A Mother Sits

There are times in life when what you are feeling inside is so big, so defining, that you must simply write it all down…when putting it all out there actually fills and soothes a place so deep inside.

And there are times when you are unsure of where to put those words once they’re out.

Below you will find such words that were in need of a safe home.  Beautiful, painful, and telling words.

These are the thoughts of one of my dearest friends who simply needed a home to free a piece of her story.

I am honored that she has allowed me to be that safe place to land.

{I love you, my brave and selfless friend.}

A Mother Sits — Anonymous

A mother sits.

A father sits next to her. They sit together but are not together. But telling people is awkward so they let the assumption stand.

A healthy-looking boy is in a bed, sitting upright and watching the staff around him.

He is eleven and he looks very, very small.

They are there for a test. The boy who looks so healthy is not. The first round of simple tests told them nothing so they are in a very large hospital in a city hours from home for a more complicated test. Words have been said that make the mother’s heart weaken. Leukemia. Mylodysplastic syndrome. The mother is a medical professional and those words scare her badly.

A friendly nurse comes in with a covered tray that could just as well have a sign on it that says, “SHARP THINGS HERE.” The boy knows and shifts uncomfortably on the bed.

He has been poked with needles so many times in the preceding months…so many times, thinks the mother…but he has not yet needed to have a line sited.

The IV equipment is so much larger and more aggressive looking than the hypodermics used to draw blood. As the nurse starts arranging the catheters and the needles, the boy becomes visibly tense. When she starts to prep his arm, he turns gray and begins to tremble, tears spilling onto his cheeks.

The mother moves to the bed and lays a hand on each side of his face, turning his head to look at her and resting her forehead against his so he can’t see anything but her eyes.

“Look at me,” she says. “Just look at me.” Her voice is low, rhythmic. “Think of rabbits,” –  his favorite thing – “Think of poodles. And porcupines. And purple pickles.” This is a game they have played since the boy was tiny as a way to drive away nightmares and frightening thoughts. “Think of puddles and porky puppies.”

The IV is sited and soon the team is there. The anesthesiologist and the doctor who will extract a sliver of bone from the boy’s hip to look at the cells in the marrow and tell the mother and father what she sees.

As the team preps the boy for the procedure – which is actually quite simple and will take only minutes – the mother and father start to step outside the curtain. The boy cries out, “Where are you going?”

The mother tells the boy that they are only stepping around the drape.

“I would be more comfortable if you didn’t go anywhere!” He calls in a shaky voice. His eyes are already falling closed from the medication he’s been given.

“Ok sweetheart. We’re right here.”

The mother and father stay put until the boy is deeply asleep. But the team does not want them watching, so once they are confident that the boy is sedated, they step around the curtain and stand. There are chairs a dozen feet away, but they cannot walk away from the curtain with their son unconscious on the other side.

More than ten but less than fifteen minutes later, the doctor steps out from the curtain holding a small vial. She shows the mother, but the father cannot look. It makes him queasy. In the vial is a piece of her son’s bone. A tiny fragment – smaller than she expected. But the doctor says it’s enough.

The boy wakes in less than an hour and the mom has lunch ready. He was not allowed to eat before the biopsy and now he is starving.

Once the team knows that his stomach is fine with food, the boy is sent home. During the drive, the mother’s cell phone rings. The doctor says, “We have to wait for the final pathology report to know for sure, but I looked at the cells myself under the microscope and they look absolutely fine.”

The mother forces herself to not cry, as it frightens the boy so much, so she says a happy “thank you” and hangs up. In her mind she sees a thick, dark wood, and her son standing clear of the reach of hostile branches and preying shadows. She imagines him, tiny under the heavy trees, following a trail of breadcrumbs out of the forest. She thinks – because she does not fully understand his condition yet – that he is out of harm’s reach.

But breadcrumbs are just breadcrumbs, after all.

They reach the mother’s house. The boy is not meant to be with her tonight, he is meant to be with his dad. And there is no reason for him to stay with her. Nothing that truly requires her specialized medical knowledge, or her more functional ability to handle a crisis. There is no reason except that of a mother who is still frightened for her child and traumatized by hospitalizing him, still emotionally unsettled by the new constellations of doctors and tests that orbit him, and the desperate need to have her son close enough to be in the protective circle of her sight and hearing.

So no reason at all.

It is not her night with her son. And what she feels, so also the father feels, and there is not reason enough to justify his pain in lieu of hers.

She holds the boy close, squeezing him, asking him if he has any pain, if his stomach feels fine. No…and, yes.

She keeps him close a few seconds longer than is typical. Holding him against her and kissing his head. Then she says good-bye and sends him away.

She walks into her quiet house and pours a glass of water, pulls a chair out from the dining table.

A mother sits.


  1. Alexandra174

    Oh, I couldn't. I couldn't be this together. I'd kidnap him. I know, I'm crazy.

    But I'd kidnap him.

    Stupid, I know.

    Beautiful, riveting, and something which I am grateful for not being in.

    I'm so sorry for you, and this situation, and not being able to hold him that night.

    I am so sorry.

