Monday, November 11, 2013

A Mother's Dream

This time of year causes me to really reflect on being a mother. With Little Miss M's birthday right around the corner, it's hard not to think back on the naive, starry-eyed, twenty-four year old dreaming of giggles and pink dresses. I wanted to be a mom my entire life. From the time I was a little girl, I cared for my dolls as if they were real children. And then my dreams came true. I married my Prince Charming and after being married for close to a year, we found out we were expecting our first bundle of joy.

I loved being pregnant, I even accepted the constant morning sickness as part of what you do! I was so excited to have a baby and be a mom. I carefully planned the nursery and picked out each and every item for our registry. I found myself desiring things I knew nothing about and dreaming of a little baby who would smile, giggle, and be my best companion. I remember staring at the empty crib across the hall and dreaming of the little head that would someday soon pop up to greet us. I loved my baby from the minute I found out I was carrying her.  There was a deep connection, one that words didn't do justice. I dreamed of sharing every memory and every moment with her. I dreamed of spa days, shopping trips, Broadway shows, and a daughter who would one day be my best friend.

And then, about six weeks before her due date, Little Miss M made an abrupt entrance into this world. She was all of 4 pounds 13 ounces. She was a screaming tiny ball that fit in the palm of your hand. She was amazing and terrifying all at the same time. She came home after five days, and was doing pretty well. Her first night home was a disaster! The Husband and I were first time parents; we were exhausted and inexperienced. We truly thought that if we put the baby down, she would sleep. After having my third child, I laugh at the first-time mom I was. Not only would she not sleep, she screamed all night, unless one of us was holding her. I think frazzled would best describe the state in which my mother found us the next morning when she called. I still do not know why we both stayed up all night with the baby and didn't just take turns, except we were first-time parents!

My days soon began to revolve around nap times, feedings, and baby needs. I'm not sure what I really thought being a mom was going to be about. I know I didn't think of constant illness, dirty diapers, wearing clothes stained with spit-up, because you were too tired to change. I know I never imagined the gut-wrenching decisions of going back to work or of who to trust with your baby. I could also never imagine the love this baby opened up in me. I could never know how close it would bring the Husband and I and how much happiness one little human being would deliver.

All the good and all the bad taken into account, I loved being a mother. However, when Little Miss M had her first seizures, I was thrown head first into a whole new role. I was still her mother, her protector, her advocate - but these words now meant something new and carried a new weight with them. At a year old, every child needs an adult - they cannot do anything for themselves. But, when said child has medical needs, you must learn an entire new vocabulary. You need to learn medications, doctors, tests, procedures and treatments. The word caregiver takes on a whole new meaning.

When I look back on those days right after Little Miss M's seizures started, I am a bit ashamed of myself. I was suddenly very afraid to be alone with my own daughter. I would find excuses to walk to Target after work or to work later then I needed to. I was scared. I consciously knew that nothing was my fault, but it didn't stop me from blaming myself or wondering what I could have done differently. It took a while to work through those feelings. I've come to realize that it was totally okay for me to feel that way, and the only thing I did wrong at the time was to not talk about how I was feeling. I kept up an act that everything was okay and that I was this strong person who couldn't be broken, but I was broken inside. My daughter was suffering and the castle-in-the-sky dreams I had were falling one by one.

Developmental delays and diagnoses began to pile up. Little Miss M's needs became more and more numerous, and I felt lost. I no longer thought in years, but instead in days. Each milestone became a celebration. She said "Mama" and then said it again the next day, and I practically through a gala celebration! I began to see life for the miracle that it was. I always thought of myself as a positive person, but everybody gets sad sometimes. Little Miss M showed me the beauty of life each and every day. She made me stop and appreciate each good thing and even the most mundane. I truly began to appreciate every day, even the most difficult, because she was still there with me.

Now, here I sit, three kids and many, many hours without enough sleep and I still can't imagine a role I was better suited for. Being a mom stopped being about giggles and frilly pink dresses (although we still have plenty of both) three kids ago, but it's still my dream. I know now that being a mom is about being someone else's rock and inspiration. It's about cultivating a new generation, who have self-confidence and passion. Little Miss M's special needs have changed me as a person and as a mother. She has made me more patient but more insistent at the same time. I love being a mom, I truly do. It is not the role I once imagined as a young child, but I think it's even better. Each day, I learn something new about what it means to be a mom and I hope that my discoveries never end.


Amanda has auditioned for many roles in her life, but mom is by far her favorite.

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