caregiving · Self-care

Wait…are you a Mom?

It warmed my heart to see all of the Mother’s Day posts on social media yesterday. Everyone taking time out to recognize their Mom or the formidable woman in one’s life and provide thanks and gratitude for truly the most challenging and difficult job out there. While at the yoga studio yesterday, I was asked not once, but twice, “Wait, are you a Mom?” My first answer, which caught me off-guard was, “Well, not by womb.” I then proceeded to shift the conversation on her, who was a womb mama and spend a moment looking at pictures of her little girl. When I left the studio to return to my solitude and decompression, I was flooded with memories of a time when I filled the role of more than Auntie.

Around 7 years ago, I took care of my nephew on a fairly full-time basis for approximately 1 year. I had a preconceived notion that if I didn’t have a child by the time I was 35, I would just have one on my own. My nephew was about 3 at the time and while he is such a good and smart kiddo, my feelings about raising a child on my own changed. Newsflash: raising a child is a team sport. My sincere hats off to those that do it solo. There are so many situations and challenges that arise on a daily, if not hourly basis, that require a village in shaping and dealing with this little person. Stability is important to all individuals, but to a child, it is what allows them to feel safe and nurtured in order to explore thoughts, feelings and emotions through play and rituals (i.e. family dinner, bedtime routine, etc) making them into the person they are going to be for the rest of their LIFE. I obviously had no prior experience of raising a child, but what I knew was that my nephew had some sort of stability with me and my goal through this experience was to provide stability for him.

We had a daily routine that consisted of morning cartoons and cereal, Montessori school, dinner at the bar in the kitchen (I kept standing all day knowing I would drop the moment I sat down) and then bath time, reading and movies at night. We had Cupcake Saturday’s and walks around the neighborhood. I still know the words to the theme song of Thomas the Train and two of my favorite animated movies are Wall-E and Surf’s Up. I found myself saying things to my nephew then would reflect silently thinking, “Dummy, take your own advice.” I found myself needing to figure out ways to communicate with him when he had a meltdown. In the midst of his tears, I would ask him to place his hands in my hands and ask him to tell me what was wrong. At first, maybe it was about the fact that I wouldn’t let him have a certain toy or junk food. But as we sat knee to knee and as our eyes would connect, he could find the words and realization of what was really wrong. It was a deeper, more complicated situation than a 3-year old should know, but the root was sadness, frustration, fear and uncertainty. In those moments, I had to find the strength to put my own needs aside and work for his safety, his strength, his stability. This time in my life taught me two very important things….that for him, I could stand in the fire and dig deeper than I could for myself and two, my want for a child was selfish, but this act, the act of motherhood, is selfless.

I have so much gratitude for that time, but there is also a lot of pain. I have always seen myself as a Mom, meaning, I feel that it is my true purpose. It is heartbreaking to me at this time, on the cusp of 43, to know that my time is running out here. But instead of dwelling in this false thought, I realize, I have filled a role everyday as a Mom to someone. I have done it my nursing career when I worked pediatric neurosurgery and was able to carry this little person down the long hallway into the OR and make sure that as they drifted off to sleep, it was mostly without tears. I was able to care for mothers in ICU whose newborn was in the NICU after pregnancy complications, working to get her off the ventilator and reunited with her baby that she had yet to see. I was able to act as a mama to 200 individuals in a department that needed tough love and discipline that reminded them to focus, act professionally and care for patients as if they were their family members. I am able to do it now at Santa Barbara City College as students come in for a variety of reasons in which they just need a non-judgmental mom type to help them figure out how to be an adult. I am allowed to hold a strong, feminine, nurturing space to a yoga community that is seeking connection, sweat and strength. While I am not a mother by womb I have fulfilled this purpose in so many ways, touching so many lives, how could I not recognize that the Universe has given me more than what I originally desired?

The lesson here, like all of these lessons, is that care giving takes on many forms. It is up to us to see the beauty and universal connection in these moments of just being there for one another. As you consider your true purpose, reflect upon the situation that you currently reside. Does it fulfill the basic definition of your heart’s purpose and desire? Is it different than how you imagined? Or, is it just that a change in perspective allows you to surrender to the fact that the universe has a plan for you and you’ve been fulfilling it or taking small steps to fulfill it all along? You never know if these moments will provide a lasting impact or not, but consider that each moment has the possibility. In each moment that we nurture, provide support and allow the heart to open to opportunities that will change us in more ways than we could ever plan for or anticipate, these are moments that shape our true purpose….to be selfless. 

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