To the Mama whose child is newly diagnosed,
To the Mama who is sleeping tonight (again) in her child’s hospital room,
To the Mama learning to balance appointments, laundry, lunch, dinner, school and medications,
To the Mama wondering how she will possibly survive if this never gets better, never gets easier this side of eternity,
To the Mama unable to comfort her precious child today,
To the Mama whose marriage is stressed and crumbling under the weight of illness, trauma, disease,
To the Mama helping her teen navigate friendships, activities, driving and dating –figuring out how much to say, to whom and when, how to manage “safe” foods and medications at sleepovers, events and retreats,
To the Mama who knows the immense effort it took for her child to suit up and stand on that court, field, rink or track and give it all she’s got, because she’s had nothing to eat for 15 hours, yet refuses to let down her team,
To the Mama who watches her young adult grow weaker, sicker and thinner every day,
To the Mama who’s been told to, “Stop making mountains out of moles hills,” “Your child looks fine to me,” and “Are you sure it’s not you who is causing all of this?”
To the Mama who is clinging to hope as her child slips farther into an eating disorder, self-harm or addiction – a desperate attempt to escape from the pain,
To the Mama buried under a mountain of medical debt,
To the Mama whose child will never drive a car or graduate from college or marry or hold a job,
To the Mama whose family is unable to vacation or go the movies or even visit family on holidays,
To the Mama of every single precious, vital, integral child with chronic physical or mental illness, trauma or pain,
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
John Maxwell said, “Encouragement is the oxygen of the soul.”
For so many years, I longed for someone a few years or even a few steps ahead of me, someone who could look back and say, “I’ve been where you are. You will survive this. It might be the hardest thing you will ever do, but you can do this.
You can, Warrior Mamas. You can do anything five minutes at a time.
Because sometimes all you need to do is breathe and take a single step.
JUST ONE STEP.
Tie a shoe or wrap your arms around your hurting child or steep a cup of tea or stand by a window, take a deep breath and pray, “Show me, Lord. Show me the next step.”
Five minutes at a time, we can celebrate a catnap or a kind cashier who says, “Have a great day.”
Five minutes at a time, we can savor the scent of freshly brewing coffee or clean laundry or even clean hair.
Five minutes at a time, we can flush a port or PICC line, walk a hurting child, listen behind the words to our growing up teens, fill a pot with water and begin to boil pasta, fold a load of laundry, step outside into the sunshine, spread peanut butter on toast – or on the really hard days, a decadent Dove dark chocolate bar.
Five minutes at a time, we can do anything, weary Mamas.
Our journeys may be different, but I’ve been where some of you are. Sad, confused and overwhelmed. Hurt, angry, betrayed. And I’ve felt profoundly alone as four of my kids were diagnosed one by one over a span of ten years. I’ve spent countless days at Children’s Hospital for tests, procedures, PICC lines and port placements, surgeries and more than a dozen complex bone sets. We’ve spent weeks there watching Kung Fu Panda and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs more times than I can count. And I’ve forged friendships with our favorite doctors, nurses and technicians, some of whom I see more often than I see my own friends.
I’ve learned to navigate the world of medicine and I speak a new language now. I research constantly. We participate in nearly every research study we’re eligible for and we’ve spoken to medical students and specialists about our illnesses, attaching a face and a life to a disease.
I understand the immense pressure of marriage at breaking point and the precarious nature of the dating world. How can you begin to explain to another teen or young adult what many of us don’t even fully understand?
So many questions: How much do you say about illness and when? How do you manage medications on a date, at a dance or a sporting event? How do you manage food? What do you do or say if you’re suddenly too sick to go out or unexpectedly need to go home?
What about sports? How much do you tell the coach? How do you manage medications? How do you deal with food when so many field houses ban carry-ins? Or electrolytes, salt and sugar when only water is allowed on the court?
And how do we Mamas sit in the stands or on the sidelines knowing the incredible price our child is paying to stand on that court, field or rink, sallow and pale, playing through pain, nausea and migraine – leaving it all out there, every single ounce of what they’ve got, because there is no way they won’t play?
Every morning, I walk past my twenty-three year old son’s room as he grows weaker, sicker, thinner, knowing there is so little I can do for him. I’m humbled to be his mom, honored that God chose me to witness his resolve, to watch him wrestle with purpose and worth in this anguishing place.
And I’ve been wounded by the words of others, who’ve accused me of making all of this up, but I’ve also grown tougher, stronger and more resilient.
I’ve clung to fragile threads of hope as we battled self-harm, addiction and attempted suicide. For five years, I clung to hope, praying, leaning hard into God, reminding myself again and again that these precious kids He placed in my arms and in my heart are first and foremost His, created with a plan and a purpose and that He loves them infinitely more than I will ever grasp this side of Heaven.
My patience, too, has grown as I’ve fielded a decade of well-meant, but often unhelpful and sometimes painful advice, quick answers and easy solutions, as has my compassion. Just like I cannot understand what it’s like to live in a war-torn, starving village without access to clean water, I cannot begin to explain to others what they have no framework to understand.
And I’ve learned that each moment is a gift, no matter how hard, because life can change in a single heartbeat. It’s taught me to be present in the small moments, in the every day and in the mundane, in the darkness and in the shadows, and in the light of day, for these are the moments when eternity collides with earth, glimpses of what is to come, of what will one day be.
Weary Warrior Mamas, you are not alone.
We might never meet face-to-face to share a moment or a meal, but we are fellow Mamas in the trenches.
You will survive this. You are not alone. You can do anything five minutes at a time.
Five minutes at a time, we will raise our kids and love our husbands and wrap our hands around lukewarm coffee. Five minutes at a time, we will rock our inconsolable children and teach them to drive and send them off to a dance with our stomachs in knots. Five minutes at a time, we will breathe and rise and take the next step.
And together, across this nation and around the world we will pray for one another and these precious, vital, purposed sons and daughters. Because we can do anything five minutes at a time.
CINDEE SNIDER RE is wife of 25 years to the man she loves most in this world, mama of five world-shaking creatives (16-25), author of Discovering Hope and Finding Purpose, photographer, craver of quiet, lover of cotton, denim, Jesus and tea, and co-founder of Chronic Joy Ministry, Inc. Cindee and four of her five kids have Ehlers-Danlos, dysautonomia, intractable migraine, and myriad co-existing conditions.