I don’t think it’s unfair to say that a woman never truly understands the value of a mother until she becomes one herself.

At least I didn’t.

When I think back to my childhood, I realize just how much I meant to my mother. I was her only child, we spent every waking moment together. My stepfather traveled - often to foreign lands and for long periods of time.

It was always just me and mom. And, of course, my childhood friends - Leesa and Kelly - who managed to take up residence at our house several days a week.

My mother was young when she married and, as a result, young when she had me. She had been raised in a very sheltered environment in Welch, Oklahoma, and transplanted to suburbia Kansas City - completely out of her eliment - at the age of 17.

In essence, my mother and I raised each other. Did I mention she hates being referred to as “mother” - sorry mom.

As a young adult, I was diagnosed with a terminal illness. The prognosis was not what anyone wants to hear.

Don’t get me wrong, I really wanted to live, but my fight to survive was about more than my desire for life. I knew, even as a child, my mother would never survive without me.

My mother is an amazing woman and I am blessed to have spent my life with her.

I am even more blessed because she isn’t the only amazing mother I have.

My first few encounters with my mother-in-law were somewhat uncomfortable.

First, I was wife number four for my husband and I wasn’t sure how she felt about the three before me.

Second, my husband is child number 13 and not mistakingly “mamma’s baby.”

So, I was somewhat insulted the first few times she called me someone else’s name.

As it turns out, there is no telling what she will call any of us from one minute to the next and she may go through a list of five different names before she gets the right one.

I quickly became child number 14 - but don’t tell the other inlaws.

In the early 1900s it was not uncommon for women to have 13 children, raise them in a two room house, with no indoor plumbing or electricity, four miles from town with no vehicle.

In the 1970s, it was unheard of - except for the Schultz family, who lived in a tiny little shack on the Neosho River.

Compassionately referred to by most of the community as “Aunt Violet” and respectfully referred to by all of her children as “Mamma,” my mother-in-law has endured more in her life than anyone I know.

She was telling my husband one day about moving to the house on the river when her oldest two children were very small.

George and Violet lived in a tent - no, I’m not joking - for the first few years of their marriage. She was so excited to move to a real house, such as it was.

Mamma said they had to make four trips with the wagon to move their stuff to the river.

My husband and I were both thinking “how in the world did you have that much stuff in a tent” when my husband asked “Mamma, where did you get the team to pull the wagon?” She laughed and said “No, son. A wagon like you kids played with.”

Mamma delivered most of her children at home, sometimes with the help of her older children. It’s hard to even imagine that.

I can’t recall exactly when the event took place but sometime between living children, my mother-in-law gave birth to a stillborn.

That, alone, is heartbreaking.

But this young woman, weak from childbirth, took the newborn outside and buried him then went and milked the cows so her husband wouldn’t be upset because she hadn’t done her chores.

Mamma was never allowed any luxuries. There wasn’t enough of the necessities.

My husband says he doesn’t remember one time seeing his mamma sit down to eat a meal or even fixing herself a plate.

She stood at the cabinet serving plates and pouring more milk when it was needed. When the kids were done eating, she would pick off their plates while she cleared the table.

Mamma is 84-years-old and still amazing all of us. She mows her own yard. She can still be counted on for an emergency babysitter. She gets around better most days than I do. And still insists on taking care of her babies - most of whom are grandparents.

There’s something mysterious about a mother.

What causes a woman to give up her own dreams, deny herself life’s necessities and work herself weary to provide for her children?

I can’t answer that question.

What I do know is that I was not fully able to understand the sacrifice until I was a mother myself. And now, it doesn’t seem like a sacrifice at all.

Being a mother is an honor.

I was blessed with five great children - three I gave birth to and two I share with another great mom.

I cannot imagine life without all of the joy, frustration, excitement, disappointment, drama and love that my children brought into my life.

When they ask each year what I want for Mother’s Day, the answer is always the same - I couldn’t possibly get a better gift than the gift of being your mom.

Now, I have two of the greatest grandbabies ever created and I am, once again, blessed to be such a big part of their lives.

There is something important to remember about mother’s when considering the perfect gift.

It’s not about what you can give to them.

It’s making sure they know you haven’t forgotten what they gave to you.