have you there to hold his hand, and of course be with your mom. God bless!

  27. Macaroni Mama — February 1, 2011 @ 9:39 pm

    I re-read this post tonight. I know baking something or creating a special dish means the world to you and all your food-blogging friends; however, you have meant the world to me throughout this trying time with your father. Everyday I buy “takeout” for your 87 year old grandmother, and tonight I ate something leftover in the fridge…I know not what it was, but it was my supper. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU ARE DOING, MERRY JENNIFER.

  28. Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — February 3, 2011 @ 2:55 pm

    I hope everything is okay with your father and things are getting better!

  29. Melanie Flinn — February 4, 2011 @ 2:55 am

    Oh I am so sorry to hear this. Wishing the very best for your Dad. It is so tough watching your parents suffer an illness.

  30. The yummy Mummy — February 5, 2011 @ 8:23 am

    Thinking about you, your dad, your mom, the whole family. We’ll be here if you need us. Xxoo

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  32. Jaden — February 16, 2011 @ 12:41 pm

    ::hugs::

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — February 17th, 2011 @ 7:10 pm

      Thanks so much, Jaden.

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