Image Source: Getty / Jose Luis Pelaez Inc
I could never imagine how my life would change when my son made me a mother four years ago. I'd heard other moms talking about how much love they had for their children, but I still didn't grasp the depth of that love until I laid eyes on him. I had this idea in my mind of what everything would be like once I became a mom. The truth? None of it was as I'd pictured. I quickly learned why my parents relied on so many others when it came to raising me. They say it takes a village . . . whoever "they" is, they're so right!
I never imagined so many people would have a part in his upbringing, but I can't imagine doing this without them.
Five months into our life together, our son took my husband and me on a journey we never anticipated. In what seems to be a distant memory now, we found ourselves in a pediatric emergency room surrounded by a dozen medical professionals. After trying to get to the bottom of a brief illness that kept getting worse, they told us that our son had a mass on his brain. Life-threatening. Fifty percent chance of survival. Brain tumor. Emergency surgery. These words bounced around a cold, depressing, suffocating hospital room as our son lay in my arms.
When we tell our story now, people often feel sorry for us. "I can't imagine what you guys have been through," they say. "I feel so bad for all you've had to endure." Don't get me wrong, along the way we've had moments of self-pity. But the tough moments are tempered by the blessings we've experienced through this journey. Over the past four years, we've been surrounded by a tribe of supportive, influential people who've all had a major part in helping us raise our son to be the independent, kind, and strong little man he is today. I never imagined so many people would have a part in his upbringing, but I can't imagine doing this without them.
I'm not super surprised by some of the people who belong to our village, but I'm grateful they're fully involved in his life. They never cease to amaze us. His grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins show up without fail to celebrate his accomplishments and support him in his difficult moments. As he struggles with several physical and developmental issues as a result of his brain surgery, they provide the encouragement he needs to continue to exceed all the limits that were once placed on him.
Over the years, we've made friends throughout the various community organizations we're involved in that have joined our tribe. They've become family, and this collective family unit we've made comes together to create a super support system for all of us. They teach our son valuable lessons about life. They teach him to be brave, respectful, understanding, and forgiving. They put him in check when he's wrong, and they give him huge props when he's done it right. Our family and friends are the superfans of our son's life. Their presence in the crowd pushes him to play harder, be stronger, and do better every single day.
Image Source: Sarah Muoio
I thought we had the perfect tribe right there until I realized there was another important part of our team. These people have probably surprised me the most. They came into our lives as strangers, and I expected that their professional presence would prevent our relationship from becoming personal. But they've gone above and beyond to help us give our son the resources he needs to grow. They teach us to be advocates. They provide us with the knowledge necessary to fight for the resources our son needs to reach his full potential. Our son's doctors, nurses, therapists, and teachers are the coaches of our team. They're molding him into a version of himself that no one dreamed he could someday be.
We couldn't raise our son without the help of this tribe.
I don't know what we'd do without our son's pediatrician. He's carefully cared for our son every time he's needed medical assistance, since the day he was born. He's kept my husband and me in check, never letting us become neurotic helicopter parents (although it would be understandable if we were). But he's also approached every doctor's visit with the extra precautions our son needs to ensure his safety and health.
That leads me to the nurses. There's our pediatrician's nurse. She is a woman who has taken personal time to hand-deliver important medical documents that were being held up by the hospital. And there are the nurses who were there with us in the most terrifying moments of our lives. They have become family over the years. They answer our texts in the middle of the night, giving us advice on whether to panic or chill. They've been the little voice in our heads we've needed to get our son the best care. They've given us the words we needed to demand better emergency care and the knowledge necessary to prove our point. Every milestone he passes. Every achievement he makes. His nurses carried our son through recovery and gave him the fighting chance to come home with us.
They remind our son that he's not going through this alone.
Then there are his therapists and teachers. They recognize his disabilities, even when they are hard to pick out. As a kid who has had a tribe raising him, our son has developed some amazing coping mechanisms. Combine that with the fact that we've provided him with every resource available, his intelligence and skills make it hard to see where he struggles. But boy, does he struggle. His therapists and teachers have the patience and understanding he needs to identify his weaknesses and frustrations and give him tools to overcome them. They help him grow. They make him strong. They fight for what he needs when Mom and Dad aren't there to do it for him.
Finally, thanks to the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, our son has an extension of his already amazing tribe. After being adopted as an honorary member of the Fairfield University Women's Soccer Team, he gained 25 soccer sisters and a whole team of coaches and assistant coaches to help him through life. They send him text messages and little videos to help him through difficult medical appointments. They play with him, give him a break from the tough stuff, and give him the emotional support he needs to face everything head on. They pump him up as a team should. They remind him that he's not going through this alone.
Going into this new role as a mom, I thought I had it all together. I was smart, independent, and strong and thought my husband and I would raise our son on our own. We wouldn't be like my parents, calling in support along the way. I've never been happy to be wrong in life, but when it comes to this misconception, I'm ecstatic. We couldn't raise our son without the help of this tribe. They don't just support and encourage him, they lift us up. I never saw them coming, but I'm sure glad they're here. Because we couldn't do this crazy thing called life without them.