A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a lovely woman from my area named Stephanie. She messaged me through my Facebook page and wrote...
Hi Kate! I am a member of MOPS of Trappe (Mother of Preschoolers). If you are not familiar with MOPS, we are an international organization that is a place for mothers to connect, and bond over the most amazing journey we will ever experience; motherhood! A mommy is eligible to be a member of MOPS until her youngest child enters kindergarten, and then she “graduates!” I was new to the area before having my daughter, and it was amazing how the journey of being a mom can connect so many different women, even though our experiences are all vastly different. Each year MOPS international sets a “theme” to help us plan our meetings and social events throughout the year. This year our theme has been “Be You Bravely.” We have spent the year looking at how we can be the best mothers, partners and women in our daily lives that we can possibly be. This isn’t always the easiest thing to accomplish, yet each mommy is trying her very best to be herself bravely every single day. Our monthly meetings vary from having speakers, to doing community service projects, and some months we just make fun craft for ourselves! Imagine that, just time for Mommy?!
Several members of our leadership group were talking about the fact that we follow your blog, and how we feel that you are truly living our theme, and are a wonderful example of being YOU bravely as you go through the amazing adventure of being a mommy! We wanted to extend an invitation to you, and ask if you would be interested in coming to speak to our group of mom’s at our March meeting, about your experience as a mom, and how you go through this journey “bravely.”
Our coordinator let me know that MOPS international sent our discussion topic for March and it is "courage to find significance in the everyday." This is just a topic they encourage us to explore during the month along with our overarching theme for the year. I thought this actually might help you! Your blog definitely gives the impression that you and your family try to look for the beauty and significance in day to day routines and events, so this might help you when you are thinking of what you want to say. Truly whatever your heart leads you to say when you think of our "be you bravely" theme or the idea of ""courage to find significance in the everyday"is exactly the right thing to say!
My first thought was to check that she was sending this to the right person - which is what I think every time I get a note like this. Surely they sent this by mistake. I'm not a speaker!! People, there is a reason why I hide in a computer and type!!
But then - I said yes. ACK! I said yes. I wanted to say no - but I didn't. The topic was centered around bravery - how I could I wimp out?!
I spent a lot of time stressing about going. What to wear? Should I bring Hope or have someone watch her? If I bring her, would she let me leave her in their nursery? Would I feel okay with that? Would I get lost? That last one wasn't a question, really.
Well, this morning - some of those burdens were lifted off of me and others added in their place. Brian woke up with a stomach bug and needed to stay home from school. I looked at Ed. He looked at me. He spoke first - "It's okay - I can work from home." I felt so relieved that I could still honor my commitment to Stephanie and the MOPS group. Ed stayed home with Brian and Hope - and earned "Husband AND Father of the Year" - and it's only March!
In true form, I got a little lost - but I wasn't late! Whee! Stephanie was waiting at the door to greet me and couldn't have been sweeter. She told me she moved here from Virginia - away from her family - and joining this group was a way for her to meet other Moms. Holy brave, I thought. As we chatted I noticed women milling around and chatting it up with each other and I thought - seriously, all of these women are so brave.
Soon it was time for Stephanie to introduce me - and when I got up there, I had to confess.
I just had to tell them how brave I thought all of them were - just for being there!! I told them that I am a pretty shy stay at home Mom - and I mean that literally - like I LITERALLY STAY HOME! The fact that they JOINED a group like this - and show up - and socialize - especially Stephanie that moved here not knowing anyone and joined by herself - that, to me, is brave. I was standing in front of them a nervous wreck.
I also had to tell them that I had a vomiting son, a super active daughter and a saint for a husband that I'd need to get home to shortly after my speech. I didn't want them to think I was rude for leaving early - but Ed needed to work!
Before I share my speech with you, I want to thank the ladies of this MOPS group for inviting me this morning. I wasn't there for very long, but I was deeply impacted. I connected with three Moms that were very open with me. I was forced to write - which I've been lazy about or too busy to do lately. I had a reason to wear makeup and "dress up." And it completely forced me out of my comfort zone - which is basically anytime I am in a social setting!! But most of all, I was able to share about Gavin and how he changed me. And organ donation. If one person considers becoming an organ donor after this morning, I will be so grateful. The group's leader came up to me at the end of my speech and gave me a gift - the best gift a Mom can receive - something for her kids! She went out of her way to buy specific books... knowing our children love books. She even bought a Star Wars book for Brian, which really cheered him up when I got home. They are also making a donation to Gavin's Trust Project!! I did not expect anything - so all of this was such a nice surprise!
