On March 25th my mom celebrated a milestone – turning 70.
In honor of this and the fact that Mother’s Day is tomorrow, I wanted to share our recent discussion around her journey of motherhood during her last visit to South Florida to spend time with me and my family. My Mom and I are extremely close and we talk often. But with our most recent relocation putting us the furthest we’ve ever been from each other, coupled with the fact that I have become immersed in building out this platform for working moms, it occurred to me that I had failed to lean on the resource who meant the most to me and who could provide indelible insight into this journey.
So, on Saturday March 27th, I had the honor and privilege of interviewing the woman who brought me into this world; who raised me to be who I am and who has always supported me, and positively pushed me in achieving my goals and dreams, my Mom.
I will forever hold our conversation in my heart.
1.) How did it feel becoming a mother for the first time?
“It is a feeling that’s hard to describe. I was amazed – and in awe of this tiny human being. It was a truly incredible moment.”
My mother went on to discuss the funny story of my Dad’s reaction to me being born, since he was confident he was only going to produce boys. My mother noted it was just his fear, and Latin upbringing, ha, that played a part in his viewpoint. My Dad adored me and I always felt that and knew it. Anyway, the story goes like this: there were no high tech sonograms and ultrasounds in 1982 that could provide the gender for your baby so you just – waited. When I was born, my Mom was overjoyed but my Dad was confused. He made a statement to the doctor as if asking a question for clarification, ‘a girl?’ As if I couldn’t possibly be anything other than a boy. When the doctor confirmed that I was in fact a girl, my Dad warmed up to this realization and was happy. But within minutes also made note that I was an ugly baby – and stated such to my mom, which of course made her furious. She said, “you do not tell a mother that her baby is ugly.” Guess the joke was on him though because I did grow up to become Miss Kentucky. We laughed because it also brought back memories of when my Dad would giggle at how mad he’d made my Mom that day and how sure he was that I was going to be another boy.
2.) What is one thing you know now that you wished you’d known when you were a mother?
“That you have to parent each child to their specific needs and personality”
She’s referencing the dynamic between raising three children who were all different. My older brother and I were easier on her and our wild child third sibling was a little tougher. Being a mom of three myself, that definitely resonates with me. Our older two were so easy but Jude brings out the best in us all – and the worst too. My younger brother has Tourette’s Syndrome (TS) and he was diagnosed when he was eight years old. My mother reflected on the journey of raising him stating, “I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. My own mother (referring to my Grandmother) knew it too and she was a great comfort to me.”
My mother went on to describe how frustrating it was that no one could really help her. She had never heard of Tourette’s Syndrome let alone know anyone with TS. I was most saddened to hear that she felt no one knew what she was dealing with and going through, including the doctors, during the process of raising a child with TS. It made me so grateful that my Grandmother was able to be there for her yet I could only imagine the isolation she must have felt at times, early on in his upbringing.
However, my mother is not one to ever let her frustrations get the best of her. She dug in and got involved. She attended meetings and became a part of the TS comminity and mental health organizations and she involved us too – so that we could all better understand our brother. My brother is an amazing man and he’s overcome a lot. I am so proud of the man he is and he values his family above all else – something my mother adores and cherishes about him.
We often don’t realize the impact raising a child with specific needs and with different abilities has on our overall mental capacity. Our family and my mother would never have wanted it to be any other way. But finding people who can share in what you’re going through makes all the difference.
3.) Tell me about your miscarriage. How did that make you feel? What emotions did you feel when you first realized/knew that you were miscarrying?
In between me and my younger brother, my mother suffered a miscarriage. At 4 months along, she felt something wasn’t right so she went to see the doctor. They could not find a heartbeat. Her OBGYN informed her she’d most likely miscarry at home or she’d go into early labor, at which point she was instructed to come back into the doctor’s office. She ended up feeling more comfortable making an appointment to come back in one week later and in between that time, she ended up going into labor at home. Thankful her mother was there when it happened, she was taken to the hospital for a D&C. My father was working on a horse farm in Danville, KY that day so she remembers being so thankful my Grandmother was there because even if my Dad had been there she wasn’t sure he would have known how to handle the situation. She really didn’t know how to handle the situation since she’d never experienced that feeling before.
Lost in thought about that memory and time, she stated simply, “I knew something was wrong. I didn’t know how to handle it all because it hadn’t happened before but after two successful pregnancies – you just know when something isn’t right.” At the hospital and through the procedure, my mother learned that she had miscarried a baby boy. She and my father named him Vinny…little Vinny. When asked how she pushed through the miscarriage she stated that she and my father processed it differently: “He was quiet and so I just dealt with it alone. But there was a sadness – just an overwhelming sad feeling.”
