Amanda S, 37, is the mother of three girls: a 4-year-old, and a set of 14-year-old identical twins. She is married to Ryan, and holds a BA and MA in education. An only child, Amanda lives in a home with three generations of her family, plus three dogs. She works in the health care industry.
I have always admired Amanda’s quiet courage and her complete dedication to her family. I caught up with her at a local restaurant to chat about where she finds peace and beauty in her busy life.
Amanda was unable to watch her children being born. The twins came into the world three months early–at only 29 weeks’ gestation–delivered by C-section in the midst of a noisy OR. I can only imagine the fear Amanda must have felt as her body gave up her newborn children into someone else’s care. Or the frustration and helplessness she must have experienced as her girls spent the next 59 days in the NICU before finally coming home, still a month before their due date. Amanda’s next baby followed ten years later, a miracle that she was not sure she would be granted. This pregnancy was harder, and delivery was again a C-section. Amanda’s path to motherhood has been long and difficult. But to see her talk about her children, you immediately know that she has no regrets–only gratitude.
“I think the most beautiful thing I’ve seen is the faces of my girls right after they were born,” Amanda tells me over lunch. This first glimpse was when the surgeons brought them to her after delivery. When her children were infants, “they’d wake up and I would nurse them back to sleep. And just having them nuzzle in–those are my most peaceful moments.”
“I think you learn as a parent
how to be a great grandparent.”
Amanda is the kind of person who always turns things inside out: away from herself, focusing on others. “If I had an infinite amount of money,” she tells me, “I would give the parents at all the children’s hospitals a comforting place to be, [especially] overseas and in other countries. I know that [locally], they’re trying to make them all new and improved for the families and more welcoming for the families.” But when her twins were in the hospital, “it was the really old NICU. It was crowded and you had to walk a long ways to get there, and there wasn’t space for the parents to be nearby. But the nurses made it welcoming enough.” She adds, “Or if parents can’t be there, to give them some money, to allow them to be there. Hire them a nanny so they can be with their other child that’s ill.”
I ask Amanda about the adventure of parenting three daughters. “I guess that’s why grandparents are always the best,” she laughs, “because I think you learn as a parent how to be a great grandparent for your grandkids. You learn how to do the fun things and you learn how to be the cool grandma. You get to do all those fun things that you’re too exhausted to do when you were actually a parent, because you don’t have [the kids] all the time.”
As our food arrives, I ask Amanda to imagine having the time to learn a new skill–any skill. I expect her to say crochet (she knits) or some new art technique (she is also quite “crafty”).
“I actually think I would love to go back and be a surgeon,” she tells me. “If I could have time all over again, I would love to do surgery and learn how to hold somebody’s heart in my hand, or deliver a baby, and help people. It would be fun,” she laughs, “but so much work, and not enough time.”
Amanda has taken the time for some life-changing things. “After I had the girls I went to get my master’s in education.” The goal was “to try to change where I was and not be at the hospital anymore. But I think, me staying at the hospital is probably just the way it’s going to be. I’m doing some stuff with training, and so it’s not the way I thought it would work out, but I think it’s the way it’s supposed to work out.”
This is a common theme with Amanda–her “faith that everything’s going to work out the way it’s supposed to, when it’s supposed to.” It’s one way that she focuses on the bright side in her life. Sometimes, it’s easy. Another beautiful memory is of her honeymoon:
“Ryan and I went to Hawaii for our honeymoon. We went to Mount Haleakala [on Maui]. We watched the sun rise over this big volcanic crater–the clouds were covering the crater and we could see the sun come up, and that was just an amazing thing. If I ever had the chance to do it again I would. We went up there early in the morning, and then we rode bikes down the mountain.”
Amanda also mentions a memory that sounds more like a sunset. “When Ryan’s stepdad passed, we were all in the room. You could tell that [name] was uncomfortable, but then when he finally passed, it was just still and quiet, and we were all okay. There were really no tears at that moment. Later there were, but right at that moment, it was just very peaceful & still.”
“You have to be grateful for what you’re given.”
How does she find beauty and peace in a moment like that–or in the NICU, or even in the little disappointments that life deals us?
“Sometimes it’s really hard,” she admits. “Ryan, actually, has always helped me focus on what’s important and how to keep going, and he’s just kind of been my rock, so that’s helped.” I get the feeling that Amanda serves the same purpose in Ryan’s life.
“I love being married to Ryan,” she tells me, explaining that “marriage can be expensive, to try to keep things going, not so much monetary, but physically, emotionally, it can be expensive on yourself.” Clearly, it is work Amanda enjoys. Another gift she would give? “I’d give it to my girls, that they find love and happiness like I have with Ryan, to find somebody to share their life with. And that doesn’t cost any money.”
We have exercised our self-control and declined pie. I ask Amanda if she has any more thoughts on finding beauty in the world around us. I am not surprised when she again speaks of gratitude.
“I know growing up I’ve always felt different from everybody else just because of my hips [Amanda has a congenital hip defect]. I wasn’t able to go run and play as much as I’ve wanted to, as other kids have, and that has also created me to be different growing up, and to look at things differently. I feel like I always have this self-image of myself, which is not what I physically look like now, but then I know that with what I’ve had, with having twins, and then having [her third child], and then having hip surgeries, and not being able to do a lot of exercising, that I could look a lot worse physically than what I do now, so I have to be thankful for that. You have to be thankful for what you’re given, and yes, you want to be able to do those things, like, I’d love to be able to go run a 5k sometime, but I know that’s never going to happen, so I just have to be happy with what I’ve been given.”
Advice I am glad to have heard.