Did you know that your couch contains carcinogenic fire retardants that are released into the dust that you breathe in? How much time do you spend worrying about the link between lawn pesticides and childhood cancer? Are you someone who frets over the long-term health effects of chemicals in today’s processed foods?
I am not “normal.”
I am a mother who has lost a child to cancer. I have heard the diagnosis, watched the deterioration, witnessed the death, and suffered with the grief. I am also a mother who was diagnosed, in the midst of that grieving, with secondary infertility. In a very short amount of time I had gone from a “normal, expectant mother,” to a grieving infertile, and I quickly learned that I would never again be “normal.”
Even after getting pregnant again, and giving birth to healthy twins, I am not “normal.”
“Normal” moms accept invitations for play dates, without fretting about whether the park or home they are taking their kids to has been treated with pesticides. “Normal” moms don’t question every single ingredient in every single thing that goes on, in, or near their children’s bodies. “Normal,” moms don’t question, and re-question, and re-re-re-question the safety of everything from toys to toilet paper. Yes, every mom is careful about this or that, but I take it to an extreme. I am hyper-vigilant. It is, as a therapist once told me, a common side effect of PTSD and traumatic loss.
“An extremely normal reaction,” she said, “to horrifically abnormal circumstances.”
As a member of this community, I have known of children who have lost their lives to everything from the common cold to falling down, from birth defects to strokes, from stillbirth to SIDS. I have cried tears for children whose stories can never be unheard. I would love to slide back over to the naïve side of the universe, the side where I believe that in this day-and-age children don’t die, but I can’t. With Peyton’s death, my membership to that club was revoked.
But none of that matters in the eyes of a child. That is why, regardless of the effort that I may put into my worrying, and planning, and researching, and avoiding, I know that it is imperative that I put even more effort into keeping my children from feeling that their childhood is anything BUT normal.
It is imperative that they see my smile, rather than my fear, when I am letting them try things outside of my comfort zone. It is imperative that they hear my excitement and encouragement, rather than my anxieties, when taking them to places where not everything they will encounter will be within my control.
I do my best to push through my fears and my hesitations and my pain to let my kids feel like normal kids, rather than like their childhood is somehow overshadowed by the fear and pain of the loss that came before them, because at the end of the day, regardless of what I have learned on this side of the universe, every child, even the little rainbows, deserve a little normalcy.