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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9 Responses to “on motherhood”

  1. 1
    Carol Sacks — May 12, 2012 @ 4:52 pm

    What a scare for you, and such a powerful piece of writing, MJ.

  2. 2
    Gail — May 12, 2012 @ 6:22 pm

    Perhaps you should still be breast feeding Oliver? Yes, I read Time Magazine.

    At the very least you should have held onto the breast pump.*

    *only kidding, MJ.

  3. 3
    David Dadekian — May 12, 2012 @ 8:08 pm

    Was just going to say very well put, beautifully written and I know how you feel. But this weekend I’ll also add Happy Mother’s Day. I certainly hope you have a great one.

  4. 4
    Macaroni Mama — May 12, 2012 @ 9:07 pm

    Beautifully written.

  5. 5

    So so sweet. You are such a wonderful mother and the love you have for your children is magical.

  6. 6
    Angela Underwood — May 13, 2012 @ 8:02 am

    Motherhood – the best and hardest job ever! Happy mother’s day! And let me warn you – no matter how old they are you will always worry.

  7. 7
    Aimee @ Simple Bites — May 13, 2012 @ 9:06 am

    Happy Mother’s Day, MJ. I too have experienced that heart-stopping panic – I think being a mom to boys has something to do with it! They are little daredevils…

  8. 8
    Thyme (Sarah) — May 13, 2012 @ 9:22 am

    Perfectly captured moments of Motherhood. My son passes out at any conversations about blood. Whenever a topic veers that direction I just freeze and sense his every reaction hoping he isn’t going to pass out. Happy Mother’s Day to you.

  9. 9
    Paula — May 14, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

    Love your writing. Hoping you enjoyed a beautiful Mother’s Day with your precious children.

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