Once I was a little girl, just three years old, and I cared for my dolls and teddy bears. I held them, fed them, tucked them into bed with me. By five I had a hamster that needed a clean cage and fresh water often. At seven I was teaching my dog to sit and stay and brushing his long red hair. At 10 I joined the safety patrol. By 15 I was teaching dance and coaching cheer leading for the young children. I held offices in school and church groups from the time I was old enough to serve. Friend groups at college dubbed me the mom – at all three colleges. From the beginning I had found my fit: I was meant to be the mom.
As I got older and married, I waited patiently to really be a mom. Life went on with all its ups and downs, and I continued to wait patiently. And, then, not so patiently. My need to be a real mom – the life I wanted – interfered with the life I had. That disconnect added to the discourse already creeping into my life and created cavernous, painful quiet.
It would be many more years of impatience, disappointment, and heartbreak before I would finally begin my journey to being the mother I always dreamed of being. Every moment of the nine month wait was filled with trepidation. Some of the apprehension was irrational, but some was based on actual risks. When the day came to meet my child, when I thought the moments of fear were over, I learned they were just beginning as this helpless babe was pulled from me with no breath, with lungs that would not sustain his life, with eyes and ears and skin that strained at every sensation.
In the surreal moments and days that followed, as I healed from surgery and infection, as he struggled with perforated lungs, my mind (aided by intense pain medication) began to wonder “is this what I was longing for all these years?” Yes. It was. In those first days, when there were no promises that I would ever bring my child home, I was at peace. I was a mom – the mom I always wanted to be. Whatever happened, I was his mom. And no one could take that away from me.
I watched him heal. I watched him crawl and walk and run. I watch him take each new step into the amazing young man he is meant to be and I am at peace. I am his mom. With every ‘mean mom’ moment, I know that nothing could ever bring me as much as joy as being his mom has done. I know because it is so painful and gut wrenching to watch him struggle, to have to say ‘no,’ to go through the hard moments. Anything that brings that much pain, is filled with many times more love.
Caring for someone else has always been a part of me. That’s what I was made to do. There can be no greater gift than to care for my child for the rest of my days.
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