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.