Friday, December 10, 2021

Are We Not All Mothers?

I didn't realize until today how long it had been since my last blog post, and all I can say is . . . It's been a rough 6 months. 2020 seems to be the year that everyone hates, but for me, it's 2021. My father died in August, I struggled to breathe with COVID in September, and my colon didn't work right for the latter half of the year. There are a myriad of other things, but those were––and are––the big hardships. Perhaps the hardest thing of all, though, was the thing that happened this week. It feels daunting to write about, but I feel compelled to, for my own catharsis and for a reckoning of sorts. In order to fully convey my feelings, I have to tell you about my niece Lily.

It was July 2nd, 2001. I was 19 years old and studying for a Biology II Lab test. My family had just gotten the news that my sister Summer was in labor with her first baby––the Brent and Cathy Snow Family's first next-generation bundle of joy. We were all so excited. Blake drove Lexia and me to the hospital, and we waited. And waited. We waited with our in-laws and talked and laughed until the wee hours of July 3rd. At some point (the time is hazy), Lily was born. She was a teeny, tiny thing with a long cone head. We all looked at her strangely and crossed our fingers that the cone would round out soon. Otherwise, she was as perfect as all babies are.

I laughed along as Lily had her first laugh. I watched as she took her first steps. I listened to her utter her first words and sentences. I helped my mom care for her during the day while my sister worked as a teacher. I rocked her to sleep. I taught her how to bake a cake. I decorated sugar cookies with her. We read together and played together. We freeze-danced and played hide-and-seek.

When I moved out of my parents' house and into my first apartment, Lily and her younger sister Macy would visit and we'd watch the Care Bears or Lady and the Tramp. I bought special cups that I only used when they came over. When I made the difficult decision to move away from everything I knew and attend graduate school in Texas, Lily was 10. I cried as I hugged her and Macy goodbye and drove to Austin to start a new life. I was sad to leave those little girlies––they were the closest things to my own children I had.

To my delightful surprise, Lily moved into mine and Daryl's basement this past Spring. She worked two jobs, but we found time to have long talks, try out new bakeries, and eat lunch together now and then. We explored some new places together and bought her first Christmas tree together. I taught her how to play with cats (She comes from a dog-loving family.), and we shared funny TikTok videos with each other. My stepchildren came to view her as sort of an older sister, and she often ate dinner or Universal Yums with us.

As is hopefully apparent, I love Lily. I love her with all my heart, might, and mind. I love her as though she were my own child. So when I took her to the hospital early Wednesday morning, I worried the way a parent would worry. When the ER doctor came into the room to tell us she had new onset Type 1 diabetes, my heart sank. When the angioplasty doctors wheeled her away to put a picc line into her arm, I went to the bathroom and cried harder than I have since my dad died. I was afraid I'd never see her again. I was scared her little, dehydrated body couldn't accept another poke, prod, and catheter. I didn't give birth to her, but I sobbed the way any parent would sob if they saw their child being wheeled away.

I did see her again. And I sat with her for hours while the nurses tried to get her rehydrated and back to normal. She's still not quite there yet––the ketoacidosis is severe, and to add insult to injury, she has pancreatitis as well. She is slowly improving, though, and most importantly, she's still with us. She'll have a tough transition in the coming weeks and months while she learns how to calculate the amount of insulin she needs to give herself each day, and she'll likely struggle with feelings of sadness or anger or frustration. But she's here, and I'm lucky that she was brave enough to wake me in the middle of the night to tell me she wasn't feeling right.

Something I'll never, ever forget about this week is the thought I had while I was sobbing in the hospital bathroom, and that is this: I am a mother. I am a mother, and I am a good one. I may not have given birth to anyone, but I have loved as a parent loves. I have mourned as a parent mourns. God knows I am worthy of being called a parent. The closeness I have with each of my nieces and nephews afforded me the opportunity to be a parent before I even became a step-parent, and I count that opportunity as a beautiful gift from a loving Heavenly Father.

Why am I saying this? Because I have often been told, "You don't understand a mother's love until you become a mother." "You'll learn when you have your own child someday." "That's not what moms do; this is what moms do." It's insulting, and it's untrue. I recently read a speech by Sheri Dew called Are We Not All Mothers? In it, she says, "Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve 'the mother of all living'—and they did so before she ever bore a child." That leads me to believe that motherhood is more than bearing children. At the very least, it should prompt Christians to ask, "What is motherhood?" To me, motherhood––or rather, parenthood––is love and tender care of someone in your stewardship. It can be experienced by anyone who cares for a child, whether that child is a niece or nephew, adopted daughter or son, or a foster child. It can be experienced by a godparent or just a regular person. It knows no bounds.

My hope is that you remember this definition of parenthood when you approach someone who has no biological children. Remember this definition as you think about your own children and how you treat them.

Thing I'm thankful for: medical instrumentation


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