My dear friend Leslie sent out the following quote this week. A challenge if you will to truly listen and write as “The Artist Way” teaches us in a stream of consciousness. Letting words flow and not letting the inner censor question our thoughts, ideas, creativity, and allowing what is inside honestly go.
“If something inside you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write towards vulnerability. Don’t worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being available; worry about being absent or fraudulent. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act- truth is always subversive.” ~~ Ann Lamott
Wow huh? Powerful words that took a little time to sink in for me. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that with Mother’s Day inching closer, I needed this very quote to be able to write with the vulnerability and emotion necessary to let it go. At some point which I have no idea when – it became embarrassing to call oneself “a mom” or “stay at home mom,” and women felt judged (even if they weren’t) by other women if their definition was Mother.
I looked up the definition of “define” (typing that makes me laugh) because when I speak to groups, doctors, people in general, I ask that they not define my daughter Larkin by her diagnosis. Please do not call her “Down’s kid” or “Downsie” or “Down Syndrome child” ~ she also has seizures, but you wouldn’t call her “seizure kid” or “seizure child.” Define her by name, gender, hair/skin color, but do NOT define her by diagnosis. She is Larkin, and she happens to have Down syndrome. I am not alone in this battle for people-first language, and many advocates wish to have their loved ones defined by something that empowers them vs. reducing them. Kind of like when people use the term “normal,” which always makes me raise my eyebrows and stare until they realize they have just insulted my child.
So anyway, the definition of “Define” is to “give description” some Synonyms: assign, call a spade a spade, decide, label, lay it out, nail it down, name, prescribe, represent, specify, spell out.
Then I looked up the definition of “mother” Part of Speech: noun Definition: female person who has borne children. Again WOW. I might want to ask the myriads of mothers who adopt, foster, and love children they did not give physical birth to. Just WOW ~ but the definition redeems itself as we move along into the main entry. Care. Part of Speech: verb
Definition: tend to
Synonyms: attend, consider, foster, keep an eye on, keep tabs on, look after, mind, mind the store (this one makes me LAUGH), minister, mother, nurse, nurture, pay attention to, protect, provide for, ride herd on, sit, take pains, tend, treasure, wait on, watch, watch over.
I define myself as a Momologist. It’s my trademark (legally too) as I made it up after realizing that Larkin’s Neurologist, Hematologist, Cardiologist, Ophthalmologist, Oncologist, along with the thousand other doctors in her life, knew a lot about diagnosis’s. Still, I KNOW this child, and I trump all. I define myself as a mother, and I am empowered by it.
Becoming a mother allowed me to forgive and have empathy for my mother as I learned that she did the very best she could, and I think I have all the very best parts of her and my father represented in my life. Fourteen and I went to Mother’s Mass yesterday, and Monsignor asked the question, “Why did God make Mother’s?” and Fourteen leaned over and whispered “to rag on us,” so he will agree with the synonym “ride herd on.” (I feel like I am using a lot of ” marks ~ oh well) Being a mother to Fourteen requires a lot of watching over, riding herd on, ragging on, mind the store, keeping tabs on, and a whole lot of ~ I will grit my teeth and love you despite the teenager you are. However, I am confident that he will turn out to be a decent human being if I keep on keeping on just like I have all of his life and one day he will forgive me and have empathy! HA!!
Becoming a mother to Larkin changed my entire life profoundly. The very definition of Mother changes 180 degrees when you are given a child with special needs, and I don’t say that as if I was handed a halo and superpowers at the same time she was placed in my arms. I earned those superpowers and a halo?? Anyone who knows me would fall hysterically laughing at the very thought of me with a halo.
I quickly learned how to advocate and take control of adverse situations thrown our way. I can clearly remember the very first time I felt the shift within me, and it came from an absolute lack of control and terror. Larkin’s diagnosis of Down syndrome took a while because she didn’t have soft markers, plus we had a DNA test that said she didn’t have it. The only words I could get out of my mouth once the genetics doctor and I were alone were “her heart her heart her heart,” said with clutching sobs out of a mouth that suddenly felt filled with cotton. Fast forward to a small, dark, warm room with a bed/table and a large humming sono machine. Two techs. A scared father sitting hunched over on a chair by the door with his head in his hands.
A mother lying down on her side on that table with her naked infant cocooned to her. Sharing soothing words and kisses as the techs begin to roll a wand over her infant’s heart. Watching the machine and seeing two pulsing red holes in her infant’s heart. Glancing at daddy who seems broken by his inability to fix the situation. Listening to 2 techs whisper and measure the holes. Shaking with worry until the heart doctor told us surgery wasn’t necessary unless the holes didn’t close on their own.
I grew in that moment. I became defined at that moment. I changed at that moment. I became stronger in that moment and in the worse that came over time.
Being a mother is a fantastic journey, and before having Fourteen, I had excellent role models to emulate—friends who have children that I love as if they are my own. My 18 hole golfing group includes women who shared their friendship, knowledge, prayers, hugs & tears and always had my back when I felt so alone at times. Girlfriends who love and kept sending invites that included me in everything, no matter how many times I said no or couldn’t attend because we were in some type of crisis. My sister shows up when I am not expecting it but she always knows when I need it.
The definition of a mother means “care.”
Mothers of children with special needs, all of whom I met via this crazy winding road. Mothers who are just like me and handle what they have been given with grace and faith. Mothers who step outside their own lives to lend a hand, an ear, hugs, jokes, and sometimes a swift kick. Mothers who stand shoulder to shoulder with me in the war we sometimes wage against whoever stands in our way. We write books, blogs, and make phone calls to help those who might be going through the same problems we are.
I coined a phrase during an interview that best described why I am working to build Larkin’s Place, and it extends around to embrace all who take a stand; COMPASSION shows us our PASSION, which leads us to ACTION. Hearts open wide to CARE.
Mothering extends itself to children that while we may not have birthed them when we see them doing something dangerous or rude, we intervene or correct them. A slippery slope, though for those who don’t appreciate their children’s flaws pointed out, but for me, if Fourteen needs it, then, by all means, feel free because it means you CARE.
Even when we roll our eyes, get advice when we don’t want it, and at times feel like we are 12 all over again, there is only one person we can ever call “mom,” and my mother did the very best she could and I love her dearly. I am grateful that she is still with me, and I miss my grandmother every day.
All are mothering each other. Mothering each others’ spirits, lives, and journeys no matter what they may be. Taking care of each other moves beyond a sisterhood and is taken over by our very nature to watch over and protect each other as a mother does. Building each other up and nurturing if others try to tear it down. I just received an invitation to my high school class reunion, which I will not be attending because of the torment by some of the girls. That is one of many reasons why it is so important to me that I teach my daughters to be strong and kind because, as women, we need each other’s care.
Some things are exclusive to us as women ~ We go to the bathroom together when we are out, dance in groups with abandon, call each other when we are beyond angry with our spouse/child/boss/driver in front of us. We are there for each other with baby showers, birth, death, and all things in between. We CARE for each other.
Consider Proverbs 31, which speaks to the beauty and strength of women 13. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. 14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. 15 She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. 16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings, she plants a vineyard. 17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. 18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night 19. In her hand, she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
I am a Mother, and it defines me: call a spade a spade, decide, label, lay it out, nail it down. ~ Happy Mother’s Day to all who mother, and thank you for helping me be the best mom I can be. I treasure you all.