In 1998 I decided to sell all of my belongings and hit the road for an extended solo backpack through Europe. Like most things in my life I decided to do this on a whim with almost no plan. An experience, which although can be very exciting (it was), essentially means you eat baguettes all day and find “last minute” accommodations in a stranger’s broom closet (this happened).
My one exceptional plan (and it was exceptional) in my plan-free trek was that I volunteered for two weeks at Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity hospice just outside of Rome. A hospice for women and children infected with HIV and Aids. I was looking forward to the experience but truly concerned about keeping my emotions in check. Admittedly, I’m a bit of a bawler. It’s true. I cry over commercials.
To my surprise the hospice was one of the most generous, caring, uplifting and spiritual places I have ever been. And the sisters at this missionary were some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. They never stopped smiling or laughing and their joy was infectious. I knew at that moment that my only job during my stay at the hospice was to be joyful and to love these brave mothers and their children. I became the resident hugger; also referred to as “the tall hungry blonde lady who speaks no Italian and refuses to become a nun.”
These sisters will never have children of their own but they most certainly knew how to be mothers. They weren’t successful at convincing me to join the sisterhood (although they came pretty close…) but they convinced me that motherhood was a gift to be cherished.
In a trip filled with seeing some of the world’s most famous art and architecture – my time spent with the Missionaries of Charity was certainly the most inspiring.
I wrote this as part of the launch of mothers2mother’s new babies2babies’ campaign to celebrate moms and babies (launched today in honor of World Aids Day). m2m are hoping that by sharing stories of how we’ve been inspired by other mothers and by simply driving forward a narrative that celebrates mothers and babies generally will drive some support their way, and help them continue working toward the goal of eliminating maternal transmission of HIV. To that end, they’re hoping that women and men everywhere will consider throwing baby showers real or virtual in honor of the moms and babies whose lives are threatened by HIV.