Ultimate Mother of All Bonding Experiences

By Stacy Thompson

So I’m sitting in a hotel room near Lake Bled, Slovenia (more on that later), getting ready to begin another awesome hike with Mom.  Whenever I start one of these, I always spend a little time reminiscing about past hikes and some of the incredible experiences we’ve had—one stands out, and fortunately I have the video journal to give you some of the high points of the journey.

As with many of the crazy, challenging things I’ve attempted in life, the Ultimate Hike was Mom’s idea.  It is a solid enough premise—raise money to help fund children’s cancer research—with an unbelievable physical challenge—27.3 miles on the Foothills Trail in one day.  Yes, 27.3 miles. In. One. Day.  Though I thought my mother had truly lost her mind, I once again reminded her of my words to live by “I will never say no” to any experience she offers up.

So we began months of hiking with our Midlands SC team at Harbison State Park—our hikes became longer and longer as the day of the CureSearch Ultimate Hike drew near.  The night before the Hike we were in bed by 7 a.m. for our 2 a.m. wake-up call (to be safe, I called in a wake-up call, set the alarm in the room as well as alarms on my phone,  Mom’s phone and my iPad—sounded like a maniacal clock factory explosion the next morning).  We were on the trail by 4:45 a.m.–hiking in the dark for the first leg and then continuing on through until around 7 p.m. that evening—and here, for your amusement, are three excerpts from our video journal:

Part I

Part II

Part III

In all, an exhausting but exhilarating day—and one we plan to repeat in the future for sure!

A Letter to Infant Loss Mothers

By: Jordan Tate

Mothers

Just like you, before a healthy baby happened, my heart, mind, and physical body were already transformed fully to those of a mother. My body is scarred by pregnancy, cesarean section, and natural birth. My “mother’s heart” was forever awakened the moment I held my first little girl. She did not go from womb to some mystical place in the atmosphere… her physical body came into the world and I held her when she died and I carried her sister and held her as she died and they were taken from me, but my badge of a mother was not. I would argue that it was more fully earned.

Further, I would argue without a doubt in my mind that carrying those incredible girls to term and delivering them and watching them die will always always always be harder than doing this thing I’m doing now- it’s harder than these fleeting sleepless nights that I get to wake up and feed my sweet child who breathes and cries and wants to be held. Wait- so you mean I get to wake up and hold a snuggly baby!? Still blows my mind. This term “mother,” that you and I are just now being stamped with (or have yet to be stamped with if you’re still waiting) by most of society is being used in a way that doesn’t do justice to the word mother.

One of the meanings behind the word “grief,” is “the heart of a mother.” Why? Because mothers feel so deeply and love so deeply and the meaning of that hits my heart way more intensely in regards to Ellie and Elsie than it does with Shepherd. Our children who are gone are still very much a part of daily life..but that doesn’t always make sense if you haven’t felt it.

Waking up to care for Shepherd, my very alive son, is literally a piece of cake in comparison to the cumulative months of sleepless nights I cried through with a heart that ached, both during my pregnancies and, of course, after they died. Does that mean parenting my son is easy? No. It means the other stuff was so very hard. The hardest.

Does it mean I’m not a sleepy mom? No, I could nap at any point of time…anywhere. But sleepy is not equivalent to bad. It’s equivalent to blessing. It is equivalent to redemption.

So, my friends. I see you. I feel your heart when people ask how many children you have. You have permission (not that you needed it from me) to include your sweet babies that died much too early. I see the tears and the nights of heartache that nobody really knows about. I understand that you can’t turn off the mama part of your heart even though your babies aren’t with you and that is simply not fair, and wouldn’t it be easier if we could? You are a mom, because you did the hardest thing a mom could ever do, and that is saying goodbye to her sweet baby.

If you haven’t yet had your “rainbow baby,” I’m here to tell you this: it’s a joy. It’s all a gift. Few will have the privilege of seeing parenthood the way you will…some do get it – you know who I mean. But loss makes the gift of your healthy baby inconceivable to most who have never had to say goodbye. I would never wish our loss on anyone..but don’t you wish your heart and feelings could be felt for just a moment by anyone who wished it? It’s a devastating experienced that now gets to be your greatest weapon as you parent your alive baby with a deep understanding of purpose and a deep gratitude for health. It will forever make you a different brand of mom. The best kind.

