Today is a first for me, in many ways.
Today, I celebrate my first Mother’s Day as Mother. It is the first Mother’s Day I welcomed at Midnight with a crying baby, celebrated quietly at 4am as he nursed. The first year my own child smiled at me in bed for morning snuggles before beginning our day. The first of many, I hope, where I am the recipient of well wishes and sticky fingers, the celebrated, the blessed.
But today is also the first Mother’s Day in many years that I haven’t spent surrounded by the women whose own motherhoods have shaped mine, have shaped me in ways I think about constantly.
Of course there is my mother, my husband’s, my grandmother; women I owe everything to and celebrate daily. I could write about them endlessly, all of the ways both big and small that they have nurtured and taught me, but this isn’t about them.
This is about the mothers in the ICU who sit endlessly beside their children whose physical needs are profound and constant. They pray fiercely to a God they love or to gods they struggle to accept could possibly exist with all they’ve endured. They ask for comfort or healing, answers and hope, most of all they pray for minutes or sleep or much needed ounces of weight gained. The mothers whose children’s care requires machines, medications, and assistance day and night. The mothers who over weeks and months and years become more proficient in medical tasks than their nurses, more educated on medical details than their doctors.
These mothers fight with all they have. They battle constantly and brilliantly. In rare moments when the fear or anger or exhaustion takes over, they cry, an overabundance of love flowing out of them as tears. I learned from them how to rise when things feel hard, how to celebrate each victory, no matter how small. How to, for the sake of children, strive to be strongest in the room.
To these mothers, I am not with you this year, but I remember you and all that you have taught me.
This is about the mothers with a child whose heart beats endlessly in their ears and heart but now falls silent to the rest of us. The mothers of children whose future and promise live in memory, where tomorrow is a dream, a dream that is had by her nightly but will never get to be. The mothers whose arms know the phantom pains of the place where a child once was, the aching pain of where they were meant to be but never laid.
These mothers never let go, they never forget. They never heal, at least not in the way that leaves only a faint scar as memory. These mothers love in a way that keeps a wound, a wound we all should see and acknowledge and embrace. From each of them I have learned how to be present in each moment. I have learned that even the most broken of hearts can continue to love. That a mothers love is so powerful, it can persevere beyond the most painful of losses and continue to spread love and life.
To these mothers, you are not invisible. I see you, and when I see you, I see them too.
And this is about the mothers whose children live in their hearts and hopes and dreams. Hearts full of the possibility of a child but broken at each reminder of not yet. Hope that buoys that brokenness. Dreams that keep the hope anchored.
These mothers fight for their children to be. They sacrifice physically and financially. They visit doctors, inject medications, live controlled by the constant fear of attrition. Forced into excruciating patience. Every 28 days a life cycle of experience, hope and intervention, waiting and devastation. From these mothers I have learned that we can endure so much for the things we know we need. I have learned that the journey of motherhood begins in the moments when your heart first yearns for a child. The fight and love, that mother’s protection starts long before a womb grows life or arms hold its warmth.
To these mothers, I hope and dream with you.
I am a mother with her feet up, and in my rare moments of quiet today, I am with the women who have shaped me. You have impacted me more than you will ever know. I carry you constantly. You are with me in the midnight solitude and noontime celebrations. Each milestone, each set back.
You are the Mothers I celebrate today.