A mama’s faith

Growing up, I never realized just how much my Mama probably worried.

I knew she was overprotective; I was her only child after all. But I never realized just how much a mother had to worry about until I became a mother myself.

The minute I held that little swaddled lump, I instantly knew life was no longer the same.

Things that I didn’t even give a second thought were suddenly terrifying and anxiety producing.

I did all the child-proofing imagined, crawling around on my hands and knees, looking at things from not just the eyes of a curious child, but from the perspective of a mother seeing possible dangers.

I had to make sure food was cut into pieces that would not choke, the laundry detergent I used on his clothes had to be dye-and allergen free, and I worried about the ingredients in the baby food.

I worried about everything. I still do.

Mama understood; she has lived a life of worry since I was born.

Granny, however, had no sympathy for me.

“You think you are the first mother that ever worried?” she asked me one day. “You ain’t. You don’t know worry.”

“I do know worry,” I said. “How can you possibly know the depths of my worry?”

I was in for an earful.

“How can I know anything about worry?” she began. “I will tell you what I know about worry. I gave birth to a child that didn’t live to his first birth day. That’s a pain you never get over.

Then, your uncle was in Viet Nam.” She shook her head, remembering that time period. “My child, my baby, was over in a foreign country fighting. And in the middle of that, your mama nearly died. She has only one functioning kidney, and it shut down on her when she was pregnant with you.

The doctors told me she had a 1 in 100 chance of making it through the surgery, and your chances depended on if she made it,” she said, her voice solemn as she lost some of her normal constant anger as she relived these previous experiences. “And that’s just a small fraction of what I have worried about. You think you are the only mother that worries? You don’t know the half of it.”

I was quiet as I digested all of this. I had heard all of this before, countless times, over the course of growing up. This was just the first time I had heard it in the framework of being a parent myself and how that must have felt.

“How did you do it?” I asked. “How did you get through all of that?”

She let out a deep breath, as if releasing the weight of the world. “I prayed. I think I prayed from the time I found out I was pregnant with my first child and I haven’t stopped. And I won’t stop until my last breath, either.

When Bobby was in Viet Nam, all I could do was pray. I couldn’t go over there with him – if they would have let me, I would have. Believe me. But I prayed all the time. Some people’s kids didn’t come home.”

Her voice caught a little and she paused to re-center herself. “When your mama nearly died, I had to make a decision no parent should have to make. For the doctor to try to save one of you. I told him you both would make it.”
“How did you know?” I asked.

“I just did. I had to remember that God doesn’t put more on us than we can handle. And I figured the good Lord knew I couldn’t handle me losing either one of you.”

Granny had always been honest with everything she said; a trait that was a blessing and a curse, depending on which way she was driving her message home. But this was the most vulnerable she had ever been.

“It’s just part of being a mother,” she said.

“The worry?”

“That,” she said. “And finding your faith. You may think you’ve got it before, but you spend more time in prayer when you become a mother than you ever thought possible.”

She was right. I think I have spent the majority of the last 13 plus years praying, with just about everything I say being some form of prayer.

I seemed to remember Granny praying as she took me to school. It wasn’t a big production, it was just something she did as we made our way through town. I didn’t think anything of it when I was little but have found myself doing it now.

Granny wasn’t the only one who prayed. Mama did, too, and, still does.

It wasn’t something I heard her do until I was a teenager, and then in the stillness of the night, I heard her prayers when she thought I was asleep.

That first time I heard her pray was before I had back surgery. I was scared but can’t even imagine how scared she was.

She was terrified but didn’t want me to know. Hearing her prayers made me wonder if I needed to be more scared than I was.

“Mama, am I going to be OK?” I asked.

She smiled as she rubbed my head. “Yes, Kitten, you are going to be just fine.”

“I’m scared,” I told her. “Are you scared, Mama?”

She smiled again. “No, Kitten. I know you will be fine.”

She was lying, of course.

Another thing I have learned about being a mama is, you lie like crazy when you are frantic with fear because you want to spare your child from a second of worry.