You’ve seen the very worst side of motherhood and none of the best sides. You don’t get to pull up to baby play dates with a baby in your arms and you can’t talk about how often your kid dirties diapers or his latching abilities or his nightly routine, but you can talk about planning baby funerals and how much your heart aches and how you hate baby aisles in stores right now and so it’s not fair, my friend, that you’ve seen only the worst and none of the best and yet you may not be labeled a mother until you see the good.

So, if your heart allows, when people ask you how many kids you have: tell them. We say we have three and two aren’t here with us. It may be alarming to the average person, but it opens the doors, if they want, for tough conversations about life but great conversations about healing and hope.

Are moms who haven’t experienced loss a lesser kind of mom? No way. Never. But you are a different breed. Your journey to motherhood was not the kind you asked for–but if you let it, it will be the source of the greatest moments of gratitude and amazingly miraculous perspective on the very beautiful gift of life.

Vanity Thief

By: Lara Winburn

Motherhood has stolen my vanity. (Vanity is only one thing stolen from me – sleep, abs, and my own beating heart are a few others.) But vanity is the one that occurs to me when mirrorI realize the only reflection I have seen all day is on the side of an SUV.

A friend hopped in my car last weekend, glanced down at my makeup bag on the console, and said, “So you put your makeup on in the car, too?” Every single morning. I’ve even considered having multiple makeup bags in cars, offices at work, the church nursery. Just in case I am having a hard time finding a few minutes to actually look in a mirror and apply a little blush. I started applying makeup in the car when the kids were babies because they would be safe in their car seats as I took my eyes off of them for 5 minutes. Now it just shaves time off an already hectic morning.

I cannot remember the last time I was fully dressed, mascaraed and standing at attention in front of a full-length mirror. I mean, to be honest, I have never been very impressive with an iron but I normally had time for a lint brush and mirror pause before racing out the door. I feel certain now that the reason I never look in a mirror is because I would not have time to correct the litany of things wrong – wrinkles, lint, bulges and pulls. You know, ignorance is bliss.

A friend of mine that is a stay-at-home mom was recently talking about her morning routine and like a strike of lightening she stopped and said “Oh my gosh – you have to put on real clothes before you leave the house every morning.” This is not a mommy war, stay-at-home mom vs. working mom statement, this is just the truth. I cannot wear yoga pants and a pony tail to my office. Just a fact. But I would venture a guess, that no matter where your morning takes you, most moms have lost the energy for a certain level of vanity along the way. Maybe that’s just fine. We are raising small humans and all – so lipstick on my teeth seems a little trivial. (But if you see me with lipstick on my teeth, will you please tell me?? It’s some kind of girl rule.)

Sometimes beneath my tall brown boots my socks don’t match because I am tired, they are clean and you didn’t know until just now. I have already admitted to wearing mismatched shoes. I realized the other day as my big, wild, curly hair whipped around, that I didn’t really know what my hair looked like to other people. I felt around and it “seemed” to have a part but I forgot for just a moment that I was not invisible and the people I work with are not blind. Who knows if I look like a lion or a Pantene model? I think I’ll just hope for the later.

I have never been particularly good at eyeliner or the latest Sephora find so this fall from grace was a short trip, but I hope as the kids get older I will reclaim a little of the style I once had. In this season of life, it is hard enough to make sure that my family is clean, fed, and clothed some mornings as we fly out the door.

Just maybe I am a visual lesson for those sweet babies that it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. I can almost always promise I am clean, but after that all bets are off. I would like to believe that there are moms everywhere with makeup bags in their car and mismatched socks under their boots with the beaming beauty of love.

