"You're Doing a Great Job, Mama"
Moms, let's all be honest - isn't motherhood the hardest thing we've ever done?
I come from a family of 9 children and when I asked my saint-of-a-mother which one of us babies was the toughest, she said the first one. Not just because my older sister is super high-maintenance (just kidding, Christina!) but because the extreme and sudden shift of priorities, from only needing to take care of yourself to being responsible for someone else's entire well-being, is monumentally life-altering.
Being the third oldest of my big family, I grew up always taking care of a baby. This isn't a complaint, it was my favorite pastime - I was self-proclaimed "obsessed" with babies and there was a big chunk of my childhood that was spent either cuddling a baby sibling or asking my mom if she was pregnant again yet (I bet she loved that). I specifically remember one night quietly army-crawling to the foot of my parents bed and just waiting for my infant sister, Rebecca, to inevitably start crying in her bassinet so I could pick her up and rock her back to sleep. In retrospect, I'm sure my parents would have gladly allowed me to take the night shift if I'd asked, but at that age I really didn't understand the value of a good night's sleep (and I had a knack for being sneaky).
After giving birth to Damian in May of 2019 (he turns 4 this month!!) at 2:44am, my view towards the value of sleep changed dramatically! But of course that wasn't the only change I had to manage. I don't need to give the full list, we've all either heard it or lived it. The biggest of the changes for me was exactly what my mom experienced - suddenly becoming responsible for another person's wellbeing, and sometimes (or many times, especially in those first few months) at the expense of your own. For me, I felt shell-shocked. How many years had I spent caring for newborns - and yet somehow the emotional impact of having my own baby felt like getting hit by a speeding freight train. Nothing could have prepared me for that.
Being a mother is hard. It was hard for me well before Damian's diagnosis. But even post-diagnosis as we spend our days fighting a terminal disease, I'm not too naive to know that there are a gazillion mothers who have it much, much harder.
Which is why it means so much to me on those days when I go out to Walmart or Costco and push Damian's stroller with my right hand and pull the shopping cart behind me with my left (the "grocery train" as I call it), sometimes women will give me a sincere little smile and say in passing "you're doing a great job, mama."
They are always complete strangers - they don't know our story. I also don't know theirs. Motherhood though, is universal. Some situations appear to be more complicated or more emotional or more busy than others, but even the starting baseline for motherhood is hard. While each of our stories are unique, we all are figuring it out together - and it is really encouraging to be reminded that we're not alone.
As a result of my choice to pull the curtain back on what once was my private life, I have been so incredibly inspired by all of you who I've been able to meet online. You have been so kind to us - offering encouragement and prayers despite most of you never having met us in person (by the way, I hope that changes someday! I'm always so excited when I run into one of you in person!).
I have to believe that in many cases, our story resonates with people that don't know us in person because they are intimately familiar with the feelings that come with being a parent. How far would you go for your child? I'm sure if you are reading this, your answer is the same as mine: there is no limit. You would do whatever it takes.
That doesn't mean we have infinite energy though. And we certainly don't always do the "right" thing. We are human. And caring for another human being is hard. Even us mothers are forced to catch our breath sometimes, whether we want to or not.
On this Mother's Day, I want to say thank you to all of you who have gone out of your way to let me know that you see me. In turn I want you to know that I see you. I see you advocating. I see you teaching your kids to make the world more kind, more loving. I see you teaching them to care about others and to be respectful. I see you pushing to make the world a safer place, a healthier place, a more resourceful place. We are all in this together, quite literally creating a better world of tomorrow from within our own individual homes.
It's hard. It's tiring. But this is the gig, and it's worth working hard for.
And you're doing a great job, mama.