This is the story that details my “mom” journey. The good, the bad and the ugly, it’s all here. The original story was told on Urban Infant magazine as a 6 part series. Be sure to go and check out this awesome magazine about kids and life and all the fun that brings us.
THE MAKING OF A MOM … MY STORY
Growing up at my house was anything but peaceful and calm. I have three “natural” brothers and my parents started fostering when I was 12 years old. Because of that, my home life was crazy and chaotic and very loud. I swore that when I grew up and got married that I would never have children. Never. Once I was engaged, I told my now-husband that we were never going to have children, so he better get used to that idea. He just smiled and agreed.
I was so looking forward to enjoying a quiet and wonderful life with my new husband. I was going to travel and see the world. I was going to shop and buy myself shoes and purses. I was NOT going to be a Mother.
But something happened when we said “I do”. All of the sudden, having kids was an option, and it really didn’t seem like that bad of an idea. I quickly started trying to convince my hubby that we needed kids, and he was constantly reminding me of my pre-wedding vow to not pro-create. It took me a year to convince him to try, and another year and a half and one miscarriage to actually get and stay pregnant.
The first three months of my pregnancy were awesome. I had no morning sickness, baby was happy and healthy and all was good. But things quickly changed when I got hurt at work. I was rushed over to the medi-centre and will never forget the doctor telling me that I needed to go for an ultrasound to see if my baby was “even alive”. It was the longest test of my life as no one would talk to me and tell me what was going on. I had to go back to the in-sensitive jerk of a doctor and wait for him to read the results. Thankfully, her heartbeat was strong and everything looked good but I distinctly remember thinking that I shouldn’t have gotten pregnant, and that I should’ve just ignored the call of my heart.
Within a week of the incident, I began cramping and losing amniotic fluid. I was in pain all the time which was worsened by the continual fear and worry of the possibility of a miscarriage. I enjoyed 13 ultrasounds and 6 non-stress tests and watched her fight to survive. We were given bad report after bad report. We were warned that she would be all shrivelled up and scaly as there wasn’t enough amniotic fluid around her body. We were told that she would be small and fragile and weak. We were told to be prepared for the worst.
I went into labour and if it could go wrong, it did. I had a placental abruption and placenta previa. I was minutes away from a blood transfusion. I was moments away from needing to have a c-section. But by nothing short of a miracle, our special girl was delivered quickly and naturally. When they handed me my 9lb 3oz baby with perfect skin, in perfect health, I’ve never been so thankful for a misdiagnosis. She was exactly who she was meant to be … in spite of the words spoken over her.
July 17th marked the beginning of my life as a Mother. It was scary and almost more than I could bear but it was the start of a journey that I almost chose not to take. What exactly was I thinking? I was born to be a Mom.
Less than 24 hours after my crazy and traumatic birth experience, and the arrival of my beyond perfect little girl, I was sent home from the hospital. I was weak, tired and confused. I was madly in love with my new baby, but something was very wrong with me. I didn’t feel what I thought I should feel. I didn’t feel the connection that I thought all Moms felt. I can remember sitting on my couch, holding her and feeling nothing. I knew I loved her but that’s all I knew.
I spoke with the Health Nurse and my doctors about what I was feeling and everyone kept telling me it was normal. One suggested that it was Postpartum and offered me anti-depressants. One said that I was just tired and needed time to recover from childbirth. Somehow I knew that they were both wrong, I didn’t know what it was, but I knew that they were wrong. And then I figured it out.
It finally dawned on me that living in constant fear of miscarriage for 6 months had really done a number on my mind and body. I had prepared myself to lose my baby and in doing that, I never appreciated my pregnancy and I never let myself bond with her. I didn’t know what to do with this little person that was never even supposed to live.
Thankfully, as I healed and accepted the gift that was my little girl, things got better. As I listened to her little baby noises and watched her wriggle around, she captured my attention. As I rocked her and watched her breathe, she became real. As I held her and looked at her little face, our spirits connected. I had finally become a Mom, and not just by name only, but in my heart.
She was beautiful and happy and an absolute joy to have around. She had the darkest brown eyes and the biggest smile. We quickly learned that she was a very determined and intelligent little girl. When she set her mind to something, she did it. If she didn’t like what you were doing, she let you know. She spent nine months fighting to survive in the womb, and that fight stayed in her. It’s a gift that I will forever be grateful for.
