I have been using the word ‘control’ too casually. Throwing it around willy-nilly as if I had no care in the world. As a parent, it is easy to speak about not being in ‘control’ of your child’s life. The words roll of your tongue with careless abandon, never imagining that the day will come when you will be tested. Severely.
Last week, Adoti fell down and hit her head. As usual, I was at work, assuming that all was well on the home front. I was not anticipating any kind of emergency. Who does? But then at 1.50pm, my phone rang. It was my house girl.
“Aunty…” she started, pausing.
That 5-second pause spoke volumes.
“What happened?” I asked, my voice sounding shrill to my own ears.
“Adoti fell down and she won’t stop crying,” she said.
It like someone had just performed the Heimlich manoeuvre on me. I took a deep breath and let it out and it was as if all the air had left my lungs. This must be what it feels like to die, I said to myself. Now I know how it feels to give up the ghost.
“Okay, I’m coming,” I said to her, seeming as calm as water in a pot, but feeling quite the opposite.
I left the office at 2.00pm and got home at 2.23pm to find my baby sitting on her nanny’s lap, looking limp and disoriented.
She wasn’t crying, just looking out into the world as if she didn’t recognise it as the place she calls home. When I picked her up, she seemed so lifeless. In that moment, I was confronted with the worst case scenario – the possibility that it could all end very badly.
I called her name. Shook her. Tried to tickle her. But she would not engage. When I tried to put her down, her legs gave way. The one thing that gave me hope was that when I held her, she wrapped her hands around my neck and held on tightly. That’s how I knew that my sassy lil’ miss was still in there somewhere.
“Let’s go,” I said to my house girl. By 3.00pm we were in the emergency room. After hours of observation, the doctors sent us home, cautiously optimistic that there had been no permanent damage from the fall. Adoti was still a bit out of it, probably still in shock, and suffering a slight concussion.
Usually, she will not stay in the same place for too long. Or stay quiet. She’s always on a mission to go somewhere and do something. But on this day, she was still. Eerily still and silent. Maybe even a little sad. I felt so sorry for the little girl, I almost started to cry. Now in the past, the tears would have not stopped flowing but one year later, Mama’s has done some growing up of her own.
It’s been a steep learning curve and this latest incident has taught me my hardest lesson yet: I am not in control of Adoti’s life. It is not by my own might, or my own power that she wakes up every morning. I am not the giver of her life. Nor the preserver of it. God is. And if I’m going to survive this parenting thing, I’m going to have to let go and let God. Life will do what it does.
Over this past few days, I’ve begun to understand the depths you must draw from as a parent. You give everything you have only to realise that sometimes, even your very best is not enough. Yes, you participated in the creative process, carrying your unborn child and bringing her to birth, but you cannot actually create life where there is none or give breath where it has been spent.
That is a most sobering thought. The realisation that the thing you love most in this world can be taken away from you, and there is nothing you can do about it. So yeah, I have been confronted with Adoti’s mortality and it is not an experience I want to re-live.
For most of that evening, the lights in my child’s eyes remained dim. At about 9.00pm, she began to perk up a little. Where she would have ran, she walked. Where she would have yelled, she babbled softly. But slowly but surely, we could see her joie de vivre returning. As I lay her down to sleep, she looked so pure, innocent and peaceful and for a second there, I wanted to shake my fists at the heavens. I took comfort in the knowledge that children are God messengers bearing the eternal gifts of love and light – and for that I will be forever thankful.