Have you ever defined the word “Mom?” No, not the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition, but truly what it means to be a Mom. It’s not an easy question to answer, because a Mom is so many things. There’s the Working Mom, Soccer Mom, Cool Mom, Strict Mom, and basically any word you want to insert in front of Mom. In my short seven years of motherhood I’ve often been called, “Super Mom” and usually followed by an empathetic, “I don’t know how you do it.” Here’s my truth, and why being Mom without the adjective that precedes it, is enough.
It’s a choice, to become a Mom. One we all knowingly made, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, autism or neurotypical. I will not sugarcoat my choice to become a Mom — at 19 I was scared, and my original plan for my unborn baby was adoption. There were days that I wanted to keep my baby, selfishly, I wanted to live with my parents and have them support not only myself but my baby as well. Do you remember the moment your child was born? Do you remember all the dreams you held for your child? That one day they’d become a ballerina or an athlete, an honor roll student, whatever it may be, as a parent you’d do whatever it takes to give your baby the absolute best outcome for their future. Those dreams somehow shift when you’re 25 weeks pregnant and in labor. You now feel you’re in a nightmare, and the only dream you have is that each breath is followed by the next. I became a mom at 19, I made the same choice as any aged woman made, and I wasn’t going to allow my age or circumstances define the type of Mom I was about to become.
Pregnancy is a journey all in itself, and health wise you could say my pregnancy was pretty normal. Tuesday, July 3rd I woke up early to walk the dog I was babysitting for over the 4thof July holiday. After walking the dog I noticed my lower back felt sore, and I had faint tightness in my chest. I called the doctor to be sure everything was OK, but he felt I needed to come in to be checked. A chest x-ray was ordered and everything seemed fine, the nurse examined me, and I could tell with an “oh my god” from that moment forward that nothing would be fine. I was 4cm dilated with a bulging bag of water, tilted backwards in a hospital bed. Scared out of my mind, I frantically called my parents but could not reach anyone for almost two hours. Eventually my father picked up and rushed over and arrived right about the time the nurse was performing amniocenteses to check for infection. No infection was found and the doctor started me on magnesium sulfate to stop the labor contractions. Hours later my contractions had stopped but I was told I would not be able to leave the hospital for weeks or possibly until I deliver the baby at full term.
In those moments that turned to hours questions flooded my mind. What if the baby still comes early? What if the baby is sick? Adoption was always the plan but it was the last thing on my mind, I could only think about the baby and his health. Saturday, July 7th at 4am the contractions started again but this time the nurses and doctors could not stop the labor. At 8:07 am Baby Boy Tarzwell was born weighing 1lb 13oz. From the moment he was born, to now; with 24 surgeries and four life-changing diagnoses in between, I am — and will always be, Mom. For me, becoming a Mom meant nightly respiratory rate checks, daily head circumference measures, weekly Emergency Room trips, and making a hospital our home.
I never questioned why I didn’t continue with the adoption plan until years later. Maybe because after 24 hours a doctor explained they would be withdrawing support due to the severity of him having a bilateral brain hemorrhage and “no quality of life” diagnosis. Maybe it’s because I felt the joy of having a baby, and now I would have to grieve the loss of him. Maybe it’s because he was fighting to live, and I was the only one who could be his voice, to help him fight. Maybe it’s because I was doing what any Mom would do, and I knew that I was supposed to be his Mom and he’s supposed to be my Braeden. I could list so many reasons for the sake of this article, but the truth is I never needed a reason to because of love. You accept love, you give love, you fight like hell to never lose love, but you should never question love.
Braeden is now seven years old and we spend less time at the hospital and more time at home. In retrospect, I became a Mom the only way I knew how, through trial and error. My journey may be a little more unpredictable but it makes me no more than the next Mom. I spend a lot of time wanting the world to accept Braeden the way he accepts the world; without conditions. I value acceptance beyond the spectrum, I want every Mom to know I am no more or less than you. All Moms are extraordinary; you love unconditionally, you would walk through fire for your child and that doesn’t make you super or special, it makes you; Mom.
Known as Kathleen Tarzwell, legally, but her favorite person calls her Mom. Wipfli LLP associate by day, accounting student by night. Autism advocate, fighting the good fight. Capturing life through the lens of an iPhone, and living it by the ticking of her seven year old sons heartbeat. Blogger for the benefits of inexpensive therapy and in hopes that her words do for others as reading blogs has done for her.
This article was featured in Issue 47 – Motherhood – An Unconditional Love