How Bittersweet: A Heart Full of Love & Fear, Gratitude & Longing

I started writing this post on January 7, 2019 but didn’t finish it until now.

I was running an errand today with my four year old daughter, Lia. As I was driving she asked “Mami, why did you want to become a mami?” And before I could even answer, she says “Because you wanted to have a baaaaby? And have a family?” A smile came across my face. I reached back to touch her leg and she squealed with laughter. My heart was full. Thinking how blessed I am to have what I dreamed of – a family of my own, one son, one girl – I felt so deeply grateful it almost took my breath away…

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But then came the unthinkable thought – will I one day be looking back at this moment with a deep, painful yearning because my daughter had died? I shudder at the possibility. But it’s something I think about…

often?

Because isn’t that the crux of it? With deep, pure love comes fear of losing whom you love. And with deep, pure love comes immeasurable pain when you experience such a loss.  As Anna Whiston-Donaldson said after losing her son Jack:

grieving is the price we pay

***

You see, when I was a freshman in college, while my parents were away in Cancun, I received a phone call from my aunt in Costa Rica telling me the unthinkable had happened for my aunt and uncle – their four year old daughter Marisol had drowned in a pool. I had to call my parents at the hotel and tell them every parent’s worst nightmare. They immediately decided to catch the next flight back home so mom could then take a flight out to Costa Rica to be with the family.  I begged to go with her but they didn’t let me. Perhaps they were trying to shelter me from what we would have to encounter. I regret not going, even though the decision was out of my hands. The regret stems from the reality that as heartbreaking as it was, for me, staying home did shield me from the grief and suffering my family was experiencing and I felt really guilty about that. But even if I had gone, now that I’m a mother myself, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have registered or cut as deep as it does now. Because even though it’s been more than eighteen years since she’s gone, having kids really puts it in perspective because one can imagine one’s very own child being the one who passed.

I remember the day of my son’s fourth birthday party when it hit me the most – Marisol was four when she died. My son was four. It would be like him leaving now.

***

After the unthinkable thought, my mind stayed in a dark place, but not as grim. It went to how it was incredibly ironic and frustrating that what had made my dreams come true – being able to create life and bring new little humans into this world – is also what precipitated my biggest health struggle of my life – depression – something that drains the life right out of you. It’s the antithesis of feeling alive.

Obviously I wouldn’t give up my kids for anything. I’m still eternally grateful. And I’m well aware that there are much, much worse things that could happen. But we all have our struggles, right? And I don’t think keeping it in helps. So what has motherhood surprised you with? Good or bad?

What I Wish My Kids Knew

I’m sitting here at the dinner table, looking around at all the dirty dishes I need to clean up, and I’m not moving. I’m drained. I looked at the clock earlier and saw 7:30pm. It had been three hours since I picked them up from school (I ran late because of a doctor appointment; they’re in first grade and PK-3). ONLY THREE HOURS. Are you kidding me? Surely it had been longer than that; I felt like I had just gotten beaten up I was so spent physically and emotionally. But no, time doesn’t lie. It’s my freakin’ enemy but it doesn’t lie.

Now, I should mention that those three hours included a trip to Whole Foods…and yes, I’m willing to argue it’s as bad as a trip to Target. Those damn little kid sized shopping carts. Who’s brilliant idea was that?!?!?! Now I not only have to wrangle my children as usual but I have to deal with their arguing over what item goes in which cart, having them race across the floor cringing that they might run into someone (or me, and man does it hurt when they do!), and overall acting as if they were raised in the wild by wolves.

I get the rambunctiousness. I get their energy (it dumbfounds me and I obviously can’t relate but I understand that kids have more energy). I get their excitement. I do NOT get, however, their disobedience. I just don’t.

I. Was. Not. Like. That. I’m not trying to brag. It’s just true. I wasn’t. I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t understand why others don’t just do what their parents tell them to.” Yep. No joke. It was so matter of fact to me. You do as you’re told. Period. And I wanted to. I wanted to please my parents. I wanted them to be happy. To be proud of me. I didn’t want them to be upset because of me. So yes, I was an easy kid. I really was. So I don’t get my kids. Not right now. I can’t relate.

