By Tori Smith
There was a time when I had all these ideas of what being a mom would look like. The
perfect husband and I would plan each pregnancy, each child. I would give birth without
complications to healthy, perfect babies who would nurse without issues and who wouldn't have
colic and who would be happy, chubby little people. I would feel complete and whole and love
every second of being a mother.
Fast forward to when I was 16 and realized I would likely be the one adopting my niece’s
daughter. Every choice I made from that moment on had her best interest at heart. I would go to
a community college and then get a job at a bank so I could buy a house and adopt her when I
was 25 and she was 12. I still held out hope that I would meet a man who would treat us both
well and we would have those perfectly healthy, planned children. But in the meantime I could
foster, after all, we had this house with extra room.
Then my first son’s came along and before I knew it I was 32 and a mom to 6; one daughter
and five young sons. At this point I began to realize that being a mom meant so much more then
giving birth and nursing a baby who shared my DNA. I had spent many nights rocking babies
and toddlers who had come from less then ideal circumstances. Children who were brought to
life by people who could no longer care for them, some made this choice and some had this
choice made for them. But all of my children started out life with trauma and loss.
Then came diagnosis's of Autism and congenital heart defects. ADHD. Anxiety so severe
that it made school and learning beyond hard. Suddenly I became fluent in IEP’s and therapy
and specialists and medications. All a balancing act that require much attention and constant
learning for me to be sure each child’s rights were being respected and laws were being
followed. And as though that wasn't enough, my youngest son died suddenly at 13 months old
from undiagnosed congenital heart defects. If I didn't feel like a fraud before, I surely did after he
died. The constant questioning and wondering if I was good enough to be their mom.
Its been 6 years since he died. 6 years of the lowest lows and some pretty amazing highs as
well. And at the end of the day I have to say, being a mom means I love these little people so
much that I have chosen to be as healthy as I can be so I can be around for a long time to
support and love them through. Being a mom means I often question if I am enough for them.
Being a mom means that my life will never again belong solely to me. Everything I do is with
them in mind. I fall often but I get up and keep moving forward, because that is what mom’s do.
Below are the bios of each amazing mom that participated in this project.
Jen is a mom to two angels and one rainbow baby. She loves spending time with her daughter, husband and two dogs. Volunteering has become a great passion for her since losing her first two children. To her it is a way to keep them with her.
Tori Smith is a mom and an advocate. She believes everyone has a story and when we share those stories, we begin to heal and become stronger.
Carol Raimondi is an adult CHD patient, a mom and a former nurse, living with Congenitally Corrected Transposition of the Great Arteries. She currently is the President of Pediatric Congenital Heart Association of IL(PCHA-IL).
Susan Swanson DeBouver
Susan is a mom, grandmother, and busy owner of Pilates Plus of Schaumburg. She is a self-professed, spirit junkie and combines her fitness/anatomy education with her spiritual education.
Michelle Williams is the mother of three children: Sadie, Sawyer and Landon. After Sawyer's death in 2010 she formed Sawyer's Heart Project - a non-profit organization that supports bereaved families in the Chicagoland area.
Sarah has a passion for the non-profit sector, working with volunteers, writing, and educating. She holds a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and works in non-profit management.
In 2016, she partnered with two colleagues to form a non-profit, where she serves as the President and CEO of the organization, which helps families experiencing medical conditions.
She and her husband have two sons and enjoy spending time together outside doing many activities like riding horses, running, fishing, and gardening.