Anyone who knows me well, knows I really quite despise labels. I’m not their bio-mom, adoptive mother, foster mom… I’m a MOM. I have a shirt from one of my favorite foster family non-profits that says: Bio, Adoptive, Foster all with a line through them and then MOM in big letters at the bottom. I am not a label and refuse to be my many diagnoses as well. Juggling parenthood and chronic illness is a beast of it’s own kind. Juggling parenthood with DCS, Licensing workers, Behavioral Health providers. visitation parent aides, specialist appointments (For me and several of our kiddos…) that is a tornado swirling around you on the daily. They all have a label they want to apply to you, your children, family, friends etc. But, we are just a family; a family with many moving parts, but a FAMILY. That’s a label I can get behind.
One day in particular I had taken my kids to Target with me for some back to school shopping. I had a woman in the check-out line ask me, “Are those two yours?,” as if I didn’t know to which of my then only 5 children she was referring, I simply stared back at her. I had no witty remarks in the moment, though I found so many running through my head on the way home. I simply said,”Yes, they’re ALL mine.” We had not completed our adoptions yet and there was no way I was going into the horrid details of why these two wonderful children had found their way into our home and hearts. Was it any of her business why there were three with me who were clearly biologically related to me and two with whom I couldn’t look more different than them on the outside? Did she have such little understanding of the hurt she inflicted on my daughter in that moment? Who would ask a stranger waiting in line at Target such an intrusive question? It was then that I knew one thing I hadn’t acknowledged previously; there are people who need the labels and people who don’t. Which are you?
Do you find yourself stifled or held back by the labels of your disease or circumstances or do you find comfort in being able to name them? I often think about my children and the challenges they have faced and will face in the future. We have a son with sensory processing disorder who struggles in ‘normal’ social situations. Will his labels define him as an adult? I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of labels when I sit back and think of the many I have and the many more I may someday have. Bio-mom, adoptive-mom, foster-mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, sports practice and game chauffeur, band mom, or my diagnoses… Cancer survivor, warrior woman battling: Mast Cell Activation Syndrome/Disorder, Fibromyalgia, RA, Ehlers Danlos, POTS (Postural Orthostatic Intolerance Syndrome), PTSD, Chronic Active EBV, degenerative disc disease, joint degeneration throughout my body far beyond my 37 years… Some people need a label for what they’re dealing with in order to find victory. There have been diagnoses that brought me peace because I FINALLY understood and had a name for some thing I had been struggling with since I was kid. But then I felt so defeated knowing another diagnosis had been added to my list. How do you feel about new diagnoses and labels for things you struggle with? I find there is freedom in letting go of the labels and living each moment, feeling the feels (even the ones that hurt) and doing my best to keep marching forward on my journey.