Why can’t they see when they’re draining the sheer life out of me and making me really, really sad? Do they not care?!

Is an “okay mami”, “yes mami” too much to ask?! Are they some kind of sadistic little creatures that enjoy watching me slowly intensify in anger until I’m losing it? Is it some type of competition to see who can get me to scream first?

Don’t get me wrong; my kids are wonderful. Really. I’ve had strangers walk over and tell me how well behaved they are (sometimes). It happens. But here’s the catch: they don’t live with them. Or go to Target with them. Or Whole Foods. They’re not their mother.

A wise teacher once told me, when we were discussing why children behave one way in school (great) and another way at home (awful), that you raise children to behave well for others. Great. I get crapped on but they’re little angels for the rest of the world. Ah, the joys of motherhood.

I just want to shake them and say, don’t you see mami getting upset?! Going crazy?! Losing her mind?! It’s because of YOU! You want that?! Why can’t you just be obedient dammit?! Aren’t they teaching you that at (catholic) school?!

I kid you not, this past Sunday the second reading spoke of how Jesus was obedient to God to the point of death, and when I put Lucas to bed tonight I pulled out my handy dandy app and re-read it to him and talked to him about how we’re supposed to be obedient to 1. God and 2. our parents. I’m desperate man. But what better teacher (i.e. fear instiller) than the Bible? I mean c’mon, I’m not asking them to die for me. I’m just asking them to listen when I say “No, you can’t have cereal for dinner”, or “Don’t run off, this is not a playground, stay be me”…basic stuff people!

But he’s not going to get it, is he? Probably not tonight. Hell, I’ll be lucky if he gets it before he ever has kids because isn’t that how it usually works? You don’t “get it” until you’re in those same exact shoes? Well, somehow, even though I didn’t truly “get it” when I was a child, I did manage to see it from my parent’s point of view for the most part. That, coupled with the fact that I was eager to please them I guess was a good combo (lucky for me they are awesome parents so not like they ever led me astray). And I guess that’s a character trait I’m proud of – I can empathize and am good at seeing others’ points of view (well, apparently except my children’s like in this instance, go figure; and I’m still opinionated as hell, but that’s a whole other topic LOL).

Sigh. Lord, grant me patience, perseverance, and any other “p” word (or any word for that matter) I need. Because man, this mama is done.

Until I do it all over tomorrow.

Thank God for wine.

To the Mom in the Carpool Line

I see you walking your child to school in your perfectly pressed blouse, perfectly fitted pencil skirt and fashionable high heels. Man you look good. So put together. You probably work out every day. Here I am sitting in the car wearing my bathroom flip flops, yoga pants, braless in a ratty tshirt hidden by a zip up hoodie and sunglasses hiding the smudged eyeliner and mascara from the day before. You and me, we’re on two opposite ends of the spectrum.

Or are we?

Today (and most days, let’s be real), I may rush out the door in my pjs but there are days when I’m dressed nice (or just not in pjs, hey, it’s still a step up), and feeling “put together”. My makeup is done, my shoes aren’t flats, and I feel like a woman who happens to be a mom, not a woman who has “let herself go”.

And on those days another mom may look at me and think badly about herself and highly of me.

But if she only knew…

Yesterday I was the mom in pjs
I got dressed but didn’t shower
I have the same makeup on from yesterday, just touched up
Tomorrow I’ll probably be the mom in pjs (again)

Obviously that’s not the case every time. But it is true some of the time.

Turns out, we’re not so different you and I.

So carry on ladies. Carry on mamas. Don’t be disheartened by this phase of your life. It’s the best and hardest thing you’ll ever do. Cut yourself some slack. Give yourself grace.

We’re in the trenches. Together.
Pencil skirts and yoga pants welcome.

 

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