There’s not much about motherhood that lives up to my preconceived ideas about it. No one. No one could have reliably prepared me for the amount of not-diaper-related poop I’ve handled in my 8 years as a mom. That’s not what I’m here to write about but any good mom blog should have the word “poop” in the first paragraph. That’s how you know it’s legit.
In my first pregnancy, I journaled to the baby girl I was expecting. I wrote to her of freedom and choices and what I believed was an utter lack of expectation on the part of her parents. I felt alive and evolved as I imagined the wide world for my daughter.
But ideas are tricky. And so, when my newborn daughter was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition, I felt the full weight of my ideas about her life come crashing down in oppressive grief and loss. I went to the other end of the spectrum. Through the lens of my fears, I imagined her life as limited, isolated, controlled, diminished.
And I wasn’t the only one. My daughter’s diagnosis and my new station as her mom nearly immediately resulted in a split from my former social life in any authentic sense. I wasn’t down in the trenches of special needs motherhood for long, two weeks maybe, before another mom grabbed my hand and pulled me up.
I sat in front of this other mom, who had been there, who was living this journey. She was sturdy of spirit, self-assured, tired as hell and she said the most earth-shaking thing to me. Hold on to your seat, people.
She said, “Congratulations on your baby girl!”.
My chest heaved and the tears immediately rolled. As soon as she said it, I realized that very few of the friends and acquaintances who knew about my daughter’s diagnosis had said anything besides “I’m so sorry”. Some even cried! They pitied me and my child.
The social shift happened because I couldn’t stop seeking out these warrior moms in my life. I couldn’t get enough of seeing these women being okay in a life similar to mine. Because I did not feel okay in the beginning, and frankly, in a million moments since, that’s still the case.
There became social media messaging groups. In-person gatherings. Phone calls. Cards. Emails. Weekend retreats. Events. Text messages. And before I knew it I was absolutely surrounded by a sisterhood of moms.
If the sisterhood had a book burning it would be of baby milestone books. Oh, and report cards, single-minded classroom observations, behavior reports, ignored party invitations, draft IEPs, growth charts, pink slips, and more. Note to self: Create this event. We would bring s’mores and hold a sacred space of all-in rejoicing about our kids’ actual achievements.
The sisterhood also hunkers down at bad cardiology reports, heartache and fear, regressions, lost weight, bullying, seizures, “common” colds, divorces, depression, mental illness. There are long silences and awkwardness. There are heated venting sessions. There are embraces. There is a pooling of resources, information, stories, questions.
The acceptance, understanding and exponential sharing of resources make the sisterhood of moms a powerful group. And while they have no time to spare they always do find some for supporting one another and for advocating for disability rights.
I like to paint a rosy picture because I feel a great sense of belonging around these moms and it feels rosy to me. But I want to be honest that we are a highly imperfect, messy bunch. And have I mentioned tired? We are bone, life-shortening tired.
The fact that we are no more likely than any other parent to be found shopping in our pajamas is remarkable. Many of us have gone years without consistent sleep. Have I mentioned that we’re tired?
Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms who make up the sisterhood. I am humbled, honored and delighted to be sharing my motherhood journey with all of you. Thank you for helping me strive away from perfection and towards something precious and real. Connection.
~ Jamie O’Conner