I made it in right under the wire with my Mother’s Day post, ha! It has been a crazy week and I’m just now getting some time to put this special post together.
I asked a few of the most awe inspiring women in my life to contribute to this post because I have learned so much from all of them. They are who have made me the mother I am today. Despite my pleading, my own mother didn’t contribute because she felt I had more than enough incredible women already doing so. That being said, however, my mother is the best of the best. You know that song from Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, You’re the Top? Well that’s my mom. She’s the smile on the Mona Lisa. The purple light of a summer night in Spain. She’s truly the most remarkable woman I know. And I’m 100% certain that anyone who knows her will say the same thing.
Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to a few of my favorite ladies. Oh, and hold on because this post is long but so very worth the read.
Gretchen Holt Witt
Years ago I stumbled across a blog that followed the journey of a young boy with cancer. His name was Liam and he was the strongest and sweetest kid. Gretchen is his mother and she chronicled his journey with such care and love. Gretchen wanted to do something to help Liam and other children with cancer so she and her husband (and lots of friends) baked about a zillion cookies and started Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. I got to meet Gretchen a few years ago and I have been in awe of her nearly every moment of every day since our meeting. Prince Liam the Brave lost his battle with Neuroblastoma in 2011 but he lives on in Gretchen and her tireless efforts to make lives better for others.
Gretchen was kind enough to write for me and I am honored to have her words on my little old blog. If ever you need a kick in the pants on your motherhood journey, just read her words and know that if she can soldier on, so can you. She’s simply the most selfless, generous, brilliant, and wonderful woman out there. I am a better person because I know her.
On May 13th, 2004 I became a mother. Liam was born 5 weeks early, on a Thursday, three days before Mother’s Day. From the moment I saw him, I knew what the true meaning of life was about and also that life as I knew it would never be the same. Life was about someone else. Life was about giving life. Life was about taking care of my baby boy with a button nose and face so cute that it nearly brought me to tears every time I looked at him. Life was about loving with every fiber of my being.
Liam spent about 10 days in the NICU, and I spent those days sitting next to his incubator talking to him, stroking his body to make sure he could feel his mommy touching him and thinking about his future and everything it had to hold. That first Mother’s Day feels like a lifetime ago. That first Mother’s Day feels like yesterday. That first Mother’s Day, when I was less than a week into motherhood, I knew my job was to protect my sweet baby boy.
When Liam was diagnosed with stage IV cancer less than three years later – on February 26th, 2007, to be exact – being a mommy took on a new meaning. I was now fighting for my child’s life. Fighting for my child’s life. How did that happen? How did my sunny, funny sweet baby boy have a disease so deadly that it claims the lives of more children than any other disease? I breastfed him for a year. I ate the right foods. I didn’t do any of the things people associate with cancer from getting sunburns to smoking. I did everything I was supposed to do and didn’t cut corners on anything. But here I was in a place I never in a million years could have dreamed – fighting for the life of my son, my only son and his sister Ella’s only sibling, against a disease I couldn’t see and didn’t detect other than a mother’s gut intuition that something wasn’t quite right with my picky eater.
And the role of being a mother became one of lioness, protector and advocate.
The Mother’s Days we marked during his battle with cancer were vibrantly poignant. Liam’s birthday and Mother’s Day are always close to each other with Liam’s birthday, the reason I became a mommy, usually falling within days of the day moms are celebrated. Each Mother’s Day during his battle took on a whole new meaning – instead of a day that celebrated me as the mom, I thought about how lucky I was to even be a mommy. It wasn’t about me but about my children and the gift they gave me. And motherhood is a gift of and for the heart and soul.
And then Liam’s battle was over. And the world became very dark.
My snuggle bunny was gone. Forever.
And I didn’t understand why I was a mother.
I couldn’t even do the most basic thing I’m supposed to do as a mother: protect my child.
It was 2011. The year that Liam’s birthday and Mother’s Day fell on the same day.
It was so cruel. Or was it?
Maybe it was a sign to keep going in honor of my snuggle bunny.
My daughter Ella has given me the gift of experiencing motherhood in a completely different way than I ever could have imagined. In her gentle wisdom no child her age should have, Ella taught me to learn to love life through a new lens and live with loss. We wade through the landscape of loss and are there for each other in a very special way.
I often wonder if it would have been better to have not become a mother in order to protect myself from the searing pain I feel each morning when I wake up and realize it’s not a bad dream – Liam really isn’t here. But with that pain comes the privilege of always being Liam’s and Ella’s mommy. And it’s the gift of being their mommy that has given me the strength and conviction to do everything I can to help other mommies love their snuggle bunnies by doing everything I possibly can to battle the cowardly foe that preys on our children.