My little girl is now almost 16. She is a leader with very strong morals and convictions. She stands up for what’s right and cannot be swayed. She is fearless and does well in almost everything she tries. She is more than I can have ever hoped for. She is one of my greatest achievements, and I am so thankful for the life that she brought to me.
I had fought against becoming a Mother and was given the most awesome gift. I got lost somewhere in the battle that was her start, but she found me. God gave me a fighter, and that fight saved us both. She was my perfect welcome to Motherhood.
My little girl was now 2 and I felt the call to be a Mom again. But this time, the call was different. I can remember telling my husband that it was time for another child, and he just stared at me blankly. He was even more shocked when I told him that I didn’t want to have a baby, but to take care of kids that had been forgotten. I knew that we were meant to be foster parents, and was so very relieved when he agreed that this step was right for us.
We made the phone call the very next day and so began the long approval process. It took us a year to go through all of the checks and training, and after about 14 months, our first child moved in. I was 25 years old, a mother to a toddler and now a Mom to a 14 year old boy. To say that it was shocking is a gross understatement, but I knew it was right. Looking back now, I wish that somehow I would’ve better prepared my heart and mind for the experiences to come. It was the beginning of “My Mom to Many” journey, and it was terrifying.
I wasn’t much older than the kids that I was now parenting. Many of them had never really even been parented before, some came straight off the streets, some hated women and some hated men. Lots of them were thrilled to be a part of a family, and just as many were waiting for the first opportunity to bolt out the door. But somehow, through all the craziness and fears, it always worked out. We were finding a way to reach the kids where they were at and managed to make a difference in their world.
We’ve been parents to 18 different children. Many have moved on to other places for a variety of reasons. Some kids were beyond our capabilities, and we weren’t able to be what they needed. Some did not want to be in care and did everything in their power to destroy the placement. Some were returned to their natural families. Some grew up and just moved out. Through it all, we were pushed and stretched, almost beyond reason. We became stronger than we ever imagined. We learned a lot about grace, acceptance and faith. We laughed, we cried and our hearts were forever changed.
We thought we were “saving” them, but in reality, they were leading us. These “forgotten” children made me the Mom that I am today. They are the reason that I’m able to speak into so many people’s lives. They are some of the marks that I will leave on this world. For that, I will forever be grateful.
My life had been going along nicely for almost 3 years, I had a toddler and 3 foster children and things were good. Being a Mom was definitely better than I thought it would be and I was content but then my Husband suggested that we should maybe have another baby. One month later, I was pregnant.
I was blessed with a normal pregnancy, which was a very welcome change to my first experience. I actually got to “enjoy” being pregnant for 9 months as opposed to waiting in fear and just hoping for the best. My labour and delivery went exactly as it should, and it all seemed so foreign to me. When I was handed my perfect little boy, with no complications, it was almost too good to be true. We were truly blessed to have such a smooth start, as his little life was going to be full of nothing but fears and challenges. His birth marked the beginning of a very long and tough journey.
When we brought M home, we quickly noticed that he would never really “settle”. He was always wriggly and would never stop moving. He would cry for no reason and he didn’t really like being touched. To make things worse, the boy started getting sick. He had RSV 4 times before his first birthday, and then had pneumonia or a lung infection at least 6 times a year, for the next 7 years. We were at the doctor or in the emergency room more times than I can count, or truly care to remember. At 18 months, he stopped walking, talking and sleeping. He stopped eating. His little body seemed to be failing him. It was the scariest time of my life.
As the days wore on, it became obvious that something was really wrong with our perfect little boy. Physically, we learned he had Asthma and a number of different allergies, but there was more. His initial diagnosis was autism, but in my heart, I knew that was wrong. We went through a barrage of tests, and our proper diagnosis was finally made. He had Sensory Integration Dysfunction and PDD-NOS, along with ADD and a few other little syndromes. In a very rare test of fate, we discovered that his sensory disorder also affected him internally which explained why he always got so sick, so fast. We finally knew what was wrong. All of those titles may sound scary to others but for us, it meant freedom. Our little boy could now get the help he needed.
Thankfully, with understanding, things got better. Every day was a struggle but the struggles were with purpose. We learned creative ways to help him function. We accepted his weird little quirks as part of his personality. We figured out his triggers and the situations to avoid in order to keep him calm. We made the choice to put him on a number of different medications and they turned his life around.
