Mothers and their stories

Last week the husband and I attended a gala. You know, the kind where you get all dressed up and have to mingle and feel totally uncomfortable.

I put on black pantyhose. I wasn’t sure if it’s still ok to wear pantyhose but a quick google search informed me that bare legs are so 2010. (Thank goodness because it’s getting cold!) Apparently Kate Middleton has been working the sheer stockings all year. Alright! Check me out dressing like royalty! Except that my hose are maybe a little too small and the crotch part has settled around my thighs and I am in heels (in which I am un-trained) so I have this whole lurching, unsophisticated waddle going on. I am an ostrich.

Perhaps even more awkward than the pantyhose on a steady descent is the conversation – the small talk at these gatherings – with women you’re meeting for the first time. If they’re mothers, of course you know what they’ll do. They’ll talk about the one thing that’s always on their minds, that makes their hearts beat with an incomparable passion: the rugrats at home. No matter the age, there’s always talk of development – milestones reached and future plans. And then they’ll ask you about yours.

And I never know quite where to begin.

I am a mother of a child with autism. Everything I see, experience and do in life is forever colored to some degree by that fact. I am blessed to know and walk with some incredible mothers of special needs children – there are not enough words to describe their courage, resilience, strength, get-it-done mama bear-ness, and compassion. They make me proud to be counted among the autism mamas.

But I’m learning that it does not define me, not in total.

So this particular night I put myself up to a little test. How long can you go before dropping the word autism. Five minutes? 10 minutes? The whole night? Can you talk about anything else?  Can you turn off the educator, advocator, blogger for one night and just listen?  Can you listen, for once, without comparing? Can you genuinely smile because her daughter does ballet and made the honor roll? Can you understand that her concern is a valid one, her son talking too much in class? Can you listen to another mother’s story and just appreciate her because she’s a mother… with experiences so different and yet so similar to your own?

We sit around the table, passing the butter and rolls. Someone asks me the ages of my children. Seven and a half and almost five, I say. Oh, so you’re past the hard stage, she says. I want to say, Girl, lemme tell you…, but I remember my little test. She goes on to detail the woes of toddlerhood. We laugh at the stories of her son’s antics. I can totally relate because I can still totally relate. But I don’t say that. Then she grows serious and tells us that even though she’s exhausted she counts every day with her son a blessing. She tells of how he was born at 27 weeks gestation, weighed less than 2 pounds and spent five months in the hospital. She named him Samuel, her long-awaited, prayed for, miracle baby.

I remember my friend Judith’s wise words: human suffering is not a competitive sport.

And all of us mothers treasure our children, our gifts, with a fierceness, and all of our children are miracles.

As I enjoy the anecdotes around the table I settle into a contentment I’ve not known before, like in my skin is right where I am supposed to be, happy to be. Let God write your motherhood story, J. I know if you’d held the pen you’d have crafted a different tale. But the story God is writing? It’s wilder, tougher, sweeter, funnier, more poetic, more amazing than anything you could ever compose.


Mother's Day 2008

35 thoughts on “Mothers and their stories

  1. Oh, I love this Jeneil. I’m glad you were able to have a great time out. I’m linking this one on my facebook, because I SO relate to it all! And I love that line: ‘Human suffering is not a competitive sport’. A sobering reminder – thank you 🙂

  2. Beautiful story. Just beautiful. I truly love your friend Judith’s words, “Human suffering is not a competive sport.” Please let Judith know that her words are very wise.

    I think human suffering could be considered a sport if we follow the lead of a very smart player. It is through following Him then we learn compassion, acceptance, and understanding. We learn to open our eyes and feel the pain of others and celebrate the miracles and gifts that are given to us each day.

    Let me also say that I consider wearing panty hose a sport. You break a sweat putting them on and have to fight to keep them up. Then there are all of the different positions that have to be executed in order to try to assimilate grace and confidence. If you can complete that task then you can stand up and cheer Victory!! I
    Thank you always for the most beautiful words. You are a gift to us all!!

  3. Thank you for sharing! I especially love the prayer at the end. I know I would never have written my story out with a child with autism. I am now able to trust Him that He knows best and can write my story anyway He sees fit. It is a journey for sure and a sacrifice I would never have offered up on my own. He does make life “more amazing than anything you could ever compose. “

  4. LOVE this. Each child is a precious gift. Some journeys are easier, but all of them are gifts. So glad you are sharing your journey. You bring hope, understanding, laughter, and assurance that I am not the only one on this journey. Thank you.

  5. So beautiful and so true. The joys and fears of motherhood are universal; it’s just the circumstances surrounding those feelings which changes from family to family, I think. Samuel’s mama made my heart lurch in my chest. I know those circumstances very well.

    And, though we may not have chosen to write our stories quite the same way, I cannot imagine a story in which I didn’t get to know you and some of the other amazing, inspiring, life-changing women I have met on this journey. xoxo

  6. Beautiful babies…beautiful momma…beautiful words…beautiful grace…beautiful humble spirit…beautiful sovereign LORD…”Thank you Father, for Jeneil and her beautiful family and her beautiful faith lived out before us, to encourage and to bless us…”

  7. In tears. I’ve been thinking about this very thing lately. The comparisons I make and how I can change it, because it doesn’t help, it hurts. Love this, Love YOU. xoxo

  8. This was a great post Jeneil.

    PS. This quote below is, hands down, the most wonderful, insightful and inspiring thing I have ever read. This should be embroider on a wall hanging for every autism mother out there. You wrote this just I needed to read it. Thank you.

    “Let God write your motherhood story, J. I know if you’d held the pen you’d have crafted a different tale. But the story God is writing? It’s wilder, tougher, sweeter, funnier, more poetic, more amazing than anything you could ever compose.”

  9. So beautifully written……loved that statement about suffering. Also wanted you to know I am in the middle of Sunburned Faces and just LOVING it… are an inspiration.

    Also the fact that you wore pantyhose is inspiring as well! I’m not sure which is worse heels or hose….

  10. This is my first time reading your blog and I’m touched by what you wrote. This time of year is hard for me too especially at all the holiday parties. you are so right that it is a fight to not say “autism” the whole night. My DH is so fiercely private at work, about our son especially, that i’m never sure who knows so I’m always wondering what to say. Maybe I will practice listening more and that will get me through the hard parts because your friend was right, suffering is NOT a competition. I don’t have to interject “autism” to be heard or to be compared. Thank you for saying what I’ve felt and longed to say out loud for a long time. Many blessings….

  11. Oh my gosh… such a beautiful post! You brought tears to my eyes, and I so, so, so agree with everything you wrote. You are an inspiration to me today and I am most grateful! All best wishes to you & your girls!

  12. Absolutely beautiful. I love your little test. I have put myself up to it from time to time in an effort to separate myself from our diagnosis (our is very deliberate here since it is a battle that my entire family fights). Your friend Judith’s words are on key in every way. I wonder how a moment may be spent if I truly listened to another mother’s story instead of reeling at the comparisons my brain stacks up. It’s not a competittion. Thank you for sharing, Jeneil. Your words as always are inspiring. xoxo

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