Recently our family sat in the kitchen taking turns feeling my daughter Sarah's pregnant belly, hoping to feel a kick or punch of communication from the new family member we can't wait to meet. That is all of us except my 15-year-old Lily, who rose to her unborn niece's defense, claiming that "the baby dislikes hands poking her home as much as fish hate tapping on the glass of the aquarium." Each of us has our opinion on what this yet-to-hatch person likes and dislikes, but of course she'll soon let us know loud and clear who she is and what she wants.
In mid-April, as I drove with my 95-year-old mother to a baby shower for Sarah, I asked her what advice she would give the soon-to-be mother. My mom has four children, twelve grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. She is the warm sun around which our big family orbits. There was a very long silence as she carefully contemplated my question. Then she answered, "Hang on to your hat."
As a parent of five children, I know what she means. Before I had kids I understood that becoming a parent was embarking on an amazing journey, but the big shocker was realizing that my child was in the driver's seat, not me. No matter how much careful thinking, reading and advice-seeking we do, every child has her own path she will take and we are along for the ride – and the ride is often wild. Beginning with pregnancy or adoption, you get plenty of practice in the art of accepting what you can't control. Becoming a parent teaches one lesson over and over: Our best-laid plans for our children are just a collection of hopeful words, not a predictor of the future.
Given that we care so much and have so little control, parenting is plenty scary and offers endless opportunities to be brave. The parents featured in our lead article this month, "Searching for Cures" certainly have shown great courage when faced with their children's serious health problems. My daughter has had to struggle with the opposing demands of her professional training to become a pediatrician and the demands of her body telling her with early contractions that she needs more rest. She already has shown what a brave mother she will be.
This month my mom turns 96 and she is considering moving to a new residence – a place that will better suit her needs. Moving is a daunting prospect at any age, but when she toured the new place to look it over, the big reserves of bravery she has built up as a mom, grandmother and great-grandmother were apparent. She said she'd really like to try exercising in the swimming pool, and when asked how she'd feel about moving at her age, declared, "I think I'm might be ready for a change."
So in this month of Mother's Day, my mom's birthday and maybe the birth of my first grandchild, my hat goes off to my mom and daughter, and I cheer brave mothers everywhere.
Ann Bergman is the founder and publisher of Seattle's Child.