A seminal moment in my career came when, in the span of two weeks, I was offered my first big promotion to lead a troubled project, discovered I was pregnant for the first time and my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer; all three were on an eight-month trajectory.
As an adult, my mother had become my friend, confidant and the unofficial head of my fan club. She exemplified healthy living, exercising and eating right. In fact, my friends referred to her as “The Granola Mom.” So it was a huge shock when at age 55, the doctors told us she had six to eight months to live. Further, being her only daughter, the joy of sharing a pregnancy and birth of a grandchild had long been a topic of our conversations. Our vision of the future had taken a terribly wrong turn.
The confluence of emotions and balance of career, family and health was like hitting a huge “reset” button on my singularly focused, professional life. It forced me to re-examine my priorities.
Should I take a leave of absence and care for my dying mother who lived 10 hours away? Or embrace the opportunity and excitement of getting my big break? Then there was the matter of my first pregnancy. Would I have an easy or difficult time and was I going to be able to properly care for myself under this newfound stress?
At work, I began my new leadership role with a freshly discovered inspiration and purpose. On Fridays I would hop in the car and drive to my parents. I would spend the weekend holding my mother’s hand, comforting my father and discussing what life meant to each of us. Sunday nights I would drive the ten hours back to my home for work on Monday, praying and looking for answers.
While my team rallied and made good headway on our project, my mother’s colon cancer extended throughout her abdomen, just as my baby was expanding in mine. The tragic irony was not lost on me.
At the end of eight months, the project delivered on time and I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Grace Beverly, named after her late grandmother.
The impact of this experience is an enduring source of strength and inspiration even today. Whenever I’m faced with a difficult decision, I can go right back to this moment to make sure my priorities and purpose are clear, to have confidence I can weather tough situations, and to know my mom is still cheering me on and reminding me to make the most of my time on earth.