I Learned how to Heart Mom from My Mom

me and mom

I love this picture of me and my mom. I don’t recognize the setting; have no memory of being there. Mom kept a picture box on her dresser (a cube with a different picture displayed on each side). Each time I walked by, I adjusted the cube so that this picture was most prominently displayed. I see the shyness in my clasped hands and the awkwardness in my feet–not knowing what to do with my own body. I was a deep thinker–ever watching, noticing, connecting thoughts in my head that never quite made it passed my lips out into the world. Mom’s gaze is more peaceful, optimistic, accepting. There is safety in being close to her.

I’ve always had an insatiable desire to know why. It defines me. Except the one time it doesn’t. I’ve never wondered why my youngest was born with congenital heart defects. I have sobbed and plead with God for her safety. But, despite my inquisitive disposition, never asked Him why. Never yelled or screamed or kicked against Him. It may seem out of character unless you know my mom.

For as long as I can remember, my mom has had multiple sclerosis (MS). She has trouble walking (especially when it’s hot). Mom taught me everything I needed to know to raise a heart baby:

Doctors aren’t always right. The doctors painted a bleak picture for my mom. She didn’t have much longer to live, her condition would always be getting worse, soon she would be bed ridden. Mom rejected those plans. So, when doctors told me that Summer wouldn’t live to her first birthday, I didn’t believe them. It wasn’t hope. I just knew they were wrong. Thanks, Mom.

Do what needs Doing (regardless of health issues). It would be so much easier if y’all could meet my mom. She’s amazing. Her focus has always been “I can do that” rather than “because of MS, I can’t.” When my oldest was born, she visited every week. She’d stop by and wash my dishes and make me dinner. She cleaned my kitchen and folded my laundry. She visited her own mom in the nursing home several times a week (often on crutches) until she became unhappy with Gram’s level of care. She then took her mom home and cared for her. Oh, and then my dad’s mom moved in, too, and she cared for them both. When the twins were born, she was always here. Helping. Cleaning. Cooking. Watching the kids so I could drop everything and run to the hospital for my heart baby. Often.

Offer to do something instead of offering to help. My mom had a friend who would call and say, “I’m going to stop by and wash your dishes” or “I’m on my way over to do some ironing for you”. That’s also how my mom helps me. When people ask, “is there anything I can do?” there never is. Even on my most overwhelming day, I’d never ask someone to vacuum for me. I just let it go undone. But when someone knocks on the door and says, “I know your baby is in the hospital, I’m here to take your kids to the park so you can rest.” or “I’m here to load your dishwasher,” I’d never turn them away. Mom taught me how to help. She also taught me how to be helped.

What you put into your body matters. My mom values herbs and natural remedies. We had yarrow-mint tea when we were sick. We had poultices on bee stings. We had healthy dinners and garden-fresh fruits and vegetables. Hope brings good luck. Depression and worry physically drain your body. Growing up, I was not allowed to be sad for no reason. When the doctors lost hope for my heart baby, I welcomed essential oils and cactus nectar and physical movements like old friends.

Faith is real. I know it’s taboo to say that things happen for a reason. It’s rude. Insensitive. I will say this, though: my baby’s heart issues didn’t happen by chance or bad luck. I believe that before we were born, we both knew she would have heart issues and that I would care for her. Part of faith is simply listening for truth. I’ve been surrounded by both challenges and miracles since the day she was born. I see truth in her strength and in her joy. My mom taught me to look for that truth and recognize it when I see it. Mom taught me to smile in the rain and splash in the puddles. She makes my life better.

The importance of Mommy Hugs. My oldest defines home as “with mom”. Pretty sure she picked that up from me. Just as that little girl in the picture feels safe with her mom, I still call Mom when I’m scared. I call when there are no answers, but I still need to make it to the other side of the day. She tells me what I already know but need to hear again. I remember being hurt and needing a hug from my mom. Mom taught me to hold ouchies tight so they won’t bruise. She taught me that half of first aid is the comfort. My kids come to me when they hurt. I see them need me the way I need her. I’m not sure when it happened or where it comes from, but I carry around this aura of safety that my kids often need. Somehow I’m the one giving out mommy hugs now. Thanks, Mom, for the ones you give to me.

I love you, Mom, thank you!

Happy Mother’s Day to you and yours.

-Nanette


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