I Nearly Died After Childbirth, But That Doesn’t Mean I Have to Cherish Every “Precious” Moment of Motherhood
On Mother’s Day, and every day, appreciate the gift of motherhood…..Cherish the moments you spend with your children…..In the blink of an eye, they’ll be leaving for college…. I’m always bombarded by these cliché sentiments (usually spoken by mothers of grown children) around Mother’s Day. I smile, nod, and resist the urge to say, “What memory erasing elixir did someone slip in your drink?” Before you judge me, hear me out.
I spent Mother’s Day 2006 in the ICU as my life literally hung in the balance. I had given birth to my daughter just weeks before and was suffering from grave postpartum complications. I didn’t see my newborn baby or toddler son on Mother’s Day ten years ago. Instead, my family spent the day praying I would make it through the night. Needless to say, I do not take the gift of motherhood lightly.
A decade ago, I clawed my way back to my children and understand what an honor and responsibility it is to be raising them. Being on the brink of death was very traumatic and I spent the first few months after my recovery haunted by frightening images. I would see my casket being lowered beneath the earth, while my husband stood over my coffin, holding our newborn daughter and toddler son. I would watch them weeping, my son screaming, “Mommy! Mommy! Don’t leave me!” No matter how hard I tried to shake away these visions from an alternative universe, I couldn’t help contemplating how close I came to leaving my children behind.
You’re supposed to be dead, I’d remind myself, you better soak in every moment of joy and appreciate the chance you’ve been given to be a mom. This was the mantra I repeated to myself while changing explosive diarrhea diapers, consoling my daughter through ear infections, and cleaning up after my son’s bouts with the stomach flu. For every toy train track I organized and paint stain I scrubbed out of the carpet, I tried to remember how lucky I was to be alive. Here’s the thing though, it’s impossible to appreciate every moment of life, and that includes motherhood. Anyone who says otherwise is a filthy liar!
I love my kids with all my heart and soul. They are the sun, moon, and stars in my sky. I know when they leave for college I will bawl my eyes out and wish I could peel back the years and sing them to sleep one more time. And yet, I’ve learned it’s absurd to try to savor every “precious” moment of raising my kids. Let’s be real, not every moment is worth preserving. Do I want to treasure every eye roll and grunt I receive from my teenager? Should I cherish all the time I spend yelling at my kids to clean up after themselves, brush their teeth, take a shower, do their homework, or any of the other nagging directives I spout daily?
When I was young and fantasized about being a mom, my imaginary children frolicked in open fields with me as we danced through sunflowers that were nestled behind our charming little house. I never imagined that the brick on the house would need tuck pointing, the gutters would have to be cleaned, or the furnace would require bi-annual maintenance. I didn’t think the house would contain dirty dishes, piles of laundry, or an incessant stream of crumbs that would transform a Dust Buster into my new best friend. I never imagined my desk would overflow with my daughter’s dance company forms that are more complicated to understand than the new tax code. Back then, it was impossible to conceive of the colossal effort it takes to raise kids, run a household, and pursue a career.
Having escaped death by the narrowest of margins a decade ago, it feels obnoxious to complain about the mundane tasks that often fill my days. 10 years ago, I would have given anything to have been able to unload the dishwasher. I try thinking about that when I’m having a particularly rough day as a mom. In fact, my first draft of this piece was titled “The Gift of a Decade; A Mother’s Day Reflection on Gratitude.” Blech… I just threw up a little bit in my mouth!
Don’t be mistaken, I do consider this last decade a gift, and I am eternally grateful for it. Yet, it’s important to balance that appreciation with some good old-fashioned whining every now and then. I think the best gift I can give myself on Mother’s Day (and perhaps to the moms reading this) is permission to not appreciate every moment of motherhood. Instead, let’s acknowledge that being someone’s mom is damn tough. Let’s admit that the smiling pictures we post on social media only highlight a sliver of what it’s really like to be a parent. Let’s confess that sometimes we drive around our neighborhoods alone so that we can rant on our cell phones to fellow mom friends in the privacy of our minivans. This Mother’s Day, I’m giving myself the best present ever; a new mantra…. I’m grateful to be alive, my children mean the world to me, but sometimes it sucks to be a mom. On that delightfully uplifting note, Happy Mother’s Day!