The Once Mother

I thought becoming a mom was the end all be all of my existence…..but it turns out that BEING a mom is. I live for it, I love it, I relish in it. But the tragic thing is that I don’t get to enjoy it the way I envisioned that I would. No one told me I would finally get my dream only to have my life altered by chronic illness. The illness doesn’t terrify me, the pain doesn’t scare me, the fatigue is the one thing that destroys me. I look at my kids and love just pours from my being, I am totally enamored with them, how perfect they are, smarter, wittier, and more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. But it is THAT very thing that strikes the most pain…..I cannot enjoy them. I struggle through each day, praying for bedtime so I can lay my weary head, praying that I can keep them safe, remain patient, give them love, have fun with them…..and yet, each day I FAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The young woman who sought out motherhood, like a starving man seeks out a meal……she was an entirely different person. I shiver to think what I would have done if I had known how differently I would be today. I want my daughters to know the dreamy girl who longed for games of hide and seek, tea parties, book reading, song singing, and endless playing. I try to regain that identity, to breathe her back to life, to vow to be that girl every single morning……..and yet, it is as unattainable as my journey to motherhood. I keep praying, I keep hoping that girl will come back. I feel like I was cheated out of being the mom I wanted to be, and most importantly I feel like my babies didn’t get the chance to know the version of “me” that I wanted them to know. There is this sadness in me, it runs deep into my soul… is so different than the hunger I felt to hold my precious miracles in my arms. It is a sadness to have all you ever wanted right in front of me and not be able to embrace it, and take advantage of all these once-in-a-lifetime moments. I reflect how different their lives would be if they had gotten “that” mom, the “once” me mom. The once upon a time mom would have been eager for a game of hide and go seek. She would have chased them through the yard in a futile effort to catch a butterfly. She would have been tireless in her answering of the millionth question they asked finding their limitless curiosity innocent and pure the way it was intended to be. The get up and go mom, the one who never tired of trips to the park, or zoo trips. I see her, laughing so easily at their silly antics, happy to hear their boundless shrieks and squeals, and join in them.

I see that girl from so long ago. Laughter was easy for her, it was her favorite past time. Smiling was common place, it took no effort or thinking, she was just happy by nature. Sleep was always something she enjoyed but only if there was nothing else to do. She would have cherished those late night feedings, stumbled through the house to a toddler that had a nightmare and spent the night comforting her with fairy tales until she drifted off to sleep. Her bright eyes were lively, filled with joy. Her countenance always ready for an adventure, easy going, happy go lucky, April. I barely remember her which troubles me…yet what breaks my heart is the thought that my girls will NEVER know her. They will never think of me that way.

After the birth of my first daughter, I was enchanted. Every laugh, every smile, every milestone, was meticulously documented, photographed, and journaled……..I often jumped out of bed in the morning waiting outside her door to hear her stirring, and oftentimes I woke her to see her angelic face, anxious to spend our day together. I would dress her in these tiny little outfits I had only allowed myself to dream about, she would smile and coo as I did my makeup and found a coordinating outfit to match her’s. As she was only an infant we would spend our days in the mall, or any store, or any public place where I could proudly display this amazing little baby……..MY BABY!!!!!!! I never tired of her new accomplishments, oh look she blew a bubble…….oh she is jumping in her jumparoo, every tiny thing was so amazing. I noticed around 15 months the decline in my health. Finding it difficult to keep up with the high expectations that I had set for myself. I found out I was pregnant with my ninth pregnancy two months after her first birthday so thought it had to be pregnancy related. Amazingly, I only improved as my pregnancy progressed, I FELT GREAT! I was healthy, I felt good, not one stitch of morning sickness, so onwards we went. I wanted to make every moment special for Braelyn, while still questioning if I was doing the right thing by her. I never thought my youngest would come to be born, and then when we made it through the first trimester, then the second and then nearing my third trimester, it hit me. I was going to be a mom of two. I was beyond excited, it was more than I ever dreamed, far more than I had hoped. I would look at Braelyn thinking how I was taking away from her by adding a baby. I already loved brynlee but the thought of loving a child as much as my firstborn was impossible….I kept thinking I was taking something away from her. Until I realized I was giving her something that was truly priceless……a sister.

