Welcome to the November installment of my series Moms to Marvel. Each month I am sharing a story from an inspiring mom to get her take and experience on balancing working and motherhood. Check out previous posts here. If you have a story you want to share, contact me!
This post has been burning a hole in my pocket. I’ve had it for a few weeks, but I’ve been hemming and hawing about writing the perfect intro for my dear friend Michelle, but honestly I’m ill equipped to describe such an marvelous woman and mother.
Michelle and I became fast friends in San Francisco many years ago. We’re both nerdy, girl-power vegetarians with lofty life and career goals. As I observed Michelle take on parenting, I witnessed how motherhood for her wasn’t an either-or choice with her career. Career and family, simultaneously, are all part of her brilliantly designed plan of becoming the best person, and mom, she can be.
Michelle’s daughter Evie was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when she was 9 months old. Upon diagnosis, my uneducated self wondered how vastly different this would make our parenting experiences. Over a year later, I find that we have so much more in common than we don’t. Sure the details might look a little different but each day is filled with a stubborn kid that we are just trying to keep warm, fed, clothed and bathed as we attempt to usher them along in their growth and development. Our daughters are just a few months apart, and I can’t wait until they are a wee bit older and can really build a friendship. If my girl learns half as much from Evie as I have from Michelle, she’ll be ahead in the game.
Without further ado, meet Michelle!
Having a career was always part of my life plan. I had always planned to do something important. I remember at the tender age of 6 or 7 wanting to be an archeologist when most of my classmates didn’t even know what that was- I also wanted glasses and braces so I was basically destined to be a nerd. The point was I wanted to discover something important. I wanted to make an impact. I think I’ve done that, but in ways I hadn’t anticipated.
Becoming a mother is the best thing that ever happened to me, but being a working mom has helped me reach my goals. I enjoy being a working mom, but being a mom who works can be difficult. To some, those two might sound exactly the same, but to me they are vastly different. Although I do have a career that takes me away from being home, my daughter will always be my first priority. I get a lot out of working, much of which in turn makes me a better mother. As a working mom, I hope I am inspiring her to find life passions, pursue her goals, and work toward something that she can feel accomplished in. I hope I am illustrating that she can find balance in her life, whatever the path she decides to take. I think that is the goal of all mothers; those that work, those that choose to stay home, and those that might find themselves somewhere in between.
Professionally, I work as a Nurse Practitioner with kids who have cancer and some who need bone marrow transplants. It’s been quite the journey to find this path, certainly different than archeology. During nursing school my pediatric rotation was on a pediatric oncology ward and I was hooked. It wasn’t what I had ever thought about specializing in, it found me, but I consider myself lucky and I’ve never looked back. I haven’t discovered the cure for cancer, but I have helped cure a few children during my career. I’ve definitely had an impact on the lives of at least a few families over my career, but more importantly hundreds of the children and families I have cared for have impacted mine.
The most common reaction I get when someone finds out what I do professionally is “wow that must be so hard.” I can’t fully describe how rewarding my career is, how important it is. I love my job. I love what I do. I love the challenge it provides and the skills I need to care for such amazing kids going through what will hopefully be the biggest struggle of their life. It’s an honor to be a part of their and their families’ lives during such a transformative time. I appreciate the perspective it has given me. I have a very special place in my heart for those little bald heads. I am inspired everyday by their motivation and determination. They are fighting for their lives and yet they are still playful and have fun, they keep being kids. They inspire me to not let life’s challenges get in the way of being happy and living a full life. I love that my job pushes me and challenges me and I love who I have become in the process. It certainly has molded me into a better, more compassionate, more patient mother.
Certainly there are days that break my heart, but those are the days I am especially glad I am a mother. I go home and hold my little one a little closer; those hugs soothe my breaking heart.
