By Kelly DiMaggio
17 Dec

An End-of-Year Reflection on Love

Thursday, December 17, 2015

As the year comes to a close, many people find themselves reflecting on the past 12 months. I am no exception. 2015 was a rollercoaster of a year for me. In May, I lost my stepfather, Dave, to a long and grueling battle with cancer. Dave was my right-hand man health-wise. He GOT every feeling I’ve ever had regarding living life with chronic illness. For those of us who fall into the medically-related sector of anxiety and depression, you know how strong the bond is between those with shared medical experiences. Losing that bond was devastating.

A mere five months later, I was by my Mom’s side while she underwent a double mastectomy. On top of all that, this year marked the beginning of me really beginning to feel the daily effects HLHS has on my body. I’ve been grieving the fact that my “normal” and my day-to-day life looks strikingly different than that of the average 27-year-old female. I’ve been sad. I’ve been angry. Honestly, I’ve been all over the place. But I’m constantly reminding myself that it is OK to feel these emotions. It’s important. It’s healthy.

Another thing I’ve really been coming to terms with is the fact that I am unable to carry my own child. I have the career and the marriage; the natural progression of things is to start a family. For us, though, the picture is a little different. Please know, my husband Mike and I are huge proponents of adoption. He and his three sisters were adopted and have the most wonderful parents and family. I’m speaking here strictly from the aspect of the biological pull of bearing a child. Yet as I’ve come to realize, motherhood is so much more than a biological process. Motherhood, plain and simple, is love.

Mike and I are lucky enough to be the godparents of one of the most incredible little girls and an aunt and uncle to eight (yes, eight!) nieces and nephews. When my goddaughter was born almost three years ago, I was in the room at my best friend’s side (well, feet!). I watched this precious little life enter the world and take her first breath. I was looking directly at her the first time she opened her eyes.

That’s motherhood.

Just last week, I watched her eyes light up when she saw Mike coming towards her, and how she immediately threw her arms around his neck and clung to him. We didn’t stop playing, giggling, or snuggling for hours. We took her to see Santa and then the fish in the mall's aquarium. Mike and I are huge snorkelers, so you can imagine our delight at watching her fascination with the various fish and eagerly repeating their names back to us.

That’s motherhood.

Or what about the excitement on my nieces' faces as they barrel down the driveway towards me whenever we arrive, squealing “Aunt Kelly, Aunt Kelly!” Their excitement never fails to make my day. In the past two years, two of my sisters-in-law have given me three nephews: an almost two year old and six month old twins! Not to mention my eldest nephew just got his license, graduated from high school, and started college. Mike and I are so blessed to have all of this. So much love. So much joy. A feeling of parenthood.

While I'm on this topic I can’t fail to mention one more person, one of the most influential people in my life. My mom’s best friend from college, my “Aunt” Ginny. She has been by my side for 27 years, through all my health issues, through every loss and every milestone. She didn’t give birth to her children biologically, but is a godmother and aunt of three. She is the epitome of the definition that "motherhood is love," and one of my biggest role models.

As this year comes to a close and a new year begins, remember to healthily grieve your losses, fully experience your emotions, but most importantly: Count your blessings. Every last one of them in every last form.

Wishing everyone in our ACHA community a blessed holiday season and New Year.

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