The Mother I Can Never Be

It was a really lonely moment. One of those kinds of moments where your tears are welling up, but you just can’t let them fall because you have to keep it together. Being strong is something you don’t ever think you are, until you have no other choice. That moment had me going from happy, excited and even accepting of a new baby on the way (I say accepting because our other child was only 10 months old…ha). I was driving down Western St and I got a phone call from my doctor. She said they wanted to take a better look at the heart because he was being so “wild” during the sonogram. I knew she was trying to be kind and careful. I also knew something was wrong. I drove straight to the church. I just parked and came in and sat in the worship pastor’s office. The staff stopped and prayed for me, for our baby and for the future; for the sonogram to come, for the possible diagnosis, but mainly they prayed for healing, in the most miraculous sense.

I remember leaving there feeling a little better. At least I wasn’t totally alone. I was never alone, I know that Nick was there and our whole family, but to me, I felt so alone. It would not be the last time I would feel alone on this journey.

The next day we laid in the sonogram room for over an hour while the tech took a billion screen shots of every angle of just the heart of our little boy. By then we knew it was a boy, we knew his name and had begun to dream up our life with him in it. So, laying there, Nick and I naturally trying to make an awkward situation less uncomfortable, we tried to be calm and even a bit silly. We tried to pass the time by visiting with each other and thinking of Ava who was at home with my best friend, Lauren. The tech finished up and left. The Dr came in after a long while and sat down. She was very clinical and plain. There was not a lot of expression or even character in her voice. I assume that being in that position is not easy and truly the least favorite part of the job. Having to tell someone that their child has an extremely severe heart defect, will have an 80% chance to make it, if all THREE open heart surgeries work and will have life long complications due to it, is not the reason they went into the field.

She was really gentle, but very blunt about our options. “You can deliver in Ft. Worth, Dallas or Houston”  “all are very well equipped to handle this kind of case”  “You won’t be able to deliver here because we are not equipped in Amarillo to handle pediatric cardiac cases.” “You  need to pick soon, though, so we can get you referred, appointments started and get you into a new OBGYN specialists in whichever location you choose.” “most people do carry to term and have their baby, have procedures done and do well” “there are other options if you want info on that” “You will still see your doctor here in between appointments there” “This is a genetic defect and so we will be conducting some genetic tests/interviews as well” “I’m so sorry about this, we will try to answer any questions you have”….

Wells of tears, heart beating quickly, trying to be “cool” and collected, trying to muster up the nerve to go pay out of pocket $1200 for a sonogram that told us our son had a chance to live, but also a very large chance to die. Fog. It all became blurry. I couldn’t drive home. Nick had met us at TTU Health Science Center for the sonogram and I couldn’t walk well, much less drive home. What would we tell people? How would this change our life? How do you go from planning a new nursery to ,not knowing at the time, but soon planning a funeral? We got home and I just cried. I laid on the couch and cried. Looking back I cried more and felt more helpless in that moment, then I did when he died. For the first time in my life, I felt completely and utterly abandoned.

I grew up in an incredibly happy and stable home. Our routine, our weekly events, my parents’ marriage, our church life, my grandparents’ and their involvement in our life, my sister and our relationship, were all so normal, almost boring. My life was safe, predictable, supported, happy, not without struggle here and there, but mostly just “blessed and highly favored” one might sweetly say on a Sunday night at church, during the greeting time. My life had not seen hardship. My faith, since the age of 7 had not been shifted. Until now. I had always thought about being a mom…

I found myself unable to function the rest of that afternoon and evening. Lauren brought us dinner, she got Ava all settled and told Nick it would be fine and she went and bought a cute onesie and a card and just loved us so well. I wanted to be “ok” and say it would be ok and mean it, but I couldn’t. I just curled up on the couch and wept. and wept. and wept. I shook, I was nauseous, my head was pounding, my heart breaking and all I could do was wait. I told Nick I couldn’t get myself to even change Ava’s diaper. I couldn’t hold her, I couldn’t be a mom for awhile. I felt so defeated, alone, frustrated, tired, let down, abandoned and honestly, like I had done something wrong and God was punishing me. How silly to think that he would be punishing me with a child, but in my mind, I had been faithful my whole life to him, I was faithful to serve, tithe, volunteer, worship, study the Word, be in a Godly marriage, use my gifts for his service and then suddenly this happened. What did I do to deserve this “hardship”… I felt like God didn’t care and that he messed up on my son. Why would MY son have a heart defect? Did I do something to cause this? We had PRAYED IN FAITH, our sweet church staff and I, over this baby and the sonogram and the outcome. Why would God not hear the prayers of the faithful? The thought of having to tell them and our family and everyone that our son was defected, hurt me deeply. This all happened the week before Mother’s Day.. pexels-photo-760724.jpeg

