Today is Mother’s Day, a time when people across America and around the world celebrate the incredible women who make our families what they are.
Lisa and I are lucky enough to still have our mothers with us, both kind and generous, nurturing and caring. We’ve learned a lot from our moms, and they’ve made us better parents. Lisa’s sister is an amazing mom, as are my brothers’ wives. And we have good friends who are great mothers. All of them inspire us.
But today, I want to recognize the remarkable difference in Gabriella’s life because of her mom, Alexander’s mom, my wife.
Once any woman becomes a mother, she accepts a lifelong role. Even though Alexander came second, I got to see Lisa embrace “normal motherhood” with all its joys and worries. She encouraged him to take chances and set guardrails to teach judgment, and she glowed with pride when he learned these lessons well.
Something about parenting a child like Gabriella introduces a different intensity. All new parents know the feeling of awe that comes with holding a newborn, with knowing that this child’s well-being is literally in your hands. Our daughter will never face many hazards that come with adolescence and adulthood, but her health risks were more severe from the start. Expectations, for her future and for our lifestyle, reset again and again, requiring a different kind of acceptance process. It takes a special resolve to go on devoting as much attention after two decades to concerns that most children outgrow as toddlers. Lisa’s commitment, her vigilance, has never flagged.
Everything takes longer, not only child development but the endless wait for services and bureaucracies. Obstacles are magnified tenfold, and so does the need for patience. Over all these years, Gabriella’s mom has dedicated so much of her time to keeping her safe and clean and comfortable and happy.
When Gabriella was born, she gave up her career in medicine. After practicing as a physician assistant for several years, she had transitioned to the medical school, teaching in the PA program. Early on, she found her healthcare knowledge to be both helpful and frustrating, like a half-drawn map of a dark forest. It helped us navigate through new symptoms or diagnoses, but it also caused us to seek patterns where few exist.
But that hasn’t prevented me from depending on her expertise every day, as a model and teacher, from administering syringes to operating equipment. Just this week, she worked with Gabriella’s health insurance company on a medicine they denied. While her doctor deemed it medically necessary on an ongoing basis, they rejected it after 90 days. They often say no. Lisa engaged in many calls with the doctor’s office and the insurer to discuss alternatives in dose and form (suspension drops, dissolvable tabs). She explained that Gabriella receives her meds through a G-tube.
When one alternative proved not to be on the formulary for our plan, they suggested a compounded mixture. Lisa asked, conquering her incredulity, whether they would pay for what would surely be a more expensive format. The rep admitted it was unlikely. After five representatives in three days, she found a solution that would offer the protection Gabriella needed while meeting the insurance company’s requirements. The insurer even helped our doctor’s staff prepare the needed paperwork.
In these exchanges, Lisa showed more than her professional experience. She also exhibited the negotiation and problem-solving skills that proved so important in the corporate world. And not a little patience.
It’s this mix of skills and experiences that make Lisa an exceptional mom to two very different people. She’s leveraged the benefits of the healthcare field she left behind, while demonstrating capabilities that might have made her a successful leader in Corporate America. But she accepted a harder career path than either, as the mom in our unique family.