Making sense of Mom Labels

It was right around Owen’s first birthday when someone suggested I look into the Pacer program as a resource for our family.  When I went to their website, I was surprised.  This wasn’t a website for preemies or sick children; it was a website for families of children with disabilities.

Hmm?  I was contemplative… “Am I the mother of a child with disabilities?  Am I a special needs mom?  Owen’s sick, not disabled, right?  He’s delayed, but that’s not disabled, is it?  He might have long-term disabilities, but we can’t assume that right now.  We don’t know.  Can you be a special needs mom temporarily?”

The more I thought about it, it became clear; Owen is a one year old who needs support to breath, does not eat and is doing about what you’d expect a 4-5 month old to do.  It doesn’t matter if it’s for a life time or not, right now, Owen does have special needs and, by default, that makes me a special needs mom.  I have come to accept that.

But there is still a struggle.  What label fits best?  Preemie Mom?  Micro Preemie Mom?  Special Needs Mom?  What about Kellen, doesn’t he get to be included in my description?  They were both Preemies, so does that sum me up?  Preemie mom?

To be clear, I’m not looking for a label to fulfill stereo types.  Labels are categories that help us simplify the world.  As a person who likes to connect with others, what one word description will help me find moms most like me?  As a mother who likes to share her story, what one word will help people understand our life and best find this blog?  As a family who believes in giving back, in what specific area do we want to focus our advocacy voice?

And the more I think about it, the more I realize, it doesn’t matter the descriptor, the key word is MOM.

EVERY mom has special circumstances.  EVERY mom thinks her child is an amazing miracle.  EVERY mom worries about her child’s future.  EVERY mom fights for her child.  EVERY mom cheers at each milestone.  EVERY mom loses sleep over her child.  EVERY mom cries for her child.  EVERY mom knows what it’s like to love in a way she never before thought possible.

I’m doing what moms do – for both of our boys.  Owen and Kellen have different needs from each other.  I adjust how I mother them based on those needs, but I don’t adjust my definition of being a mom.  For each, I believe he is my amazing miracle that worries me and sometimes brings out the mama bear in me.  For each, I cheer, lose sleep, cry and profoundly love.  I am a mom.  Plain and not-so-simple.

This fact was highlighted to me recently when I was discussing my blog with a friend who confessed she cries nearly every time she reads it.  When I replied, “I don’t want to make you sad,” she said, “I don’t cry because I pity you, I cry because you’re describing what it means to be a mom.”

And she’s right.

In my short, three and a half, years of being a mom, I’ve already had several mom labels; working mom, married mom, preemie mom, micro preemie mom, hospital mom, suburban mom, stay at home mom, NICU mom, special needs mom and mommy blogger  – to name a few.  And, I will continue to use those labels to help me find people who can share tips and stories of dealing with similar circumstances and to seek out those that may find comfort in hearing our story.

However, when trying to describe myself in one word to help people understand my life – that’s impossible.   Let’s be honest, there would be no mommy bloggers or authors if one word summed up any of us.

A four word phrase will have to do:  Kellen’s and Owen’s Mom.

Photography by Pichette Photography, LLC

© Copyright Tatum, All rights Reserved. Written For: Ain't No Roller Coaster

5 thoughts on “Making sense of Mom Labels

  1. My son was born at 27 weeks, and I felt for the first year or so that experience defined me and my parenting and I felt very much a preemie mum.

    As we get further away the preemie thing is fading. Joseph’s personality is overshining that experience, and now I am just mum.

    I think our experiences make us and shape us, but we don’t need to let them define us.

  2. Pingback: What I Wish Everyone Knew About This Preemie Life | Ain't No Roller CoasterAin't No Roller Coaster

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