Mother’s Day

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Me, my mom and my younger sister, 1985?

For many years now, Mother’s Day has been a difficult holiday for me. I lost my mom about a month-and-a-half before Mother’s Day 2000, and since then, the day has been a yearly reminder of the huge void┬áin my life.

But over the past few years, I’ve slowly started to change my perception of this day.

In the decade since I met my husband, I’ve joined him in celebrating his mother, my now mother-in-law. From pretty much the moment I met her, she has treated me like a part of her family. And while she’s not a substitute for my own mom, she has become someone I depend on, confide in and love as I would my own mother. I am so grateful to have her in my life.

I’ve also been so very fortunate to have a circle of lifelong friends whose mothers I consider second-moms. I grew up in these women’s homes, and they’ve rallied around me when my mother passed, when I got married, when I had a baby and when I faced cancer. The love these women have shown me over the years makes my heart swell, and I am so thankful to have the kind of friends who gladly share their wonderful mothers with me.

I’m also truly blessed to have an older sister who’s shown me what it means to be a great mom. Dawn is 14 years older than me, and she’s raised two intelligent, kind, successful women, instilling them with a sense of confidence and a strong faith that sustains and guides them. When I think about the kind of mom I want to be, I often look to her example.

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Me and my sweet boy, photo by the amazing Jordan Brannock

And, of course, the biggest and best thing that has changed my feelings about this day is becoming a mother, myself. My son is my greatest gift, my greatest achievement, my greatest love. He fills my heart with a feeling of pure joy and love that I never thought possible. He inspires me to be a better person, and he makes everything I’ve endured over this past year worth it.

Is Mother’s Day still a hard day for me? Absolutely. I will never stop missing my mom, and the hole that her loss has left in my heart will never be filled. But I know that I am lucky to have some incredible mothers in my life, and I have the opportunity to be that for my son, and for those things I am forever grateful.

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Lucky

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It feels kind of odd to say this considering what I’m going through right now, but I am a very lucky person.

No, I’m not generally the one who wins the big giveaway, and I’ve been in a lottery pool for years and have yet to hit it big.

I guess lucky isn’t exactly the right word. Fortunate might be more correct.

When I got my cancer diagnosis, I felt just the opposite. I felt marked. Cursed. Unlucky.

But then a strange thing happened–the outpouring of love and support began to wash over me.

In the days, weeks and months since my diagnosis, I have experienced a level of love and support I never thought possible. From the unfailing love of my husband and family to the constant cheering of close friends to the unrelenting support of my coworkers to the texts, emails, cards and Facebook messages of former coworkers, high school classmates and friends-of-friends, the level of love, kindness and concern I’ve received has truly humbled me.

At first, I didn’t really know how to handle it. I got tired of people constantly asking how I was. I even had the audacity to complain about all the attention (I know, could I have been a bigger, more ungrateful brat?). But once I got over the initial flurry, my heart just swelled with the love I’ve felt from others. It has moved me to happy tears more than once, and it continually restores my faith in humanity.

Whether it’s a container of homemade soup from a dear friend, or a comment from a complete stranger on this very blog, these gestures mean so much to me. They help me get through the rough days, and they remind me that there are so many good people in this world, and I am so very lucky to know and be touched by so many of them.

Birth Day

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Our first family photo

Two years ago today, my baby boy was born.

Like most parents, I cannot believe how fast the time goes. It feels like just yesterday that I was pregnant. Looking at this photo, it’s hard to believe that little peanut is now a rambunctious two-year-old boy who sang “Happy Birthday” to himself this morning.

I remember the day he was born so vividly. I was three days overdue and was induced because they didn’t want me to go too long past my due date because of my age (35 is ancient in child-bearing years). The labor process via induction was long and painful. At first, very little happened. Then I got pitocin and the doctor broke my water, and things got real (and by real, I mean seriously painful). Contractions on pitocin are no joke. After laboring for a while on my own, I could no longer take the pain and got an epidural (a magical, wonderful thing).

Even after all that, he wasn’t progressing enough, and my blood pressure was rising, so the doctor made the call to do a c-section. I was disappointed because I wanted to do it on my own, and also afraid because a c-section is fairly major surgery.

But, it all went well. Even though I was terrified, the moment I heard Alex’s first cry made every bit of it worth it. I relived that moment this morning as I held his wiggling toddler body as he slept next to me in our bed, marveling at how much has changed in just two short years.

