I am trucking along in the mommy life, working around preschool schedules with our two boys and doing a good job. I am living the boy life which entails half-day school, noon pick-ups, picnics in the park, and play dates. I feel like I have the perfect balance because I work three days a week in the evenings when my hubby can be home managing the dinner, bath, and bedtime routine. I got this! At least I think I do.
One night, I get up at 4 a.m. to go to the bathroom and trip over and toy, resulting in a nasty fall. My back hurts for weeks, but I am young so I will bounce back, right? Wrong. Three weeks later, I have an MRI. Yes, I herniated a disc, but there is something else that shows up on the scan. Something scary. I get the call on a Wednesday night while I was wrapping things up at work. My doctor tells me what the MRI results revealed and encourages me to see an oncologist as soon as I can. My whole world just stopped in that moment. I stumbled through the rest of my shift in a fog and then head home to help with bedtimes.
The boys are both running around naked after their baths and I am just in a haze looking at them and my husband. I can’t say anything until we read to them and tuck them in. We finally get to sit down and my mind is still reeling. How do I tell my husband this news? We are both left shocked and stunned. We numbly digest the news, make the appointments, and wait.
In the meantime, we are laying in bed and my husband starts to get noticeably upset. I am holding him and he quietly says to me, “Our boys are just three and four years old. They are so little. What if they don’t remember you?” It is not something that I had thought of yet. This hits me hard, to say the least. Those words are something no mother wants to ever hear.
The very next day, I start a family scrapbook. I had plenty of photos so that was no challenge. I quickly realized, however, that I was in very few of the photos. I always seem to be the one actually taking the photos. With the baby weight I still have on and the fatigue and messy hair, I just naturally stopped getting in the photos. I skip the make-up mostly these days and the hair goes up in a ponytail. I am always there with the boys. I am just behind the camera. I pack the lunches, I pick the parks, I schedule the enrichment classes. I show up. I am doing the good work. But, again, I am taking almost all of the photos. The scrapbook starts to come together and I am barely even in it. It does show all of their fun, but little of me. How will that help them remember me? I am trying to document our precious little time together before the oncologist changes our lives forever. This labor of love, this book of my mommy life doesn’t really even have me in it.
It was 2005, when people still actually owned cameras. I was in full-blown mommyhood. My days were exhausted, trying to lose weight, working, lucky if I got a shower kind of days. We were brewing two pots of coffee a day back then. Work and raising young boys sucked every ounce of energy out of this girl.
Once I started working on that scrapbook, though, I also started getting the picture, literally. I started handing my husband the ever-present camera, handing it also to nearby strangers more often too. We are a family! Look at all of the fun stuff we do together! Look how great your mama is! I really started getting in the pictures. I learned to put aside the fact that I wasn’t that skinny, beautiful girl anymore. My make-up wasn’t perfect and couldn’t conceal those under eye circles. I was in those pictures, though, with my smiles, holding my boys and all lit up inside. I got the picture by getting in the picture.
Fortunately, now it’s 13 years later and I am healthy. There are now three boys in our family and they are 15, 13, and 8 years old. My husband was so right, my oldest two boys do not remember that time when we had the biggest health scare of our lives. My husband and I had to weather that alone with the support of friends and family. My two young boys slept peacefully each night during that scary time. We stayed up nights making plans, writing our wills, taking out life insurance, and clinging to one another for support. During those days we continued the picnics and the parks, but the difference was that I now was in those pictures. Like I said, I got the picture by getting in the picture.