From that point on, her prayers only seemed to increase. She prayed I never got hurt, she prayed when I was commuting in college, she prayed when I started working in Athens.

She prayed when I moved away from home and prayed when I didn’t move back.

One of her texts the other day, she just simply wrote, “Praying for you today.”

Somehow, in the middle of my anxiety, that gave me peace and comfort.

I think sometimes, as our children get older, we pray more because the problems get bigger.

As mothers, it’s hard to let go, even the tiniest bit. Sometimes, it feels like we are giving up any control we may have.

It also feels like the scariest thing to do, especially in the world we live in now.

I think that is what all mothers do at some point.

We just take that deep breath and pray.

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No One Loves You Like Your Mama (5/4/2016)

As I’ve grown older, several truths have grown more apparent.

One, don’t put overconfidence in a pair of control top panty hose.

Don’t believe what someone tells you, and be hesitant to believe what you see.

But the most important one is that no one loves you like your mama.

Mama was probably the original helicopter mom, hovering over me in her overprotective way.

I had back surgery when I was 12 years old to correct a severe curvature in my spine. I was nervous, as any kid would be, mainly because I wasn’t sure what to expect. And it seemed like a pretty big deal – the surgery would take at least 8 hours and the hospital stay was projected at 3 weeks – but to my 12-year-old self, I was mainly worried about my cat.

Mama may have been scared, but she never told me. Those words never left her lips. If anything, when I would get scared and ask if I would be okay, she comforted me and told me I’d be just fine.

In the hospital, the night before the surgery, I looked over and realized Mama was sitting there in the dark, just watching me, quietly. I think she was praying.

“Mama?”

“Yeah?”

“I don’t want to die — I am scared.”

Mama was quiet for a moment, maybe to not let her own fear come across. “You will be just fine, I know it. You’ve got the best surgeon and I know God will bring you through this.”

I went to sleep and the next morning, had the surgery.

Over the next few days, Mama never left my side.

Well, with the exception of going up to the roof of Georgia Baptist to a spot she found to smoke.

I would open my eyes and there she was, standing over me, stroking my hair, and checking on me.

“Mama,” I began, my voice hoarse.
“Yes?” she leaned in to hear me better.

“Quit hovering over me.”

This would become an ongoing theme between us from then until now. “You’re hovering,” I will caution. “No, I’m not,” she will counter.

“Yes, you are.”

“Okay…maybe I am a little. I want to make sure you are OK.”

When I was in my twenties and even my thirties, this was annoying.

Now, I get it.

I do.

I worry, I try to protect my only child from all the dangers that life can throw at him, and I hover.

I hover so well I should be some kind of stealth military helicopter.

I can tell by my child’s very countenance a myriad of emotions: if he is upset, disappointed, worried, sad, hurt.

And I go into hover mode to do what I can to bring him out of it and to make it better.

He’s 11, so it’s not too terribly annoying right now.

I just want to make sure he is safe, and happy, and knows he’s loved.

Something that no matter how old he gets, I will want for him.

Just as I am 43 and my Mama is still hovering.

I made the mistake of telling her the other day how bad I was feeling because of my allergies.

She was immediately worried and told me to go to the doctor.

I told her I’d be fine and it was nothing a good rain and a couple of Benadryl couldn’t fix.

She wasn’t sure.

“Do you want me to come up there to take care of you?”

I assured her I was good.

She didn’t believe me, naturally, and her morning texts continually asked if I was better.

“I just worry about you…”she said forlornly, her voice trailing off.

I know she does.

For a mama, worry is just another way to love.

My husband may take care of me, make me tea, or draw me a hot bath but Mama is the one who will worry when things are serious.

And when things are serious, she will move heaven and earth to make things better.

She will tell you she’s coming to stay with you for a week, to give you the chance to catch your breath.

She will call you a dozen times a day to make sure you are okay when she can’t come take care of you and doesn’t understand why you think she is over-reacting.

She means well, really, she does. She just wants her baby, her Kitten, to be safe.

Because no one, no one loves you like your mama.