816 North Opinion

Susan Vollenweider: It’s thanks to moms that we make it through

“Mom, they don’t know if he’ll make it.”

I tried to sound brave and not cry; I tried to convey a trust in my son’s doctors, in God’s will. But moms know. Even moms half a country away talking on the phone. My mom knew.

“He’ll make it,” she said. “Try to not worry. How is your fever? How do you feel?”

How was I feeling? I couldn’t think about a fever or anything about myself. An infant that I had carried through a high-risk pregnancy had met with a serious birth complication. That helpless child lay sedated and tethered to machines in another hospital. I hadn’t held him in his 24-hour life … I worried that I never would.

The doctors didn’t know if he would make it.

I didn’t know if I could make it.

Of course, Mom chose her words to keep me calm and hopeful. She was worried about her grandson, but also about her own child because that’s what parents do. I was her child, but I was also a young mother of two and one was in peril.

Mom helped by talking me through that scary and dark time in the life of my little family. In the 15 years since I have brought her similar worries over and over again:

“Mom, I don’t know if I can make it. The kids have a stomach virus, and I don’t feel well, either.”

“Mom, I don’t know if we’ll make it, we’re fighting so much these days.”

“I don’t know how I’m going to take care of another baby. I thought we were done with diapers and midnight feedings.”

Mom knew when I needed to hear wise words that told me I would get through the days that felt like years without being beat down. I asked and she offered wisdom, comfort, humor or simply an ear because sometimes “I don’t know if I can make it” is code for “I need to say this out loud to someone who understands.”

Her words helped me through the darkness of scared and sad to the light of happy and grateful. We’ve not lived in the same state for years (and sometimes not even in the same country), but there was always a way to reach out to her when I didn’t know how I was going to make it. Through those conversations, the woman who raised me to be an adult guided me to become a mother.

In recent years a lingering and un-verbalized question roams my brain as she and I talk. Each time I see it coming, I swat it away.

“I don’t know if I can make it without you.”

One day my teen said to me, “Mom, I don’t know if I’m going to make it.” He had a look of seriousness on his usually joyful face. I love that face — the big, frequent smile, the green eyes, the animated brow — it’s changed a lot since it was the face of a newborn who was tethered to machines for survival.

Moms know. Even if he didn’t make the team, he would still make it in the big picture of life.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, my mom-in-law, my sister-friend moms and the women I love who are moms in spirit. It’s a gloriously long list of women who have cried with me, laughed with me and traveled alongside me as we careened through each day grabbing as much success as that day had to offer.

Even the days that had none.

With you all, there is no doubt I will make it.