I never feel like a good mom.
And I mean…never…
My heart avidly waits for the day that I sit down after bedtime routine and have that momentary thought: “I’m a good mom.”
The irony is: The day my little was born I felt like super woman. I looked at my beautiful princess and knew instantly that she was the greatest accomplishment of my life. And when I looked into her huge, deep eyes for the first time, I really believed that I could conquer anything.
My baby girl latched right away and ate like a champ. She stayed awake for almost 3 hours after she was born; which we were told is very unusual. She would follow sounds and shadows and the sound of my voice with little turns of her head; something else the nurses said was unusual for the first day. She was my miracle and I was excited to be her momma. Even the waking every two hours that first night to feed her was exciting!
Then on day two she almost died.
My husband and I dropped her off at the nursery on our way to the “discharge meeting” that you have to attend before being allowed to go home: The first time I’d been away from her since she was born. I was persuaded to leave her by the amazing nurse who had been there the whole time with us, because it was only supposed to take about 30 minutes. As soon as I walked away from her my chest started getting tight, and I started to count down the time…
Thirty minutes and I get my Bella back.
About thirty-five minutes later, my husband went to get our beauty from the nursery while I continued on to our room (bathroom!). When he walked in moments later without her, my heart skipped several beats in the time it took him to explain that they were doing all of the necessary tests before marking her for discharge the next morning. So, I went about the business of situating myself, and that’s when we heard an alarm that we hadn’t heard before.
I vividly remember walking out of the bathroom and commenting on the alarm to my husband. Both of us questioning what that particular alarm sound could have been for; since it was so markedly different from the beeps and alarms we had been hearing for two days. What happened next I remember in slow motion and cemented the sound of that alarm in my brain forever.
Lori, the nurse that had been with us the entire time, walked into our room…the emotional look on her face not registering in my brain…the fact that she didn’t have my Bella with her also not registering…until she mentioned the alarm. I will never forget the conversation as long as live…
“I’m sure you guys heard the alarm a few minutes ago…?”
“We did! We were just talking about what that alarm is for, because we haven’t heard that one before.”
“Well, that alarm was for your Isabella…”
My heart stopped. My brain wasn’t processing what she was saying in real time. It was like an out of body experience where I couldn’t bring myself to actually hear what she was saying to us. It felt like she was talking so slowly, yet I remember wanting her to stop talking, because all my brain would process was that it had to be a mistake: She had to be mistaking another baby for my Bella.
“…We laid her on her back to take her vitals and she spit up. Before we were able to clear it all, she spit up again and aspirated it. She stopped breathing and then flat-lined for a several seconds. All four pediatricians on call responded to the alarm. They cleared her airway, pumped her stomach of any excess fluid and now they're monitoring her heart. She is stable, but they want to keep her on a monitor for a while just to make sure…”
I couldn’t breathe. I felt the urge to sit and to run at the same time. I wanted to scream at her for not protecting my baby, while simultaneously screaming at myself for failing at motherhood on the second day. How could this have happened?? My husband and I had fought so hard, been through so much, and believed she was our miracle baby arriving just when God had appointed her to. Yet, my baby, my beautiful Bella, had stopped breathing…stopped living…
“…I promise, I will bring her down to you as soon as they clear her to leave the nursery. I am so sorry! I can’t believe this happened. You’re such a sweet little family. I’m so relieved she's ok.”
Then my husbands steady voice… “Can we see her now, please? We’d like to see her now.”
I don’t know what, but something broke in me that day. And then again on day five when my precious girl started vomiting and then refused to eat; which landed us overnight at the hospital. That trip resulted in shattering every picture I had painted in my head during all of the sleepless nights I spent hugging the belly that I had started to lose hope I’d ever have.
I had to give up being a breastfeeding momma: I dried up after only 3 months of pumping. I had to stop laying her flat in the bassinet beside my bed: She had to be in her crib on an elevated mattress so that her stomach could drain easily and she wouldn’t throw up. Then there was all of the little things: She hated hair bands and barrettes and tights and shoes and dresses and hats and napping and tummy time and bed time… It seemed that everything made her scream at the top of her little lungs for hours on end. The only time she seemed happy was when she was eating (food that my body didn’t provide her) and when just about anyone else was holding her. So, as much as I hate saying it, by the end of the first month I was convinced that I was failing and I wanted desperately to give her back.
And now? Now I’m the woman that sits on the edge of her bed at 2am almost every night, having already put her toddler back in bed for the 12th time, wishing for the moment that I can say, “I’m a good mom.” My girl eats everything I make for her, she wants only me to hold her, she loves hair bands and barrettes and tights and shoes and dresses and hats (as long as wearing them is her idea)…and screaming at me, hitting me, bull rushing my legs, spitting her drinks on me, throwing her food at me, slamming doors, stomping her foot… Need I go on?
I don’t feel like super woman. I don’t believe I can conquer anything. Yet, somehow, I still believe that my Bella is my greatest accomplishment.
I’m learning (slowly) that we have made the definition of a “good mom” just as subjective as we’ve made the definition of “beauty”. We’ve taken something that (I believe) is anointed and appointed by God and we’ve allowed societal opinion to try and dictate how our motherhood is defined. No matter what decision we make for our babies, there are a hundred articles and mommy blogs to tell us that we’re wrong. Just like there are a hundred youtube videos and beauty blogs to tell us that we’re not measuring up and never really making it to beautiful.
Then of course there is social media that constantly makes us feel inadequate, because we are constantly looking at peoples best moments, staged moments, and comparing them to all of the moments that we can never seem to manage with our own kid(s). It’s in the comparison that our hearts are broken over and over again. Insecurity rules the day, vulnerability is hidden beneath the mask that we so carefully design and the truth of our reality has become our constant #momfail.
This is not the world I want to leave for my daughter.
I may not know how to change the whole world, but I can change her world. I can leave a legacy of being real about my insecurities and show her my vulnerabilities, so that she feels the freedom to be unmasked as she grows into the woman that God has created her to be. I can leave her these small pictures of the truth of my reality so that, hopefully, she will someday look into the eyes of her own baby/toddler/child/teenager and have the moment where she will look at herself and say…
“I am a good mom.”