By Laura Spiegel
A friend describes her son’s graduation to the cancer survivor’s clinic. She’s ecstatic that he’s made it. She’s devastated for those who haven’t. She’s embarrassed to be sobbing on a day for celebration.
An acquaintance describes her time in the local children’s hospital. Her heart breaks as the life she’s imagined for her son fades. Her son will thrive, but he will have to live in the hospital for six months to earn it. She feels shallow to be grieving. Is she ungrateful?
A fellow cystic fibrosis mama and dear friend describes her pandemic experience. “It’s like the world has pooped on my parade,” she says. Two weeks before COVID-19 became commonplace, her kids started a CF therapy proven to transform lives. The celebration, eleven years in the making, was short-lived. Was she wrong to feel loss?
My daughter chatters upstairs, happy though stuffy. Her bloodstream courses with meds. I roll my eyes at my phone. Six days is a long time to wait for a COVID test. And yet, my daughter will get one. With seven years of respiratory infections under our belt, we know what to look for. I am calm. Until I’m not. Am I treating this too lightly? Should I revert to rumination?
Ugh, Mamas. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we beat and batter and bruise ourselves because of the way we feel? Why do we second-guess our intuition? Stifle our emotions? Convince ourselves that other mothers are doing it differently? Better? More easily?
As parents of children with special medical, developmental, or behavioral health care needs, we should be trusting ourselves fully. Our brains are full of information. Our hearts are bursting with love. Our determination is steely, and our commitment to doing whatever it takes unwavering. We have done the work. We show up every day. And because of that, we have earned the right to trust our intuition. To feel what we feel. To know that no emotion is wrong if it comes from the heart.
As my friend recounted her son’s indoctrination into the cancer survivor’s clinic, she paused. “I wish someone had told me that it was okay to feel what I was feeling.”
Mamas, the permission is ours to give. We are brave, scared, hopeful, grieving, joyful, proud, and real. We love and are loved. And it’s okay to feel what we are feeling.
For 12 years, Laura Spiegel partnered with physicians and psychologists to help people with chronic illness lead happy and healthy lives. Her professional and personal worlds collided in 2013 when her own daughter was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Laura founded Paint Her in Color after realising that emotional support for parents like her was hard to find. Visit http://www.paintherincolor/ to find out more and read more of Laura’s writing.