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Childhood Cancer

The Mom with the Broken Heart

What do you do when your child doesn’t want you?

I know that Reese loves me. I’m his mother. When things were normal, we spent all day every day together. Mommy, Cole, and Reese. The three musketeers. In case you didn’t know, I stay home with my kids. I do it because I want to, and it’s the thing that brings me the most joy (and frustration, let’s be real, but mostly joy).

My boys have always been daddy’s boys. Cole especially. He always preferred Matt over me, and that was okay because I figured it was just a boy thing. I’m the mean one usually because I make the rules, and I divvy out the punishment when the rules are broken. In the form of spankings, time-outs, toys being taken away, etc. Matt is the fun one. His “spankings” (if you can even call them that, they’re so soft and ineffective) are more like a pat on the back. He’s at work all day, and when he comes home, he gets the boys all riled up. The way it should be. He loves spending time with his little guys. And they love spending time with him. I get it.

But that doesn’t make it less painful.

It’s been especially difficult ever since Reese was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma back in May of this year. We’ve spent a ton of time in the hospital, and right now, we are in the midst of his second round of high-dose chemo and stem cell transplant. Day 2 in fact. Day 0 being the day of the transplant (Friday, December 15th). Ever since Reese’s diagnosis, his security blanket has been his dad. He wants Matt to hold him all the time. He wants to cuddle with him. He asks for him when he isn’t around. It’s heartbreaking for me. And it’s hard on Matt too. Matt is a first year internal medicine resident. And while we have been so blessed that his program has been so supportive and basically bent over backwards to allow him as much time off as possible, he does have to be at work sometimes. That leaves me as the available parent.

I am available more often than Matt is. Available for snuggles and laying with Reese and hanging out with him at the hospital as much as he wants. But he doesn’t want me. He throws a fit when I try to hold him or snuggle with him. He tells me to leave and asks me when daddy is coming back. I know that this is a phase and that he doesn’t mean or really know what he’s saying, but damn it if it doesn’t just tear my heart into a million pieces.

Tonight for example. Matt and I have been with him in the hospital room all day. He hasn’t felt good and has been throwing up on and off. In between doses of pain medicine because stem cell transplants are pretty painful– imagine replacing all of your cells and tissues with new versions. Not exactly a walk in the park. All he’s wanted to do is sleep or snuggle with daddy. I’ve tried to get him to lay down with me or snuggle with me, but he throws a fit– as weak as he is, he uses every ounce of energy that he has in him to let us know that he wants me to go away. He does not want to lay with me or sit on my lap. He doesn’t want me to touch him. So all I can do is respect his wishes and kiss him on his sweet forehead and tell him that, “everything is going to be okay. Mommy loves you, baby. More than anything. I’m here for you if you need me.”

That’s all I can do right now. And it hurts. It breaks me.

There are occasions like when Reese is coming out of surgery or undergoing a procedure when he will ask for me. Those little moments make me whole again. Last week, when he got his Broviac central line replaced and his g-tube fixed, he was coming out of anesthesia, and all he wanted was his mommy. That made my day.

I know that once we get out of this hospital and get back home to some sense of normalcy, he’ll want me again. Cole, Reese, and I will go on playdates and run errands and do things together like we always do, and everything will be okay. But this part of this journey is tough, y’all. I’m not asking for pity, and I’m not whining about this. I’m just putting it out there because I know there’s got to be another momma out there that’s experiencing the same thing. It’s not your fault. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just a phase, and things will get better soon. Just keep being there for your babies. They know how much you love them. Sometimes being a mom is a thankless job. But it’s always worth it. We all know this.

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