The Day I Grew Up

My mom was 29 weeks pregnant, and I was a spunky six-year-old.  It was a Sunday, so my mom and I were in the morning church service (typical).  My dad was out of town on business (also typical).  It was November 11, 1990.

The kind ushers had just taken up the offering, and that day I had emptied my piggy bank of all my coins.  Just a few moments after the offering plate passed by, I looked down and my mom was sitting in a pool of blood… it was all over her, the pew and the floor.  I was horrified.  She calmly told me to call an usher, so I did.  The next thing I knew, the paramedics arrived, put my mom on a stretcher, and carried her out of the sanctuary balcony – all during the church service.

After watching all of this in disbelief and confusion, I was left alone.  Well, not alone exactly… First Baptist Atlanta was a mega-church, even back in 1990, so there were hundreds — maybe thousands — of people in that sanctuary.  But I felt alone.

Thankfully, the church functioned like the body of Christ, and a sweet lady who was sitting near us took me under her wing.  “We’ll take care of her,” she told the usher.  “Sugar you just stay with us until we figure out what’s happening.”

“Will my mom be okay?” I asked.  “We’ll pray for her,” was all she said.  “What about the baby?” I continued.  “I don’t know, honey, but lets pray.”

Looking back, that was the day I grew up.  Until then, I was the pampered only child –always the center of attention.  But on that day and in the days and weeks that followed, many things changed.  My mom had many other complications with her pregnancy and my dad was still traveling frequently for work.  There were three more times when my mom had emergency issues, each time traumatic and uncertain.  Each time I was by her side alone and had to take charge of the situation.  I clearly remember calling 911, assuring her that I would be okay, and staying at home with police while she was rushed to the ER and we tried to get a baby sitter.  A few times I was even late to my First Grade class because I was helping my mom.

Those were challenging days, but they taught me a lot.  When my little brother Paul finally arrived in the world 77 days after November 11, I felt such a sense of ownership.  So much so, that when a family friend brought me a button that said “I’m A Big Sister,” I crossed out “Big Sister” with a Sharpie and wrote “Co-Mom.” I still remember the nurses teasing me about that in the hospital.

When Paul entered college a few years ago, he asked me to attend his Freshman Orientation and I went to the parent meetings (some people thought I was his mother – after a day of that, I traded the suit and portfolio for jeans and a backpack, and people thought I was a new freshman myself – I just can’t win!)  I grilled the RAs about campus rules and gave Paul last-minute advice on everything from grades to girls.  When I dropped Paul off at his dorm before heading back home, this kid (not usually sentimental) thanked me for helping raise him and told me something that made my heart smile: “By the way, Ruth, you’re awesome… I love you and I trust you,” he said.  “I’m pretty sure I would fail at life if I didn’t have you as a big sister.”

Every year, when November 11 rolls around, it’s still a bit emotional for us.  I find it hard not to recount that traumatic experience and talk about it with my parents and brother.  Most of all we give thanks for the fact that Paul is a miracle child… and though the doctors feared he would be small and weak, he’s now six feet tall!

When Nancy French initially approached me about writing for this blog, I was a bit apprehensive.  At first it was nicknamed the “Mommy Blog,” and I wondered if I would be able to contribute anything relevant or insightful given my lack of experience in the motherhood arena.  I’m still in awe of some of the contributors on here, but I’m starting to see the bigger picture.

As women, we all have the potential to play significant roles in our families and communities… married and single, with kids and without, older and younger.  Some of us may not have kids of our own, but we all have the capacity to reach out, care for, invest in and influence children in our circles of family and friends.  Sometimes we are suddenly thrust into that position out of necessity (as I was at a very young age), and other times we must intentionally make an effort and seek out opportunities to help mothers in need and impact kids at pivotal points in their lives.  Whatever your relationship status and responsibilities, embrace your role, expand your circle of influence, and commit to being a life-giving woman to those God brings along your path.

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