Redefined, And I’m Good with It

By: Sherree Thompson

Mother's Day

As Mother’s Day was approaching, I was asked several people what I wanted for my special day. I thought quite hard on the matter. What did I want? Hmm.  Well, a number of normal things ran through my head…maybe a piece of jewelry, or a massage, or just a simple morning of sleeping in. All of that sounded just grand to me, yet that’s not really what I wanted. Actually, I didn’t want anything – nothing material, anyway.

What would really make me happy is to see the sweetness in my daughter’s heart. To share her voluntarily share her treat with her brother. To see my son studying how crickets hop and how his mind processes that action. To see my husband with our babies, helping to heal an imaginary “boo-boo.” These are the things that fill my heart with such joy. These are the things that make all the sleep deprivation, deliriousness and the redefining of me worth it.

I think for me the hardest one of those hurdles was the “redefining of me.” I was driving Jesse to school the other morning when I looked into the car next to me. The lady was so well put together, hair done, clothes on straight and her car so soooo clean. That’s when I thought, “That used to be me.” For a minute I started down the road of “Wow, I’ve really let myself go,” but then I caught a glimpse of my sweet babies in the rearview mirror. That sweet glimpse made me realize that it’s not about what I used to be, who I was or what job I held. I was no longer defined by those bullet points. I have been chosen to be the mother of these very special beings in the backseat. There are no earning manuals or guidelines written in black ink for this job.

Without those guidelines, I have compared myself to others. I have looked at other mothers and their journeys for guidance. I have fallen short of what I thought was normal so many times. I thought the house had to be picture perfect, kids dressed to impress all day every day, as well as a number of other things. Here is the kicker: When I do that, I have found I’m trying to keep up. Keep up instead of living the way God wants me to.

Yes, my car is a mess with drip marks from random juice boxes. Yes, I am late to almost every appointment. Yes, I do envy those who get to shower daily. It’s easy to get sucked into the cycle of wanting to be who I was and have the things I had. But it is also very, very easy for me to look at what I have been given in place of those things.  I would never change the magical gift that has been given to me by God.

Being defined as my children’s mother is one of the best compliments anyone can give me. I hope you spent this Mother’s Day thinking remembering the person you used to be and loving the person you have become, a mother.

Random Thoughts on Being a Mom

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

CrissieI’m wide awake and really should be cleaning, but I felt compelled to write something this morning about being a mom. Being a semi-writer, sometimes I HAVE to get the words out.

I never, ever knew that being a mom would be the complex job that it is. I never knew that I could love two people, who are so totally different, so very much.  I also don’t think I ever knew I could get as angry at two people, who are so totally different, so very much, AND to LOVE them, still, when they do make me angry.

I remember times growing up when I wanted kids, then I didn’t, then I did. When I found the person I thought would be my one and only, I wanted to have kids. I wanted a boy and a girl. Well, God (thankfully) saw fit that I did not need a daughter, but instead needed two sons. See, God knew the trials I would face and he knew that, for me, boys would be best. He knew that the ponytails and the wardrobe issues and the high pitched squeals would be far too much for this mama to handle on her own. God knew that the constant motion of two little boys would, at some point, overwhelm my desire to crawl under the rock that felt like it was crashing down on me.

Before I was a mom, I never knew that I could have my heart broken, but still be able to love so much.

I never thought that being pooped on, peed on, and puked on would be something I would just brush aside and deal with instead of totally flipping out, but, I do.  It’s amazing how, for some people, just giving birth turns you into a sort of pseudo-nurse who just handles bodily functions, like they were nothing. (Notice, I say some – my mom, LOVE HER, to this day does NOT handle blood well at all. Thank GOD for grandmothers who could handle those types of things.)

You know how, growing up, your parents always seemed to give the “This hurts me more than it hurts you” speech? Yeah, before I became I mom, I thought that was a load of garbage. Now that I’m a mom, I know it’s true.  Whether it’s a time out, restriction, or spankings, it seriously hurts you as a parent.

For all of the single moms (and dads, too, who have to be a mom at times), I’m sorry I never thought enough about you or how hard your job was/is. I’m sorry I never respected what you do, day in and day out, until I had to stand in your shoes. Being a single mom was not in my plans, but we’re here and we are surviving and thriving, even if the house looks like a tornado went through it every. single. day. I never knew that you could completely throw caution to the wind and just do whatever you had to do, just because of your kids. Now that I’m a mom, I get it. Come hell or high water, whatever needs to be done, WILL be done, regardless of whether there is any support from the other parent or not.

