“Are you going to die mama?” my 4-year-old asked me right before I left for my first chemotherapy infusion.
I was at a loss for words, not because of the question, but because I was reminded in that moment that children pick up on our energy so easily. This was one of the great teaching moments throughout my experience of undergoing treatment of advanced, widespread cancer. The field that the cancer opened up for me was a gift and what I learned about motherhood was a blessing in the midst of muck.
1) Letting go is necessary.
In cleaning out my son’s toys and drawers, as we do every time the seasons change, I had a difficult time bringing myself to toss the rocket ships, monkeys, dinosaurs, and cartoon Santas that adorn the fitted toddler jammies. They’re not just strings of cloth that are comfy for sleeping. The mornings of watching Curious George and eating bananas on the couch and “slumber parties” where we eat popcorn and Goodnight Moon 3 times before bed are seared into these threads.
I held onto the tattered jammies for just a minute, allowed myself to reminisce, and then carefully placed them in nice shopping bags we’d collected. I made it a ceremony to take the bag to the trash, for if I brought myself to let go of the old, physically and energetically, it had to be with honor.
Hanging on to too many of both my son and my daughter’s things felt crowded and stuck in who they were in the past. The willingness to let go of their physical things, creates space and room on an emotional and spiritual level to love who they are today.
2) We instinctively make the best decision we can with the information we have at any given moment.
This ritual of cleaning out my children’s things brings up so much for me. In the act of shedding, I analyze my performance as a mother: am I putting them in the right school? Am I feeding them the right things? Am I letting them watch the iPad for too long? And at times, the ever-so-thick, heaviness of Mama Guilt creeps her way into my thoughts the way all of the things that have collected have crept their way into piles of clutter. We all know it way too well. Mama Guilt is cunning and can somehow find any reason to appear.
For me, the guilt morphs into a constant question of jumping into work full-time after undergoing treatment for cancer. Sometimes I say to myself, “They’ve been through so much, how can I leave them all day?” When in reality, my intuition tells me, it’s all in my head. They knew mama was ill, but I was present and enjoyed them while I was on medical leave from work. Since then, not much has changed for them and they still love me.
Regardless of whether we, as mothers, decide to stay at home or to go to work, we instinctively make the best decision we can with the information we have at any given moment. I find that the challenge is being present during the time we do have with our children that is most difficult. The relationship that is being cultivated between mother and child while you are “doing”- every bath, load of laundry, packed diaper bag, prepared lunch, made-from-scratch dinner, and heck, even taken-out-of-the-bag dinner- is what they will carry with them forever.
3) Children are highly sensitive to the energy around them. There is an energy transfer that occurs so fluidly between you and your child that even when mama is not speaking, they know how you feel and vice versa. I have this with both of my living children and I also feel this with my first daughter, who passed in my womb, as a full-term baby. This space, like an invisible cord, is sacred and all mothers innately know how to protect it.
Being a mother is one of the greatest acts of balance. It’s letting go while staying anchored in our innate loving strength.
So the next time you’re feeling graspy or guilty, as difficult as it is, let go, come into the present moment of who your child is today and experience fully through your little one(s) all that you’ve been given. Remember all that you give your child(ren), for that love is the very definition of feminine divine.
What are your favorite qualities that your child(ren) have? How has being a cancer mom changed you? What lessons have you learned through becoming a cancer mom?
Let the world know your love for them in the comments section below!