While I’m working on our official unofficial Listen to Your Mother Providence videos, I wanted to share my opening piece, minus the “please use wording”… because this was my finale, too.
Unfortunately, I was not able to read in this year’s show, but I would have read the blog post from Monday: I am [not] Done Having Babies. Because this is my story right now… but my story that isn’t my story to share is that YOU have a story, too.
Sounds confusing, but I promise, it’s not. All it means is that you need to write your stories down- whether you ever publish or not, your family needs to know your truth. How amazing to be able to look back and walk in the shoes of the men and women before you? That’s the legacy I leave.
And so, here was my contribution to LTYM this year:
Turn off your cell phones…
Good evening friends and family. Welcome to the final installment of what we’ve come to know as Listen to Your Mother. Providence has gleefully been a part of this amazing movement for 5 years- the raw, real stories about motherhood, from ourselves to the men and women in our lives who have impacted us- for good and bad- have become a part of our yearly celebration and will be missed as the show is growing and evolving.
As our pasts and futures are continually shaped and stories will remain in need of telling, I wanted to elaborate a bit more, and share about my experience.
If you don’t know me, my name is Chelley Martinka. I am mother to Adelaide and Camille, wife to Dave, and daughter to one amazing Susan Eileen Theresa Marie Butler Worth LaManna… everyone who meets her ends up calling her “mom”. When Listen To Your Mother first came to Providence in 2013, via Carla Molina and Laura Rossi, I was thrilled.
My daughter had just been diagnosed with a high functioning disability in the form of achondroplasia, and I had a story. Oh did I! It was amazing, and I got up in front of these 2 women in a back room of this very library and I shook, something like a small earth quake and I read… what was basically the definition of achondroplasia- like this…
Achondroplasia is the most common form of dwarfism, caused in 80% of cases by a spontaneous genetic mutation of the FGFR3 growth receptor in children of average height- not normal- parents. It actually means her gene works too well.
But this was not a story, and I almost regurgitated literally, while regurgitated the facts, and my piece was not chosen.
And I was heartbroken.
That year, I volunteered to help collect tickets and welcome guests to our first show- and hearing the stories, I became enamored. My piece was not right, but my story was. I was a mother, had a mother, knew a mother.
And the following year, I pieced together the progression of my story into the advocate I was becoming and “Keep Pushing” was chosen. I was a different woman, pregnant with my now 2 year old Camille, performing, not spewing, my story of motherhood. I was strong, and I was confident.
Just 3 years ago I was given the opportunity to produce the show with three other amazing women, Lauren, Kirsten and Bri- and we four fell in love with the process. We repeated it for a 4th year, and while there were some growing pains, Kirsten, Bri and myself are here- for the 5th and final year of this phase.
And there is something so special about the 5th year.
We often ask ourselves where were you 5 years ago? In reflection. Or… What are your goals in the next 5 years? In planning.
It’s a milestone we celebrate and embrace. There’s something so fulfilling about doing something for 5 years.
And I have no regrets about this show, but there is something that stands out. One auditioner, who was both a friend and my birth doula for both of my girls.
Erica lost her battle with breast cancer just months after she gave birth to her second child. I was blessed to know her for her friendship, faith and passion for motherhood, but also because she’d asked me to be milk mama to her newborn. Due to the chemicals in her body, she could not feed her sweet baby her own milk, and so I pumped. Diligently I expressed milk from my breasts, portioned and labeled each bag, and delivered the frozen “gold” to the hospital. It was a gift I was all too willing to give… I just wanted her to get well.
And so when she auditioned to Listen to Your Mother, and her story seemed frayed and her path unclear, I knew it wasn’t ready. Her story was like mine the first year- just not there. Her story would continue…
But it didn’t.
The day of the show that very year, in fact, Erica went into the hospital where she remained for months. She never returned home.
Still, there is no regret that she never got a “yes” for her piece, because her life- her motherhood- was more than just one story squeezed into a few written pages to be performed in a 5 minute window.
Her story lives on in a little, energetic boy and a happy and healthy, thriving beauty. Her memory is strong, lead by a continuing faith in her community, and her story of motherhood is still, and will for a very long time, touching the lives of so many.
So why the long introduction?
Because even if you’ve never been up on this stage- even if you don’t have a specific piece or moment in time that defines your relationship to motherhood- you still have a story. You still have a voice.
Our cast tonight has worked hard to craft their stories, patching together this beautiful quilt celebrating motherhood- of triumph, reflection, generations, empowerment, and the power we have as people who know mothers, as people who are mothers, as people who could be mothers, as people who touch the lives of mothers.
And with that, we ask that you please place your phones in a bag or pocket, on silent- not vibrate. Sit back relax, and listen to your mother for one final season.
The end of our era:
If you were unable to see a show this year, that truly breaks my heart. This is such an important movement… to not have the videos is heartbreaking. Thankfully, our last rehearsal was recorded, and between the laughter and wine and really good food, I gathered everyone’s stories. I will be adding them to my YouTube Chanel this summer, and hope you enjoy them there.
A HUGE THANKS TO LULAROE MELENDY JOHNSON FOR SUPPORTING OUR FINALE!!!