  2. My heart just breaks for every family that has to go through this kind of pain. I know as parents we do what we have to, but I just can't even imagine.
    I agree with Alexandra, I probably would have kidnapped him too :(
    I hope this little boy is okay.

  3. KLZ taminginsanity.com

    I don't think I'd stand up again. I cannot imagine.

    Happy, healthy thoughts to all involved.

  4. Ack. This puts my stomach in a knot.

    I hope all turns out well.

  5. Tracie fromtracie.com

    If I restrained myself from kidnapping him, at the very least I would end up at the dad's door in the middle of the night to sleep on the floor by his bed just so I could hear him breathing.

    I'm so sorry that your friend has had to live through this pain. There are no words, no "right" moves….beyond the love that she so obviously has for her son.

  6. Natalie mommyofamonster.com

    I have tears because I can feel that mother's pain. And strength. And doing what needs to be done so that the boy is comfortable and less afraid. I cannot imagine.

    Hugs and warm thoughts to the family. Chole, you are such a wonderful, supportive friend.

  7. The Mother

    I wanted him to stay.

    But…i also want him to learn fairness. And watching me play the "Mom Card" with his dad, who was really entitled to have him that night, wouldn't have been fair.

    But I really wanted him to stay.

  8. The Mother

    He did not have any of those frightening diagnoses.

    For which we are very grateful.

  9. The Mother

    It was very hard to stand up.

    Curling into a ball would have been so much easier.

    For me, though. Not for him.

  10. The Mother

    It did mine, too.

    And thank you.

  11. gigi kludgymom.com

    Out of pain, comes a beautiful story: searing, and moving.

    I can feel her helplessness.

    I hope that this Mom continues to be as strong and brave as her son. My thoughts and prayers are with this family.

  12. liz

    I couldn't imagine the boy then going to his father's and not staying under the mother's roof. That is nearly as heartbreaking as the scary procedure.

  13. sherrikuhn

    Being a mother this took me to a very sad place. I don't know how strong I could be in that situation, between the tests and then letting my boy go after all that.

    This is truly one of the best examples of how selfless a mom can be that I have ever read. When all you want to do is hold them and keep them near, but what you really need to do is let them go.

    These words will stay with me…very touching, and how wonderful to have a place like this for these words to come out.

  14. kris

    And again?

    This mother impresses me with her willingness to sacrifice. Her willingness to share. Her willingness to do what's right for her son instead of what would make her feel better. Her willingness, even in this terrible moment, to recognize that . . .

    "What she feels, so also the father feels, and there is not reason enough to justify his pain in lieu of hers."

    This mother's maturity and grace and strength make me cry.


  15. The Mother

    Love is a lot.

    And I need him to trust his dad. That's harder if I'm always taking over.

    Thank you for your kind words.

  16. The Mother

    She is an incredible friend.

    I am very very lucky to have her.

  17. The Mother

    She is trying.

    She sometimes sucks at it and becomes irrational and difficult.

    But she is trying.

  18. The Mother

    It was not a happy moment.

    And I only called three times.

    Which I thought was actually pretty good.

  19. Poppy funnyorsnot.com

    I've never been good at sharing. I think I would have made up a reason that he needed to stay with me, but I'm a little selfish like that. Actually I think it's wonderful that you and his father can get along so well that no one can tell you're not together. Some parents can't even put their differnces aside for the sake of their child. What a brave boy you have. Also, what a brave mom.

  20. The Mother

    His dad needed to feel that I had confidence in him.

    I was not good at that while we were married.

    So despite WANTING to just show up at the door, I didn't.

    And I only called three times.

  21. The Mother

    Nichole is very wonderful indeed, when I did not think there was a home for these words.

    "Tomorrow, I want to be proud of who I was today."

    I said this to myself a million times through my divorce.

    I was not always good at it.

    But letting his dad take care of him, and not making his dad feel like he was a less capable parent just because he didn't have a uterus was one of those things i needed to make myself do.

    But truly…I didn't like it very much.

  22. The Mother

    And again…you are going to make me cry with kind words.

    I did not think, when I wrote this and Nichole said she would post it, how badly I just needed nice words.

    Sometimes, when you keep things very private, you forget how wonderful loves feels.

  23. The Mother

    We do get along very well, which means that this is much easier for us than it is for many.

    And you don't really think, when you're just trying to put your feet down one after the other, that it is brave in any way.

    It's really just trying to keep yourself from falling down.

  24. Elizabeth Flora Ross efloraross.com

    This was heartbreaking to read, and I can understand how hard it was to let him go with his father that night. But you are teaching him so many valuable lessons by doing so. And by being together at his side as he goes through this, despite whatever differences you may have. He needs that. Even though he is a being a big, brave boy, he needs his Mommy and Daddy. I will be praying for all of you as you face this terrible situation. God bless you!

  25. @2old2tap twitter.com/2old2tap

    I hope all is going well.
    And what a wonderful gift you gave to your son. And to his father. That you understood their needs too.
    Be strong and know my prayers are with you all.

  26. andygirl

    my heart is breaking

  27. I cannot imagine this – well, I should say, I don't WANT to imagine this. I pray your son is ok and God gives you the strength to get through this.

