As I have mentioned in recent posts, I have been struggling to be a mother to a two year old as I grieve and recover from the miscarriage. Don’t get me wrong, I am so incredibly thankful for Riley! Probably more thankful than I have ever been, as I am made acutely aware of just how much of a miracle she is, and how much we are not guaranteed that. I know that many women who have lost their babies to miscarriage do not have other children at home, and I cannot imagine how difficult that must be. I realize that I am incredibly blessed. This realization has caused me to squeeze her a little more tightly, kiss her about a million more times per day, and even crawl into her crib at night when she is sleeping, just to hold her and smell her and watch her breathe.
But that does not mean that it has been easy for me.
I have this picture in my head of who I wish I was during all of this: the mom who, in the face of tragedy and hardship, suddenly becomes super mom! The mom who does not let her babies see her pain, but instead makes crafts with them and takes them out on adventures and laughs with them outside. The mom who converts her grief into mommy energy.
I know that there are moms in the world who are like that. And honestly, I’m envious. I want to be able to do that. But instead of my grief giving me wings in toddler motherhood, it feels like I’m carrying around a huge yoke made out of lead while I slug through my day. The TV has been on far too often, and bedtime feels like a victory lap – I survived another day.
It pains me to admit this. But I also think that this is reality. This is what it means to live with grief and responsibilities simultaneously.
I have been so blessed to have offers from friends and family to watch Riley. I have taken several people up on their offers. It has definitely been helpful. There were times when I really needed that help, because my body was still physically healing and I could not walk or stand much. But now that I am feeling better, I have found myself wanting to still take people up on their offers – mostly because I feel like it’s better for Riley. I have not been quite the attentive, engaging mom I would like to be, so I assumed that it is better for Riley to be with someone who can give her more attention. Someone who can keep her away from the TV, or take her out to the park or give her more social interaction.
On Monday afternoon, earlier this week, I texted Jordan and said: “I need a good pep talk. I know I can do this. I can be a mom…” and the sweet husband that he is, he called me right away. I don’t think I will ever forget what he said.
He reminded me of a sermon that we once heard together. The Pastor was talking about how men often feel the strong need to provide for their families. But, he said, the most important thing for you to provide for your family is yourself. Jordan went on and told me that what Riley needs the most from me right now, is me. Me. What she needs is not playgrounds and play dates and crafts and activities; what she needs is her mom. And it doesn’t matter if I’m laying on the couch while she watches TV, or if I’m crying on the floor while she plays: she needs me. Even if I don’t have much to offer, she needs whatever little bit I can offer more than she needs someone else who has a lot to offer. My presence is the best thing that I can offer her right now.
He told me that if it’s for me, if I need the help, then I should absolutely take people up on their offers. But if the reason I am doing it is because I think it’s best for Riley, I need to remember that the best thing for Riley is her mommy.
And he is so right.
When I was six years old, my mom had cancer. It’s kind of strange that I don’t really remember it, because six years old is definitely old enough for memories. But I don’t really remember her having cancer. When my mom recounts that time to me, it is so strange. She describes it as a time when she had 3 kids but couldn’t do much of anything. My dad had to take a ton of time off from work to help out. She felt like she was barely able to be a mother to the 3 of us during those difficult days. But when I think back during that time, I don’t remember her struggling. My childhood memories of my mother’s parenting are all of her being super-mom! I honestly have always thought of her parenting with so much admiration. I remember her being so much fun, and most of all I remember her being there. She was always there, and I had a very enjoyable and secure childhood for that reason.
When I hung up the phone after talking to Jordan, I got Riley and I ready, and we headed to the park. We didn’t last more than 10 minutes (apparently Riley was just as overwhelmed by being around so many people as I was), but that’s ok. Because she didn’t need a playground, she needed her mom. And I was there. We left and headed to the grocery store where we made funny faces at each other, wrapped up in our own little world. And I could tell that it was exactly what she needed.
Best pep talk ever.