As a Stay at Home Mom I am always looking for inspirational stories about mothering to inspire and motivate me to be a better mom. The other day I noticed a story about an amazing woman, Stephanie Nielson, who survived a plane crash with her husband, Christian Nielson, in 2008. Both Stephanie and her husband were badly burned by the fire from the plane explosion, with Stephanie sustaining burns of over 80% her body.
Stephanie was put in a medically induced coma for 10 weeks to survive the burns. Today she is alive and well as a mother of 5, but not without daily physical challenges and pain and scars from the accident, including significant burn scars on her face and hands.
Stephanie has a Mommy Blog called the NieNie Dialogues which she started before accident in 2005 as a 23 year old wife and mother of four. She continued with her blog after her accident when she could use her hands again to type and even published a memior about her experience, “Heaven is Here” in April 2012, the same day her fifth child, Charlotte, was born.
Recently Stephanie was the keynote speaker at a RootsTech Conference, a family history and technology conference. She spoke about the importance of documenting your lives.
"Document your families," she said. "Document your life. You may not have been through a plane crash, but you do have a story. Everyone has a story, and it needs to be told."
She also spoke about the preciousness of motherhood and how being a mother to her children was the driving factor in her survival and recovery from her accident. However her path to health and recovery was not easy.
“Each day, when I was in this excruciating, horrible pain, doctors and nurses would change my bandages, sometimes twice a week, and I still couldn't move on my own," Nielsen said. "Each day I was so discouraged. Each day I became a little more depressed, and my dream of being that mother I've always wanted to be my entire life was disappearing."
When her kids first saw her after she awoke from her coma, she said they expected to see their mother the way she used to look and were shocked and frightened to find her disfigured and badly scarred. Her daughter, Jane, took one look at her and was too frightened to look at her again.
"After the visit I pretty much cried that entire day and night and weeks and days that followed," Nielsen said. "I decided that I never wanted to be a mother again. But as the days went on, I thought a lot about our meeting. I think that meeting was both horrible as it was inspiring. I wanted my job back."
Gradually she was able to get that job back of being a hands-on mother again. She was also able to get pregnant again and have another baby with her husband which was a dream of hers since before the crash.
Stephanie encouraged those at the conference to capture memories and document their family’s lives. It does not have to be through blogging as she does, but any tangible way – through scrapbooking, journaling, audio – and to never stop doing so. She told the people at the RootsTech conference that these documented memories will be a gift for their children and future generations.
"You are here today because you love your family, because you want a connection with your descendants," Nielsen said. "I encourage you to find stories with your loved ones that can help you develop an attitude of gratitude for the ones who came before you. We are all survivors of something."
This story inspired me not only to begin to scrapbook and start putting together those family albums and wall photo collages I have been promising myself to do since I first gave birth to my son 11 years ago, but also to take the time to actively appreciate my kids and the gift of motherhood more.
As Stephanie says, motherhood is “a job” and one that we are privileged to have. It’s not an easy job, but it can be a very fulfilling one and meaningful one if we take the time to appreciate the small moments of each day and to develop an attitude of gratitude. By taking the time to document and savor these experiences we help both ourselves be more joyful and grateful in our lives and provide our children with a wealth of experience, love and learnings to pass to future generations.
Like many of us, I am one of those moms who takes a lot of photos and captures a lot of images of my kids on my cellphone. We have literally thousands of photos stored on our computer of our children through every stage of their lives and then some – film is cheap, right? I am good about passing along a quick photo of my kids to grandparents and relatives or even a short video clip. However I have not been good about taking the time to put together something meaningful and accessible with all those photos for my immediate family, so we can enjoy the best of these cherished images on a daily basis and be reminded of the special moments we have had together in our lives.
There is a wealth of goodness in each day and we don’t need to be in a plane crash or to be a burn victim to begin to understand the messages that Stephanie’s inspirational story tells us. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday to do lists and the exhaustion of trying to keep up with the daily demands of parenting. Just taking a step back and altering our perspective a little to look for the light and goodness of each day and even just to be grateful for our physical abilities to be a mom, is something most of us can take to heart. I know I can.