I am the middle child of two other sisters. The three of us are very different from one another, but very close. When we were growing up, my mom used to ask us what we wanted to be when we were older and according to her, I always replied, "A mama." Now there were phases I went through where I would say a circus performer, a fashion designer, or a zoologist, but at the core, I always wanted to be a mama.
My mother thought my little sister would be a lawyer, and she's now 26, working at a major law firm in Dallas. She thought my older sister would be a writer, and she has been published numerous times and is also an English professor at John Brown University. She knew I was destined to be a mother, and said she and my father were always amazed at the way I related to children and the way they related to me. I haven't had a child of my own yet but, am I not a mama?
I met my now husband nine years ago in Dallas, Texas and began dating him knowing he had a four-year-old son from a previous relationship. I fell in love with this man before I even knew him and I've always wanted children, so becoming a "stepmother" didn't even faze me at first. My relationship with his son has been a challenge, to say the least, but I continue to love. Am I not a mama?
I've spent $50 on Nike windpants for him for Christmas only to have him vomit on them immediately upon opening. I've had to drag him to the car when he's thrown a tantrum in the middle of HEB because I wouldn't buy him a Dr. Pepper float. I've been called names, manipulated, and hated, but I've had to tell myself that deep down it's a cry for attention and continue to love him despite his actions. Am I not a mama?
I started volunteering at Children's Hospitals in college, did a four month internship, and then worked as a Child Life Specialist for about five years. I've held a six-week-old baby in my hands while two doctors inserted a feeding tube in her nose. I've had a child ask for me by name during a routine procedure and then pee on me as I held him in my lap to comfort him. I've held the foot of a young boy during an MRI because I promised him I'd be with him, and the doctors told me I had to keep my distance. I fought to hold his toe because that's as close as they'd let me get, but I couldn't break my promise to him. I've hid in a closet in the ER with a three-year-old girl and a box of Barbies to keep her calm while we stayed safe from her father, who she'd just confessed had sexually abused her. I've loved a child so deeply that I've woken up in the middle of the night worried about him, only to find out from my best friend the next morning that he'd died that night. Am I not a mama?
I've changed diapers, wiped noses, read stories, sang songs, applied band-aids, fixed hair, and tied shoes. I have 16 children every day that rely on me to teach them, guide them, and love them. I love these children so much that I often contemplate how I'd protect them in case of an intruder, and I know I'd jump in front of a bullet to protect them if necessary. I'd thrown them out the window if the school was on fire. I love so deeply. Am I not a mama?
I also have my "tiger stripes," so to speak. Only mine are in the form of bruises and skin irritations from fertility shots. I've been trying for a child of my own now for almost two years, unsuccessfully. I've spent every last dime I have. Every medicine comes with a higher cost and more severe side effects- rapid weight gain, severe bloating, increased appetite, insomnia, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and redness. Instead of getting down about the fact that I don't have a child of my own and perhaps never will, I'm trying to reframe my thinking.
I'm a mama because I have loved countless children unconditionally. I've looked after them spiritually, emotionally, mentally, socially, and physically. I've done what was best for them, despite how it affected me. I have loved so hard it hurts, without ever needing anything in return. That makes me a mama!
Thank you for your support!
Chelsea Vail, MA, CCLS
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