Before I was a mom, I was never going to have tubes put in my kids’ ears, give them medication for ADHD, or let them sleep in the bed with me.  Then, I had kids who had horrible ear infections and I begged for tubes, and you know what? They’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. Then I had a kid who was smart as a whip but had the attention span of a gnat, and I just wanted him to reach his potential, so I gave him medication, and you know what? He just made straight A’s on his progress report. Then, I became a single mom and realized that sometimes my own body’s need and desire for sleep was just as important as everybody else’s and it was easier to throw the kids in the bed with me rather than getting up to put them back in their own bed in the middle of the night. Now, instead of lamenting the fact that, oh, my God, my kids sleep in my bed sometimes, I smile when I wake up and see their beautiful, sweet (and quiet!) angelic little faces. Now that I’m a mom I also totally understand the whole Jekyll and Hyde thing, a sleeping kid versus a kid just beginning to wake up. . . But, I think I am one lucky woman to have such beautiful little boys.

Before I became a mom, I didn’t realize that I had the power to take away someone’s hurt or bad dreams. But now I do, and that is such an amazing thing.  Me?  Supermom?  Conquering monsters and bad guys with a single hug or kiss?  Really?? Yep, that’s me.

These are not nearly all of the random thoughts I have on being a mom, but they are really all I have time for, because I must go wake the sleeping dragons from their slumber in my bed.

My Priority Quilt

By: Katie Austin

When I think of my mom, I think of the many wonderful ways she has touched my life.  Moms are always there for their kids to patch them up when they get hurt, help them through the difficult childhood journey to adulthood, and take care of everything in between.  This poem by Joanna Fuchs sums it up perfectly!

Without You

Mom, without you, there would be no me.
Your love, your attention, your guidance,
have made me who I am.
Without you, I would be lost,
wandering aimlessly,
without direction or purpose.
You showed me the way
to serve, to accomplish, to persevere.
Without you, there would be an empty space
I could never fill, no matter how I tried.
Instead, because of you,
I have joy, contentment, satisfaction and peace.
Thank you, mom.
I have always loved you
and I always will.

Me & my mom at this year's Avon Walk

I can say without hesitation that I wouldn’t have made it through my breast cancer battle without her.   She was biggest supporter and was by my side for every medical appointment, doctor consult, infusion treatment, cancer sickness and my daily struggle to regain my strength.  I always knew my mom was special but it was during my breast cancer battle that I learned just how special she is.

During each infusion treatment she would talk about her latest project and would bring finished copies for me to see.  You see, my mom is a part of the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative where she created mini art quilts the size no larger than a flat rate priority mailer.  These small wonders are auctioned off to raise awareness and fund Alzheimer’s research.  She has created more than 75 so far and the initiative has raised more than $679,000 since 2006. Isn’t that wonderful?!?   I am including a few examples of the priority quilts she created so that you can get an idea of the artwork, detailed personal touches that are included in each project.  Each quilt has a theme and takes her many hours to create.  The pictures are small so if you would like to see a larger picture, you can go to her blog site.

August Flowers

My two absolute favorite quilts are shown below and I think you will love them too.   The detail in each quilt is amazing and I find myself looking over every inch to make sure that I don’t miss anything.   My favorite items are the pumpkins, bag of potatoes and the bird sitting just outside the bird feeder.   What do you see in the quilts that you like?

Farm Stand

Morning in the Garden

In my recent blog post Helping Hand, I said that the easiest way that we can get involved in our community is to lend a hand and my mom is doing just that through her quilt creations.  She is raising money for and awareness of Alzheimer’s one quilt at time.  I am so proud of what she has accomplished and to call her my mom.  What’s even more special is that I am adopted and feel that she picked me out of so many to be her daughter.  We have a special bond as she is more than a mother to me, she is my closest friend and I am so blessed to have her in my life.