Are you having a lighthearted day? Well, I’d like to change that. Check out this brief video about the moms of sick kids:
I came across this video — a fundraising ad timed ahead of Mother’s Day — in a Facebook group for moms whose kids have cystic fibrosis, like mine does. After someone posted the spot with a caption about its makers that concluded “They get it,” my first instinct was to search for some way to disagree. I hate how sick kids are often depicted — little fighters bravely, cutely battling illnesses — and remembered a different fundraising ad for the same hospital, which concludes with a shirtless boy growling like a tiger. I figured this mom one would have a similar tone: bright, bold strength in the face of unhinged tragedy, no anger or weakness or meanness anywhere in sight.
If you weren’t brave enough to watch, here’s what happens: We open with a woman starting to sob in shudders and quick intakes of air. Dark electronic music buzzes as the screen shifts to a woman perched on the edge of a bed, gazing blankly at a stuffed elephant. Now a woman hunches over a pew, praying to a backdrop of ominous piano music; now a woman sits stiffly in a chair, arms outstretched to hold a baby mannequin as someone in a lab coat murmurs instructions. At about 35 seconds in, my favorite: a woman alone in a parked car, pounding the steering wheel and screaming. Then, just over the halfway mark, the screen flashes black as the music goes into relief.
The women wipe their eyes. “Get up,” mutters a woman who is lying down. The piano music continues, but it’s lighter — the women are walking, or taking deep breaths, or outside the car now, kicking the door shut. The final scenes are mothers and sick children, hospital beds and hallways and hand-holding, bright grins and firm kisses on small heads. “This Mother’s Day,” the screen implores you, “help a SickKids Mom stay strong,” which you can do by remembering the url getbettergifts.ca and going online to make a donation to Sick Kids, a children’s hospital in Toronto.
Per Fast Company, I found out some of the women featured are real moms of sick kids. As a self-appointed expert in moms of sick kids (my son was diagnosed at 3 weeks old; he’s 1 now), I tried to figure out who the real ones were and who the fake ones were. I could not. Every mom in here seems legitimately gutted to me, which in my experience is exactly how having a child with a serious illness feels.
According to this campaign, moms like me “don’t give in, and they don’t give up. No matter the battle, they put on their game face to stay strong for their kids.” Watching the ad, I cried because I saw myself in the women who broke down. But I cried again when they put themselves back together because I didn’t.
When he was a blob who ate and slept and — anyone with a CF kid will laugh here, because wow, what a brief time this period was — lay almost still during treatments, I didn’t think much about crying over my son in front of him. In the early days, I let myself lose it sometimes, when the unfairness of what we had to do got to be too much, if he clawed at the mask for his nebulizer or screamed while I pounded his back.
My son turned 1 just this week. He’s started speaking with more intention lately, pointing toward dogs and objects that look like dogs and saying “dah! dah!” He can walk from one end of our apartment to the other. Two weeks ago I put on my coat to leave for work and he narrowed his eyes from his high chair and burst into tears. He’s old enough that I need to start faking it for his sake — just like the moms in this fundraising ad, which isn’t cheesy or aggressively positive in any way that would make it easy for me to dismiss. Collapsing and then faking it for your kid is accurate, and it’s sad but necessary, and — fine — this fundraising video gets that, just the way I’m starting to.