Why Your Story Matters, Mama

Amy Aves Challenger

After my recent article in the Huffington Post about motherhood loneliness, a few moms wrote to me, “It feels like you are writing exactly about me, about my child.”

My reply? My writing isn’t fueled simply by my own motherhood experiences – it is about you. I write my own story, but it is in response to the stories, conversations, celebrations and heartaches I’ve heard from other moms. I’ve been saddened by the mom who told me her husband was leaving, the one who texted me that she felt afraid of her child. My strength evolved from the mothers who have taught me that children sing after seizures, little girls run on beaches after feeding tubes are removed; flowers grow better in a family’s room at a homeless shelter than in my kitchen; and that silver linings can be found in a chemotherapy room in a conversation between two mothers.

And isn’t that how we mothers grow? We don’t find our voices alone. We search through the moms we have known, have read about. We discover what we think is good, unjust, right or wrong. And then we speak, we act, we become fibers in the formation of a new generation.

I know my great-grandmother Mimi, who raised my mother, helped raise me; who smiled every day, dressing in carefully folded nylons and a pressed dress in a nursing home until her stroke at age 96. I know my mom who cares for my dad with Alzheimer’s, who remembered to say “I love you” even when I wasn’t acting loveable; who taught me how to dream with water and colors; who never gave up on her marriage. I know my sister with Type 1 diabetes who ran 13 half marathons in a year; who recently gripped her 3-year-old’s hand as she discovered her insulin pump strewn in a parking lot, a rock thrown into her car, her purse and computer gone. I know my other sister raising three boys, yet still clearing out the mind space to paint restful landscape retreats on giant stretches of canvas above her garage.

I know the mom who had the third baby, whose husband is never home, the many moms searching through match.com for a new love. I know the mother who feels depressed and can’t find the right pill, yoga pose or prayer to bring her smile back. I know the one who is searching for a job, who is about to become homeless, and the mom with buckets of money who can’t find a way to fill her emptiness.

I know moms. And so do you.

My pen pushes forward in swirls of ink flowing from the listening, the learning, the discovering that our arms and lives are like cursive letters, linked and formed to fit into sentences. We are here to live together, to share stories in long winding paragraphs of motherhood. We are given voices to reminisce, to complain, to praise, to cry, to pray. Our arms are designed with purpose – to embrace each other.

I challenge you, reader. Listen carefully to the voices of mothers speaking to you. You can hear them through generations, through conversations at the coffee shop, through revelations in the school parking lot.

Find your own story, and share it. Tell it to the mirror, the journal, your sister, your friend, the stranger who needs you. Lift your experiences to God, to the big blue space above you – to the stars. Notice the shapes of your fingers that fit well into the next mother’s hands. Now reach out.

Discover that your story is unique, Mama. It is a gift filled with successes and defeats. It is overflowing in verses meant to weave in proudly with the others, to learn from, and to evolve into a wondrous larger story for generations to come.

AmyChallenger_x125Amy Aves Challenger is a writer and artist focusing on topics relating to the marginalized, families and children. She has been published regularly in The Huffington Post and also in The Washington Post, Mamalode.com, and Brain, Child Magazine. Her poems and a short story will be published in an upcoming anthology by Kind of A Hurricane Press. Amy lives in Fairfield, CT where she runs a support group for special needs mothers and also leads a writing workshop. She is writing her first novel about a child with special needs. Her poetry can be read daily on twitter @amychallenger.