By Catia Hernandez Holm
I have had a handful of terrifying moments as a mother.
My first came even before I became a mother. I just WANTED to be a mother.
My then boyfriend and I knew we wanted children, he was 40 and I was 30, and so we wasted no time going to a fertility clinic to get a once over.
My then boyfriend and now husband had taken very strong drugs upwards of 10 years for his autoimmune disorder and we wanted to know if that was going to affect our ability to have children.
After many blood tests and doctor’s visits we had a surprise result. The drugs had not affected him, BUT he did test positive as a recessive carrier for CDG1-A ( a genetic disease that varies from person to person, that can be challenging at best and fatal at worst), and in shock of shocks, I tested positive as a recessive carrier for CDG1-A as well. This meant that there was a 25% chance that any baby we created would have CDG1-A.
Terrified, we decided to seek out IVF to remove the CDG1-A threat.
And before we had a chance to set an appointment at the IVF Clinic, we got pregnant.
What would we do? Would we have the baby and roll the dice? Would we abort the pregnancy? What made sense?
How would we know we were doing the right thing? It was a TOUGH road. (I write about the full experience in my book.)
My second terrifying moment as a mother came when our first born was 4 months old. My husband strapped her into an infant seat and placed her on the kitchen counter while he warmed up some food in the microwave.
It was December and so I sat down to read a fresh stack of Christmas cards, one caught my attention. Some friends of ours had lost their 3-year-old daughter, Moriah. Moriah had passed away in her sleep, no signs of SIDS, nothing to wrap their brain around. Their Christmas card detailed their faith and let us all know just how they were surviving after losing their sweet girl.
As I folded up the letter, feeling the heaviness in my heart, I saw my husband leap from one side of the kitchen counter to the other and he bellowed “OH MY GOD!”
Our 4-month-old had flung back off the kitchen counter. The infant chair had “landed on its feet” so to speak and then bounced forward, leaving the baby’s face centimeters from the cold tile. Her face landed inches away from a stainless-steel water bowl that we had set out for our dogs.
She was shrieking. I jumped up and ran to get her out of the infant chair (She had remained buckled in) and then I cut off her pajamas because she was favoring her right arm and I didn’t know if she had broken it.
Did we just hurt our baby? Were we so careless that we hurt our baby?
And the gripping, life-changing, experiences kept coming.
We went through IVF (I had no idea how much my body and mind would go through) to bring our second baby into the world, all the while Zika was in full force.
And while I labored with our second daughter, the doctors couldn’t get my placenta out (it had adhered to my uterus) and so they had to wheel me to the Operating Room. During this time, I hemorrhaged 50% of my blood and required a blood transfusion. I felt my brain going dark because of the blood loss.
I’ve lived some big moments. We all have.
With each of these situations, the way I live, the way we live as a family, gets refined.
I have learned to slow down and be exceptionally present in crisis. I have learned to steel myself and go into executive decision-making mode. Not giving any attention to “why” it happened or whose “fault” it is, or any of those superfluous thoughts. Knowing that I am mama, a great one, and I am going buckle down and make the best decisions for my child right now. (And then after the moment of crisis has passed, I nourish my body and mind in a way that promotes my feeling and healing.)
I have also learned that things happen and none of us are guaranteed a full, stress-free life. I have NO IDEA why tragedy happens, no one does. All I can do to make tragedy less tragic is to lavishly love.
All I can do to protect against the pain of disease or losing someone is to love them well right now, out loud.
For me, loving well, looks like taking the time to say kind words, over and over. Leaving a bigger space for joy and fun and silliness than to-do lists. Loving well looks like affectionate touching: my hand on someone’s shoulder, hugging, holding hands – anything that says, I am here with you, I see you, I’m so happy we are together.
As a husband and wife, father and mother, leading our family, we have decided to give each other, and our two girls the best we have to offer.
And each day our best looks and feels different, but we show up in love and honor and truth and joy, because we know we have right now, and why not enjoy it?
Catia Hernandez Holm is a TEDx speaker, author and confidence cultivator with a heart for teaching women how to walk through life with confidence and joy. She’s a proud wife and mama of two amazing daughters. Catia teaches teams how to cultivate confidence, and delivers inspirational and applicable messages to university students, high school students, women's groups, book clubs, and church groups.