Nature versus nurture. It's an age-old question. Which has more influence on upbringing: the genes we inherit or the environment surrounding us?
Most agree that it is the combination of heredity and how we are cared for that defines who we are. The classic definition of "mother" is someone who has given birth to a child, but I think most of us believe that mother is a broader concept -- one that extends to home, family, and nurturing. As we honor our moms on Mother's Day, many of us feel that one day simply cannot sum up the everyday connection to those who conceived and cared for us. As LeBron James tells WebMD in our cover story, "I don't have the words, I can't sit here and explain," when asked how he feels about his own mother, who raised him in challenging circumstances as a young single mother.
Being a mother of teenage girls, I sometimes have a hard time remembering how deeply gratifying motherhood is. As I write this I remember the purest feeling I ever had in understanding the incredible mother-child bond.
Hannah-Sophia, now 15, was only 9 months old. My husband was on a business trip, my babysitter was on vacation, and I came down with a violent stomach flu. Each time I ran to the bathroom I had to take her with me as she was just at the age where she could get into everything. So to keep her contained, I put her in the unfilled bathtub as a makeshift playpen along with her trusted toy and pacifier, which seemed to never leave her mouth, while I hugged the bathroom floor. At one point, as she sat in the empty tub peering over the side to look at her wretched caretaker, I saw her little extended arm trying to reach over the tub wall to offer me her pacifier. She wasn't really speaking or walking yet, but uttered the words "Mommy boo-boo baby passy." Of course I took her pacifier because I needed to receive this magnanimous offer of her most precious asset. I knew right then and there that I would love her unconditionally.
How can I explain what it's like to be a mother? Like LeBron James, I simply cannot. How can I explain the love, respect, admiration, and connection I have with my own mother? I cannot. But suffice it to say that I feel as if I am truly the most fortunate daughter in the world. My mother recently shared with me that she regretted not having a career like mine. How ironic in that my one regret will most likely be never being a stay-at-home-mother and an elegant hostess, musician, painter, traveler, and gardener like her. And yet, in the end, we both need to organize, delegate, strategize, listen, console, coach, guide, nurture, feed, clothe, settle disputes, travel, meet deadlines, and spend sleepless nights solving problems!
Being a mother is as unique as being a human. No one experience is the same. Except for the fact that we all share the pang in our hearts as we read this, knowing that the joy is incomparable and the angst at times nearly unbearable. Here's to motherhood. And to one of my favorite mother's helpers, which I actually have the honor of working for -- WebMD!
Nan-Kirsten Forte, MS
Editor in Chief, WebMD the Magazine