08 May A Mother’s Heart Essay – 2021 winning essays
Words cannot express how moved we are that you each shared your stories with us. Stories of hope, joy, loss…stories that inspire, heal, and give thanks. So many amazing stories were shared, and you are all deserving of our gratitude. The committee had such a hard time deciding from the enormous amount of essays received. Thank you to everyone who shared their hearts and thoughts. We invite you to continue to submit essays in future Mother’s Heart events.
This year’s winners for the Doulas of Marquette, “A Mother’s Heart Essay Contest” are:
First Place: Jamie Lynne
“It was a ringing phone that woke me to the terrifying news that my daughter had died during the night. Just 12 hours earlier, I had arrived in a far-away state for work, and she was at her home, presumably safe and sleeping in after attending a work party the night before. It’s been four years. How can I still be standing, surviving the loss of Sweet Pea– a cherished, adored, beloved, girl, the one with a smile that lit up my universe. I’m never sure what day it is, because what happened on that cold winter night remains the dividing line between “before” (everyday life) and “after” (the abyss of separation from her and the end of everything I thought I knew.) Missing her is like an operating system always running in the background—never turning off for a second. The emptiness, trying to appear “fine” is almost impossible—depending on how firmly the mask is glued on and whether the pain parts have been put into my giant lockbox. There is anxiety when it’s time to meet new people, waiting for the inevitable inquiry, “Do you have any kids?” The first time, I was standing alone at the back of a church, waiting for friends to arrive. A woman made her way to me, smiling. “I don’t know you, do I? I told her I was there for a mass honoring my daughter, and she asked, “How many other children do you have?” I replied, “None. She was my only child.” Patting me on the arm, she said, “Well, you’re not a mom anymore, are you?” Stunned, I choked out, “I’ll always be a mom.” Shaking her head, she muttered, “Well, not really.” Another Mother’s Day Sunday will soon be here, and that question is still as hard. “Do you have any kids?” I could say, “No, I don’t,” but ripping out my heart would be easier then denying her existence. “Yes, a daughter” is technically true, as I’m praying they won’t ask for details about her life. But saying “Yes, one daughter, and she died” is like flipping a button to slow-motion: That truth sounds guttural, drawn-out, the weight of these words landing like a solid punch to the gut. Body recoiling, eyes wide, face splashed red—and silence or a stammered apology. Nothing I say will undo their discomfort. What I want to say is this: There was a girl who called me “Mum.” Right now she is not here, but her color and light is. Sweet Pea’s face is my first thought every morning, and I whisper her name falling asleep. Her eyes sparkle back from the mirror, and her laugh wafts in on the breeze from the lake. I find her in the woods, in thrift shops, on car rides to far-away places. Her love is in the notes tucked into my suitcase and pockets. Thank you so much for asking about my daughter, because, “I’ll always be her mom.”
Second Place: Susan Divine nominated by Katy and Erin Divine
Katy and Erin’s Essay:
“MOTHER OF MANY – Mother’s Day has not always been a joyful day. When we lost our mom at the ages of 10, 15, 19 & 21 after an arduous four year battle with cancer, there were MANY hard years and tears on Mother’s Day. A day not to be acknowledged; as this was a day full of empty loss and not the celebration of a mom that we had, who we loved and cherished. It took having children of our own to realize the love, teaching and sacrifices another human had made for us after the loss of our own mother. Our Aunt, Susan Divine, stepped in to assist us whenever she could from 1.5 hours away. She would accompany us to doctor’s appointments, attend our homecomings and band recitals. All while juggling three young children of her own and a full-time career. Her wings got bigger. She was somehow able to handle late night discussions and graduation parties, sending care packages to us at college and over the years, many hand written letters and notes sharing our mom’s thoughts of us, her prayers and her wisdom. She hosted our wedding parties, celebrated our pregnancies and came to help after our babies were born. She bought the items to scrapbook our memories and never forgot a birthday or a Christmas box full of homemade goodies, wherever we lived in the world. We are pushing on thirty years of losing our mom but Susan has been there consistently, without missing a beat. She reinstilled in us the importance of family dinner, attempted to help us find our green thumb and a huge appreciation for a good garage sale. (You never can have enough canning jars). Susan ‘Pied Pipered’ us to family events with music and food and togetherness. At these gatherings the lines between her family and our family were practically non-existent. As our dad’s brother’s wife, she had no obligation to care for us the way that she did. She did it out of her own volition. Her wings grew even larger as her own children aged into wonderful adults who now have their own children. And Susan’s wings grew. She has even more room under her wings now as a YaYa than she did before. Not only to her children’s children, but to ours as well. Susan Divine deserves to be celebrated and recognized, not because she seeks recognition, but because she’s flat out earned it. There is no way to encompass all the lives she’s touched, we are just a few that have experienced her love deeply. She is the mother of many.”
Third Place: Rachel Skaw
“A Mother’s Starry Night – As I lay here next to you in these fleeting, sweet moments while you have just begun dreaming, I reflect on the last two years (and beyond) in which I have been blessed to be your mother. It’s something I haven’t done enough of up to now, I quickly realize. I remember how my journey into motherhood initially brought heartache following two first trimester pregnancy losses. Then came you. You were different from the start and I sensed your loving presence as the weeks of my pregnancy went by. Finally, on a snowy day in Mid-April, you joined us earthside and my life was instantly and completely changed. As we lay here together now, hand in hand, I am deeply content. While motherhood comes with many challenges, moments like these make it all worthwhile. I have grown as a person, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a wife, and more because of you and the lessons you’ve unknowingly provided. Your zest for life and unwavering presence is infectious. Your eagerness to explore allows me to do the same. I am an improved version of myself because of you. And then I can’t help but think about my own amazing mother. She is someone I look up to and cherish more than anyone on this planet. There have been many lessons passed down from her as well, no doubt. Might you feel the same way about me someday? And then my mind floats to my grandmothers. Two strong, incredible women who raised their own children with such grace. And then my aunts. My mother and sisters-in-law. Cousins. My amazing girlfriends and family friends. Those I know who are praying for a family and those who have acted as mothers in innumerable ways. Countless women who have generously shared their love with us both. And suddenly I am struck with awe. We are a matrix of women who have brought into and kept life in this world and will continue to do so for centuries. A group that I am incredibly honored to be a part of. I look out our window and see stars abound and, in this moment, I feel entirely connected to the mothers of our community and beyond. I feel tremendous gratitude for those who have gone before me. I also feel proud. Proud to bear the title of “mom” for you in this and every moment, B. I wouldn’t trade being your mama for anything and feel motherhood has been one of the greatest gifts I have been fortunate to receive. I am sending love to all of the mothers under the same starscape as me on this Mother’s Day.”
Thank you all again for taking the time to submit. You are all truly amazing. We invite you to each submit essays in future Mother’s Heart events! If you are still looking for gifts, please consider visiting one of the generous businesses that donated prizes. Mothers are created and formed in many ways – through love and pain, through welcoming and loss, but each fully a Mother.