Being a mother gave me a gift of love so great that you want to move mountains. I am so grateful to have been given that gift first by Liam and then Ella. Being a mother for me means I will live the rest of my life trying to do anything and everything I can to help other mothers by funding research into treatments that can give children hope. I have to. It’s what Liam would want me to do. And when I finally see him again, I know it’s the very first question he’ll have for me after we hug and kiss and kiss and hug and hug and kiss…. “Mommy, did you make it better for others?”
Liam, thank you for giving me the gift of motherhood. Because of you, every day is Mother’s Day.
Mommy loves you.
Mommy misses you, Snuggle Bunny. Thank you for giving me the greatest gift life has to offer.
Deb is one of those ladies that pretty much just has awesomeness shining out of her eyeballs. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that I became captivated by her but I am so glad she’s in my life. She is funny and real and beautiful and strong and brave. She is an amazing mama to 2 darling boys (one of whom will marry my Lucy one day) and I can’t wait until we finally move back to DC so I can be obsessed with her at a closer distance. I love her words and thoughts on motherhood…
A wise friend of mine recently introduced me to the artist, Elle Lune. Elle has written a book called, The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion. She poses a great question: Is your current work situation a job, career, or a calling? A job is the typical 9-5 gig—a chore that you tolerate. A career involves promotions and advancements with rewards to make you want to work a little harder. A calling is something you feel compelled to do regardless of any kind of fame or fortune. The work itself is the reward.
Let’s be honest, Motherhood is every single one of these at once. It is a job, career, and a calling. Motherhood can be very schizophrenic. My journal is full of entries about my crazy journey through Motherhood. I recently read some of them (I’ve shared a few below), and I can see my role as Mom switching from job, to career, to divine calling, and back to job again, all in a single day. It’s that way most days.
Being a Mother is a JOB. I have to show up day after day, rain or shine, and I can never call in sick. A lot of times, I’m just going through the motions. Food prep, laundry, appointments, homework… repeat. From a monetary standpoint, the pay bites—it’s nothing more than a hug, kiss, and maybe a “thank you.” Case in point:
June 29, 2010
What a day! I was about ready to throw the towel in and say “I give up!” Being a mother is hard—so very hard sometimes. It gets so hard when there is a bazillion things I need to get done… like the ring around the toilet and the mounds of laundry. I can’t believe how difficult it is to get anything done—done the way that I like it—since becoming a mother of two children.
June 12, 2012
Motherhood has been so hard lately. I am so tired and I just can’t handle the noise, chaos, and constant begging, nagging, and pawing that everyone does almost every second of the day. For the most part, I love it, but after so long… I just need a break!
Being a mother is also a CAREER. Moms move up the “ranks” as they put more years of motherhood under their belts and more kids under their wings. Then we see the rewards as our kids excel in the sports that we shuffle them to every week, they learn to be more independent, you see them serving others, and you catch them taking out the trash without being asked. I’m happy to report that I’ve made some minor improvements and learned a couple things over the last nine years of my career. For example, my purse has become the epic emergency kit. Wipes? Got em’. Hungry? Fruit snacks or goldfish? Torn shirt? Here’s my trusty sewing kit. Being a mom can be hard, but there are some little rewards:
August, 26, 2012
I want to remember one little interaction between Ethan and Bobby during our flight back to Utah. I had to take Ethan back to change his diaper. As we came out of the bathroom, Bobby was wandering in the aisle. Ethan ran up the aisle yelling, “Bobby, Bobby!” At which point, he gave Bobby the biggest squeeze and said, “I missed you, Bobby!” I love seeing this. And I am glad it exists despite the sibling rivalry that is always there. It makes me happy when I see both boys asking for a treat and I notice Bobby giving Ethan the first piece and then taking the last for himself.
Being a mother is a CALLING. I do this motherhood thing knowing that it’s never going to make me rich or famous. Being a mother is hard work, and it sure isn’t glamorous. The mere fact that I DO show up day after day, and that I GET to see my little humans turn into bigger and better humans—that’s the reason that I do this. And in my opinion, the reward is worth the work it takes.
September 5, 2012
Last night I attended “back to school night” for Bobby. The teacher said that we could write in the journals while we were waiting for things to start. I simply drew a picture of Bobby and I accented with blue clouds, a yellow sun, and green grass. Then I scribbled in pink crayon something to the effect of, “I loved sitting at your desk and seeing your classroom. And I love you.”
Fast forward to today after school. I completely forgot about the journal. Bobby walked in the door, still wearing his backpack and said, “Mommy, after I saw that you wrote in my journal, it made me so happy that I started to cry.” Then he really started to cry, so of course, I got choked up too. I picked him up and we snuggled on the couch while he cried and reassured me that these were happy tears.