I remember the next day opening my Bible and finding a verse I could hold onto and I just decided I didn’t have a choice, but to take it a day at a time. The same God I was struggling to even believe in anymore, was the only thing that gave me peace. His word and finding ways to talk with Him through it all, kept me focused on being able to mother my little girl, do the day to day tasks and just survive.

My first Mother’s Day was approaching as we had been dealt this hand. Ava was born in June of 2011 and this was May of 2012.
Mother’s Day since the beginning of my mothering journey, has been difficult. I was supposed to be happy and celebrating the joy of mothering my Ava, be celebrated by Nick and Ava. They were sweet to me and Nick bought me the sweetest pearl and diamond necklace. I did feel so seen and loved and celebrated. Inside, I was deeply pained, struggling and questioning and wondering how all of this would end up. I tried to mask the struggle. I tried to push through. I learned to do it. and do it well. Appointments began to get scheduled in Ft. Worth. We picked Ft. Worth because Nick had family there, somewhat close by, so we thought, that might be comforting. It was. We’ll always be thankful for them. As the journey continued, I had to face more lonely moments. My first drive to Ft. Worth was pretty rough, until Wichita Falls and then my sister joined me. She was such a life saver for me that trip. She was there for all of the stuff in that first trip. That first 4 hours from Amarillo to WF were incredibly lonely though. I had never set off on a journey like that one. Even during that first appointment, I had my sister and I was thankful, but there were moments when I felt anxiety and loneliness creep in that dark sonogram room. I had lots of conversations with God on those sonogram tables. Lots of talking to God and questioning God and begging. So much begging. Begging God for healing for my son, for courage for me…for things I didn’t even know how to pray for. Lonely moments.

September came and it was time for Ava and I to move to Ft. Worth to await the 39 week mark. They wanted us close by before delivery in case I went into labor or something. We were going to be staying with Nick’s cousin and her husband. So very thankful for that home and that refuge for us. Those 2 weeks though, were some of the hardest days. I was alone in a huge new city, with my 15 month old daughter and all the time in the world to fill. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t help but be nervous. I did all I could to make it fun for us. We went shopping and played at the indoor playgrounds at 3 malls haha. We went for ice cream and met some sweet people at our family’s church there. Ava was a champ. I was a wreck. I cried a lot. I depended on Ava, in an odd way, for stability and she truly forced me to just keep going. I had no choice, but to fight through the emotions and the nerves and the darkness and make it through. Ava and I still have a deep bond because of those 2 weeks. Lonely weeks.

Noah came. He made it through the initial surgery and after a few weeks everyone had to go home. Nick had to get back to work, my parents both had to get back and Noah wasn’t getting better. So I found myself alone in the cafeteria one day. I was alone. I was alone in a big hospital cafeteria, alone in a big town, alone in a circumstance no one I knew had walked through before. I truly did not have a soul I could talk to who knew. I began to realize, after a few weeks of being alone (minus most weekends), that God was using the time alone to do deep work. Our marriage was tested, for sure. We learned to really communicate. We learned to appreciate every moment we had together. We learned to take care of the child we had at the moment. For him that was Ava and for me that was Noah. We missed out on so much as parents, of the child we weren’t with. He missed Ava’s first time to dress up for Halloween and trick or treat. I missed Ava learning the ABC’s and counting to 10. He missed out on so much of Noah’s life. We were both so lonely without the other. We both also felt very lonely in our parenting. We were taught, by force, that there is a reason God designed us to be a team. Lonely months.

For almost 5 months I was trying to prepare myself to be a heart mom. I knew I would be a mom who would be familiar with hospitals, needles, IVs, O2 monitors, oxygen tanks, meds after meds, appointments, pacemaker readings, certain diets, struggles, issues and pain.. I was preparing for that. What I didn’t tell anyone was that I was scared to death of it. Part of me knew that if he died, he would be well, healed, whole and fine. Part of my momma’s heart just longed for him to “be ok”. I always knew that no matter how long we had Noah we would be all in, advocating, fighting for, learning, growing with and taking care of every part of his journey. We knew we were in it for the long haul.