The themes I worked with were "Be Bravely You" and "Courage to find the significance in the everyday." Stephanie secretly snapped the pictures and sent them to me this afternoon. I'm posting them so I have proof that I had a day out of pajamas.
The first thing I’d like to do is to congratulate all of you. I was told your theme for this year was “Be Bravely You.” Well - you’ll likely be recognized nationally for overachieving with that theme. There is NOTHING braver than inviting an introverted stay at home Mom who spends the majority of her day talking to a baby, who is also suffering from severe winter cabin fever and who is not in any way, shape or form a public speaker... to speak today! Truly - there’s nothing braver than this. So round of applause to all of you!!!
Every family, every Mother and every Father and every child, especially, has a story. Our story is complicated and I could truly stand here for two hours just going through the basics.
I’ll tell you about the chapter of our story that changed ME the most. It spans five years and it starts in 2007 with the birth of our first son, Gavin.
I should tell you - before Gavin was born I had traveled the world as a flight attendant... done a lot (not all of it good!)... seen a lot... conquered a lot. When we decided to become parents, I was READY! I mean, I was a nanny for a few years, had over a dozen nieces and nephews and lots of babysitting experience, was even "red cross certified" as a teenager - AND - I had read just about every parenting book and joined lots of “expecting” forums on the internet. I was ready to be a Mom - I knew it ALL and I was going to ROCK IT!
Then Gavin was born. And all of that went out the window.
It was evident the second he emerged that something was wrong. The silence in the delivery room told me that. But we would never know just what WAS wrong - he would always remain undiagnosed.
We brought him home and it was clear to me that I was starting from zero. I was a Mom who knew nothing - with a baby who knew nothing - and we were forced to learn all of it together.
My life was not filled with “Mommy and Me” groups or “Baby Yoga” or even “MOPS” groups like this. I spent my days with therapists in and out of our house - hour drives to the hospital for doctor visits - and sometimes, scary hospital stays where we feared we would lose him.
I was at zero - and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I was humbled on a daily basis. Watching this little child work SO hard for every little action - and slowly conquering his own mountains - was humbling. It quickly became apparent that I might have been supplying care - and love - and the therapists would help him learn - but we were all just supporting players in Gavin’s one man show.
He was the star.
Gavin was 15 months old when his little brother, Brian, was born. If I thought that I would feel differently about mothering this new child - I was wrong. I think because Gavin had to work so hard for everything... it gave me a different perspective when I looked at Brian. Everything Brian did naturally seemed MIRACULOUS to me!! OMG - he can breastfeed! OMG - he can sit up alone! I would sometimes just sit and watch Brian in awe - and so would Gavin! Soon, Gavin worked even harder to keep up with his little brother. He couldn’t speak, but he said so much to all of us!!
I have this philosophy about life that I want to share with you. Each of us has a soul, obviously. I'm sure you've met some people that made you question that - but for the most part, all of us do have souls. And souls are ageless. So, let’s just say that your Grandmother dies when she’s 100. And you die when you’re 100. Well, when you meet up with her in Heaven - she won’t appear to you as a decrepit 200 year old! She’ll meet you as the ageless soul that made up the best parts of who she was. She’ll meet you as love - as warmth - as wisdom. You won’t see age... or color... or anger... or disability... or even gender. None of that will matter. (Which makes me think - it shouldn't matter on Earth, either! Shouldn't we all communicate and love and see each other soul to soul?)
So then imagine your own soul sitting with God before you’re born. Imagine if the two of you, together, map out the blueprint of your life. You get to choose what lessons you’ll learn, what messages you’ll deliver, what your mission will be once you’re on Earth. You’ll arrive with a clear purpose set out for your life. It’s up to you to put aside all the distractions which can come in the form of tragedy... disability... depression... whatever. Your job is to put all those things aside so you can accomplish what you were sent here to do - to learn - to teach - to overcome - to be the person that God - and YOU - chose to be.
If you can imagine that for your own life - then imagine it for your children. I have. Feeling like each of my children sat with God and chose their own path? It was a life changing moment for me. It was the moment that I saw them as my greatest teachers. As little humans with their own thoughts and feelings that were just as important as mine. So many of us feel like we parent AT our children - we are there to teach them, discipline them, tell them what to do - where to go - how to act. And there is a place for that! But, how often do we stop and just sit with them... just observe... or listen... or deeply respect the things they want to tell us, however “silly” they may seem to our adult ears.
My children were the greatest gift to me. I had to let go of everything I thought I knew - I had to let go of my ego - my expectations - and let them show me who they were. I am just a passenger on their journey - and I find myself learning so much along the way. My greatest wish is to always treat my children’s thoughts, feelings, dreams, passions - even if they aren’t what I expected for them - with respect. Just as I would hope those closest to me would treat me.