No matter how hard the job of mothering can be, I’d never resign. After all, it is my calling, when it’s not my job or my career…
I straight up stalked Helen for a while. She was friends with my cousins and I remember seeing her comments on their instagram pictures and I wanted to know who this stunner of a lady was. Turns out she’s pretty dang amazing. She’s an INCREDIBLE photographer – one of the best in the business if you ask me. She’s also a single mom of 2 boys and she blows me away with her energy and dedication to them and her work. I admire her so very much and love her honest and real words on motherhood.
Can we talk about mom guilt? it’s taken me years to understand how to handle this ugly, biological impulse to mentally self-mutilate on a regular basis. Everyone has heard about postpartum depression, but almost nobody admits to having it. I personally believe that every single mama experiences it, if even only briefly. And then there’s postpartum OCD; the evil stepsister of PPD. Sends shivers up my spine recalling those impossible emotions. The cards people mail you when you have a baby are all, “enjoy this glorious time with your perfectly sweet and beautiful little cherub.” My first year of motherhood included about nine fleeting minutes when my baby wasn’t crying incessantly. Which is why I want to make a greeting card for new parents that says “I know the sleep deprivation makes you feel inhuman and you gauge how long it’s been since you’ve showered last by the length of your unshaved body hair, but this brutal time filled with hysterical crying is only temporary. One day, they will walk and talk and even tell you they hate you.” This would have def been helpful for me, since I was the very first of my group of friends to have a baby. It was brutally isolating.I’ve gotten used to mommy guilt, but it hasn’t subsided as my children have grown older. I used to cry about negligently leaving my 6 month old in a poopy diaper for an hour, resulting in a rash on his bum. Or letting my kid scream it out in his crib so I could attempt to sleep through the night for the first time in 14 months. HAHAHAHAHAH. I still don’t sleep through the night. Now, mom guilt takes the form of worrying that I’m talking to the moms at a playdate more than paying attention to my kids. It includes questions I ask myself: “should I be making him do more afterschool activities?” “should he be reading at a higher academic level?” “are they getting enough sleep at night?” “am I letting them play too much minecraft?” I remind myself that even if these concerns weren’t there, they’d undoubtedly be replaced by other worries.
I’m a single mom. I work full time and run a successful business that supports my family. I combat mom guilt every single day and I know other parent’s hearts are heavy with a similar feeling. I hope that knowing you are FAR from being alone in beating yourself up gives you comfort. I don’t put up a facade of perfection. I’m grateful we’re alive, laughing, having fun, throwing tantrums (yes all three of us) and just trying to make the best of this crazy life we’ve ended up with. That’s what I want to teach my kids, because it’s what I learned from them.
Last but certainly not least is my dear friend, Melanie. I have known Melanie since I was a wee thing. She was one of my valiant leaders at church, a favorite babysitter when my mom would leave town, and a true support to our family in so many ways. She also pretty much saved my life when we were living in Arizona. Tender mercies I tell you, tender mercies. Melanie is part of what I like to call the Colton Dynasty – a family so genuinely kind, Christlike, and good that they are all booked first class on the bullet train to heaven. Melanie is now and empty-nester and has some of the most perfect thoughts on motherhood. Simple, honest, and easy…that’s how she rolls.
What I learned from being a mother was in a word, humility. I don’t mean low self esteem and self doubt, which can be crippling. I mean the acceptance that I was not in control. I may have given my DNA and my all in parenting skills, but no amount of nature or nurture coulld remove the free will of a child. I had four strong willed children, each uniquely different. Each child required that I recreate the wheel and adjust to realities. They learned differently, and responded differently to correction. Once when I was visiting my in laws, my children took turns refusing to eat, protesting bed time, arguing, and bouncing around the basement. My wonderful mother in law said to me, “you sure don’t have any shrinking violets, do you?” Eventually, I took that as a compliment.The humility came by understanding that by grand design, I wasn’t supposed to overpower their strong will, just teach them how to use it for their good, and hope. Don’t get me wrong- I was no softie. My children accuse me of harsh interrogation tactics during their teenage years, and often sum up my parenting in one mantra, “You lie, you die” (meaning they lost their freedom for a time) In hindsight, it worked, and I can’t wait to hear them say it to their children.If I could offer advice to young moms- Tell yourself every morning you that you are uniquely qualified to be the mother to your children. Love them, talk to them, listen to them, laugh with them, forgive them, forgive yourself, and pray. Oh, and keep them alive. Then, tell yourself every night that you are enough.