Yesterday I celebrated my 10th Mother’s Day with you. On our first Mother’s Day in 2006, you were born three days prior, after a long and exhausting birth, and we were bringing you home from the hospital. This year, as we prepare to celebrate your 10th birthday, three days after Mother’s Day, I’m feeling overcome with emotions as I reflect on these past 10 years and the world that you have come to know and love. In the beginning, I thought I was doing everything I could to protect you, your health, and your future. I followed our doctor’s and family’s advice. We navigated this mother/son relationship in stride. However, as much as I thought I was doing this whole Mothering thing well, you started to develop some health issues. Within your first year, you had developed eczema and struggled with doing one of the most basic human needs, breathing. We spent many long nights in the emergency room of the hospital and on breathing treatments from the nebulizer. One year later, at the tender age of 2, I watched you stop breathing and lose consciousness after playing at your Aunt’s new house. Your body was covered in a rash. The doctor later confirmed that the glue that was used to lay the carpet that morning in Aunt Tina’s new house triggered the rash and an asthma attack in you, which resulted in the inability to breathe. This was my first experience with the horrifying impact that toxic chemicals would have on your health, and your future brother’s health.
In 2010, your brother, Liam, joined our family. He too had chemical sensitivities and eczema. I continued on our journey, aware of the way both your bodies reacted to toxic chemicals, but felt that I had a good handle on protecting you and your brother’s health. We changed the way we ate. And I fervently read product labels and researched the names of toxic chemicals to make sure we were avoiding any triggers in the products that I bought and used on you and your brother’s bodies. But it wasn’t until 2012, when the air inside our home became filled with the highly toxic and carcinogenic chemical, vinyl chloride, following a nearby train derailment, that I realized this problem was bigger than me. Our family became sick following the derailment and our exposure to this toxin. Your eyes burned. And you complained of headaches and a sore throat. I quickly realized that while I could use my purchasing power to protect you from toxic chemicals in the products and food we bought, I could not buy clean air. I had to fight for it.
This experience led me down an intense path of researching air pollution. What caused it. What the different pollutants and co-pollutants were. And how it directly impacted our health. I also learned that there were certain pollutants, called greenhouse gases, which are emitted through human activity, that are warming our planet. Your planet. I learned that a warmer planet fuels extreme weather events, like we saw with Hurricane Sandy, and exacerbates asthma symptoms. Food insecurities and insect-borne diseases will continue to increase as our planet’s temperature rises and Earth’s natural ecosystem is disrupted. I became obsessed with learning everything I could about climate disruption, and the causes of it.
I also learned that there are people, hundreds of thousands of people, who are fighting to protect your future and our planet. Your mommy is one of them. As your mother, it is my moral obligation to protect you and your brother. And I promise to fight as hard as I can to ensure that I am leaving you a planet that isn’t beleaguered by climate disruption. I am working every second of my life, with every ounce of my being, to ensure that I am leaving you and your brother a planet that is safe and secure.
I know you are proud of the work that I do with Moms Clean Air Force. You understand its importance, and you often write and talk about what I do at school. You joined me in meetings with our elected officials and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to advocate for children’s health and talk about the impacts we are already seeing from climate change. You led chants at rallys and you never say no to a chance to join me at an event. But this important work has also meant missed soccer games on times that I can not bring you with me. And missed bedtime stories and tucking you in at night. It often takes me to other states, talking about and advocating for other children’s health, and it has meant long nights spent in front of my computer, preparing those speeches and researching topics such as the health impacts from ozone pollution and methane emissions. But I hope you know that at the end of the day, I do this for you and your brother. I love you with all of my heart. Happy 10th Birthday, Buddy.