National Edition

Lives of love: The true beauty of moms, in four movements

Published: Friday, May 9 2014 12:05 a.m. MDT

Lisa Speckman gets a kiss from her dog, Rascal, while sitting with her daughters, Hannah, 12, and Lily, 9, in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 5, 2014.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Demographers say there are 2 billion moms in the world — and that doesn't count the women who are not biological mothers, but who nonetheless nurture and raise the world's children.

Each mother has a story as different as she is. Some wrestle with physical challenges; others carry mental or emotional burdens. One mom may struggle to feed and shelter her kids, while illness has turned another's expectations of motherhood on their head. But they all share the desire to love and nurture a new generation.

This Mother's Day, the Deseret News introduces four women mothering in unusual circumstances. One has lost limbs, another is raising her dead sister's children. A third has children with disabilities, while the fourth is battling advanced cancer. Each is a testament to the depth of mother love and its profound influence in the lives of children and mothers alike.

These are four extraordinary women.

Floating and flying

Lisa Speckman is swimming with Hannah, 12, and Lily, 9, and the sounds of laughter and splash are providing background music to a joyous family outing. It is here, as she swims with her girls, that she feels lightest in all senses of the word.

“It’s like flying, it’s like walking again,” said Speckman, 52, of Salt Lake City.

She slices through the water — just her — without an artificial arm or legs. On land, she has both, the result of damage from invasive Strep A infection after Lily was born in 2005.

A routine delivery became a near-deadly crisis for Speckman, a former emergency-room nurse whose story the Deseret News first told in 2007. She developed necrotizing fasciitis and Streptococcal toxic shock. Blood clots strangled her limbs. Doctors removed whole organs and sections of others. They cut off her dying legs in repeated surgeries until they ended inches below her hips. She lost her right arm above the elbow.

None of it shaved a hair’s width from her spirit.

“Lisa puts on her legs and her arm every single day. And every day, the girls see her walking and doing things that any other mother would be doing on a so-called ‘normal’ day,” said her husband, Steve Speckman. “She drives every day. She rides horses twice a week with the National Ability Center. She skis in the winter. She swims at the Jewish Community Center. She cooks meals for the family. She sometimes does more housework than I.”

Every day her children see her “love of life and living it to its fullest. Our girls have witnessed how much someone can do with only one hand, a lot of creativity and determination to be self-sufficient,” he said.

Speckman herself is the first to acknowledge a gap between the kind of mother she planned to be and the mother she actually is. She was aiming to be an “action Jackson mom" who loved travel and physical activity, like her own mother. She's still active, but said, “I am a much better listening, watching mom than I would have been. I show up for the girls and I have their backs.”

She finds motherhood both difficult and routine. But while she misses the action and identity of being an emergency room nurse, she is, she said, “a mother and spouse, first and foremost now.”

Speckman often helps out at the school where the girls are in third and sixth grades, although she had to brace herself for how folks would react until they got used to her. “It’s hard to walk in the first, second, third time,” she said. “Those initial looks are not just seen by me, but by my kids, too.”

Now people are used to her, the looks gone. “I can show up and for the most part finally just be somebody’s mom,” she added.

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