Tuesday, September 26, 2006


At length, I have written about the mysterious alchemy of mother and son...shaping boy into man when you've been conflicted about what gender is and should be--when you've spend as many years as I have wielding the term "woman" as a weapon. I have shared the shreds of boy-o's ongoing story. How ill he was last summer when stricken with meningitis. How this diagnosis was an incredible relief after two months of agonizing pain for him, first thought to be a concussion--then, a migraine pattern--then, the words tumor--cancer--and my five-year-old's name all mentioned in the same sentence. He is healed, though the effects still linger...the headaches still overpower him on random days...his short term memory remains bruised. But, he is healed.
I, however, am still wounded.

My boy-o's life has been plagued with uncertainty for me. A difficult early pregnancy, where everyday I stood the chance of losing him...an arduous birth, where he had the cord three times around his neck and required assistance with his first breaths...a routine complication of infancy where he ended up hospitalized...countless lumps, bumps, illnesses, and ER visits throughout toddlerhood. Then, the spinal taps, MRI's, hospitalization, IV's, diagnosis, and picc line catheter into the vena cava of his heart. It is easy, when time passes, for most of us to slip into that calm amnesia of forgetting. We don't hold onto the idea of life as fragile and breakable.
I, however, still do.

I don't weep and wail or dwell in dark spaces--but, I recognize how wide shadows are cast on the brightest days. I no longer censor myself from writing about motherhood and my children. For so long I had decided this was not a "worthy" topic. I wanted to be literary and demonstrate my intellect. Now, I let myself go wherever the muse wants to take me--down the well-worn path of raising children? Fine with me...My boy-o's life has really taught me this. Motherhood has teeth. It breaks down and regenerates itself...it is a practice, both silly and profound.

I don't want to say I raise my son any differently than my daughters...but, the truth is I catch myself. He is the one I'm afraid for, the girls I cut loose into the world. He is the "runt"...the one I see as delicate, the girls are more solid...they're stronger. Boy-o is more ethereal. The realm of fantasy is as vivid and evocative to him as the real one. I see myself in this child on our walks, when he stops in the woods and puts his hands to the dirt, whispering,
"I'm listening to the forest's heart."

As the mother of a son, I am supposed to push him out into the public, "masculine", tough world waiting for him. He is supposed to burn across the Earth, cutting new paths, breaking down barriers.
I, however, just want to hold him closer to me...against my weary, vulnerable, mother's heart.


Blogger Susannah said...

motherhood does have teeth, you are so right (teeth i hope to discover one day) and i think it is one of the most valuable topics to write about. from what i have observed it is the most punishing job and the most worth while job, above everything else. posts like this one move me to tears - of empathy (despite not being a mother), of wonderment, of admiration... and such beautiful photographs. hugs to you gorgeous one

12:18 PM  
Blogger LeS said...

'motherhood has teeth' is one of the best ways I've ever heard it described. Thank you for sharing your harrowing story. I send you all sorts of mama joy and kudos for your journey:)

12:24 PM  
Blogger Laini Taylor said...

I can't begin to imagine what it must be like going through a young child's mysterious illness, and watching them endure pain you can do nothing about. It's hard enough watching my dog suffer -- thought like this terrify me about becoming a mother. This post is beautiful, as is your little boy. And if you're raising a woodland sprite who can hear the heart of the woods instead of some an aggressive little man-boy, good for you. the world needs more men like that!

12:40 PM  
Blogger Sacred Suzie said...

This is a stunning post with stunning photographs. Your honesty about the emotional journey you've been through is heartbreaking. What a brave warrior of love you've been for your children.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

Oh you always touch my heart with your sensitivity, and wisdom.

I loved the photos.

Hugs and kisses

2:04 PM  
Blogger la vie en rose said...

i know...i'm raising a son too and it's hard, hard to raise him in a way that is different from what is normally expected. he's only three and we're already having the discussions about things like pink not just being a girls color, that colors belong to everybody, etc. it's tough when you feel like you're fighting against every other institution in society.

2:58 PM  
Blogger January said...

When you come close to losing a child, all you want to do is keep them close for the rest of your life. I'm so happy your son has recovered. He will be stronger, learn to adapt. Kids are amazingly resilient.

Yes, motherhood does have teeth.

4:13 PM  
Blogger melba said...

My heart hurts for you thinking about what that time must have been like. I do worry about my children in different ways. Ethan is much more sensitive (not that Maggie isn't sensitive too, but I think in a way it is more dramatic since she is younger) But Ethan I feel and see his hurt at times. Motherhood hurts and is difficult and rewarding. I think their needs to be More intelligent writing about what it is like what it means to be a Mother in today's world.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous kristen said...

I can't imagine going thru that with your son. It is truly my biggest and worst fear, serious illness. He is beautiful and I can only imagine that you would be wounded after that and certainly permitable to go scream and wail for your babe. A somber and beautiful SPC.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Jamie said...

