In hindsight, we all have defining moments in our lives that changed, molded and shaped us. Either we were changed against our will, improved after careful planning or shaped through serendipity.
Before this experience, I considered myself a pretty good parent to our two young boys. But I was a worrier. I wanted to parent by intuition, but ended up second-guessing myself. I was missing confidence, inner-peace and trust. Trust in myself and in a higher power. But mindful parenting eventually made me a better mother.
My defining moment came when I was at my life’s lowest and most vulnerable state. As a mother, I feared facing the potentially greatest loss a parent may suffer. The days ahead had been marred by the unknown, my faith was being tested and it truly felt like my heart had been ripped from my chest.
Our second son, only 12 days old was sicker than sick. His condition had deteriorated over the past 24 hours to the point where the most hopeful words spoken by medical professionals were: “We have ordered the helicopter for your son’s immediate transfer to another medical facility that is better equipped to handle such a complex case.”
There I stood, holding vigil over our infant son. He was hooked up to IVs, a respirator, monitors and countless medical devices that beeped and alarmed in an ear-shattering symphony. My husband was en route with a haphazardly packed suitcase and my breast pump.
(In hindsight, never tell a stressed-out husband to “pack me comfortable clothes” because you will be stuck in a hospital room 2 hours away from home wearing lavender flannel pajamas – when you are not even the patient.)
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I saw the hospital Chaplain walk by our room. I immediately said a quiet prayer for the family in such dire shape that his presence was warranted. Mere moments passed before I hear a quiet and respectful knock on our door. It was the Chaplain. Our situation was the dire one. He had come to pray over our son before our flight.
My heart sank. The enormity of the situation instantly took my breath away.
Father Mike stood next to me as we bowed our heads in unison. We didn’t take our eyes off my infant boy in the baby warmer. With a clear and calm voice he said “be where you are.”
I looked up at Father Mike, hoping for clarification. He repeated himself: “be where you are” and then went on to explain his surprisingly simple message. His words are clearly etched in my memory as if I spoke with him yesterday, when in fact it was 8 years ago.
THE Four Words:
He accurately predicted that the next couple of days, weeks, even months would be some of the hardest in our lives. He urged me to be fully present in every moment – “be where you are” – and to trust that I was right where I was supposed to be, all the time.
“Be fully engaged in your oldest child, when you are at home with him. Play with him, interact and give him your undivided attention. Trust that your baby is well cared for at the hospital, so you can be a wonderful mother to your oldest son.
When you are with your baby in the hospital be present there, pay attention to your surroundings, changes in him and be mindful of his needs. You can do this knowing that your oldest son is safe in his loving home.”
Father Mike’s words stuck with me. I made a decision to follow his advice and be present in every moment, however scary and frightening it would be.
“Be where you are” became my mantra, the words that comforted me during our darkest hours. The four words kept me centered during our son’s six weeks in the PICU. I sat by his bedside and watched helplessly as he struggled to fight for what I promised him would be a beautiful life.
Father Mike’s simple message was my anchor, when I felt capsized in an ocean full of heartbreak and uncertainty. Thanks to his wisdom, I had the clarity and strength to make our baby a big promise that we fulfill every day, because our life IS beautiful.
Our son fought every challenge thrown at him – and won. He is now a spirited 8 year old with an older brother and two younger brothers. That’s right, four boys under the age of 10!
Mindful Parenting Changes Everything:
Our four little blessings challenge our patience and sanity daily with their energy, wit and spunk. When parenting gets hard and motherhood weighs heavily on my shoulders, I remember Father Mike’s words: “be where you are!”
On days when the kids are melting down and fighting as siblings do, I remind myself to be present in the moment. These times, however crazy they make me, however tired and frazzled I may feel, they are not to be wished away – and I certainly should not be dreaming of a quiet beach on a remote island, because I am right where I am supposed to be.
Wouldn’t you know it, when I pull myself back from my daydream and focus on separating the two little boys that are stuck together like pieces of LEGO, the fighting stops. The tantrums, the meltdowns, the yelling, the arguing – they all come to a halt!
When I live by the words “be where you are,” the boys realize that I SEE them, like REALLY SEE them. They know that I hear their rapid-fire questions, funny stories from school and awkward jokes.
I am no longer distracted by my own wandering thoughts, flashy iPhone or luring social media notifications – I am fully present, engaged, and focused on them.
Father Mike’s advice got me through the worst of times. His guiding words led me through the muddiest waters to the other side, where our family is flourishing with renewed focus and resolve.
When you feel torn between friends, when the work/ life balance is out of whack, when you are annoyed that everything happens on “their time” and you long for some “me time” – take a step back and tell yourself to “be where you are!”
Trust me – it works.
You can read more from the archives about our journey with Jordan: “Breastfeeding Jordan. Our Baby With a Big Heart”