I am relatively new at this whole motherhood thing. I have a sweet, beautiful, bright, funny, spunky, and playful daughter. The day Evie was born started our family on a journey that I’d like to think my husband and I had been prepared for but hadn’t realized where we would be heading. As a result of events surrounding her birth, Evie has Cerebral Palsy. What does this mean for us as a family? Well, that question is about as easy to answer as what has been your favorite moment as a parent? Really the answer is simple. Life is really great, perfectly chaotic, sometimes overwhelming, but completely blissful all at the same time. I can’t choose a favorite moment with Evie. In many ways, every moment is my favorite because they all involve her.
I’m not trying to portray some unrealistic or utopian picture with my daughter. The most common reaction I get when someone finds out that Evie has cerebral palsy is “she is so lucky to have you as a mother.” While hopefully true, sometimes I wonder if anyone would say this to me if Evie didn’t have a disability. I certainly feel lucky to have her as a daughter; not because she has CP, but because she is the best thing I have done in my life. Cerebral Palsy is not the first, second, or even eightieth thing I think of when I look at her. I certainly don’t want it to be the first thing other people think of when they look at her either or to use it as exclusion criteria. Cerebral Palsy doesn’t define her. It is an aspect of her life. She is unique. She is amazing. She sees the world from a different angle and perspective, and since I am her sidekick, I get to see it differently too.
We have all developed skills and unique abilities to care for our little ones. That’s what makes us so great for this most important job. We are all learning from our own life’s experiences and are trying to pass along what little we may feel we have learned in hopes that it might make their path a little easier, a little smoother, a little less troubled. My career has helped me become a better mother. Maybe it has helped me navigate the medical system, or not be afraid to question the medical professionals I see or push for them to do more. I’m sure it has helped me be more comfortable with the medical needs my child has.
Most importantly, it has helped me appreciate and cherish my time with her and realize each moment is special.
Going back to work after Evie was born was certainly a struggle, but after Evie was diagnosed I was especially conflicted. Evie was going to require a lot of individual attention and emphasis on physical, occupation, speech and various other therapies. Her needs would differ from her classmates. How could I leave that up to someone else? Was that irresponsible of me? Would I be neglecting my motherly responsibilities of ensuring she was receiving the care and attention she would require? Would the daycare providers be able to accommodate her specific needs?
My questions and concerns were endless.
Then I realized everything Evie requires is beyond what I alone could give or provide her. Her motor development would require direction from physical therapists and occupational therapists. She would likely need nutrition management from dieticians. Her language and verbal communication would need direction from speech therapists. The social interaction she has each day at daycare is unmatched, even if I could pull off a daily playgroup it would be a poor imitation. Evie receives extraordinary care, but that is because I am not the only one caring for her.
No one is replacing me in my motherly responsibilities and I am not expecting them to. I am her mother.
Her teachers are her teachers. Her therapists are her therapists. Together we all work together to support Evie, everyone fulfilling their role.
Knowing that Evie has so many people in her corner, cheering her on and caring for her helps me know that my continuing to work isn’t having a negative impact on her. It is still a balancing act between my desire to be home with her and continuing my career. I’ve made a few modifications in my career just as I have had to do in caring for my sweet daughter. At the beginning of this year I went part time so that I would be able to ensure Evie was able to get the therapy appointments she needed each week. I call her school to check in on her everyday and love hearing about the fun she is having with her classmates and teachers. Time home is spent cuddling, laughing, playing, reading, singing, dancing, talking, and smiling. Whatever we are doing it is quality time.
I am still learning ways to improve my working mom life balance, but currently I have a system that is working not only for me, but for Evie too. Right now, we are all really happy. I don’t know if it is because I have adjusted or if I don’t have any other experience as a parent but I don’t see my experience as a parent as that much different because my daughter has a disability.
I think all motherhood stories have a similar backbone or outline. Change out a few details maybe, but the journey is the same. We are all just trying to teach them to grow to be good, responsible adults and love them as fiercely as possible.
Can’t get enough of Michelle? Me either! You’re in luck. She’s started a blog about their family journey with Evie, and you should probably head over there right now. It’s called She Keeps Moving, at http://www.shekeepsmoving.com.
Header and noted images by the talented Cristinmorephotography.com
all other images provide by Michelle
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