I don't think I had ever thought about what it would be like for my mom—or any mother for that matter—to pass the torch of motherhood onto the next generation until the day my older sister went into labor.
As I was excitedly speaking to my mom on the phone that morning, getting updates and details from her post in my sister's hospital room, I heard a slight tremble in her voice.
"Mom, is everything okay?"
She paused, choking back tears.
"My baby is having a baby. I am so happy! But I can't stop worrying about my baby."
The tenderness of her words hit me like a bolt of lightning. At that moment, I realized that a mother, no matter her age or the age of her children, always puts her baby first. Always.
She quickly moved the conversation forward and began discussing something else, but the tenderness of heart at that moment has always stuck with me.
So, when I first saw the word "PREGNANT" staring up at me three years later, two thoughts crossed my mind: 1. I hope my husband gets home soon so I don't start running up and down the street with a pregnancy test in my hand yelling, "I'M PREGNANT!" to the whole neighborhood, and 2. I cannot wait to tell my mom.
It would only be a few hours after taking the test that I would get a call from my mom letting me know that my grandmother—her mom—had suffered a stroke, and it was just days after that my dad was admitted to the hospital with an illness that threatened his life. My mother, being the cornerstone to our family that she always has been, seemed to be holding our entire family up with her fingertips.
I needed to tell her my news but I loved her too much to tell her at that moment. I knew that as soon as I told her, she would be by my side to celebrate with her baby and that just wasn't where she needed to be quite yet.
Over the next few weeks, I watched as my mom split her time between two hospitals. One day she would be in Denver at my dad's bedside, and the next she'd be a state away in Wyoming at her mother's. When my husband and I did tell my parents, it was on their 35th wedding anniversary—a date we celebrated from father's hospital bedside. My mother's joy was palpable—the new life growing inside of me gave her new life too.
In the days, weeks, and months that followed, my new mama heart learned more about motherhood—and honestly, life—than I ever could've imagined by watching my mother. One day she'd be taking care of her mom, patiently sitting with her, helping her remember the details of her life that Parkinson's and the stroke so cruelly stole from her.
The next, she'd be chasing after my sister's kids at the park or at my side decorating our nursery and preparing for the arrival of my daughter. The dichotomy of the two worlds my mother floated in-between often broke my heart, but I never saw anything but happiness and contentment in hers.
We dream about having kids, holding our babies, and one day holding their babies. We dream about what the future holds for them and pray that we'll be here long enough to watch them grow up and embrace their life's passion. But we are never prepared for the moment when we have to hold our parents and the desperation of wanting to preserve the memories they worked so hard to create—memories that we want to share with the next generation before it's too late.
My mother did this as eloquently as any person could, and she continues to do so today. I know that if my grandmother could understand the gravity of her situation, she'd reach out her arms and hold her baby and tell her it's okay because a mother always puts her baby first.
My husband and I asked my mom to be in the room with us for the birth of our daughter. I have a rock of a support system in my husband; I knew we could get through labor and delivery just the two of us, but I also made it clear that if anything unexpected happened during the process, I wanted him to be by our daughter's side. With that, I wanted my mother by my side. I needed her by my side. As I knew from her trembling words years prior, she'd be there for me so I could be there for my own baby.
My mother witnessed the miracle of my daughter taking her very first breath in this world.
We gave her the middle name "Lu" to honor my mother, a name that was given to her by my grandmother to honor her own mother. The day after my Lu was born, my grandmother painstakingly made the hour and a half trip to the hospital so she could hold her great-granddaughter in her first hours of life.
There we sat, four generations of mothers and daughters, soaking in the precious gift of togetherness. I felt relief for my mother that in those moments the four of us were together, she could take a breath for a second and not feel the heart wrenching tug-of-war of her different roles. She was simply mother, daughter and grandmother all once.
After my mom and grandmother left, I knew that the torch had been passed. These women, and the mothers that came before them, had loved and sacrificed so much for their daughters so that I could one day arrive at this moment and put my baby first. Always.