So, I told you that this chapter spanned five years...
A lot has happened between Brian’s birth and now.
In 2010, we had to deliver a daughter we named Darcy when I was 5 1/2 months. She died of a very rare type of cord accident and was placed in my arms hours before Mother’s Day.
We put her ashes in the tiniest urn we placed on our mantle and in a locket I wear around my neck... and we continued to live. We even continued to try for another baby - hoping to have a sibling for the boys. We tried the old fashioned way and the new fashioned way. I tried injectables and invitro and even used an egg donor - nothing worked. We took it as a sign - obviously we’re slow learners - and gave up. I gave away or sold all of the baby things that had crowded our basement.
And we continued to live again.
Things were going well. Brian was in school - and Gavin was in school - and he continued to blow us ALL away meeting some MAJOR milestones. He started to make a connection with a communication device - and he also started WALKING!!! This was such a HUGE deal. Early on, doctors didn’t even think he’d sit up... ever. Here he was walking across rooms. I’m sure you can imagine our elation.
Then - on a beautiful April day, out of a clear blue sky, Gavin’s temperature went from normal - to dangerously high. It triggered a seizure - called a “Febrile seizure” - that was so severe it stopped his heart. In the emergency room, they made several attempts to revive him... and did... but he was not going to make it, they told us. Our little family of four huddled together and we said goodbye. But then - he seemed to improve - enough that they could put him on a helicopter and fly him to the hospital he had known his whole life. My husband and I got in our car and the hour long drive seemed to take a week as we attempted to chase the chopper.
We were able to spend four more days with our little boy. But we knew his journey was going to end. Those four days were a gift. We never left his side - took turns sleeping with him - I was able to bathe him - Brian was able to come in and spend time saying goodbye, which was so, SO, important - and we had time to arrange to donate his organs.
Gavin was pronounced dead on April 14th, 2013 - my 43rd birthday. He was 5 1/2.
In a twist of fate... that morning before the official pronouncement by the doctor... I woke up next to Gavin feeling very calm and peaceful. My husband was sitting in the corner of the hospital room.
“I’m pregnant,” I told him.
“You’re crazy,” he replied.
“I’m telling you - I’m pregnant. I’m sure of it. And I know it’s a girl - and we have to name her Hope.”
Hope was born - or dropped straight from Heaven, as I like to say - in November of that same year.
Since Gavin’s death, his story has been shared worldwide through my blog. People have gone back to the beginning of my writing - when he was an infant - and read his entire life story like a book. I get mail from special needs Moms that I’m able to help with my experience. I get thank you’s for writing about things we did or tried to make Gavin’s life easier - that have helped other children. Because I shared all of it - even the seemingly insignificant things at the time - people have been helped. I have received thousands of messages from people who have become organ donors - or have started conversations in their home about donating their children’s organs if the worst would happen.
The fact that I wrote it all down... simply shared the every day, seemingly insignificant parts of our life... is no accident. Nothing is by chance.
A lot of people ask me how I can go on after losing not one child - but two. They wonder how I can remain positive.
I’ll tell you.
Gavin’s death - and Darcy’s death - they didn’t happen TO me.
Their lives happened FOR me.
They were each sent here on their own journey. To teach, to inspire, to affect change in others.
Take Gavin. This little child - a mystery to everyone but God - slipped down from Heaven, never spoke a word, and left this world just as mysteriously. Yet he managed to change his family profoundly during his life - inspire thousands with his determination and “odds-defying” progress - and then continue to change thousands more after his death.
I'm confident that HIS mission was accomplished.
It is very difficult to move on after a devastating loss - especially the loss of a child. But I continue to choose courage - every day. And I encourage you to do the same - to look for the significance in the every day things. It won’t be hard to find. And I can tell you one thing for sure - it’s often in those every day, seemingly insignificant things, where life’s greatest lessons are hidden for you to find. If you have trouble - here’s a tip. When you get in the car to go home today - look in the rear view mirror. You might be in the drivers seat... but those little ones you see in that mirror? They hold the directions.
If you are local and would like to check out this particular MOPS group, they are in Trappe, PA. You can click HERE to get to their Facebook page for more information. They are also having a big children's consignment sale this weekend - March 13 and 14 - you can support the group and support your shopping habit at the same time! Click HERE for more info on their sale.
One last thing - thank you for your concern for Brian! He'll be home from school again tomorrow... but he's perking up a little tonight. Is it Summer yet?