Friday, May 12, 2006

A Mother Is Made

Mother's Day is around the corner. And as I sifted through the cards at Hallmark, looking for the appropriate card for my mother and my MIL, I got to thinking what it meant to be a mom myself. Obviously, I know what it means to be a mother. Gestating life inside me and then squeezing the little overgrown buggers out of my vajayjay is not something a woman would easily forget. No, I am referring to the reflection of what it means to me to be a mother.

Before my youngest was born, I wore the identity of young mother to two-so-close-in-age-and-size-they-could-be-twins children. I wore this badge proudly. I grew up thinking the only thing I wanted to be when I grew up was successful, and being a parent was not my idea of success. But then procreation happened, and I found out my definition for success changed with the birth of my daughter. Success now meant happy children. And I loved every minute of it.

Then my Shalebug came along. After two cute, so small-you-could-hardly-tell-I-was-pregnant bellies, I suddenly had this gigantic watermelon strapped to my chest. It was the first sign of what was to come. When he arrived, suddenly my world turned upside down. Having a child born handicapped will make you question everything. My hubs and I were shocked, and we grieved for the loss of our imaginary son. We grieved for the limitations our new son faced. We just plain ole grieved. But for the sake of my new son (and my other children) we got over our grief and moved on with the task of living. And redefining what it meant to be a successful mom.

Success now meant being the mother to two beautiful, healthy boogers and one very special bug. It meant soccer practices and tube feedings. Parent teacher interviews and specialist appointments. It meant school plays and hospital stays. And somehow, this worked. Our family flourished and grew. And my idea of what it meant to be a mother just expanded every day with the love I felt for all of my kids.

People who didn't know my Shalebug were uncomfortable with him. They felt sorry for us. I raged about this. Ignorant bastards, I'd call them. But as time went on, it was me who started feeling sorry for them. They had no idea of the capacity of love and strength a person with a disability carries with them every day, in addition to their medical problems. Bug taught all of us to open our minds and our hearts, in a way that I never would have considered before he was born.

Would I have chose to have a disabled child? Truthfully, no. I would have been freaked out and scared at the idea. But because I had no choice, it was the best thing to ever happen to me. Bar none. I used to call myself a mom before he was born, but I don't think I was. It was more like a mom-in-waiting. And the gift of mothering all three of those beauties is what made me a mother.

Now that he is gone, I feel this empty hole, that rages to be filled. And the gap in our family is felt by every member. But I am lucky because I had him in the first place. My children had an amazing experience learning how to be siblings to someone who needed a little extra love. While I would wish him back in a heart beat, I will carry the lessons and the love he gave me always.

Being a mother means (to me) giving away a piece of your heart, knowing you can't ever have it back. It means trusting yourself to put your kids ahead of your needs and wants and to find peace and solace in their love. Being a mother now means that if the unthinkable happens, you will be the rock that the other's cling to, the one to murmur sweet nothings in the middle of the scary night. The one who cuts the flowers to lay at the base of the granite stone.

It also means remembering to smile and untangle hair knots, pump up bicycle tires and attend school plays. While wiping away tears that fall softly when an angelboy flutters about in my heart.

So thank you dear Skjel, my Shalebug. Because you made me into the mother I am. And that is the greatest mother's day gift of all.