"Mommy! Where's Mommy?!"
His arm is outstretched towards where I sit, across the room from the MRI bed three separate nurses hold him down upon. He is panicked, understandably so, as his urologist is attempting to catheterize him for the second time. There is blood all over the sterile fabric spread across his lap, The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That! on the iPad on a special mount behind his head softly playing his favorite part of the show, the song when they leave on their adventure of the day. The juxtaposition is jarring in that it is not all that jarring -- that I am so accustomed to these dichotomies in this life with this boy where other parents, more normal families, would be horrified. But for me, at least it's a new episode I haven't seen before, that helps.
He had been great up until this point -- remembering toys that were in the holding area, changing into the mini-sized gowns without complaint, saying please and thank you and playing the letter-matching game on my phone and basically being the sweetest little kid, little warrior in the battle against himself, that my anxiety level was through the roof because any minute now, he will explode.
I thought it would be when the laughing gas mask went over his face. He surprised me there.
But no, it's when they went in for the kill, and in a panic, he reached and called for me.
I didn't even know he knew me by that name.
Until this point I had been "a mommy" as in "Look, it's a mommy!" as if I were just anyone's mother, any random female with a caretaking role in his life. For months, I settled for that, as he went on to call Kyle "Daddy" and Tova ... well, he calls Tova "Baby" complete with sign. Everything in and around and about our home got proper names -- my parents, the cats, moving vehicles, random bugs, scraps of paper, imaginary things -- while I stayed generic, nearly interchangeable with just a scream or a grunt. I reminded myself that I was happy he was using words at all, that they seem to be increasing beyond his repertoire of movie quotes and childhood songs, and tried not to resent that somehow identification of me had been something shoved aside, apparently reserved for an emergency situation.
I choke as I jump up from my appointed place and rush over, breaking the sterile field and not really giving two craps. I go to my boy and put both hands on him, one on his chest, the other on the side of his face, seamlessly taking the laughing gas mask from the nurse I recognized from a previous procedure and holding it in place. I try to not let him hear it, the break in my voice as I put my face to his, eyes to eyes, and tell him I'm here, sweet big boy, Mommy's right here.
His eyes are wide and frightened and not understanding of why I'm not saving him, and tearfully he keeps saying "Mommy! Mommy!" through the mask, begging me to make it stop even though this time, this time I lead up to this day by talking about it to him, telling him that no one wants to hurt him, that we're trying to make sure he's healthy, to assuage my lingering guilt about the after effects of having his boy parts manhandled by strangers so often. I try to smile at him, to tell him it's okay, that no one wants to hurt him and that I love him so much, and how brave he is. My heart is breaking into a million pieces as I help restrain him, something I'm so accustomed to doing at this point, from both helplessness and thankfulness.
To my surprise, the urologist stops the procedure, stating that Kiedis will have to be fully sedated as he can't be controlled to be still enough any other way. This brings me relief, both immediate and long term because yes, that really will be easier on everyone. He waits around for Kiedis to be cleaned up and dressed, then gives him a high-five and promises him McDonald's ice cream and I refrain from asking him for a dollar so I can fulfill that promise. He explains further the next steps in a way I can understand and easily repeat to Kyle, and then leaves as the nurses send us on our way with enough toys and blankets and plushies that I have to use my Oscar the Grouch reusable tote to contain it all.
We leave, pass home to go get the promised ice cream, and just as they swore at the hospital that he would be, he is back to himself, albeit post-urologist self, which is very much anti-diaper changes, but again, understandably so.
I wonder if I heard him wrong, if I only heard what I wanted to hear come from his tiny mouth, as the evening wanes on and life regains its intrinsic balance of work and play and to-dos and finally-dones.
Then, as Kyle prepares our dinner a voice carries happily from the kitchen:
"Go get Mommy! Go get Mommy!"
The familiar pattern of his bare feet joyously jogging the expanse from one end of the house to the other is enough warning for me to brace and then he is in my arms, giggling and snuggling and giving kisses, so proud of himself and I blink back the wetness in my eyes so I may smile and giggle with him.
And for a brief moment, I allow myself to believe that someday, things will be what other people call normal.