Yesterday, I established that I am neither Tiger nor Dragon Mother, but I choose to call myself a Wyvern Mom. What’s a Wyvern? According the the site wisegeek.com:
The wyvern is a mythological creature frequently found in European lore. The word “wyvern” comes from the Saxon wivere, meaning serpent. This legendary animal is usually defined as a subspecies of dragon, or at least the dragon’s close kin. The dragon and the wyvern share many similarities in terms of appearance.
Yes! We are close kin of the dragon mother, but we are different because our kids are chronically ill with a potentially but not definitely terminal illness. Dragon mothers know what the future holds. The future will bring the early death of their children because there is no hope against the diseases that grip them. For the Dragon, death is imminent. Wyvern mothers know that their kids might die and often they come close to death, but the Wyvern has hope and she fights for survival.
The Wyvern is a popular symbol in heraldry. It doesn’t have a very detailed history outside being a dragon hybrid and serving as a symbol. Wyvern moms are the same; historically, we were all Dragon Mothers. Then science changed us by offering our kids an uncertain reprieve. Now, we are symbolic of the frontiers of modern medicine and the prevalence and precariousness of hope in the modern age.
Wyvern moms are hatching during a fragile evolution. Before the mid 1980s nearly all children born like Liam died before they were a month old. Even in the mid to late 80s most of them died before kindergarten. It’s only been in the past 20 years that the majority of Dragon moms of the most severe cases of single ventricle heart defect children evolved into Wyvern moms. Some of us are still in transition. Some of us begin Wyvern and are snapped back to Dragon with a stroke, cardiac arrest, a failed heart or liver, a transplant rejection, an ECMO experience that ends in infection and death. . . Wyvern moms can always become Dragon moms again.
Sometimes Wyvern moms just loose their children, without the warning song of the Valkyrie to let them know the time is coming when their parentage of that child will end. Sometimes it happens too fast to go back to Dragon, that is the great risk of being Wyvern; sometimes we fall out of the sky.
Not all Wyvern moms are heart moms and not all heart moms are Wyvern. My friend and cause warrior, Caroline is a Wyvern. She fights on the frontiers of modern medicine against cystic fibrosis instead of CHD. Mothers of children with AIDS, cancer, and Type 1 Diabetes are also Wyvern moms. Really, any parent whose child might succumb to his/her chronic disease even as their parents fight for a cure is a Wyvern. Wyvern moms are literally cheating death every day their children live.
So, unlike the Dragon Mother who knows the end is near, the Wyvern Mother must raise a child to become and adult, despite the truth that adulthood may never come. We have to act a bit like the Tiger Mother, planning a life, but we are not true Tigers because we know the precariousness of it all. But, we cannot melt into our children and love them to the end, because their end is a moving target.
The other thing that differentiates the Wyvern from the Dragon mother is that the Dragon mother battles to preserve the comfort and dignity of their dying child. The Wyvern mother forces her child to endure chemotherapy, open-heart surgery, or a plethora of other painful interventions to save his life. Wyvern mothers act with the same love as Dragon mothers, but we are galvanized by a hope that makes us uniquely Wyvern, unless or until circumstances turn us back to Dragons. We are a new breed.
So, this is what I say a Wyvern is. I’m the one who made it up, so I get to make these rules. Since we’re the first moms in human history to actually tempt fate by expecting our kids to grow up, without really knowing that they will, we Wyvern parents simply make the rules up as we go.
Are you a Wyvern mom or dad? Where and what do you fight on the frontiers of modern medicine?