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Throughout the last twelve years of motherhood I like to think that I’ve earned many “mommy badges”. Like the Girl Scout I used to be, I have collected these badges and often talk of them to other mommies, proud of how I handled a certain challenge and honored that I earned that particular badge.

For example, I earned the Bodily Fluids Badge that time when I was pregnant with my second child and my husband, my two-year-old, and I all came down with a nasty stomach virus. Two-year-olds don’t run for the bathroom when they are feeling nauseated so it was a long few days of managing my own nausea and fever while I cleaned up her messes and offered support to my sick and useless husband (sick men, ugh). My daughter became seriously dehydrated and we were instructed to bring her to the ER. While there, the attending physician noticed how ill I was and asked me if I had contacted my OB. Momentarily confused I said, “why??” and he said, “Um, you’re pregnant and quite ill.”. Ohhh yeaahh. Mommy Badge earned.

I earned the Multi-Tasking Badge one long weekend when I traveled, without my husband, to an out-of-state wedding with my five-year-old and three-year-old. Both girls were flower girls in this wedding and I managed to plan and arrange all of the necessary details, pack and travel successfully, manage the pre-wedding, wedding, and post-wedding events over three very long days and nights, and actually have a little fun while I was at it. We all made it home tired but happy and I collected my Mommy Badge proudly.

I have earned many other badges like this along the way but I think the badge I wear most proudly is my Mommy Badge of Courage. As the parent of a child with a chronic disorder, it is imperative that I have a large reserve of courage ready to pull from with little to no notice. The nature of my daughter’s neurological disorder makes it almost impossible to be proactive in her care. I can only react, quickly, to symptoms and challenges that appear. I need to push through the buzzing in my head, the thumping of my fast-beating heart, the shaking of my voice, and the acute sadness that always bubbles to the surface whenever her diagnosis is pushed back into the foreground of our usually typical and busy lives. I need to be fast-acting, confident, and clear-headed. I need to be brave.

I have collected more than one Badge of Courage since my daughter’s initial diagnosis and unfortunately it is not getting any easier to earn this badge. As she ages and develops her challenges have become greater and while I think I’ve successfully shown her courage and support it’s been much more difficult to convince myself that I can actually soldier through the newest challenge successfully. I’ve had more and more moments when I simply do not feel brave.

Recently we rushed my daughter to the hospital to treat her newest complication. After a very long evening in the hospital and several long days of consult with her doctors, I emerged from the chaos utterly exhausted. My body quite literally ached all over and I had no appetite for days. During previous medical “episodes” I found comfort in the overflow of support and love we always receive from our friends and family. Answering questions about my daughter and responding to sentiments of concern actually calmed me and helped me remove emotion so I could talk in terms of medicine, science, and outcomes. This most recent challenge was different. I found myself fighting back tears every time I spoke to someone about her. I’ve become reluctant to even speak of it and it is taking much longer for me to shake off these feelings of anxiety and sadness. I do not feel quite ready to collect my newest Badge of Courage.

So, I’ve decided in the future I’m going to need to look to my daughter for help. As we take this journey together we will need to lean on each other. She has already shown us more courage and strength than I will ever have and I’m going to have to look to her for support and energy when my reserves begin to deplete. Taking it one day at a time, or even one hour at a time, we can earn those badges as a team and we will wear them proudly.