Watching Call the Midwife last night I saw a mother break out of a room by hacking down a door with a kitchen knife. She was in labor, had been beaten and left by her husband; her 4-year-old son sat alone outside the locked door. She had no choice – she alone had to save both of her children. She hammered at that door with a determination so palpable I was shaking, my heart felt her pain and pounded through my momma-bear chest in awe – of a mother’s inability to give up, a resolve to protect so powerful it moved mountains – and doors. I knew that feeling, I have fought like that before. I was trembling from the scene – shaking, crying, affected. I was entranced by what seemed to me a metaphor of how we fought for Libby. And how we will fight for Will, and for Leighton. Always. Because when that’s your kid – that is what you do. When you are left with no choice, with no options, you move. You fight. You conquer.
People used to, and still do say “I don’t know how you do it,” or “I never could have gotten through what you did.” Our answer: “well, you would if you had no choice. You wouldn’t roll over and give up because it was hard. Not when its your kid. You would wake up, put on your game face, and go to battle – through the worst things you can imagine – because you have no choice. Because that is what you do for your babies.”
And are we strong? Yes. Because we chose to fight and choose to fight today. Because we have no choice but to fight – for Libby’s legacy – for her honor. We have no choice but to face what we have been through and fight through our grief to keep moving. We have no choice but to fight for Leighton and Will – to give them the best parents we can deliver.
And this is for us all. Not just parents battling the worst. Because the moment we decide to put “parent” by our name -that moment – when we decide to “start a family,” or we accidentally start a family, or… whatever – it’s that moment. It begins. We are responsible for whatever cards we are dealt. It’s all on us. The fight is on.
We are mothers and fathers. We are fighters. They deserve it.
We aren’t promised a bundle of joy. We don’t always get perfect. We can’t plan everything. We get challenges – little and big. We get disappointment. We become exhausted. We become overwhelmed. We give in. We decide which battles to fight. We make bad decisions. We make good ones. We get tired. We get pain. We get suffering. We lose. But we are responsible. That is the vow we sign in blood, and sweat, and tears – through heartaches and heart joys. We are mothers and fathers. We are their offensive line, quarterback, and defensive tackle. We are their team.
And as Mothers Day approaches, I almost vomit at the thought. Most mothers I know don’t care. Many I know cringe alongside me – because they don’t feel it – they don’t want to be surrounded by its explosion. They have lost a mother, have become disconnected, are forced to recall a troubled childhood, can’t become a mother – or – lost the very one who made them a mother.
The facade of the day makes the mounring mothers I know cringe – the cliche of the cards – the redundancy of the gifts – the generic posts on social media- the mandatory brunch. We know what it really takes, we are mothers of all mothers, we know what it means to have this role. We know what a holiday like this should be – but is not – not for us.
I do not need a card with drawings of shoes or flowers or hearts. I do not a thank you for kissing boo boos, driving carpool, making lunches, doing laundry, and having dinner on the table. That goes with the territory. I’ll take a thank you every now and then for getting through the daily monotony, but I do not need a special day to commemorate that.
So after getting to sleep in that Sunday, having coffee delivered to my bed-side, and snuggling with my littles – what I plan to do, and charge the mothers I know to do is reflect. Not just on the sweet moments depicted so nostalgically by Hallmark poets – holding our babies for the first time, bringing them home from the hospital, their first days of school, etc. – but to look back on the hard days – the hard years – the biggest challenges we have faced as parents. How we move through tough times, how we stand up for our kids, how we become relentless on their behalf, how we seek knowledge and power and enlightenment to make their lives better, how we fight – for them. Let’s praise ourselves for those moments. Because its hard. Could there not be a more important job in all of humanity? If it was our choice to bring our babies into our lives, it is our job to fight for them, and during this season – maybe we should not only high-five ourselves for getting the laundry done (although we should do that, too), but also examine how we’re doing – are we taking it seriously enough? Are we proud of what we deliver? Are we proud of how we fight, when we have to?
Libby taught me that. We always must fight – for them. Everything else can fade into the background, but if they need us to fight, we must – hard. If we have to chip away at a door with a kitchen knife to protect them – lets chip away. Let my story, let her example, be inspiration enough.
I watched this woman on screen with fire in her eyes, rage in her hammering arm, passion moving her forward. I watched her animal instincts take over as she fought to protect her little ones. I watched her determined to fight. I watched her motivated by a love so intense that it empowered her to chisel and pry and yank a door off its frame. It was all on her – she was all those babies had – with a love that moved her to escape, protect, take action – to do what was best for her babies. Any nurse or doctor who met me during Libby’s fight, would likely say the same about me – I hope – because to me, that is how you fight – with everything you have.
And even though I lost our fight, I gained a fire, a desire, an intensity to parent, to advocate, to appreciate, to fight – for them. I haven’t lost my fighting heart, inane fire, or rage that hovers just below the surface in case its needed to protect my little ones. And I haven’t lost motivation to keep moving- because I am here for them. Even on my hardest grieving days, when I do hit rock bottom, I come back to Will and Leighton. Because it was my decision – mine and Josh’s – to have them. And they deserve me, too, just as Libby did, so I cannot give up, I cannot give in. For them I charge on.
Mostly I fight for them by intensely loving them, as thankfully, I have not had to pull out claws – yet. So for now, I fight by showing them my love, parenting them with patience, searching to understand their little minds, working through my own issues so that I can offer them my best. I fight to stay in the game when I want to give up. I fight to not always get help, even if it might be easier. I fight to not let my bad days ruin theirs. I fight to stay patient when I want to scream. I fight to keep myself in moments with them. Because that is fighting too – because it’s not always easy.
Our decisions today may not be as serious as selecting chemo regimens or experimental trials. They may not be choosing which program is best for our baby’s bone marrow transplant, or which doctor will give our child the best shot. But they are important. We choose which school is best, which sport will build the most confidence, which rules are important for developing character, which books will help us navigate a learning disability.
We are mothers and fathers. We are what they have. This Mother’s Day, I ask us to all remember that – over champagne toasts and initial charm necklaces, new Lulu outfits and a day at the spa – toast yourself to the fight you bring every day – for them – for it is remarkable.