"motherhood has teeth" that sentence will stay with me. What a powerful writer you are. I wish your son's health continues to flourish and your healing comes gently and fully.

9:07 PM  
Anonymous Janet said...

Indeed, motherhood does have teeth. What a harrowing story, I am so glad your son has recovered. One of the things I find most truly difficult about motherhood is the fear that something awful will happen to my daughter and everytime I hear of something bad happening to a child it provokes such a visceral response in me. I don't think I'm alone in this, it's something we talk about in our mother's group a fair bit.

Beautiful tender photograph too.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Bedazzzled1 said...

Your choice of photographs is very revealing and falls right into place with the exquisite use of words to describe certain aspects of motherhood.


10:49 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

Oh, God, Delia. I swear. Keep writing what your muse tells you to write, because your muse is very wise. And I need to come here and be fed.

Your boy must have a very special soul... And I don't just say that. I believe we choose our paths and our life's challenges.(pre-existence). I think your son must be here to teach something important, and he must be a very brave spirit to take on so much pain from the very start, and to be armed with such a tender heart.

My heart tightens at the thought of the fear you must have faced. And when you say how you watch him more, I smile. Because although my son has not been ill, he is very, very tender...And I feel the same. I worry for his heart, and I fear the lose of his sweetness and innocence. And I too, have carried the armor of "Womyness". And now, to be given this kind of little man to raise... It is no mistake or accident, for either one of us, I know. ;)

Thank you for this post. The photos are gorgeous.


11:17 PM  
Blogger Patry Francis said...

Every illness my children ever went through, every hurt I tried to protect them from, but couldn't...couldn't...came back to me when I read this beautiful, evocative post. Your son is so lovely.

11:48 PM  
Blogger liz elayne said...

i have learned so much about you with this post. a peek into your tender heart your strong soul. thank you for sharing all of this. you invite me to reach inside myself and own my path.

beautiful you. beautiful photos. i am so glad that your little boy is better my dear.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Deb R said...

This post left me feeling breathless. It was so touching. And I love the photos.

1:57 PM  
Blogger bb said...

Your post raises such enormous responses in me -

yes motherhood does have teeth, and one of the most difficult tasks sometimes is revealing those teeth to the children

and yes i sometimes wonder if i would raise different sexed children differently.

and i can't bear to even READ your list of medical procedures.

and your photos are utterly ravishing, Delia. Beautiful mama, beautiful boy.

x x x x x

3:59 PM  
Blogger Georgia said...

First off I have to say that your writing always leaves me breathless. You have such a talent with words.

Secondly, your boys sounds phenominal. I have 3 boys so I have a soft place for them in my heart:)

Thank you for you kind comments on my blog too BTW :)


4:38 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

This was a powerful, loving post! Thank you for sharing your love and the photo was beautiful!

4:42 PM  
Blogger Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

what a beautifully honest post with lovely, almost haunting photographs ... as you said, he is healed, but neither of you can erase the experience of his illness. How beautiful that your son can appreciate and listen to the heart of the forest.

8:59 PM  
Blogger brittany said...

Truth. Great post, c. delia. I love your words.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Ali la Loca said...

My mother is always terrified that I will get meningitis, seeing that I choose to live in all these foreign, tropical places. She's constantly telling me that if the base of my neck hurts to go to a hospital immediately.

I can't even imagine what it must be like to be a mother and actually see your child go through this and other illnesses. The worrying seems to be quite enough for my mom!

What a beautiful, gentle son you have. I understand your concerns about him in the "macho" world...

3:30 AM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

It´s a torturous thing, being a mother and loving someone so fiercely, yet being unable to protect them from life´s slings and arrows and very real pain - and always worrying about what´s ahead. Your post speaks to the dichotomy of being a parent. Just beautiful and true.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Natalie said...

I'm moved by the bond which you have with your son, strengthened by the experiences you have had of nearly losing him. You are a very brave woman, and who wouldn't want to hold that special person close to them?

11:52 AM  
Blogger Natalie said...

It's inspiring reading about the bond you have with your child, strengthened by the experiences of nearly losing him. You are a brave woman, and of course you want to keep him close.

11:58 AM  
Blogger gkgirl said...

honest and true
and sweet
and poignant...

8:34 AM  
Blogger Madeleine said...

those last lines really touched something deep inside of me, Delia. I feel the same about my son, Oscar. not plagued by illness but by an overwhelming sensitivity and vulnerability. His younger brother and older sister are fighters, they are tough and not so afraid and measured. I want to hold him so close to my heart that i can feel his beating.
your son is a beautiful being, and yes perhaps more ethereal, and yet so,so tough to have overcome what he already has in his young tender life. what a fantastic acheivement. perhaps he is the unassuming warrior after all.

i, too, have allowed myself to follow the path of motherhood on my blog, more so.
they are you, and you are them. one and the same.
all beautiful, wonderful beings.

5:17 PM  

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