Bound by Love

Bound by Love

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

Bound by Love

When my son was only five months old, he had to have major surgery on his head. My husband, Chris, and I were shocked and devastated. Cole’s skull had fused together prematurely; he had no “soft spot.” No one knows why this happens to some babies. The only remedy is surgery.

How could this have happened to my baby? What did I do wrong? I had been so careful during my pregnancy, eating well and refusing caffeine. No matter how many doctors explained to me that the condition was not my fault, I felt responsible.

The surgery and the ensuing five days at the hospital were the scariest, darkest, most exhausting days of our lives. Cole lay in his tiny hospital bed, IVs poking from his perfect little body. My faith faltered with his every breath. If not for the kindness and sensitivity of people—family, friends and hospital staff—I do not know how we could have made it through.

Even Cole tried to help. When Cole’s head swelled so badly that his eyes fused shut and his eyelashes disappeared, I sang to him, my eyes never leaving his face. I was amazed to see him force a weak smile for me. To this day, I’m convinced he was trying to make me feel better.

After Cole’s surgery, his head was swollen and bruised, and he had a dramatic zigzag scar from one ear to the other. I was hesitant to go out in public with my sweet boy. I felt defensive and protective, as if I might snap if anyone asked me what was wrong with my baby.

A few days after coming home from the hospital, Cole and I ventured out to buy some groceries. Still on pain medication, Cole was unhappy and cranky. On the way home, I noticed the gas tank indicator was flashing red for empty, so I stopped for some gas. Cole whined as I tried to get the keys out of the ignition. I needed the keys to open the gas tank, and for some reason I could not manage this simple maneuver. For some minutes, I tried pulling and tugging, until finally I feared I might break the key. Trying to compose myself, I reached for Cole and headed for the pay phone. Chris was not home. My heart raced. Cole began crying, and tears welled up in my own eyes.

I found my AAA card and called for help. This, after all, qualified as an emergency. Minutes later, the AAA truck pulled up, and a burly man stepped down and walked toward our car. His eyes immediately focused on Cole’s head, the scar fresh and frightening. “You poor fellow,” he said, “what have you been through?”

His kind words directed toward Cole opened a flood of tears in me. I began to sob. The stranger, whose name tag read Ron, simply placed a hand on my shoulder until I calmed down. Then he said to me, “As parents we go through some very hard things. There’s nothing worse than seeing your child in pain. I have two kids of my own, and I know all about it. Even an earache can seem like the end of the world. The thing is—we simply get through it.” He reached for his wallet and pulled out numerous pictures of his son and daughter.

Cole and I sat with Ron as he talked about each picture. By the time he finished, Cole was sitting contently on my lap, and I felt a smile, the first in weeks, spontaneously come to my lips.

Although it took Ron less than one minute to get the keys from my ignition, this kind stranger spent over an hour with us, taking the concept of Roadside Assistance to a whole new level.

It’s been five years since Cole’s head surgery. Sometimes, Cole’s red hair parts so that I can see the thick scar that crisscrosses his head; otherwise there are no visual reminders of his surgery.

Yet there are things unseen. The way I feel toward Cole is difficult to describe—it’s as though our hearts had been bound together during that surgery.

Recently at the park, a Guatemalan woman asked me about the scar. She said, “The angels came into him while his head was open.” I don’t know if I believe that, but the thought makes me feel better.

My younger son, Ry, fell from his bed one night when he was two years old and had to have stitches on his chin. I was with him as the nurses at the emergency room held him down while the doctor stitched. He clutched my hand and screamed, and it reminded me of Cole’s surgery.

The room started to spin, and I was having trouble breathing. One of the nurses yelled, “Mom going down! Mom going down!” The next thing I knew, there was a wet towel on the back of my neck, and I was being instructed to put my head between my legs.

Going through these difficult things with my children doesn’t end—whether it’s watching them get stitches or seeing them be teased by other children. My heart is constantly being ripped in unexpected ways, despite both children, ultimately, doing fine. The hard times usually end up bringing us closer together.

Now four years old, Ry likes his scar. He points to it all the time. The other day, Cole complained that he didn’t have a scar to show off like Ry.

“Yes, you do honey, I said, “Remember, you have that big zigzag scar that goes from ear to ear?”

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “I guess I forgot.”

I’m glad that he’s forgotten about the scar, and I hope all the trauma behind it—as long as he remembers the love we forged going through it together.

Victoria Patterson

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