The Joy & Heartache of Being a Mom

The Joy & Heartache of Being a Mom
By: Kathy Sweeney
We all dream that our children will see their dreams come true.  But, one Heartland mom has learned there is pain and sacrifice that goes along with that.
Lisa Friese's son Vince is a motocross rider who lives and trains in Georgia some eight months out of the year.  Lisa tells me about the day her and her husband, Doug, dropped Vince off at the Milsaps Training Facility.
"I don't think a knife would have described what was going into my heart when I pulled out of there.  His instructor, and he really has a lot of respect for her, said, 'let him go, momma', and I said 'whoah!', and I pulled out of there.  Doug heard me wail for hours up the interstate."
Lisa takes comfort in knowing Vince is in good hands.  He lives with his 20 year And Vince's nearly year round training has paid off with four national titles.  But, when he's gone......  "It hurts, Lisa says.  "You ache for him.  The thing that really keeps me going is talking with him and hearing him be so happy."
 
And Vince misses his mom, like any typical teenager would!
 
"It's definitely hard", Vince tells me.  "I mean, when I'm home she does everything--laundry, food.  Down there, I have to do everything myself.  It makes it hard.  I wish she could come down there and live with me."
 
Lisa's not moving out of Cape, but she does hit the road to see her son every four to six weeks.  She watches, she cheers, she holds her breath....just like all of us do when we watch our kids live their dreams..      
 
"As a mom, you teach your child reach for your dreams, go for your passion, find your true love.  And with it being motocross racing, you want to say --but not that passion!--but as moms, what are we teaching?  Go for your dreams, not my dream."
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It's rare to find stay at home mom Jennifer Rosanna  actually at home!  Tuesday afternoons are about it.  So, that's when I came out to visit with the 27 year old Bollinger County mom and sons Mikey 5, and Caleb, 2. Jennifer's been down both roads a working mom can choose....first going back to work after having Mikey.
 
"I think every mom wishes to stay home, but I knew it wasn't possible at the time" she tells me.
Jennifer made the same plans during her second pregnancy.  Then, doctors gave her the life-changing news--her second son had Down's Syndrome.
 
"When he was ten days old, we got the definite diagnosis and so the next day I called my boss and said I wouldn't be returning."
 
The graphic designer became a stay at home mom.  She never imagined living without her income.  But now, she can't imagine missing Caleb's milestones--something she regrets with Mikey.  But, Jennifer didn't realize she was missing something else very important about Mikey.  One of Caleb's therapists actually noticed it and a pre-school hearing test confirmed it.  Mikey has partial hearing loss in both ears.
Jennifer admits, there are times when she wonders why she has two children with special needs.
"How much more are they going to put on me?", she asks.
But then, she helps all of us realize that despite our own personal burdens and challenges with our kids, they're ours.  And that's the best part.
"I would not change either one of them", Jennifer says.  "I really wouldn't.  For every one thought of why me, I have three thoughts--thank God it's me."
The thought of losing a child is one that haunts me, and I suspect, other moms.  That's why I wanted to visit with Stacy Pikey.  Stacy and her husband John lost their 7-year old daughter Sydney back in 2003 in an accident involving their children and a handgun.  I met Stacy at their New Madrid home and immediately realized this family's tragedy is not hidden away.  The first room you see when you walk in the front door is a beautiful sitting room, decorated with Sydney's most treasured toys, countless pictures, even a poem she wrote her mom.
 
"Why is this the first place people see?", I asked.  "It's important, Kathy, because this is a new home, full of new things and new life, changing things", Stacy explains.  This is a moment to come in and remember Sydney, what she was about, the things she enjoyed as you can see.  It's a soothing room, and just for a moment, to come in and ‘Ahhh'.  It's a refreshing little room for everybody, a great place for us.  It really is."
 
Coming out of Sydney's room and looking around the Pikey home, the family pictures are everywhere.  Sydney is everywhere.  Even though, as Stacy says, everything here is changing, the images of Sydney stay the same.  I wondered how Stacy found the strength to allow her life to change for the better.  That's when the answer plopped down on the couch next to her, dirty face and all.
"Drew is a special little guy", Stacy tells me of her now 9-year old son.  "He is our life.  I look at Drew as my little hero.  At times when my life was pretty low without Sydney, and it was a struggle, but I still had this little guy who was five years old, fully of life, needed his mommy, and wanted to continue life as we knew it.  So, I thank him for that.  He's never actually heard that.  He basically saved my life.  He got me to where I am today."
Stacy has also finds comfort in the final gift Sydney gave, her donated organs.  Stacy has become a strong voice for organ donation, running a program called Sydney's Santa which also helps children in need.
"Probably in the last year, I've spoken to over 1000 people so, it's a win-win situation for me.  I look at it that way, and I think with the ever-growing interest in organ donation, I have a huge opportunity that awaits me.  I look forward to meeting more people who never got to know my little girl."
But despite her strength, it's clear Stacy must come to grips with Sydney's loss every single day.  With all the photos in her home, the most recent family photo is more than four years old.  Stacy's just not ready to take one without Sydney in it.
"I'm just not ready to have that huge empty spot and know that she's missing.  But eventually, I'll get there, I'm sure."
While Stacy's life clearly has moved forward, she does allow Sydney's room to take her back.
"Things in here are like they were four years ago", Stacy tells me, "and that's kind of nice...to know things can still kind of be the same."
Stacy Pikey knows each mom who must travel down this same painful road must do so at her own speed.  But hearing her talk about Sydney brought me a real sense of peace.  Knowing Stacy came out on the other side gives me hope.
"It's not something I chose, to lose a child", Stacy explains.  "It's something that happened to me and I look at it as having the best of both worlds.  I had her physically.  I still have her spiritually.  And through her and God's will...I'm overwhelmed.  It's a powerful gift I've been given and I take full advantage of it."
 
If you'd like to learn more about Sydney's Santa, you can visit www.sydneyssanta.org.