  28. Megan-Best of Fates bestoffates.com

    That is such an inspiring philosophy.

  29. Megan-Best of Fates bestoffates.com

    This post is so stirring and beautiful and sad and touching and is making me cry which is making my coworkes suspicious I'm not actually working so I should stay away but I can't because everything Nicole puts on her site is always perfect. And after reading this, it makes complete sense you're friends, because you're both admirable, beautiful women.

  30. canitpleasebenaptime

    This is beautiful. And heartbreaking. And strong. And so full of love. I couldn't imagine the pain in being away from my little boy much less being away from him AND scared. So very wonderful that you and your son's dad are both such great people to put your son's needs and happiness ahead of your own. He will grow up to be an amazing man because of you both. You and your family are in my prayers.

  31. Carolyn thistalkaintcheap.com

    I remember waiting to find out if my 4 year old daughter had a heart condition. It was the longest wait of my life. I had images of open heart surgery and pain and death and I was scared beyond belief. When our kids hurt… we hurt 10 times as much. She turned out to be fine but that pain and the what-ifs never really go away. I don't know what I would have done if I had to give her up even for one night. It would break my heart, but sometimes us mothers have to do things that break our hearts. Thank you for sharing your story.

  32. A mother's strength and resiliency could move mountains. Your selflessness and love are so clear in your words, yet I hurt for you so very deeply. I hope that your little boy is doing well, and I am so glad that Nichole let you share your story here. I can only hope to channel this sort of grace and poise if I am every faced with such a challenge.

  33. ksluiter

    I hugged my guy a little tighter after I read this. Oh dear mom…you are so brave to share…and I hope you are glad you did. Chole has a great little community here who will listen and surround you with love when you need it.


  34. Rachel mommyneedsavacation.com

    This post is beautiful but also very sad. This Mother is brave and strong. I don't think I could have left him. My heart breaks for this mother.

  35. Having just on Wednesday of this past week stood with my teary fifteen year old daughter as she was being prepared for the first time for an IV, and subsequent surgery, I understood the need your child had, to know this was something you could handle, and therefore he would handle. I loved your "look at me and think of rabbits" I am certain it was not only your son, but also your ex husband who was thankful you were there. You son is a lucky boy as is your ex husband that his son has a mother of such strength and integrity.
    Your story will be one that stays with me long after I have read it here today.
    Thank you,

  36. CDG

    My heart goes out to you for your bravery and strength, and I'm glad I got here a little late, to read the beautiful comments, to really see the community unfold underneath such a poignant story, enfold you as a mother and a friend of our dear Nichole.

    And I desperately want to go upstairs and sleep on my son's floor.

  37. The Mother

    Thank you for your love and blessings.

    He does still need Mom and Dad.

    And we need him, so very very much.

  38. The Mother

    I try.

    I don't always do a very good job.

    But I try.

  39. The Mother

    Please don't break.

    Hearts are precious.

  40. The Mother

    Thank you for your sweet thoughts. They are much appreciated.

  41. The Mother

    That is such a wonderful compliment.

    Comparing me to Nichole makes me feel very special, indeed.

  42. The Mother

    He was two wonderful, loving parents.

    They didn't do a very good job being married, but together they made a wonderful little boy and they're both good about remembering that he comes first.

    I am proud of that part.

  43. The Mother

    We do hurt ten times worse.

    And thank you for letting me share.

  44. The Mother

    Sometimes knowing that there are graceful people out helps us be graceful people. There were women who helped me be strong.

    It didn't occur to me that maybe I could help other women be strong too, but what a wonderful thing that could be.

  45. The Mother

    Offer hugs as often as you can.

    They are a wonderful currency for love.

  46. The Mother

    It was very very hard.

    I didn't think I would mind, at first. Not my night, ok. But as the day went on, I got more and more agitated about it. But there was nothing to be done that wouldn't hurt his dad.

    And so it went.

  47. The Mother

    You are very welcome. Thank you for letting me share it.

    I said above that you forget when you are keeping things private, that sometimes just letting people tell you that they're sad that you're going through something hard and sending love your way feels like such a warm blanket.

    It is a very good time for a warm blanket right now.

  48. The Mother

    I think that might make you very sore come the morning.

    But i do understand.

    Very much do I understand.

  49. @MyPixieBlog twitter.com/MyPixieBlog

    Another post that leaves me speechless. I'm just sorry that any mother should endure this kind of worry for her son and I can't imagine how difficult it must be. I am praying for you and your family and hope you all have a very merry Christmas. Thank you for sharing; I imagine it must have been difficult to relive this process once more.

    Sending giant *HUGS* your way.

  50. City Mom citymom.ca

    Wow, what a powerful and heartbreaking story! I have been in a similar situation with my daughter, so I can appreciate the blood-draining fear you experienced! My story differs in that we didn't have to carry it on. We knew the diagnois the same day and it all turned out okay.

    I admire your strength and your ability to write it all down in such an effective way. I hope your son is doing well and that you all are doing well!

Add a comment

(required, won’t be displayed)

About this post