What's in a name?

Elizabeth Bone is an inspiring and strong woman, and she has been a dear friend of mine for a quarter century. She wrote this beautiful essay, which I'm honored to share with you this Mothers Day. Thank you, Elizabeth!

“I had a dream about Sophia last night,” my mom said suddenly from her hospital bed. I was confused, not sure exactly what she was referring to. Then I remembered our conversation from the day before. My mom had asked me what I would name a baby. This would have seemed like a cruel question from anyone else. I was still recovering from an emergency surgery a few weeks before, where I lost my baby, a fallopian tube, and possibly the chance to ever have children. My stomach ached from the surgery and my heart ached for the loss of life. After five years of marriage, spent traveling around the world as naval officers, my husband and I were ready to start a family. But it wasn’t just that we were ready to be parents – I knew deep down that my mother was not going to be able to fight her aggressive form of lung cancer forever. She wanted to be a grandmother more than anything, and I knew I could give her that experience if I could just get pregnant fast enough. And I did, but then tragedy struck.

Answering my mom’s question the day before, I had quickly replied, “If it’s a girl then her name will be Sophia and if it’s a boy….” My mom had stopped me. “It won’t be a boy,” she said confidently. I had to laugh. My mom was as strong-willed as they come, and it was one reason her doctors said she was still alive three years after being diagnosed with an aggressive type of cancer. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if she managed to will me a baby girl. And after having two girls herself, boys were foreign creatures for my mom, in her eyes rambunctious, messy foreign creatures definitely not suited for her orderly world.

A few weeks before, still getting used to the idea of being pregnant, I had doubled over in pain one night while at home. The pain was intense, searing, the kind of pain one never forgets. My husband was on a business trip in Singapore, but I knew if I could just drag myself over to the phone I could call the one person who could make this all go away – my mother. To this day, I wonder why I didn’t think to call an ambulance instead. My mother lived 40 minutes away in another state, and more importantly, was completely weakened by her debilitating cancer treatments. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was in a life and death situation – an ambulance would have been the much smarter choice. Emotionally, though, I needed my mother. I made it to the phone and called her – and then slid to the floor after she said she would be there right away.

My mother’s face said it all when she arrived to rush me to the emergency room. As a nurse, she could quickly assess the medical situation, and knew it was dire. As a mother, she could feel my pain. In her expression I saw extreme sadness, not just for the pain I was in, but for the loss of a dream we both had shared. Although we had never talked about the cancer treatments not working, I believe my mother knew then that her time remaining on Earth was short.

Shortly after I had returned from the hospital, my mother entered the hospital for what would be her last time. Our conversations stayed light, except for the conversations about children. My mother wondered aloud what I would look like pregnant. She talked about things her friends had told her about their daughters getting pregnant. She talked about her dream of Sophia. Although in my head I was screaming, “Stop talking about this, it’s never going to happen now,” I let her talk about it because I knew that she needed it, needed to visualize what my life as a mother would be like.

Not too long after our “Sophia” talk, my mom’s one remaining lung finally gave out and her brave fight ended. She had left me with many gifts as her legacy – the gift of fighting hard for the things that you want, the gift of a strong woman role model (one that didn’t think twice about rolling down the car window and telling theperson in the next car to turn their music down, much to her children’s dismay), the gift of always being there for your children while still taking care of yourself (my mother started running for the first time at age 50 and ran a half marathon shortly after; she also completed her PhD while undergoing chemotherapy).

I didn’t know then that her last gift to me had been the gift of hope.

As the next two years following her death unfolded, my husband and I found our hope and faith tested again and again. The IVF treatments were not only unsuccessful; they also made me incredibly sick. I found my hopes raised and dashed as we got the dreaded phone call from the infertility clinic that yet another treatment had not worked. My husband’s conviction that we would someday be parents helped me get through – and on the days when I doubted his faith, I remembered my mother’s dream of Sophia.

Three years after my mother passed away, we received the news we had waited so long to hear – we were finally going to be parents. We decided not to find out the sex of the baby. But as I grew larger and larger, there was still one thing that didn’t make sense. One piece of the puzzle that didn’t quite fit. Everyone, from the nurses in my doctor’s office to the hairdressers in my beauty salon to the guy behind the deli counter, was convinced I was having a boy. As boys predominantly run in my husband’s family, this made sense. But yet….what about my mom’s dream about Sophia?  

In late February 2005, my labor pains began and my husband and I grabbed our hospital bag. Ten not so short hours later, our baby was born, and the doctor declared, “Congratulations, you have a new baby girl.” I should never have doubted the power of motherhood.

Fast forward seven years later and I have a beautiful, sweet little girl who makes us laugh and smile every day. Sophia Mary Bone has her grandmother’s name, “Mary,” and I can only hope some of her traits. And yes Mom, that rambunctious, messy boy that you were so afraid of – I have one of those now too, and Connor is one strong-willed three year old. He gets that from you.