We are women and mothers, much like our mothers and our mother’s mothers. At some point, each of us have looked to past generations for guidance, but have realized this journey we are on is completely unique and we, as women, should embrace that. We must see our fellow women and mothers, realize the magnitude of differences in our paths and still brave uncharted waters hand in hand. Accepting we are all doing things a little bit differently and extending nothing but love, because we are aware of the amount of courage required for this tireless, yet rewarding, trek. After all, with each corner turned, each hill climbed, and many dark valleys traversed, courage is what has kept us moving.
I am a mother to both a daughter and a son who are a short fifteen months apart. I became pregnant at the youthful age of nineteen, three months into marriage and totally oblivious to the immense amount of responsibility soon to consume my life. Unaware of how I would struggle – of how I would change, and also unaware of the capacity of love that I, soon, would have the ability to possess. I remember in those first terrifying, yet blissful moments, the realization that came over me as I inhaled my daughter’s perfect scent; the challenges bound to come in this life would be fought with every fibre of my being, for her and for my new family, as a whole. Instantly, I became the roof above her, the walls around her and foundation beneath those tiny, precious feet. As I brought our second born – our son, into this world, the emotions I felt with our first born that I was certain could not possibly be replicated, indeed, were. I had never characterized myself as a strong, courageous person, but on those two glorious days, I had no doubt I was capable of that and much more. I became a mother, and motherhood demanded it of me; it goes hand in hand really, motherhood and courage. How can you be a mother – in all of its overwhelming beauty and joy, and also through inevitable times that aren't so beautiful, circumstances trying, heavy and sometimes lonesome – without courage?
As many of us do, I have faced hardships in marriage, in motherhood and in my own spirit – each testing me in different ways, demanding courage which came from a place I was unaware existed – a place I believe faith, alone, has created in me. I didn't feel courageous though, through those steep hills and dark valleys. I didn't feel courageous as we faced serious health issues with our son; times overwhelmed with worry and fear. Courage seemed nowhere to be found when, I, myself, struggled with health issues, resulting in the loss of my ability to bear children. I didn't feel courageous when marital issues rendered me broken, completely consumed by self-doubt which swallowed me whole. The psychological weight, itself, was crippling. I sought direction, finding it in a counsellor who helped reignite a flame I had subconsciously extinguished. She guided me, encouraging me to rid myself of toxicity that was resentment, doubt and fear. I was introduced to a group of women who created a safe environment, encouraging me to be unreserved as I shared with them my trials. My support system, comprised of my wonderful family and friends, is a true blessing, spreading life, love and encouragement over me, my children and my marriage. I am so very grateful to them and constantly appreciate all of the gifts I possess. My son and I have a clean bill of health, my daughter has always thrived and my marriage is now firmly grounded.
My recent venture, though, might be compared to that of a dark, narrow path that has me feeling completely isolated. Myself, my husband and our children have moved four thousand miles away from all we once knew – away from my immediate family, my close friends made over the span of sixteen years and the loving support system I have relied on for the last five and a half years, since becoming a mother. I remain convinced the last thing I could be deemed is courageous. As I sit here at the end of a long day, tears perpetually flowing down my cheeks, I feel like I have failed, as if I have given my all and it isn't even bordering on sufficient. I am overly conscious of every obstacle this journey has presented, overanalyzing every hurdle I have managed to maneuver my family, my children, over, under and around. I fixate on the alternative courses I could have chosen, pondering if they might have been more suitable. Looking back in regret more often than looking forward in preparation for the many journeys to come, how will I possibly guide my children with as much grace as they deserve? Every memory of each shortcoming causes my heart to pang inside my chest, fearing how this all may shape them. I ache for the courage I long to obtain, but always seems just out of reach. How can I view my attempts as feeble and, myself, disabled, yet, the people supporting me see only the courage that I possess? If only I could see myself through their tender, loving eyes. But I am learning, and no matter how great the obstruction, I will, by strength that has been given graciously to me, help bring us through it. I am not perfect. I will fall short and my children have the front row in the audience, but it is also in that front row they will see my determination revealed. As a shelter after the storm bares proof of its struggle as well as its strength, I, too, will bare an impression, but, by grace, I am still standing, still protecting and will continue to do so, unceasingly. Maybe that's what a courageous heart does, recognizes its flaws but perseveres, carrying responsibilities, relentlessly. Perhaps, being courageous doesn't mean you have to boldly face your demons, but rather, recognize that in the end, you are still standing, undefeated.
Each of us possess courage, but we may not all present it in the same way. It seems almost effortless to think back to the times we fell short, the times we felt our efforts were simply not enough as we allowed the grief of that to consume us. But, what if you wiped those tears from your cheeks and the defeat from your heart and challenged yourself to reflect on your journey, as a woman and a mother, in its entirety? It is in that very moment, as I grant the fog of self-doubt to disperse, when I am able to proudly behold the courage I have possessed all the while.
Journalist: Emily Earle