When Patricia was a young girl, she didn’t experience the love of a father or mother. Her parents suffered from addiction, and Patricia and her sisters suffered from abuse.
Living in poverty, Patricia was forced to beg on the street for food and often slept on the sidewalk to avoid returning home. She felt alone and disappointed with the life she had.
"I felt that I had no value and that no one loved me. I didn’t know what love was."
At 19, Patricia became pregnant. Scared and alone, she thought it best to leave her baby in the maternity hospital. After all, the odds were stacked against her and her little one. Patricia didn’t have a spare piece of clothing and only had raw noodles to eat.
But when she looked into little Wesley’s eyes for the first time, her mother’s heart leapt, and she changed her mind. Patricia chose to love and care for her son on her own, no matter the cost.
A Mother Loves When It’s Hard
Life with a young child was difficult for Patricia. Many times, the family had nothing to eat at home. However, she fought for her son, doing whatever she could to provide, even if that meant going hungry herself.
"Sometimes we had nothing to eat at home, and I used to go to some relatives’ houses. But they mocked me, asking why I just showed up at their homes at lunchtime. So many times, I lied, saying that I had eaten even if I was hungry, as long as my son could eat something."
When Wesley was 3 years old, Patricia heard about the Compassion Child Development Center from other women in her community. Inspired by her desire for Wesley to thrive, Patricia visited the partner church to ask about the center.
At that time, the church was unable to receive any new registrations. So Patricia returned home and waited patiently for a call from the church pastor. As she waited, she did what any mother would do: She kept working tirelessly to make what money she could to provide for her son.
"I just waited for that day. In the meantime, I tried my best to provide for my son, working with everything I could. He was my reason to keep fighting for a better day."
Finally, the call came. As Wesley played in the backyard, Patricia received the news she had been waiting for. She ran out the door, scooped little Wesley into her arms and went straight to the center to register him for the program.
About a year later, volunteers at the center asked Patricia if she was aware of Wesley’s condition. She knew he was different; he barely spoke and didn’t look her in the eyes. The volunteers told Patricia that they suspected Wesley had autism spectrum disorder (ASD), something she was unfamiliar with.
Even in the confusion and fear she must have felt, Patricia worked with the volunteers to obtain Wesley’s diagnosis of autism and ensure he received the right exams. And as Wesley grew, she continued to advocate on his behalf, showing him the love she herself didn’t receive as a child.
"I will never let anyone hurt my son … I never had a mother who would protect me, but I decided to be a different mother for my children. I never received love, but I will give them love. I never received kindness, but I’ll provide them with kindness … And I know I can do this because Jesus changed my heart."
A Mother Loves Like Jesus
I can imagine how Patricia felt that day when the volunteers shared their concerns about Wesley. It was probably similar to how I felt leaving the doctor’s office with my own son: confused, worried, disheartened, fearful.
But Patricia and I share yet another common thread. As mamas, both of us wanted nothing more than to see our little ones thrive. So, what did we do?
We reached out for help. We worked to provide. We held our hurting babies. We played. We laughed. We hugged. We prayed. We did whatever it took, despite the odds and through each challenge.
Patricia and I loved our sons fully and unconditionally, often sacrificing our own needs so they could be happy, healthy and whole.
I know now that a mother’s heart reflects the heart of Jesus. He, too, loves us sacrificially and unconditionally. In loving us, he went to the cross so that we could not only thrive but also have everlasting life.
And there’s no truer love than that.