This past week, I went on an incredible cultural trip to Paris and experienced the beauty and magic that is Paris. I will write later all about what I saw and experienced but first there is this.
At one of the events I attended, I met a wonderful woman quite by chance. We began to talk and I asked her about her children. She told me her story which I won't reveal here out of privacy but it was about being a mother; a medical crisis. It was about devotion, hope and sadness. It must not have been easy to share her story but I felt her pain. We shared our stories, although brief and I have thought about her ever since I returned and I'm sure I will think about her in the days and weeks to follow. For her, I am rerunning this article that I wrote last year.
In WWII, there was a group of American soldiers who called themselves the 'band of brothers.' Immortalized in history, these real-life men had each other's backs during a time of war, of struggle and of uncertainty. It was said their bond was unbreakable.
Just eight years ago, I used to wake up every morning facing my own private war as the mother of three small children who had all been born with rare and unexplained disabilities. Up I would stumble every morning in a fog of depression, barely able to face the day ahead.
One, two, three, I used to think, what are the chances of that? Zero to none, according to my doctors. Life went on with my husband and me searching for answers that seemed to elude us at every turn. Slowly, I felt myself losing touch with friends and family who I didn't have much to say to. I went through the mommy motions, music classes mixed in with OT, PT and feeding therapy, but no new mommy groups for me. Life is lonely for the unexplained medical drama. Indeed it was a war, the kind that chips away at you one milestone at a time, when you forget who you are and think there is no way you will ever see the light in life again.
And yet, deep in the recesses of our hearts, for both my husband and for me, the fight part of our fight or flight instinct wouldn't quit. We pushed and prodded, found solutions where there were none and now, we are on the happy side. We've created a life for our family that I think is as close to normal as possible. Because I'm on the happy side, where I can breathe in and out, have friends and complain about traffic, I am sometimes approached by other mothers who want to share their story of struggle. Recently, two friends asked me to have lunch with a mother who was going through a tough time.
I thought, No way. What do I know? I'm just one mother trying to get through it. But they persuaded me. I decided to call upon my as-yet unnamed 'band of mothers'; women I knew and admired, each mothering children who had different challenges.
We met and shared our thoughts and approaches. Each of us has a child has a different diagnosis and there was a purity in knowing enough but not too much. It was the beginning of something. We started to speak together via email or individually over coffee. We were, and are, all at different stages in our journeys. One has a teenager and another, a preschooler, but there is an unmistakable thread, a bond that is indescribable. We are not best friends, these ladies and I, we are something else.
I now have that person I can email when I've hit a roadblock, the person who I look at across the school gym who is crying when my child performs in the talent show or who sees me tearing up when hers wins an award. She is crying for me, for her, for my child. The one who I can tell about a medical procedure and she lets me describe it in detail without looking away. You see, they carry the wounds and the victories of war, the late nights, the fear of the future, the meaning of marriage, the anger and the love, the whole messy lot. This is a mommy group to rival all mommy groups.
They are not trying to cure my child, fix him or solve my problems. We are not fighting the system together or looking for pity. They are there for comfort, for cheerleading, for venting. They don't judge me or make light of my challenges vis a vis their own -- quite the opposite. They give me perspective, they inspire me, they humanize me so I'm not such a hard ass.
In those early years, I wandered around a desert of loneliness wondering if anyone would ever understand my unique situation. Today, I know they are there, battling it out just like me and thousands like me. These women may be invisible in the anals of history but their strength and kindness will live on through their extraordinary families. They are tough, kind incredible women and I hope that for every mother out there who is wandering around alone with nothing but the silence of screaming in her head, she finds her own 'band of mothers.'