In Case of Emergency

Sarah Grecula essays

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When you join the league of mothers,
You will be greeted with this piece of advice:
Take care of yourself, Don’t neglect your own needs when a child enters the mix.
Someone will give you the oxygen mask on a tail-spinning airplane analogy: You must first put your own mask on before you can be of service to others.

Because if you don’t you will turn purple and die before you can help anyone else
or at the very least you will be a growling, resentful beast

You will take this bit of wisdom to heart,
benefit from it and become a self-care zealot
Passing it on to other new moms
because you took it and it worked, you felt renewed
You parented better
You became a part of a community of evolved mothers
that didn’t abandon their selves out of some misplaced martyrdom

And then, for some of us, hypothetical crisis is replaced by actual crisis
a car crash, an emerging lump, a cataclysmic divorce
Depression, disaster, a stray bullet, an ominous ultrasound
Tragedy takes too many shapes to name them all here
And the aftermath endures for weeks, months, sometimes years

It’s then that you find yourself dead—last on your own list of priorities
everything else non-negotiable, the work of survival
You get pulled like taffy between people that you love
people that need you, specifically you, to care for them
Forced to burn the candle at both ends
sacrificing sleep and sanity along the way
With nothing left to give you keep on giving anyway

When that happens you will want to deliver a right hook to the eye
of anyone that dare deliver the oxygen mask analogy to you now
You will forgo breath and still fight to fit masks over the mouths
of those whose lives mean more to you than your own

When those times come “put yourself first” will be as ineffectual
as the “Save $5000 a year by skipping your daily latte!” articles are
to the mother who struggles to buy bread to feed her children

When oxygen and rest and rational thought
are luxuries you can’t afford
You will bleed and break and feel defeated
but you will not surrender
Because you are a mother and you forfeited that right
the moment you became one

Eventually you will make it out the other side
scarred and stretched beyond all your previous limits,
your sense of empathy swollen in proportion to the things you lost

That’s when you’ll join another league of mothers
a subsection of the larger one made up of those that can relate
You’ll be glad to have them but would never wish for new members

This league springs to action when new members come anyway
they do little things and big things to prop them up
You’ll recognize them by the gifts they give:
hands to clutch and the absence of unsolicited advice

About the Author

Sarah Grecula

Sarah lives in Woodbury, Minnesota with her husband, six year old daughter and infant son. Her greatest pride is reserved for her children but earning her bachelor's degree last year while mothering and working full-time is a close second. She loves to read, write and chase her dreams while helping her family pursue their own.

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