Life in Circles: Unexpected mothers.

May 7, 2016
Becky Alway

Becky Alway

Life In Circles by Stephanie Wagner.

Sponsored by Pro-Master Carpet Cleaning, 231-757-9061, promastercarpetcleaning.com.

It starts early in April. Ads featuring smiling women, bent down on one knee, smiling at the wispy haired toddler, holding out a crayoned card. Nurseries offer discounted flats of cheerful zinnias and hanging geraniums. Churches dust off their pews to make way for the sulky teens who will go,  “just this once” without complaining because it makes their mothers happy.

Behind the scenes, there are women grimacing instead of smiling. Swallowing tears with their brunch, they suffer silently through the day honoring the institution of motherhood.

“Mother’s Day often in the past, has never been a day to celebrate for me,” begins Becky Alway. “My biological mom left me and my older sister when I was little. Then as an adult, I had infertility to deal with. I remember trying to go to church on Mother’s Day, and just sitting and crying my eyes out the whole time. It was just too emotional and hard.”

Fortunately for Becky, she was never really alone in her struggles. Though her own mom was not there for her, there were others who stepped up to mother her through the hard times. 

“I was so fortunate to have these amazing people in my life who just showed up when I needed them to. They were the ones who made me who I am today, but because I didn’t realize it at the time, I have never really thanked them.”

We all have those people. The ones who carried us when we couldn’t walk, who said a kind word to us when our inner critic was raging, the ones who lit up the path forward when we were stumbling through the darkness of the past. 

“When I look back, especially at the hard times in my life, there are five people who just stand out. I want them to know what a difference they made to me – and hopefully inspire someone else to reach out and help someone that might be struggling too.”

At the tender age of 4, Becky found herself without a mother to guide and care for her. Fortunately, her dad embraced the role of single parent wholeheartedly.

“My dad, he was my everything after my mom left.  He put all of his dreams on hold so that he could take care of me, and he never complained. He never questioned losing everything he had in exchange for gaining sole custody of me because he wanted to raise me.

“We moved in with my grandma – his mom – right after my mom left, and she filled in the mother role wherever my dad couldn’t. She was this amazing strong Christian woman who could do anything.  She had this tiny house.  She had already raised four kids of her own. She was really poor, but always happy. I learned to garden from her, and I got my faith from her.

She really mothered both me and my dad during a really hard transition and taught us grace.”

Then, when Becky was 15, her dad remarried.

“Michele, my stepmother, had a daughter of her own when they got married – I knew her from school. But it didn’t matter. She took me in just like I was her own. I learned what unconditional love was from her. She was genuine and kind, and happiest when she was serving others.

promaster 111813“She and my dad had another baby – my brother – which humiliated me at the time, but being a mother was just who she was. They raised more than 15 foster children after I graduated high school, and when my biological mom had a stroke when I was in high school, Michele was right there by my side while I was having to make medical decisions and deal with my own rejection at being abandoned so young.

“She just always made me feel loved.”

Feeling safe and loved gave Becky the strength to get through college, graduating with a business degree.  “I really wanted to be a teacher like my dad, but he sat me down and strongly discouraged me from doing that. There were not a lot of jobs available at that time, and he really just wanted me to be successful.”

Becky’s business degree landed her a job as a sales representative for a steel company. In addition to selling steel parts to the steel mills, they also asked her to maintain the website and product shots.

“They offered to send me back to school to take some computer programing and photography classes.”

One of those classes would change the trajectory of her life. After enrolling in a photography class, Becky realized that life behind the camera was her calling.

“I was really lost for a while.  I had no idea where I was going and I was just in a dark place. Then I found photography – and it just made my soul happy. That was also where I met Mr. Forrest. He was my very first photography instructor. He probably wouldn’t remember all the occasions that he shared his knowledge and passion of photography with me – it’s like that sometimes – people make such a huge difference in your life, and they don’t even know they are doing it.”

Mr. Forrest encouraged Becky to keep going, meeting her frustration with patience and tolerance and a new creative way to look at making images.

“Those moments changed me – they changed my life.”

And the rest, as they say, is history. 

While touring a lab with one of her classes, Becky realized with lightening clarity exactly where she needed to be. She quickly reached out to the owner of the lab, who hired her even though the company had just gone through a restructuring process and laid off over 40 workers.

“Mr. and Mrs. Taylor are my fifth people. They were incredible leaders. I learned to be fierce from them, but gentle too and a pioneer in that industry. They believed in the power of teamwork – they would have us link hands and just notice the power and how it felt to be a part of that strong connection.”

It was an incredible time of growth for Becky.

“They took a chance on me simply because they thought I deserved a chance. It was really hard work, and intense – but they were always right there walking alongside me.”

It was also how she met her husband Rob. “He was using a different lab, and I convinced him to come over to ours.  Years later, we were married.”

The partnership has not been without its hardships. Becky suffered a ruptured ovarian cyst, which impacted her fertility. After extensive medical procedures, Becky and Rob were unable to conceive and decided to adopt.

“One of the nurses at the IVF clinic always would tell me after a negative pregnancy test, ‘Hold on to hope’.  I carry that with me still. You can’t always see it, but it’s there.”

Hope brought them through a surprise pregnancy three years ago, and then an adoption 16 months later. It has also helped Becky ease the transition between full time career to stay-at-home mom.

“I do miss my job – and especially the mentoring and growth. I still want to share all of the goodness that was given to me.”

For now, Becky is working on paying it forward. She mentors new moms, showers her girls with that same unconditional love she experienced, and just tries to be a kind and giving person.

“You really never know when what you say is going to be the thing that changes someone’s life. I often wonder why we have to go through certain things in our life – and most of the time, we never get to find that out. But sometimes, I think it is to just put us in the right place at the right time with the words that someone needs. It isn’t for us – it’s for them. I am thankful for all these people who helped make me who I am.”

Motherhood is about sacrifice and service. It’s about putting someone else’s needs above our own. It is about unconditional love.   On this Mother’s Day, let’s give a shout out to all those who embody the spirit of motherhood, regardless of whether they wear the title.  It can be a hard day for some but take a moment to celebrate those who made you who you are.

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