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“The chicken needs a bit more salt,” I advised as I handed over the brown paper sack stuffed with the makings of a taco dinner.

She took the bag, this perfect stranger, and looked back at me with her crystal-clear Lake Louise eyes.

“The procedure worked,” she sob-spoke back to me. And I saw it all …

Relief. Fear. Joy. Grief. Anguish. Hope. Love.

All of that in a split second, all for her daughter, a friend of mine who is battling cancer.

For a moment, we were joined together. Two moms, two different generations, facing two different battles. And yet her eyes told me we were the same …

Growing up, I saw it in my own mother’s eyes, but I didn’t fully recognize it until I became a mom myself. It has not faded even through the passage of time.

I see it in my friend Bethany’s eyes when she takes photos next to her only daughter’s grave.

I see it in Tiffany’s eyes as she gets ready to adopt a second son from China this summer.

I see it in my infertile friends’ eyes when they talk about their dreams of a family. In fact, it’s still there long after our conversation is over.

I’ve seen it in Deanna, Elizabeth, Carrie and Bethany’s eyes … my foster mama friends who have battled for the health, healing and wholeness of children they love as a mama does but lay claim to no parental rights.

I saw it in the eyes of my children’s birth moms. In Z’s mom as she wept in court, thankful her son was provided for. In Leyla’s bio mom as she frantically tried to fight relinquishment when the court deemed her unable to parent.

I’ve seen it in the eyes of my friends whose own relationships with their moms are strained at best. Their determination to do better than what they were given.

I saw it in my friend Katie’s eyes when she told me about naming her stillborn son.

I see it in my friend Delayna’s eyes as she parents her rainbow baby.

I see it in Danielle and Michele’s eyes as they advocate for their children with special needs.

I see it in my friends around the world, as they post pictures and blogs and status updates on their growing families.

Love. Sure, yes, absolutely love. But so much more. 

A fierce and steady determination. A relentless resolve. Pure vulnerability. 

It is as though we know that this mothering gig, however and whenever it comes to us, is going to demand so much more than we could ever give. It is the knowledge that love and loss hold hands, with fingers interlocked. 

It’s a steely, iron-clad pride that stands alone from our child’s potential. 
It’s joy enmeshed with hope. 

It’s unadulterated pain at the thought of anything happening, or the realization that it already has. 

It is the laying of oneself on the alter that was fashioned for your child. It is the sheer will to protect. The horror of not always being able to.

There’s something to a mother’s eyes.

 It doesn’t matter if she has given birth, or has legal rights. It doesn’t matter if she has a child in her arms or a child in her heart. It doesn’t matter if the world doesn’t call her a mother, or if they recognize her with a corsage this Mother’s Day in church. 

She’s got the look. She’s got the heart. And she has earned the title of “Mom.” 

She doesn’t have to say a word to any of us for us to understand how she feels about her child. Her eyes say it all.

….

To all you mama bears…

Those who are older and those who are young.

Those who have birthed children and those who have never conceived.

Those who have said “hello” and those who have said “good-bye.” 

Those who have been a surrogate for mothers who have let their kids down.

Those who have step-children and children-in-law.

Those who have never had a child to claim as their own.

Those who have fought for a child and won. Those who have fought for a child and lost.

Those who have adopted, fostered, surrogated or guardianed.

Those who fought infertility … primary or secondary. 

Those who have seen a positive test or an ultrasound pic, but have no other proof of their motherhood.

Those who are pregnant and those who long to be.

Those professionals who have championed for a child.

Those who have laid down their bodies, their rights, their dreams, their jobs, their health and their finances all for the love and devotion to a child …

To you, I say “Well done.” May you be loved, cherished, respected and honored for your part in this sacred dance called mothering.