Fourteen years ago, I had no idea that the very next day would change my life forever.
Life is funny like that, you never know when you are on the eve of something big, until the day is there and then forever you will have the days after and before the big thing that happened.
On May 15, 2007 I knew the following: I was 29 years old. I had one child, Lily, who had survived a very premature birth and now had been vomiting randomly for a month. I knew I wanted her to stop being sick. I also knew that she was such an easy, happy baby whose face lit up whenever someone caught her eye.
On May 16, 2007, I knew new things. I knew Lily had a mass in her brain that caused her to vomit. I knew that there is no amount of hardship that guarantees you won't have more hardship. I knew that my daughter would have brain surgery the next day. I knew that my easy, happy baby, was still happy, even with a tumor in her brain and even with new terrifying things: MRIs, CT Scans, sedation, IVs, steroids, neuro-checks, hospital cribs and moments when strangers would whisk her away from her parents.
I also knew nothing at all about how to be the mom that Lily needed.
Every May 15, I find myself in this same place of celebrating the eve of the end of everything I knew and the start of the mother and woman I'd become. In an instant, who I was and how I moved in the world changed. I went from regular mom to cancer mom. I went from being able to relate to other moms of toddlers to being isolated and alone. I went from feeling certain my child would grow up to feeling certain that every single moment was a gift.
And I used the word celebrating, because while I hate that fucking brain tumor with every ounce of my being, I am damn proud of the woman hardship has made me. I am different and changed--but better maybe--than I was before. The battle refined me and it still does everyday to be the mother that my children need.
I mess up all the time--probably more than a mother should; but I've learned through it all that my failures are the chance to show my children my humanity, to show them that life is painful, but still so innately joyous; to model love that grows fertilized only by passing time, not by success or accomplishment.
For Lily, it made me the mom that can whisper in my child's ear as she gets out of the car for her last regatta of the year: "Remember who you are. Fuck Shit Up." and have her reply with a smile, "I will mom." After all, I've been whispering in Lily's ear for 15 years to live, fight, and thrive.
For Chloe, it means being the mom who will sit and ride through her emotional outbursts--and then be there to remind her to forgive herself for having a temper and hold her tight as she tries to figure it all out.
For Nicholas, it means being available to talk all time long about everything, always. To never shy away from answering uncomfortable questions, because he needs to know everything.
May 16, 2007 made all of that possible. So tonight, as I hold my breath for the feelings that will come tomorrow--and those feelings will wash over me and threaten to level me--I have to remember that tonight is the eve of the day that I became the mother I was meant to be.