I Never Regret Mother’s Day

From time to time, I read posts on social media or hear people say in public they regret having had children. That someone would feel that way about their children — adopted, fostered, or biologically created — is shocking.  While I am among the first to say that parenting isn’t something to be taken on lightly or without complete dedication, I am also among the first to say that no one should ever regret having had children.

Back in 1995, I was weeks away from becoming a mom.  My feet were round (based on other people’s observations as I could no longer see my feet), it was gearing up to be the hottest summer on record where I lived (and the weather was making good on that promise already), my then-husband (being a long-haul trucker) was oftentimes hundreds of miles away from home, and I could no longer drive a car.  Why couldn’t I drive a car?  For me to be able to reach the gas and brake pedals, I had to be closer to the steering wheel than my pregnancy would actually allow.

When I went into labor early a few days later, it was a rush to the hospital where things didn’t look very good.  A few hours later, the staff at the hospital had managed to stop labor and I was sent back home.  As scary as that episode was, I didn’t regret being pregnant.  This was part of the journey.

When my son was born in July , the staff at the hospital told me there were problems.  He wasn’t going to make it through the first 24 hours.  I disagreed with that assessment. That night as I visited my son in NICU, I whispered to him, “Thank you for spending your first day with mommy.  I hope you’ll come back again tomorrow.”  Guess what happened?  The following morning, I held him in my arms, gazed into his eyes, and smiled.

A week later, my son was still in NICU and despite all sorts of tests, the staff at the hospital had no idea what was going on with my son.  Two weeks in, and still in NICU, they were none the wiser.  It was a harrowing time, especially for a new mom. but I had no regrets about being my son’s mother.

Over the years, my son’s health was unpredictable and difficult.  My then-husband decided early on to throw in the towel, and walk away from parenthood.  He oftentimes told me he regretted having our son.  Leaving our family created a hardship for me, but that’s how things go in life sometimes.  Despite all the troubles of trying to juggle hardly any money and the demands of ensuring a child with health issues has what he or she needs, I didn’t regret being a mom.  Every night, I would put my son to bed and whisper to him, “Thank you for spending another day with mommy.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

As a toddler, my son was diagnosed with autism.  There were no services or supports available to help me help him:  Not even when the Children’s Advocate Office in Saskatchewan stepped in and tried to secure some kind of services or supports from the provincial government.  I still didn’t regret being a mom because my focus was on helping my son be the best version of himself possible.


School wasn’t easy for him either as two different school boards in which he was enrolled, struggled to understand how to encourage my son to work through social issues, deal with new experiences, and overcome challenges.  Despite the fact I kept telling them the world wasn’t a Special Needs World, most teachers, school staff, autism experts, and administrators from various levels within both school boards felt that catering to his comforts was the better way to deal with him.  I didn’t agree with them (just as I hadn’t agreed with the hospital staff when he was born) but sometimes you have to live with the fact that the many oftentimes drown out the voices of the few.  I still didn’t regret being my son’s mom.  It just meant I had to work harder with him to nudge him along his journey to become the best version of himself possible.

When he turned 12, he was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis which is a rare, incurable, life-threatening neuromuscular autoimmune disease that strikes 2 in 1 million children, and is 5 times more rare in children than in adults.  Over the years, he had suffered many “mystery” health issues that landed him in hospital, and it was one bad episode in particular that made me ask his pediatrician if he could test my son for Myasthenia Gravis.

“Myasthenia Gravis doesn’t happen in children,” he pronounced sternly with that look I had come to know all too well.  It was the look many closed-minded professionals reserved for parents they dismissed out of hand without considering the validity or the questions asked by those parents they dismissed out of hand.  “It only happens in old men over 60 and women over 40.”

“My brother was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis,” I replied respectfully.  “He wasn’t 60.  He was my son’s age.”

“No,” he insisted.  “This is definitely a tumor behind his eye.”

We discussed the matter for a few more minutes, and he decided to send my son to the Hospital for Sick Children to be tested for a tumor.  Because I insisted, he jotted down a note in the file for the doctors at the Hospital for Sick Children that indicated he felt I was being unreasonable, but to ‘manage’ me by doing a Tensilon test if nothing else showed up on the other tests.  Even with the pediatrician’s dismissive attitude, I didn’t regret being my son’s mother.

