I do not know many things in this world, but I know without a doubt, that my love for my son is as sure as the moon. Like most mommies, I loved him before I met him and love him stronger with the coming and going of all life’s tides. Through threatened miscarriage, a CHD diagnosed in utero, a premature delivery and too many hospital stays, I’ve held onto him with everything I have.
My grip was nice and snug from the start. Before my little prince was even formed, I couldn’t let go of the dream so many take for granted: I wanted to be a mommy. Two and a half years and many appointments later (including an acupuncturist and fertility specialists), my prayers were answered! In my case, the patience, persistence and prayer paid off with the birth of my son, but I know that’s not always the case….since I know better, I don’t take motherhood for granted. My inability to let go of having a child was awarded tenfold, and later, I would learn the firm grip was a mere warmup for what was to come. Our faith muscles are strengthened best during weakness and the resulting dependency. Sure, every pregnancy comes with a risk, but mine was a humdinger. Bleeding from day one meant an acute awareness of my son’s existence. Weekly appointments and being labeled “high risk” meant more prayers and a heightened awareness. Doctor’s orders were taken seriously as I meticulously counted each movement in the designated time frame. I would sing along to “Hang on Little Tomato” and smile as I told my guy that life outside of the garden would be lovely- I would end the song with, “Life is divine on the vine,” and wait patiently for him to arrive. It didn’t matter that there were two ER visits, an incident where his heart beat wasn’t found, and the ER doctor mistakenly telling me I was losing my baby. It didn’t matter that research indicated stillbirth and miscarriage were more than a slight possibility. Despite everything, I held on.
When the bleeding stopped, and when I went in for his anatomy scan, I did more than hold onto my son- I held onto my faith and hope. I was so excited to head out of the valley with my little love! These things certainly cushioned the news of my son’s complex heart defect, but they didn’t take away the pain. Despite being told of my “options,” and regardless of the many unknowns, I still knew just as the moon would come out in the night sky, I couldn’t let go of my baby. The boy growing in my body had already taken my heart. How could I do anything other than tighten my grip? I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. Instead, I sang to him around the clock, “I love you in the morning, and in the afternoon. I love you in the evening, and underneath the moon. Skid-a-marink-a-dink-a-doo, I looooove you!” The movement inside my belly and tug at my heart indicated he felt my warmth and strength.
That’s the easier part of motherhood. The holding on is natural. It comes easy. Whether through trauma or ease, we grasp onto our little loves because we’re meant to hold on. I’m proud to say I have held on with every breath and fiber of my being. I am proud to say, my love for my son is a stronger force than any gravitational force known to mankind.
But I am even more proud to say I have let him go. I do not do this regularly or easily. I struggle to do it daily. At first glance, it would seem heartless or hard, but it is the exact opposite. The most brave and beautiful thing a person can do is let go of control and trust God with a loved one. Sometimes, we get what we want. Sometimes, we don’t. The specific moment of motherhood that I remember the most vividly happened two days after my son’s third heart surgery. He was barely two, and his eyes were the most piercing blue you could ever imagine. Looking at him was more beautiful than all the crystal clear blue beaches in Hawaii (I know, because I’ve loved both). He was asleep, but I could hear his laugher. I could smell the plastic tubes, and my breath came and went as it matched the beeping machines. It was after midnight, and his oxygen level was a horrifyingly low number. His surgery was not an immediate success, and I knew there was a real possibility he would get bluer and bluer until he might let go. I looked at his tiny hand grasping my finger and have never felt more alone. I almost asked why I had to be the only person on earth feeling this way, and as his little hand held my finger, I prayed for comfort. Could I let him go? What kind of mother can let go?! I prayed for grace, I prayed for peace. I prayed God could help me trust and process His decision. I prayed for courage. I realized, in that moment, Charlie is God’s child before he’s mine. God had given up His son. I was not (and never have been) alone. I clasped Charlie’s little hand in my hand and thanked God for never letting us go. It turns out, in letting go and letting God, we find that we grasp our loves the tightest. When people wonder if God is real or if there is indeed a Holy Spirit, I recall that night and how it erased any doubt. The warmth, presence and comfort were more tangible and calming than any hug, embrace or cuddle I’ve ever experienced. The feelings in that moment were so powerful, I can still feel them as if it were yesterday. If I can trust that Christ died, rose, and will come again, I could, in that moment, trust that God could, and always will, hold on to my son. I could trust that just as God matched our earth with our moon, he matched me with Charlie. I felt that it was best to let go of my control and place it where it always belonged. Today, when I let go of Charlie and put him God’s hands, I find myself the closest to both of them.
On this Mother’s Day, when I look at Charlie, I am so thankful he’s here. His existence is a blessing, and it’s one I still don’t take for granted. Gratitude is a beautiful thing, and it takes courage to practice it. In my appreciation, I acknowledge a thing that I know is not in my control. So, I also look at him with a slight pain in my heart- a pinching and gnawing sensation that remembers where Charlie truly belongs. I hug him, and the pain disappears as I let go. As mothers, we hold on tightly with all of the joy, hope, love, fear and faith that comes with loving a brave heart and being a mommy. We also let go with all of the trust, optimism, courage and peace that comes with loving God. It’s an unequivocal ebb and flow. We are standing on the shore waiting for each new emotion to wash over our feet. We sink our toes in the sand and look to the moon. We let go, but the waves bring us right back.
As mothers, we do well to remember that what is coming will come. When it does, we will meet it with our hearts lifted and our faces looking towards the night sky. Today, when I’m faced with having to hold on or let go, I know that real women in this world have felt the very same thing. We are never alone. Some things never end. Some things never die. Some things, such as a mother’s love, are as sure as the moon.
Photographed below are beautiful heart warriors. Their mommies are among the best sort of women- these women hear the call of the ocean, and they’re pulled out to the sea towards an open embrace, yet they stay on the shore and wait for the tide to return. Under the moon’s shine and the starlight, they find grace in darkness. They give mommies like me the hope and inspiration to dip our toes into waters that have been walked upon. I have so much love and respect for each and every one of these mommies and their children. I am grateful that they share their soul shine (and angels) with us. Until we all meet under the same side of the night sky, happiest Mother’s Day to you.
Kaitlyn’s son, Andrew
Francesca’s daughter, Luna
Kristen’s son, Palmer
Christina’s son, Stephen