It was a cold Thursday evening in December. In exactly one week, we would be celebrating Christmas. I still had tons to do. As I sat playing with my kids in their room, my mind was racing. There were gifts to be bought. Holiday cards needed to be stamped and mailed. And, I was exhausted. In addition, I was experiencing chills, muscle pain and a terrible headache. Yes, I was sick. My best guess was with the flu. But, there really was no time for that. I am a mom. We aren’t allowed to get sick. It is just the way it is.
While I was curled up in my rocking chair, I had an idea that could only be described as genius. My husband Brian would be returning home from work soon. He would be my savior. We are a team. Why couldn’t he take over for his sickly wife?
When Brian came home, I asked for his help. He obliged. Initially, it was magical. I went straight to my bedroom. For a few moments, I was able to close my eyes and rest. I flashed back to our “before kids” days. The days when we would wander around our cute little hipster neighborhood and do happy hour until 3 AM. I longed for the times when I was able to lie in bed with a hangover and watch an all day marathon of “Housewives of New York”. I missed those days, but they were long gone. Or were they? They didn’t have to be, I thought. I have my spouse. He is the parent too. He can help. With that, I cheered up once again. My life wasn’t over just yet. There was still freedom to be had. It was just a little different now.
In the midst of all my promising thoughts, I heard yelling. Most of the noise came from the kids. My husband’s voice reeked of frustration. The kids were screaming and taking great joy in hitting each other. Does daddy know that his daughter didn’t finish her Science homework? What is he going to feed them? Does he know about the goldfish crackers that are on the floor? They also both need baths. How is he going to be able to handle the two of them tonight? This is the absolute worst time of the day. And will these kids ever stop beating the crap out of each other? With these thoughts, I rose from the coziness of my warm bed. I had to get out there. There was no rest for the weary. They needed me. Sick as dog, it was time for me to return to the war zone.
This wasn’t the first time that it “hit me.” I have been a mother for seven years now. My first experience with motherhood was very traumatic. My firstborn son Liam had a severe congenital heart defect and my first days with him were spent in the NICU. That was my introduction to being a mommy. I remember sitting there, looking at his precious little face, and wondering how I was going to do it all. I was a nervous mom to begin with, but the addition of a sick child made it even more terrifying. I envisioned very little sleep, if any. I pictured a scared mommy at the edge of his crib, relieved with the sound of every breath. It was going to be hard, but I could do it. Mainly because they told me so. “They” were all the other moms. If they could do it, so could I. As a mom, you have no alternative.
Tragically, my baby boy passed away at only nine days. I was left heartbroken and wondering if I had failed. I was very hard on myself. Finally, I realized I did the absolute best that I could under the circumstances. I had no other choice. I was a mom now.
Fortunately, I have since had two additional children whom I adore. Although they don’t replace Liam, they have helped me heal a bit. They are my world. They are also a lot of work. My first days home with them were filled with many tears. Again, my head filled with worry. Worries about how I was going to be able to care for them. Worries about their health and their well being. Worries about these precious beings living in a world I was not able to control. And how about sleep? Would I ever rest again?
The control issue is big for us moms; and it is not always possible to have it at all times. I realized this once again with our daughter. When Julia was only two months old, my husband and I went to an adult fundraising event. We needed to leave her for the first time. We chose to leave her with my in-laws. They have children of their own. She was in good hands. Yet, I still worried instead of savoring the alone time with my husband. When my husband called to check in, we found out Julia had a “spitting up incident.” She threw up her whole lunch. I wondered how that could possibly happen. Were they feeding her too fast or too slow? I needed to know. It was either my husband or myself that fed Julia. We knew the right way to do it. We rushed back to see her. Julia was fine. She had spit up, and that is what babies do. Worrying is what mommies do. Every day, I choose to let go a bit. It is not an easy process and takes a lot of time. I am taking it day by day.
Looking back, I didn’t have to get out of bed that night when I was sick. My husband is a big boy and could have taken care of it. He is their father. Whether I was there or not, the kids would have still fought. They would have made a huge mess at dinner. Their toys would have still been all over the place. And, bedtime would have been a nightmare. On the flip side, regardless of whether I was there or not, Julia would finish her homework. They would get their baths. They would get into bed safe and content. Most importantly, they would be loved. In the end, that is what matters the most. Next time, I am sleeping in.