On Mother’s Day (and what you learn when you don’t have cancer)

May 11, 2014 by

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Today, I’m so profoundly grateful to be a mother, and so painfully aware that it’s a blessing not promised, not necessarily permanent, and not without moments that require a love that just plain hurts .

I found out last week that I do not have cancer. It was an actual possibility. Having been sick for 4 months with troubling symptoms, walking through the doors of the Cancer Center was about as terrifying a moment as I’ve experienced. What followed was 2 weeks of tests, and 2 weeks of waiting.

“No chance you’re pregnant, right?” asked the tech when I went for a chest and abdomen CT scan.

I shook my head. She laughed a bit.

“I almost forgot to even ask you, it’s so rare we have someone your age in here!”

Yes, I know. I’m 31, too young.

I wanted to tell her to look hard, take good pictures.  But please, don’t find anything. Please. I have 4 babies, they’re little, they need their mother. Flat on my back, they slid me in the tube and as the table moved me further in, my eyes fell on the brand name “Phillips” printed on the top of the machine. My almost 8-year-old boy was expecting a delivery from Amazon that very day, of Phillips headphones. He bought them with his own money. He’s 8. He’s 8. He’s 8. Oh God, please.

The wait is over. I’m still puzzled by symptoms, but there’s no cancer road to walk right now, and I’m grateful.

I don’t know what it is like to have a cancer scare without children. I can’t begin to understand the bag of fears that situation would carry with it. All I know is what the last few months have put me through, and that is a cancer scare with four babies under my wings. The mama bear in me went a little wild as I imagined everything from living far away for treatment to my husband raising our boys alone. I discovered that I wasn’t not scared in the slightest for myself. I’ve known Jesus long enough to know that if the worst happened, I’d be more than okay.

No, I was scared for my babies. I sat my husband down, my mother, my in-laws down and I told them, “Listen. If this is the road my babies have to walk, the only way I will be able to stand it is if enough fantastic things happen along the way, that even if the worst happens, somehow they’ll be able to say in some far-off distant day, that somehow, they feel a little lucky.” I realize that sounds impossible, but it’s not. I know it’s not. Miracles happen, provision is given, relationships are built, and somehow the worst things turn into beautiful things. You’re forced on a road you never would have or could have chosen for yourself, and yet, you find that you’re strangely grateful. And that is what I set about to create for my kids, before I even knew what we were facing. I told people what I expected of them. I wanted my kids to be absolutely stifled with love and support. They would have more people loving them and providing them with a safe place to fall than any child has ever had.

And now, it turns out, I get to be that soft place for a while longer. 

My heart overflows with gratitude. But also, it aches.

Because sometimes, the tests aren’t negative. Sometimes, mothers who love their children just as much as I do mine, have to say goodbye. Too often, that is the road children have to walk, and too often, there is no soft place for them to snuggle up to at night, no soft place to land when the blow knocks them off their feet. 

As I’ve transitioned into full-blown adulthood, I’ve come to feel conflicted about Mother’s Day. Of course, I love honoring my own tremendous mom, I love the little cards from my babies and the breakfast in bed made by my loving husband. I’m grateful for mothers and the work they do in our world. But I’ve also walked along with friends who want children and can’t have them, who’ve lost the babies they wanted so deeply, whose mothers left this life too soon, who don’t have mothers that are kind or good or healthy. And now I’ve walked my own path of wondering if my children would even have a mother a year from now. Motherhood is complicated. I hate to make it even more so by having a day that pretends it isn’t. That it’s a given, that it’s the pinnacle of every woman’s life, that makes some women feel invisible or cut to the quick. 

I want to be a soft place to land for those women.

Maybe that’s the only way to deal with anything in this life. To grab on and hold tight to the fact that beautiful things always happen on the roads we are forced to hobble down. To look around us and demand more love, more support, more safe places for those who are hurting. To make ourselves people who see people, who really see them. Who make our homes places of safety and love, where pain is shouldered and feelings are safe from correction or cliches. Maybe we rally around the children who pay the price far too often, who need to be smiled at and rejoiced over.

Maybe we let down our guard and our fear of getting too close and we just be the beautiful thing happening on someone’s painful journey.

I’ve been on the receiving end of that so many times, and I see so many working toward that end in other’s lives. Let’s continue on, shall we? And to anyone who does that good and noble work, I say, Happy Mother’s Day.

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