In motherhood, we form bonds that are unique to this stage in life and unlike those previously made. This common thread of motherhood connects us to the women surrounding us, and friendships take on a whole new meaning. Perhaps that’s why we become mothers in the first place—to be part of something bigger than ourselves—not only through the extension of ourselves via our children, but also through the sisterhood of being mothers.
But within these walls of motherhood exists inner circles, clubs whose members don’t want to accept new recruits. These mothers don’t want to share their experiences, and they don’t want to welcome another into the fold; but when they do, they cling to each other, as it means someone else identifies and understands. These circles include the Parent-of-a-Terminally-Sick-Child Club, the Infertility Club, the Loss-of-a-Child Club. Me? I’m a card-carrying member of the Child-with-a-Birth-Defect Club.
My daughter was born with a rare condition called an omphalocele, one we knew about 11 weeks into my pregnancy and that dominated our lives for two years. This, my first pregnancy, was monopolized by doctors’ appointments and riddled with conversations about disabilities, long-term health issues, and possible fatality. My daughter’s first year of life was one of extended time in the NICU, therapy, doctors’ offices, and surgery.
Today, my little girl is a thriving, healthy four-year-old, and it’s easy to put the extremes of those first memories behind us. During those first two years, writing became my therapy. I kept a blog to keep friends and family updated but I also wrote in hopes that my words might help other mothers who found themselves with similar diagnoses, because I knew I had so desperately searched for someone to whom I could relate. Occasionally, I am contacted by these moms, and each call, email, or message brings heartache for the mom I know I’m welcoming into my club.
Last spring, I received one such email, from another expectant mom to be brought into the fold. But this time, it was from someone in my own city – but not only that, someone that lived in my own neighborhood, that attended my church, and that shared mutual friends. After a few email exchanges, Stacy and I talked on the phone, and I could hear something all too familiar in her voice: fear and uncertainty that brought memories flooding back to me.
The next week, we met for dinner with our husbands. As our conversation started, I was transported back to my pregnancy four years earlier. I could hear the tension in their voices, feel the uneasiness of the news they had been handed, and see the pain in their eyes as they listened to our story. I welcomed this new couple into the club with so much resistance. I knew all too well what the coming months held for them, and my heart broke. My husband and I came home from dinner that night, crawled into bed, held each other, and wept. I wept for this sweet family and what their entry into our club meant. I knew their roller coaster of emotions was just starting. I understood the decisions they were facing, the pain it would cause, and the struggles they would endure.
But I also knew the beauty that would come. I understood how entry into this club had made me a better parent, how it caused me to love my children a little more tenderly. I knew how memories of those years can rid a life of the petty, insignificant everyday issues that often seem so big. I had learned that parenting a child with complications strengthens a person. It tested my faith only to make it stronger, and through all of the pain, I saw beauty in the most unexpected of places. I knew what it was to look down at my child with an abnormality and be filled with peace, as I only saw love looking back at me, and I knew Stacy would experience much of this unexpected awe as she made her way through the coming months.
In the time leading up to her delivery, our lives became intrinsically intertwined. I walked in step with this dear mom, my friend, who was climbing those mountains that I once had: each doctor’s appointment, each update, each high and low. It was almost therapeutic for me, because I knew the loneliness that this club could leave, that feeling that no one really understands what you are going through unless they have been there themselves. And Stacy needed to know she wasn’t alone.
Stacy’s delivery day came, and as I kept up with the details of her baby boy’s arrival, I so vividly pictured my daughter’s delivery and remembered the overwhelming anxiety of leaving for the hospital. When I got news that Stacy was prepping for a C-section, I pictured my own pregnant self being wheeled into the OR. I envisioned them anticipating his first cries, and I hated knowing the helplessness she would feel lying on that operating table as her baby was whisked off to the NICU. I held my breath through the days that followed as doctors worked to stabilize him and as Stacy experienced the ups and downs of the NICU. I felt an enormous weight lift when I received news that he was coming home from the hospital. And I still continue to hold her hand as they navigate through the months ahead, working through the hurdles that seem to come out of nowhere.
Yes, I am a member of this club. But in this club there is wonder. There are babies to be loved. There are friendships to be forged. There is a bond between the members that can go without words, just an understanding that another mother has walked this road, has faced these struggles, and can appreciate the gift of precious life and how dear it can be. I gained my little girl from my initiation into the club, but I also gained a lifelong friendship by welcoming in Stacy.
Brooke Meabon is a small business owner, a writer, runner, food-lover, and a chronic volunteer that’s fiercely in love with her city, San Antonio. She is a wife to a cowboy-boot-wearing-Pennsylvanian and mom to a four-year-old daughter that would wear glitter to bed if allowed and a three-year-old son that believes with all of his heart that he is a superhero. After a decade long career of wearing pantyhose everyday in the luxury hotel industry, Brooke discovered a love for writing and freed herself from the nylon bind, making a profession out of her passion. She is the co-founder of Alamo City Moms Blog, San Antonio’s leading parenting website, and marketing consultant for local businesses and organizations. Brooke can usually be found spinning too many plates at one time which makes for great writing material.