Since the death of my own mother I have found it difficult at times to be a mother to my daughter. This might come as quite a shock to some people who think that having a child in the house would alleviate my pain and lessen my feelings of loss. Well yes, in the short term it worked like that. Having Everly around in the first week was a blessing. She kept my mind off of everything; I had someone else, who I deemed more important than myself, to focus on. She kept myself and my family laughing and smiling. The baby growing in my belly provided joy and hope in his/her own way as well. Having the children kept me focused on a happy future, no matter how distant it seemed in that moment.
After the initial shock of my mom’s death was over it took me a little while to accept the finality of it. Funny how that takes a while to sink in isn’t it. I think for me it had a lot to do with how often I saw my mom. We met for lunch every few weeks and talked on the phone about as often. So it wasn’t weird that I went a length of time without hearing from her. The first missed lunch date was a rough one. There was no one there ordering Quesadillas from Taco Time, no one there to tease about also ordering the Churro despite their complaints at not knowing where their recent weight gain came from and wanting to lose it. Ahhhh mom, lol. Although all of the chairs at the table were full, there was one chair empty. I went home feeling really heavy.
That night as I rocked Everly and read her bedtime books I felt even more heavy. I was reminded of the collection of children’s books that my mom had been collecting in her apartment to share with Evie one day. Books that had a future. I thought it sad that these books would not live to fulfill their original purpose. Yes, I could read them to Everly, but it’s just not the same. I started to cry as I read and rocked. I felt grief for this moment that would never exist between my daughter and her grandmother. They both lost out. This used to be one of my safe spots, rocking Everly to sleep. This used to bring me comfort; this is where my unicorns lived. Well the unicorns upped and left, apparently real estate is too expensive for them too.
Having a bath one night with Everly she pointed to my belly button and said belly button, she then pointed to her own and said Evie belly button. I said yes, same same, baby and mama both have belly buttons. It occurred to me that the other half of my same same was gone. Had I had a moment like this with my mom? When I was her baby and sat on her lap, did I point out our same sames? This is one of those things I would have told her upon seeing her next and I would have asked my mom if I did that. I guess there is no way to know now, but I like to think that I did.
Every time that Everly says I love you mama I think of my tiny self saying that to my mom. Did she experience a lot of the same feelings that I did upon hearing her little girl profess her love? Did she cup my cheek in her hand and think it was the most precious face she ever did see? Did she play with my hair just to feel it’s softness run between her fingers? Did she smell the top of my head while closing her eyes? Did my smiles make her smile more than her own happiness? I think of how she must have felt as a young mother a lot. Every time I have a special mother daughter moment with Everly I think of my mom.
This makes being a mom really hard for me right now. It makes being a mom almost something that I want to run away from, because sometimes it is just too painful. And oh good lord there is so much guilt around that for me. This feeling like I need to run away puts me in such a state of shame and terror. My own mom “ran away” from my family and up until recently I have never understood how she could do that. I get it now. She knew she would cause more harm if she stayed. I used to resent the action of her leaving; I now have more respect for it. What kind of life would my sister and I have had if she had tried to take us with her, or if she had stayed as her addictions continued to worsen. I firmly believe it would have been a life filled with more grief and trauma. But I won’t run away. Running away would only prolong the process. Dealing with it, firmly rooting my feet into the ground and facing pain square in the face like Rocky is what I need to do. And my goodness, that sounds like such a fun thing to do why would I ever want to run away from it? But at the end of the day, despite being the underdog, I will win- get ready to kiss the ground Apollo!
It’s a good thing that children are resilient and that my daughter’s brain isn’t quite ready yet to begin laying memories. With any luck she won’t remember any of this at all. I am so glad that she doesn’t have to remember any of this at all. If I had to watch her experience grief, well I think that would be worse than anything. And the new baby, hopefully this does not affect him/her for the long term either. I know you read about all these things saying pregnant moms who are stressed have more cortisol in their bodies which is bad for the baby… low birth weight, pre-term birth, developmental delay… yeah that’s not anything concerning to worry about is it. Nope. Pfffttttsshhhh, heck yeah it is. Oh but don’t stress about it. Right. Don’t stress about being stressed.
So this brings us to self care. Yeah, self care. Now I know that I am going to be 100% correct in making the assumption that the majority of caregivers out there do not practice enough self care. And yet we expect ourselves to take care of others. What the hell kind of god damned sense does that make? In an attempt to lower my stress levels and practice self care I have started prenatal yoga and aquafit. I am aware that I sound gimmicky like an infomercial and lame and crunchy but it actually works. I sleep so well on the days that I have these classes. My mood is better also. Guess what cortisol, I am kicking your ass with endorphins (insert Eye of the Tiger music here). Exercise endorphins are like Skittles. So yummy and fruity and they make you happy and give you energy. I am the classic “I hate exercise person.” I don’t like to sweat. So for me to say this and to feel that way is a big deal. Part of the benefit of these activities is just the time to myself. No pressure. No real responsibilities, just a release. And exhale.