The moments after I was told that my five-year-old son had a tumor in his brain were a blur to me. After hearing the doctor tell me matter-of-factly why my son had had a grand mal seizure, it was as if I was pushed through a long tunnel; the end of which was a dark, soundproof box. I could barely see his lips moving, and I didn’t hear a word of what he was saying next.
My surgeon husband and the doctor began their “physician speak,” and only then the weight of their words was sinking in.
“. . .large mass in the brain. . .”
“ . . .not able to control the seizures . . .”
“ . . .have to admit him right away . . .”
My knees gave out and I sunk to the floor. Suddenly, it felt as if all of the air had gone out of the room. I was struggling, trying to take in gulps of the last bit of air that was left.
“I . . .can’t . . .breathe . . .” I managed between gasps.
My husband and the ER doctor merely glanced my way and continued their discussion in low tones while I felt the room going black. I was drowning, and I couldn’t make it to the surface.
There was a respiratory therapist in the room. She knelt down eye-level to me and began to speak in a soothing voice.
“Look in my eyes,” she began while holding my hands. She lead me through a series of questions that helped me focus and regain my breathing.
I spent the next fourteen months leaving rooms to hold my breath and try to stifle my tears so my other sons wouldn’t see me crying.
I would sit in my car before preschool drop-off taking deep breaths until my tears were under control so the other moms wouldn’t ask me what was wrong.
Breathing in and out while praying I would make it through church service without the tears spilling down my face.
Steadying my breathing and smiling weakly at my son’s doctors so I wouldn’t break down in tears.
Brave, they called me. With grace was how I was handling my son’s terminal cancer diagnosis.
I didn’t even cry at his funeral.
I didn’t know any better. Moms are supposed to be strong, right?
Two days after we buried our son, we were at a church program one of our other sons was in. He was doing the exact opposite as all of the other children, doing his best to stick out like a sore thumb. I couldn’t breathe through my tears any longer. I went out to the lobby and cried. At that point, I didn’t care who saw me.
I figured now that my son was gone I finally had an excuse to let the tears spill.
A year later, that same son was in that same program sticking out like the same sore thumb.
But this time instead of spilling tears, I took a deep breath and laughed.
I laughed because I had learned over that year after my son’s death that a mom doesn’t have to be strong all the time. She doesn’t need to hide her tears. Her tears are a sign that she loves her family. They are a sign that she hurts when they hurt, that she feels lonely when they are alone, and that she is sad when they are sad.
They are a sign of her frustration over not being able to make everything just perfect for the children she loves. And they can be simply a sign that she is tired and wishes that she could just fix everything.
And that’s okay; quite normal really.
A mom doesn’t have to be strong all the time. It’s okay for her to cry. Whether it’s over a lost homework paper, a misbehaving toddler, or a serious illness, it’s okay to show you care. It’s okay to breathe and let yourself cry.