The Look

Jun 2 | Posted by: Andrea Zonn |

My sweet miracle child, the one I never thought I would be lucky enough to have, had brain surgery yesterday.  Easily the most terrifying thing I have ever faced.  


I got pregnant the old-fashioned way – out of wedlock.  Maybe this doesn’t have the stigma it once had, but it’s still a revelation that’s most often met with raised eyebrows.  It’s also certainly not how I ever imagined having a child.  But when you’re divorced, 37, and life presents you with such a surprise, you see it for the remarkable gift it is.


When I was carrying this child, I had an overwhelming, unwavering sense of him.  Not just the little body inside of me, but his whole self, his ways, his humor, his mind.  His spirit.  I knew him.  I wasn’t completely surprised when he waved to me in an early ultrasound.  I wasn’t completely surprised when I saw the faces of my brother and father peering (was that a grin?) at me in the last ultrasound.  I was amazed, but not surprised, when I felt him responding to music I participated in, in utero.  I got tickled, literally and figuratively, when I felt his fingers grasping at my pelvic bones in utero.  So I was absolutely not surprised when he emerged from my open belly, arms flailing wildly, cursing the cold air, the light and the sound, conducting his new symphony of life.  I heard that music.  And I know he did, too.


And I knew that no earth-entering soul in his right mind would choose to come in as he did, under these circumstances, with this mother and father, unless he did so knowing that I was the right choice.  His father was, too, but that’s their story.


When Leonard was a day old, I told the pediatrician that he was gifted.  Again, that raised eyebrow.  I said it because every mother probably says that about her children, and I thought I was being funny.  But deep down, I also meant it.  Leonard proved me right when he, among other things, started blinking his eyes in metronomic time at 4 days old.  You may not believe me, but Lin witnessed it, equally astonished.  He proved me right, when among other things, he started not only speaking, but amassing a huge vocabulary at 10 months.  He proved me right when he showed me he could sing pitches back to me at 5 months.  And again when he started writing songs at a year and half, toy guitar in hand.  True, the first one’s lyrics consisted of the lines, “no, no, no. yeah, yeah.”  But the song had a consistent melody, and a groove.  And again, when at just over two years old, he was speaking in mostly full and complete sentences, with careful enunciation.  My father would call that a proper command of the English language, something he thought was essential in life.  He would be dazzled by this grandson of his.


Above and beyond his smarts, Leonard is endowed with a beautiful spirit.  He’s an old soul, and I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t setting out to win the world over, one person at a time.  At times, it’s been hard for him to understand that not everyone shares this enthusiasm, but he seems to have escaped the indifference of the curmudgeons relatively unscathed.  So far.


I don’t know what he came here to do, but I can’t shake the feeling that he’ll be one to watch.  And despite the bragadocious tone of all the above, I have no vested interest in whatever it is he chooses.  I know that if I’m attentive and attuned as a mother, he’ll be better able to find the path that resonates with him, and where he is meant to find his place.  To do anything well and with integrity is important.  And my job as the mommy is support him well in this mission.


These days, every baby gadget, large or small, comes factory-equipped with an electronic music box.  These are horrid things that are bad to begin with, but get more and more out of tune as the batteries wear down, with ill-rendered, inaccurate snippets of “popular” children’s tunes, and more offensively, classical music.  If these were well-done, and the sounds even vaguely approximated an actual instrument, it might be tolerable.  But it simply is not.  Go ahead.  Call me a snob.  But as I see it, babies, toddlers and children are just the earliest targets in the current trend that is “the dumbing down of society.”


Leonard was not fooled.  The first of these many music boxes we encountered was included in a beautiful bassinet.  I laid my infant down.  I pushed the button.  Upon hearing this wretched sound, he started to cry.  The cruelest joke?  No off switch.  And the damned things are bolted on like they’re indispensible, critical to proper operation.  Of a bassinet.   Inevitably, another well-intentioned family member eventually pushed the button, and had I not removed Leonard, he would have hurled himself over the edge in an effort to escape.  To say he hated those music boxes is an understatement.  Lesson learned?  Leonard doesn’t cotton condescension.


I had already known that about him on an intuitive level, so I took that cue as confirmation, and vowed that I would always be mindful in the way that we communicated.  I sensed, even in those early days, that Leonard could understand my words, that if I just spoke the truth, he would hear it.  As I spoke, he would listen, looking at my face intently.  Not mystified, but somehow making sense of me.  And as his language skills have evolved, I’ve known to hear his truth.  When we were in Japan, and these then-mysterious headaches were new, and after two visits to doctors and two visits from an acupuncturist, my exhausted little man cried to me, “Mommy.  I’m tired, my head hurts, I want to go home, I need a doctor.”


And so began our dialogue about these headaches.  I listened to him when he told me he needed medicine.  The first time they had to draw blood, he listened to me when in the midst of his cries of pain, I told him, “It’s not going to get worse than this.”  His cries stopped immediately.  He paced himself.


If only we could all know that in life.  In the throes of adversity, at that worst moment, if only we could hear that voice saying “it’s not going to get worse than this.”  I’ve been listening with everything in me since early April, but I haven’t heard that voice, surely because God knew I didn’t really need to hear it.  He knows that He endowed with the ability to breathe through it.  But I sure wanted it.  Pacing oneself through the unknown is excruciating and exhausting.  To say one can handle it should never be confused with the notion that it’s easy.





There’s learning.  But learning and knowledge are not interchangeable ideas.  What I’ve observed in these last months is that there’s an experiential element that’s critical to building that bridge.  At least once, anyway, just to prove the theory.  You learn things, amassing information.  To put them into a context is where the knowledge occurs.  You have to be able to trust the process.  As I tried to process all the information I was getting in this most terrifying new scenario, I was able to sift my knowledge into three categories: my intellectual knowledge, my intuitive knowledge, and my fears.  Once upon a time, I believed that if you were enlightened enough, you could escape fear, that you could actually banish the thought.  The man I studied under in seminary used to laugh when I would propose this idea.  “Andrea, if any of us were that spiritually evolved,” he would say, “there would be no need to stay here.  We’d sprout wings and fly off to the next place.”  And now I know that not only is that not possible in the face of something this scary, but that it’s not necessary.  I’ve never been the mommy at a time like this before.  Intellectually, I knew that Leonard was in the right place, in the right doctor’s hands, and that this very invasive surgery was the only way to eliminate this problem.  Intuitively, I knew that things would unfold as they were intended to, as God would have it.  And I knew that surely, such a remarkable child couldn’t be here for such a short time.  Oh, wait, that was my intellect again.  For I know too many parents who have lost remarkable children far too early.  At any rate, I couldn’t shake the fear.  As soon as I would push it aside, it would sneak back in again.  I found my bottom line.  I could handle all of this, but I needed Leonard to wake up.  That’s it, God.  Just please make sure he wakes up.


In my almost 41 years, I’ve learned a lot.  About myself, about my intuition, about relationships, about work, about the world…  For me, there is one requirement to bring all of these seemingly disjointed things to common ground.  Love.  If you can learn to approach your experience from this place, if you can learn to sift through the insanity that would keep us from knowing peace, if you can simply and relentlessly pursue and sustain a relationship with the Divine, then finding peace is possible.  This is not easily done, but it’s more than worth the price of admission.


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