The day I finally held Brynlee in my arms, my heart grew. I suffered some post pardum depression, but I attribute that to being kept from her for health reasons. I still feel guilty for not experiencing the joy I did with my firstborn, I felt like I was wrong, that I was now cheating Brynlee out of being the mom Braelyn had known the first two years of her life. They were different babies, Brynlee was colicky, fussy, a finicky eater, a nonsleeping, mommy’s girl and I found myself wondering what I was doing. I was overwhelmed. I loved them so much, but I didn’t feel worthy. Shortly after my youngest child’s birth I began experiencing exhaustion that seemed never ending. I felt like I was a zombie. I tried to be present but all I wanted was to sleep. At this time Braelyn (my once sleep through the night baby since nine weeks suddenly was up multiple times) and Bryn was up every hour on the hour. I chalked it up to being tired from being a mom to two daughters 22 months apart. Afterall, I had a toddler going through the tantrum stage, and an infant who never slept PERIOD. I barely remember what Brynlee looked like as an infant.

Then time lapsed and the fatigue was unrelenting even as both girls slowly started sleeping more…….I was overwhelmed, so tired I went through the motions. I cringe at the irreplacable memories that I lost because I was barely functioning…….it only regressed. I found there were weeks I felt semi-normal, and then there were days I could drag myself out of bed only to do the bare minimal. (Not the motherhood I expected) I was failing……..with someone who suffers with anxiety disorder the guilt was overwhelming. When the girls were 2 and 4 I found I had a tumor in my chest. They had to split my rib cage to remove it……then await 2 weeks to check if it was benign. I couldn’t lift my girls, could barely move, my thoughts consumed with leaving them motherless. The recovery was misery mostly because I couldn’t be their mom, I slept sitting up, couldn’t use my arms, and neither were old enough to understand why. It would be six months before I could pick up my 4 year old……and 4 months before I could pick up my 20 lb daughter. Many days would be spent with them in my lap, worrying to hug mommy too tight, mommy drifting in and out of consciousness, they couldn’t understand what was wrong with mommy.

It progressed until present day. I have a four year old who will bring me a pillow at 2 pm and tell me I need to rest, a 6 year old who will ask me if my head hurts……….Oh god, please don’t let this be the mom they remember. I get so tired that it is unthinkable, not I am sleepy……..more like I am on the floor exhausted. The girls beg for me to get up and play, and I am ashamed that more often than not I decline because although I want to, I simply cannot do it 😦 My heart hurts. The laughter and screams, and chaos I longed for evoke a trigger for my anxiety. I hate myself for it. I have to lay down, which makes me angry……..I DO NOT want to lay down I want to run, jump, play, joke and laugh with my girls…..and I can’t.

My fear is I will be the mom they remember as irritable, grouchy and tired, the mom they brought a pillow to, the mom who losses her patience because they have surpassed my noise threshold. I want to be the girl who would have objectively analyzed the art they colored on my walls (afterall they can be painted) instead I think of how I can’t paint, I can barely make it through a day, and I hate who I have become. I hope they know that I love them, I hope they know I cherish them, I hope they never question my devotion to me. This illness is defining me but it is not my identity. I will go through hell and back for my girls, just as I did before they were born……….I will fight to be the mom they deserve.

Don’t mistake me, I love every moment of motherhood, I want to capture it, bottle it up, remember it. Yet, I cannot muster enough of myself to be the mom I thought I would do. No matter what girls, you are the prayers I prayed that were answered beyond my wildest dreams and I love you. Forgive mommy, please. You are my joy, I will fight to find my way to being the mom you deserve because I feel like I don’t deserve you but God knows what I needed and I wouldn’t have made it this far…….I can’t imagine one day of my life now without you, it would be pointless. So thank you for the loud days, the squeals, the laughter that is contagious, the endless twirling of dresses, the trips to fairytales with the two prettiest princesses in the world. Mommy will find a cure, and you will remember the mom you deserved, the one that you deserved….and I won’t stop until I get there. You were both my saving grace and I want you to look back on me and not see the mom who was too tired to engage, play, and join in your shenanigans. I can’t miss any more time, I pray if the time comes and I won’t be here in the future you won’t remember a mom needing a pillow on a couch but instead one who adventures out and discovers with new eyes the things that matter the most……like an elusive butterfly, catching fireflies, camping in the back yard. I had those things with my mom, and I pray I can give you the same, I want you to share with me adventures, fairy tales, dreams, make believe and know that I love all those things although it takes more effort from me. My mom gave me the best memories, just as my sister did…….because you deserve that and so much more than I offer your right now. I love you, my sweet miracles, never forget that/


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