Then he died.

I wasn’t a heart mom, a boy mom or the mom of 2 anymore. I was still a mom. But, I was now a grieving mom. Now, I know we all know I was still a mom of two and still a boy mom and will always be a heart mom.. I get that, but in those first moments after he died, those first few weeks especially, part of my identity had completely changed. I was now the mom of a deceased infant. I had to sign papers I didn’t want to ever sign. I had to pick out a grave marker. I had to live life without an actual part of me. For 5 years I have been learning how to be a mother of a child who I do not have. Lonely years.

 

Losing a child has changed my mothering, obviously, for many reasons. I have learned that I am more capable do anything, at all, than I ever thought I was. I have discovered that I can be brave, I can have courage and I can endure. I learned that the lonely moments in life can either make us bitter or make us better.

You know we are never actually alone. Cliche? Perhaps. Truth. Absolutely.

The mother I will never be is not “boy mom” or “mom of 3” or “heart mom”

The mother I will never be is this:

perfect.

There will be moments in this journey that I will again, feel really alone. I will endure pain, hardship and strife in mothering. I will walk through fear, nerves, struggle and sleepless nights. I will mess up, not pay attention, even hurt my kids. I will never be perfect, though.

I will never be the mother who always gets it right.

and that’s ok.

The mother I will never be, I’ve realized, is defining and making me into

The Mother I want to be.

I have so much to grow into and learn. I struggle, honestly, with a lot of anxiety in my mothering. Perhaps some of that comes from the trauma of losing a child. I’m not sure. I deal with levels of anxiety and depressive seasons, I tend to be irrationally impatient sometimes and have to backtrack and ask forgiveness of my girls, a lot. I can be absent minded and rushed. I can be lazy and forgetful. I desire to pray more and be more intentional about my prayers for my girls. I wish I had taken better care of myself so that I have more energy to give them now instead of having to continually keep trying in that area to get better, but none the less I know they are seeing progress. I wish I was a lot of things, but finally I am learning that The Mother I will never be is part of the Mother that I am. The Mother that I am is leaning on the ultimate I Am and I pray that makes all the difference.

I can’t really understand Boy Mom life and the struggle that is 3 kids (apparently its the hardest number of kids to have) I have been known to say that God knew I couldn’t handle three. haha.

Here’s the deal: Just be the mom you are. Don’t settle and don’t give up. Keep up the hard work, keep digging in, keep pressing on. Don’t wish you were someone else.

God picked you for the kids he gave you.

I think it is extremely beautiful to see how God hand picks children for mothers. Whether through the womb or at the end of an entirely too large a pile of paperwork…they are yours, your precious kids.  Perhaps you are stewarding God’s children in your home, as you foster. Daily, teachers not only teach children, but many times they are mothering them. There are women who are not married and do not have children, but they are loving the children in their community, their church, their small group, their families. There are aunts who can’t compare. As women, God has given us a heart to love. Love well those children in your life, biologically yours or not.

To the single woman dreaming of her family for someday, don’t quit dreaming. Don’t quit desiring. Don’t quit loving those around you currently. To the woman who is so very lonely in the infertility journey, you are seen and loved and the lonely days, weeks, months and years will not be in vain. They are worthy of all the heart and tears and pain you endure because redemption is coming. To the mommas who never even got to know their little one. That life, that precious little life is not lost or just a vapor. They are God’s grace to us, reminders of the intimacy and intricacy of the secret place.

Let us not dwell on the mothers we will never be. May we dwell on the daughters of God that we know we are and may we rest in that.

I will never be many things… but I will always be, fully seen, fully known and fully loved.

Lonely moments, but never alone.

Can I encourage those of you, who may have to walk this life without your mother here on earth, to continue her legacy, celebrate the ways she loved, the ways she gave, the ways she made you better? Miss her fiercely and grieve the loss, but live abundantly and richly in her honor. Share her with the world. Make this world better because she was yours. I celebrate them today as well.

To the Mother I will never be… I refuse to let you hinder me from being The Mother I am called to be!

Love,

Shaina

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