The Hospital for Sick Children, taking the pediatrician at his word, very nearly forgot the Tensilon test until I inquired about it.  They were so convinced I was a University of Google parent, they didn’t even have their camera set up to record the results of the Tensilon test.  It’s unfortunate these medical professionals were so convinced the pediatrician was right in his conclusions because that Tensilon test proved my son had Myasthenia Gravis.  Even with that news, I still didn’t regret being my son’s mother.

The next few months were some of the most trying for both of us, and after 14 months of battling Myasthenia Gravis, it was decided that a thymectomy was the only way to go as his health plummeted.   I knew how unpredictable Myasthenia Gravis could be (my late brother was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis back in the 1970s).  I knew how dangerous surgery could be.  I knew how dangerous the after-effects of surgery could be if he made it through the surgery itself.  These were dark times but I focused on the fact my son was alive and every night, I would say to him what I had said to him every night at bedtime since July 1995:  “Thank you for spending another day with me.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

He entered high school and even though the school board seemed to overlook the fact that my son wanted to be in a regular class, by the second semester, he was auditing regular classes.  The following year, he began taking regular classes for credit, and by the time he was in Grade 11 he had a 79% average for all the classes he had taken.  He was a geek in that he loved computers, but he also excelled in History and in Religious Studies.

He left high school when his peers left high school, and he continued to make his way in life.  Even when Myasthenia Gravis made it so he could barely do anything (as sometimes happens), he had an interesting life that didn’t always take him where he was originally headed.  For his 20th birthday, I put together and shared this montage celebrating 20 years of him being him.  No regrets.

For his 21st birthday, I made sure I didn’t embarrass him with a mushy mom-style card.  He got this card instead along with a small collection of gifts of things he wanted or things he needed.  Just because he was an independent adult didn’t meant I wasn’t still his mom.  No regrets.

I have a nice collection of scrapbooks I’ve made over the years with pictures of my son:  Places we’ve visited together, difficult times we’ve been through together, and the successes he has had over the years.  So whether it’s this version of him I’m thinking about ….

… or this version of him I’m thinking about …

…. being my son’s mom is something I will never regret.

Happy Mother’s Day, Lewis.  I will always love you wherever life takes you because I have faith in the person you are, and I know you have it in you to be anything you decide to be.

 

 

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The Straight Story

Every once in a while, a movie is made that somehow manages to fly under the radar when it really should be celebrated from year to year.   When it comes to this movie, the imdb rating was 4 out of 5 stars and the Rotten Tomatoes rating was 95%!   It was an official selection for the 1999 Cannes Film Festival.

No word of a lie, my friends.  This movie was — and continues to be — one of those movies that endures because it tells an enduring story that talks to the heart of all good people.

Janet Maslin of the New York Times wrote that it was “an eloquently simple, deeply emotional movie.”

Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribute wrote that it was “a great, haunting film” and referred to it as a sweet and compassionate movie.

Recently, I watched this movie, and was amazed and moved by it.  The simplicity needed to tell this story effectively was bolstered by the candor of the main character and the honest reactions of the supporting cast.  The cinematography was breathtaking and the music, while identifiably there, never interfered with the message.

There aren’t too many movies who can lay claim to that kind of a powerful presentation.  What made this all the more impressive was that this movie was directed by the man better known for his work on “Twin Peaks” and “Mulholland Drive” and “Elephant Man.”  He drew impactful performances from the actors that rang true with audiences.

Of course, once you realize that the director is a Renaissance man for modern times with his many creative endeavors and accomplishments, it becomes less of a surprise that he was one of the major energies behind the creation of this movie. 

This director even had the foresight to shoot the entire movie along the actual route taken by Alvin Straight, and to have all scenes that were shot appear in chronological order in the movie. 

Some of you might be saying, “All right already … what movie are you talking about?”  Rather than tell you, I am including a trailer for the movie which speaks more persuasively about the movie than I ever could.

Rob Nelson of the City Pages of Minneapolis/St. Paul encapsulated the movie by writing:  “One could say that The Straight Story is a twilight Western on the order of Unforgiven, except that the pale rider here mounts a snail-paced John Deere instead of a stallion.”

Truth be told, that’s exactly what this movie is, and if you have the urge to invest 112 minutes into a well-told story — whether you find a copy at your local used DVD store or it shows on late night television — then “The Straight Story” is the one to check out.

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