I couldn’t imagine being told that there would be a need to ‘assemble’ my baby’s body in order to ensure every part of him had been delivered, but that was my mother’s experience. They asked if she wanted to look. She did not. “It’s not something you go around telling people. I never talked to any other women about my experience. I only knew one other woman at that time that had had an issue with pregnancy – she delivered her baby and the cord was wrapped around her baby’s neck.” This thought of not having anyone to talk through your emotions or experience with made me heartbroken for my mother. To think she was all alone in this moment in her life is extremely saddening.
She did have my Grandmother, which she mentioned often as being her lifeline in motherhood. I smile, in love and reflection, thinking about my Granny Gin and her love for her family and her oldest daughter and it brings tears to my eyes. My mother acknowledged that is was a different time and that you just didn’t talk about things like miscarriage. Yet she also was thankful that it was still so much better than my Grandmother had it. And isn’t that what each generation is aiming to do? Make it better for the next?
I never experienced a miscarriage. For that, I am thankful. But learning more about my own mother’s journey made me appreciate, love, respect and care for her in a whole new way. I see things now from a mother’s lens and so her strength and courage to push through that time in her life makes me cherish her presence in my own life even more special. Our mothers are incredible, giving, supportive and loving vessels. When they lose a child they loving wanted to bring into this world, it changes them. I don’t think they ever stop mourning that loss – even when the go on to have more children. That pain and that loss stays with you – for a lifetime. One day my mother will be reunited with my baby brother, Vinny, and it will be a joyous occasion, I’m certain.
4.) Is there anything you wish you’d had as a mother that mothers today have?
Baby monitors. SIDS was a pretty common thing when my older brother and I were babies so she wished she’d had a monitor for peace of mind.
Our Jude is 4.5 and we still have a monitor in his room. I have to agree with my Mom here – probably Number 1 essential baby need…outside of food, diapers, wipes and clothes of course. Yet again, I am reminded of how grateful I should be that it was my Mom and not me who had to endure baby-hood without a monitor because I don’t know if I could have handled it. However, as mothers we are resilient and resourceful so I’m sure I would have managed.
5.) Now that you’re a grandmother, what is your hope for your grandkids?
As a Grandmother to eight grandchildren I wanted to know what my mother’s hope was for her grandkids as they grow and develop and become their own selves. “My number one concern is for their health and safety.” My mother is a fierce prayer warrior and I am certain that I have been saved from many hardships and potential bad moments because of my mother’s constant prayer practice. She is a strong woman of faith and I admire her so much for her conviction and courage of character. She stays rooted in her beliefs and she spreads her love of Christ wherever she goes.
We ended the evening just talking about life, work and family. I marveled at how she seemingly did it all while we were growing up and I wanted her to know that it really made me appreciate her even more now that I am Mom to three kiddos and feel like some days I am barely surviving. My mother and I touched on this community that we’re building, noting that things have gotten so much better for women and she’s certainly thankful for that because it means that I am having it better than she did as a mom – and even more so as a working mom. “We’re not vulnerable as we used to be.” I agree with that statement and it resonated with me because in so many ways, she’s right. We have better and more opportunities to work outside the home, we have more willing partners that step up and assist with the day-to-day household functions and we have much better resources and outlets for discussion and conversation around motherhood.
And yet we don’t…
In most scenarios, women are still not paid as much as their male counterparts. We are ,by and large, not given enough paid maternity leave time that is necessary to truly care for our newborn babies, rest our bodies, and prepare our mind and soul for the journey that is motherhood. We still have to fight for our seat at the table and we have to work twice as hard sometimes to accomplish the same career goal as our male counterparts. We do have much better access to healthcare and yet there are still women who die – 1 every 12 minutes – from childbirth in this country. We have National Associations that prevent this and help with that, walks that create awareness and campaigns that raise money to bring about change. But is it all working?
This is where I sometimes get inside my own head. Because I am so passionate about these things – I sometimes fail to see the forest for the trees. I want so badly for my daughter to ease into her motherhood with all of the care, love, resources and assistance she could ever dream up. But then I am reminded of how my own journey of motherhood was paved with bumps along the road – and that it was through those moments that I learned the most. It was within those hardships that I learned to lean on others, open up and talk and to branch out and build my own tribe and community so that I could have the support I needed.
My mother said it best with these two statements: “It all boils down to respect.” and “Women are resilient.”
When we, as a society, respect a mother’s journey and support her in every way possible, then we will be making forward progress and movement. When we normalize conversations around maternal mental health, affordable pre-natal and post-natal care and we build up this community of motherhood to serve, support and educate women – then we will start to make it the journey we want for our daughters and their daughters to come. We’re not meant to mom alone, ladies. So let’s not.
Women are absolutely resilient. My mother is living proof and I am blessed beyond measure for her love, support, guidance and parenting. She has walked me through many tough moments of my own journey and for each and every one of them, I am forever grateful.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.
~ Confessions of a Corporate Mom