Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Literary Mama Rewind: Illnesses

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Welcome to Literary Mama Rewind! Every few weeks we'll round up some of our favorite essays, stories, poems, columns, and reviews from the Literary Mama archives relating to a particular theme. Some are affected by small sniffles, others by scary diseases, but each of us at some point falls ill. Whether mothering a sick child, or mothering when sick themselves, the mama's in these pieces write with honesty and clarity about a wild range of illnesses they have faced in their lives.

  • Team Mercer by Amy Mercer from the Column Chronic Mama

For 25 years I avoided diabetes support groups. When I was a kid I refused to go to any kind of diabetes camp because I didn't want anyone to see me prick my finger, to smell the alcohol swipe as I wiped my thigh before piercing it with a syringe, to see the red drop of blood.

I've heard many South Africans say that they're tired of news on HIV/AIDS, tired of hearing their beautiful, diverse country equated with disease and tragedy. I agree. On the other hand, I cannot live in South Africa, write about South Africa, and not acknowledge HIV, for it continues to shape this society.

We consulted specialists about Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a severe congenital heart malformation where both the aorta and left ventricle are too underdeveloped to sustain life, and holes in the artery and septum do not grow or close as they should. There is no known cause and no true repair.

  • Landscape by Lisa Roth-Gulvin in Creative Nonfiction

A young doctor with a benign bedside manner punctures my right breast. I lie naked from the waist up on a table, covered in paper that crinkles when I move.

In Maria Hummel’s debut poetry collection, House and Fire, we inhabit a mother’s world as she cares for a chronically ill child, a timeless space where past, present, and future blur together beneath longing for health.

On the fifth sleepless night
I scavenged drawers of bedside
table hoping for a dog-eared magazine

His cheeks are pink and healthy
and I can almost convince myself
that it was just a dream.

Rough, a Seattle native, is a carrier of the genetic disorder hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia (HED), which her brother has and her grandfather had. Her memoir delves into the past, into the lives of her mother and grandfather, and propels us into the future, into the possibility of her own children having this disorder.


Amanda Jaros is a freelance writer and blogger, focusing on nature and science stories. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and magazines including Terrain.org, Newfound, Life in the Finger Lakes Magazine, Highlights for Children, and Cargo Literary. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Chatham University.


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