What does it mean to be a mom?


As May unfolds and Mother’s Day was celebrated once again, I found myself thinking just what it means to be a mom.
The job description varies enormously from one woman to another and it changes with all sorts of ebb and flow as life marches on.
I have accomplished some landmarks in my life, but my two children remain my greatest focus, my greatest joy, my reason for getting out of bed in the morning.
Many roles. Through health challenges that seem unending, I have learned to be not only a supportive caretaker, but also their strongest voice and advocate, their researcher and analyst, their strength in some wild storms.
As I packed up to move 20-plus years of accumulated memories, I recently popped a home videotape in to the videocassette recorder. In it, Cort was 5 and Caroline was 3. Those really were the good old days for my children, both healthy, vibrant and strong.
In this particular moment, captured forever on tape, Caroline was trying to sing a song for me that she had just learned. Every time she started the song, Cort chimed in to sing along with her. Every time she started to say something, Cort spoke up and tried to steal the stage. Caroline quietly asked her brother to be quiet so she could sing this song. Alone. Once again, she started to sing. Once again, her brother did, too.
Fire and steel. Finally, showing more moxie than I remember her ever displaying, Caroline snapped her curly head quickly toward her big brother and said sternly, “Don’t sing it wif me!” There was fire in her blue eyes and steel in her voice. Cort finally sat and kept his mouth shut.
Sometimes, that is what it takes to be heard in this life. A little steel and a whole lot of fire!
There have been many times I have had to find that fire and that steel just to get through the days, the months, the years. Fighting an unknown foe in the years that followed those good old days, watching those two vibrant and healthy children become ill, I needed every bit of strength accumulated over a lifetime.
Caroline was hospitalized many times and finally diagnosed with Henoch-Schoenlein Purpura, a rare and painful childhood vasculitis that has impacted her overall health. Just as she was getting through the worst of it, Cort was bitten by a tick. In fact, the tick bite occurred while Cort was staying with a friend because his little sister was hospitalized an hour away. In the months and years to come, Cort would become debilitated with pain, weakness and neurological problems, and continues to battle Lyme disease, a complex and dreadful foe.
Why? Why do things happen to the innocent? I have asked myself this a million times. I continue to wish, beyond measure, that I could take their troubles and carry them.
Part of being a mother, for me, is the burden of knowing I cannot.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.