I am a Native American woman. I am an enrolled Hidatsa tribal member. I, like my father, was born in North Dakota. My mother was from Wisconsin and from her, I am also Ho-Chunk and Potawatomie. My family moved to Southern California when I was in middle school. I’ve lived in Washington for over 25 years. I’ve been influenced by my midwestern roots, my Southern Californian education, and my northwest love of nature. I am the mother of Native sons and am married to a Native man. I am resourceful, resilient, flexible, optimistic, adaptable, goal-oriented, curious, practical and a lifelong learner. I love to read, and I love to laugh. I am a first-generation college graduate. My passion is to support others to be their best selves. I connect to the world with a realistic and hopeful attitude. I love to work with students. I am Diane Tomhave. I am EOP.
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Twenty-four years ago, my first child barely survived his birth and required extreme live-saving measures. A long labor and a postdate delivery caused our baby to inhale meconium into his tiny lungs. His was a silent, gasping entry into the world, and were it not for a tuxedoed pediatrician rushing in after a late night, our son may not have survived.
Our lives were immediately disrupted. My husband followed the ambulance to Children’s Hospital while a nurse bagged our son, forcing air into his lungs. He crashed twice that first night and was intubated and then attached to a heart-lung bypass machine. I made it to Children’s the next day. He was on the ventilator and the bypass machine the first week. The second week he was just on the ventilator. Because of insurance, weeks, three, and four were at a different hospital to wean off drugs and to learn to swallow.
Then he came home.
We were joyful, sorrowful, and traumatized. Our priorities shifted. Our medically fragile son wasn’t going to daycare. I quit my job so I could socially isolate with him. We were told certain germs could kill him. Depressed and grieving, I often fantasized about returning to my old life, to my old normal.
How did we seek healing? Our son (and our marriage) required a lot of therapy and support. We socially distanced. Brave friends visited regularly. They wore masks and used hand sanitizer. We built community. Slowly I accepted our new normal. I joined a support group of mothers of very sick kids who told the most honest, raw, and healing stories of my life. My spiritual director guided me through the deep questions of pain, suffering, and injustice, particularly the suffering of the innocent. My faith became larger, more loving, and honest. I learned to be grateful for small things.
Practicing gratitude during this pandemic strengthens me. The pandemic teaches me how necessary gratitude is, particularly after difficult circumstances. Our little family had already been through sickness and isolation. We knew how to rely on each other for support and knew how to give each other space and grace. We told stories to each other and watched stories in the news. As a Native American family, my husband and I both come from tribes nearly eliminated by smallpox epidemics to which our relatives had no immunity. As this current pandemic hit, because of the generational trauma of these epidemics, we alertly watched it cross oceans and canceled our own travel. Covid revealed humanity’s vulnerability and brokenness.
There is a way through. We will heal by supporting each other. We will heal by laughing, crying, and singing together. We need to remember what it means to be human. We will heal by telling stories of gratitude to get us through. Our shared stories will give grace to heal and repair what is broken within and amongst us.