So, happy birthday to my sweet boy. I love you more than you will ever know.

 

Five Years

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Five years ago today, I was getting married.

It’s amazing how fast five years of marriage and nearly 10 years together have gone by. Totally cliched to say, but true nonetheless.

This is one of my favorite photos from our wedding day. It’s not one of the beautiful professional shots we paid for, but rather a grainy cell phone photo taken by a friend. But I love the pure joy it captures. And how it captures us as both individuals and a couple. Rodney throwing up the horns, me grinning like a fool–that’s us at our goofy best. And at the center, our hands intertwined, facing a roomful of people as one.

We’ve been laughing today at how unromantic our anniversary has been, thus far. We both felt kind of cruddy when we woke up, and we spent much of the day putting toys together and running errands for Alex’s birthday party tomorrow. Right now, Rodney’s snoring on the couch in front of a football game on TV, and I’m wrapped in a blanket on the recliner after my own nap.

But that’s real life, and real life is what marriage is truly all about. I feel sorry for people who are constantly chasing some Champagne-and-roses Hollywood ideal. Real marriage, and real love, is in the boring moments, the hard moments, the little moments. It’s having someone by your side who will hold your hand as a doctor manually breaks your water (which is super-fun, in case you’re wondering) and then later as you’re cut open on an operating table to deliver your child (terrifying and yet amazing). It’s someone who will sit up with you in the middle of the night as you figure out breastfeeding a screaming infant, and who will basically feed you by hand when said infant insists on being fed when you’re trying to eat. It’s having someone who will buzz all your hair off, and still look at you like you’re beautiful even when you’re bald and sick. It’s someone who will make you laugh through all of this.

We’ve been through quite a bit in our five years of marriage, and I am so thankful every day to have him there with me every step of the way. Our relationship isn’t perfect, but it’s ours and it’s good, and in a time of so much uncertainty, I’m grateful to have something (and someone) in my life I can always count on.

Hitting Close to Home

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The Modern Love column is one of my favorite features in The New York Times. For the unfamiliar, it’s a weekly essay series that explores the topic of love in all its various forms. It’s often heartbreaking, revelatory and even sometimes funny.

Last week’s essay, though, struck me deeper than any has in the past. The writer is fighting metastatic breast cancer that recurred in her spine, the tumor actually breaking one of her vertebrae.

Not only is she fighting cancer, but she’s also my age. And she lives in my city. She’s the mom of two little boys, and she worked as a writer and editor. The parallels between our lives were striking. Except, for one–I am lucky enough to have a good prognosis (at this time, at least), while hers is far more grim.

I have cried so much for this woman I don’t even know. I’ve cried for her husband. I’ve cried for her babies. I’ve wondered if our paths have crossed at the cancer center. I’ve wondered if we have any mutual friends. I’ve wondered if there’s any way I could connect to her, to tell her I’m so sorry, to give her a hug, to ask if she needs anything.

There’s one paragraph of this beautifully-written story that I keep coming back to. In talking about her sons, the author says this:

Their very existence is the one dark piece I cannot get right with in all this. I can let go of a lot of things: plans, friends, career goals, places in the world I want to see, maybe even the love of my life. But I cannot figure out how to let go of mothering them.

The tears are welling in my eyes right now reading this. She absolutely captured the feelings that a mother has when facing the specter of death. I know exactly how she feels. I can handle anything else about my diagnosis and all the scary possibilities that come with it, but the possibility of not being there for my child is the one thing I cannot bear.

So, I cry again for her, and for her boys. And I hope that somehow she can feel my love and empathy floating across our city to her.

“I have cancer.”

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One of the things that people don’t tell you about having cancer is how hard it is to tell other people about your diagnosis. I mean, who wants to call someone they care about and drop a giant turd like that?

I’m still in the process of telling people. There are friends whom I care about but don’t talk to often that I still haven’t told. It’s just awkward. “Hey, I know it’s been a couple of months since we spoke, but I have cancer.”

See? Awkward as hell.

But here’s the thing about telling: It actually feels kind of good once you get past the awkward part. The amount of support I’ve felt in the last two weeks from family, friends and coworkers has been incredible. It has moved me to tears more than once. And it has reminded me that even though I’ve been dealt a pretty shitty hand, I’m also incredibly fortunate.

So, I’ll keep telling. The awkward will pass, but what I’ve found is the love will remain.