These courageous mothers driven by love


With my 20 years of experience, I smiled smugly as the mother-to-be detailed all her plans for the new arrival.

"We are picking up our baby Friday from the adoption agency. I am going to take the weekend to get her adjusted before coming back to work Monday."

New mom will learn, probably in the first 24 hours, that she will be doing most of the adjusting.

A few coos and toothless smiles from baby, and mother will be off on a lifelong journey. She will freely allow that baby to take command of her life.

Career choices often are the avocation as motherhood defines a woman's life. Mothers may be pulled in many directions, but they are anchored to their children. Their thoughts and words are laced with reflections of their children.

Mother's Day offers an excuse for me to review some of those words from women who have not lost sight of what it means to mother.

The comments range from a friend's witty -- "God, you have given me three boys now. It's OK, but I need my own bathroom" -- to the words of Toni Giordano, who, on becoming a mother, said, "When our baby arrived, I couldn't leave him. So, I switched from business suits to wash-and-wear and became a stay-at-home mom."

And the heart-rending story of a dying woman, who knew she wouldn't be alive for her children's Christmas. Although desperately ill, Susan Hornick shopped for special presents to let her children know how much she wanted to be with them.

The words sound clearly with the devotion entwined in motherhood.

"I won't leave her bedside for any reason," said Pattii Aliff of her 2-year-old daughter, who has brain cancer. "I have seen what children go through on chemotherapy. Sometimes parents can't be there, and I hear them crying for their mothers. It's heartbreaking."

Most of us would call such women extraordinarily courageous. They would say they had no choice. They were driven by the force of maternal love.

Sometimes, the pain in 8-year-old Adrienne Liszka's joints is so intense, she can't walk. Her mother carries her.

"If I could take all that pain myself I would," said Nancy Mott, who has instilled a fierce determination in her daughter.

With three children of her own, Paulette Fernekees found room in her heart to care for infant foster twins. For eight months, the children shared her home as Fernekees battled to keep them alive. The twins are HIV-positive and suffer from developmental, hearing and vision problems.

"Nobody is going to fight for these children like I have," she said. "You don't do this without falling in love."

I have met mothers who prayed their sons and daughters home from the Persian Gulf War. And one whose prayers went unanswered.

Sandra Bowman's son, Army Spec. Charles W. Bowman Jr., was killed in Iraq last year when a bomblet exploded in his hand. Out of love and respect for his memory, she said, she found the strength to welcome the children of other mothers home.

"Sure, we would have liked to see Charles walk in, but it helped us to see the other kids coming home," she said.

A childless friend of mine once compared raising children to being in a soap opera.

"Motherhood means involvement in a never-ending crisis-filled story," she said.

Most of us would say we were privileged to have a continuing part in the drama. The role is stressful and fulfilling. It demands selfless commitment.

But mothers are thrilled to win the part. We look forward to acting out each chapter in the story and will to the end of our days.

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