This little boy changed my life. He taught me more about patience and grace than I ever dreamed possible. His life was given to teach me more about myself and the world around me. The lessons I’ve learned because of him have given me the words to help and understand others. My perfect weird little gift made me become a better me and a better Mom.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my destiny was always to be a Mom. Not only to my own children, but also to the kids that weren’t given a fair start. I know that God gave me patience and rationality to handle things that would frighten others to their core. I also know that I was blessed with a partner that is my perfect balance. I have an amazing support system and have been taught very, very well. But in spite of all my many blessings, there are many days when I question my “calling” and the decision to become a Mom.
I’m pretty sure I never questioned my sanity before children, or at least not on a daily basis. I know that I used to shower regularly, and I most certainly didn’t go 6 months between haircuts. I used to eat normal meals at normal times, and not toast at midnight and call it lunch. I can remember buying clothes based on what they looked like and not because they’re comfortable and don’t need to be ironed. I could stay up or sleep in and know that my house wouldn’t be trashed in my absence. I had money in the bank. But these aren’t the things that make me question, it’s the bigger stuff.
I have never cried so much as when I became a Mother. I now shed tears of happiness, sadness, frustration and or plain old exhaustion. I worry that the words I speak or the decisions I make will have lifelong ramifications. I worry about being too tough on my kids or if I’m not being tough enough. I question whether or not I’m doing a good enough job? Do my children know their worth? Do they see how fabulous they really are? Have I given them the confidence to rise above the nonsense that will surround them as they grow? Do they know how to stand up for themselves and for others when necessary? Have I been the example that they needed to see? Will they be okay?
Why has it become so hard to just trust that I’ve done the best job that I could possibly do? As my kids have gotten older, I find that I trust myself less. I can now see their future and their life outside of my home and it scares me. I am responsible for shaping them and guiding their journeys. They are no longer my babies, they have become young adults.
I miss them as little people, before they had opinions and found joy in everything. I miss the days when the biggest “problem” was whether or not we’d find the missing Hot Wheel before bedtime. I miss just “being in the moment” with them and watching them learn and grow.
I guess it’s time for me to stop questioning. I know that I’m a good Mom and that I’ve done the best job possible. My children are going to make a difference in this world. They are going to be strong, upstanding citizens and amazing parents. For now I will wait and I will watch and I will let go of all the things that I’ve given up or have missed out on by following my calling. Becoming a Mom truly is a gift and for that I will always be grateful.
As I look back over the past 16 years of being a Mom, I am amazed at how much I’ve changed and grown. I used to worry about doing everything right, and how my parenting skills or lack thereof looked to the people around me. I used to wonder if I was spending enough time with my kids, and had guilt for putting myself first sometimes. I used to not trust myself.
Now I see the beauty in being a Mom, and recognize the moments that really matter. It’s not about the nicest outfits or the cleanest house. It isn’t the pictures in a photo album or the entries in a baby book. It will never be the guilt or the worry of the moments lost. It’s not about money, stuff or accomplishments.
Instead, it’s playing in a pile of socks while you try and fold the laundry. It’s watching yet another episode of a favourite show when the “daily limit” of TV has already come and gone. It’s having a picnic of nothing but chips and cookies under the dining room table. It’s found in the bubbles of your Jacuzzi bathtub after you added an entire bottle of bubble bath. It’s the little things that make being a Mom so awesome. Enjoy them. No matter how crazy and messy those moments are, breathe them in. These will be the memories that you will cherish.
I’m surrounded by teenagers now, and these fun little memories have become exactly that, memories. I never imagined that I’d already be looking back and counting the ways that I wasted time on worry and doing the right thing, instead of just enjoying the gifts I had been given.
So, now as a Mama to older kids, I give you this.
- Trust Yourself. You are smarter and wiser than you think.
- Love without condition. Love is an action word, never forget that.
- Breathe. There is nothing that you cannot handle. Ever.
- Play. Laugh. Hide. Seek. Enjoy.
- Nap when you’re tired. Sing when you’re happy. Clean only when you have to.
- Challenge your children. Show them when they get confused. Applaud when they get it.
- Do fun things often. Dance in the rain. Wear your clothes backwards. Eat with a spatula.
- Teach your children the value of time as opposed to dollars spent.
- Be an example. Teach joy, respect & kindness while living life that same way.
- Say “I love you” and hug your kids. A lot. One day, they’re not going to let you.
Being a Mom truly is the biggest and most important gift that I was ever given. I am so thankful that I made the choice to experience this and ignored what I thought was right for me. I was most definitely meant to be a Mom. I am forever changed and forever grateful.