This morning I heard a tragic news: a close friend has cervical cancer and had to abort her second child to prevent the cancer from spreading. Luckily she found out early enough, thanks to a routine check up necessitated by her pregnancy, and is now recovering from a hysterectomy.
As a mother and friend, the news hit me pretty hard and as I was sending positive thoughts and prayers her way, my heart began to ache. I could only imagine how hard it must’ve been for her to go through such immense stress and worry while carrying a new life in her womb. I wonder how much grief she felt knowing she may not be able to keep her child. I wonder if she blamed herself for not taking better care of herself or for not being attuned to her body like ‘good’ mothers are expected to.
I hope she didn’t. I hope she is stronger than the mother I am.
Such self-deprecating thoughts began to haunt my mind as soon as my first daughter started showing signs of developmental delays. She didn’t wave, babble or crawl like other babies and I knew pretty early on that she was different. As a young 25-year old mother I didn’t know how to handle the weight placed in my life and I resorted to isolation, self-contempt and unhealthy patterns of thoughts that included many angry “why me?” rants into the air as if someone up there can do something to help me.
Miracles occurred in the bible all the time. Why couldn’t God let that miracle happen to me? Just once, is all I ask. If you can somehow heal my child and make my life right again, I’ll do anything you ask. I’ll even start going back to sunday mass like I used to. Please Lord, just once! Just once is all I ask!!
Fast forward eight years- I now realize how empty and vain my prayers were. This wasn’t the first time I tried to bargain with God with my manipulative prayers. I once prayed like this when I lost my dog in high school. I told God I’ll start going to Sunday mass every week if He lets us find him.
We found the dog after a few days and sure enough, I forgot all about my prayers. I followed my parents to Sunday mass many more times thereafter but not because I was grateful that God found our dog, but because I had no choice but to obey my parents until I leave home for college.
So this morning, I crawled back into bed after sending off the girls to school and began to pray for my friend. My heart began to ache for her, her lost child and for all the pain and grief she may be going through.
Just then my husband walked through the bedroom door and told me Elle had a horrible morning at school. She didn’t like the blue jeans she was wearing and screamed all the way to her class while kicking and trying to take off her pants. We’re lucky that the school staff and teachers are so understanding of her needs and always try to be warm and kind to her in spite of her explosive tantrums, no matter how loud and piercing her cries travel down the hallway.
And as always, guilt creeps in.
I should’ve been there to drop off the kids. I should’ve never put those blue jeans on her. I shouldn’t be in bed right now. I wonder if those teachers think I’m a bad mom for not being there, for giving my husband the morning drop-off duty. I should’ve never taken that melatonin last night. I should be able to handle my child better. I wonder if Tess feels embarrassed by her older sister who lacks self control at times. I hope she doesn’t get teased at school. What is wrong with me? What is wrong with her? Is this ever going to get better? Will this ever end?
Then I remember I still have an entire afternoon and evening to make up for the bad morning. I still have a lifetime to try harder, to become a better mom, to learn more, to criticize less. I still have a chance to hold my children and tell them I love them. I still have not one, but two beautiful children to hug and kiss.
Despite my daughter’s different needs, she has the sweetest smile and the biggest belly laugh in the world. She can tell me she loves me. She can walk, she can talk and she can scream when something upsets her.
I’ve been wrestling with the possibility of having a third child. Suddenly this so-called-mommy-dilemma feels like luxury. Suddenly I feel like a spoiled brat who cries over not getting that ice cream for dessert when her belly is full.
Perhaps I’m at exactly where I’m supposed to be, learning through other’s stories and my own imperfections.
Perhaps this is what motherhood is all about.