A lot of people seem think that three kids constitutes a big family. I suppose by 2018 standards it does (especially when mom and dad are just breaking into their thirties). I always wanted a large family and it isn’t a secret that I’m still trying to cope with the idea that I won’t have any more children. While some people end up with large families somewhat accidentally, others find their way there with purpose and intent. One of my main purposes in having multiple children was to give them the shared experiences of childhood. The large age gap between my older siblings and me meant that I grew up, essentially, as an only child. My mom and I were very close and my childhood was wonderful but I always wondered what it would have been like to venture through those early stages of life alongside a sibling. I didn’t want my children to have to carry their childhood memories alone but instead share them with someone. I never thought that some of those memories could be ones from which they need to heal.
Before my accident I constantly struggled with the belief that I was a selfish mom. I took time for myself when I was sick. I formula fed my children because my attempts at breastfeeding left me feeling empty and added fuel to an already burning fire of depression. My husband took on certain parenting responsibilities which ultimately helped our family to thrive but left me feeling like I was doing something wrong because I wasn’t able to do it all. I did a lot, but I didn’t do everything and good moms could do everything, right? I continually found myself thinking that I just didn’t have what it takes to be a “good mom”. I loved my children and knew that I would sacrifice anything for them but the small sacrifices go unnoticed and we hope that the large ones are never necessary. Then, I got hurt. And instead of being given an opportunity to sacrifice for my children, I was given an opportunity to live for them. I never imagined that one day my children would become my saving grace.
I spent years feeling as though I put myself first too often. I spent a few seconds at the bottom of that stupid hole and I realized that everything I did was to help make myself a better mom. In those early moments after my fall, I knew I couldn’t walk and I knew my life had just changed forever. I had an overwhelming sense that there wasn’t much hope for this being a semi-permanent state. I held out a little hope that maybe I would walk again, but I held out more hope that I could still be ‘mom’. Almost all of my thoughts were centred around my children. The only thoughts about myself were “how do I work with this so I can still be everything my children need me to be?” My children saved me. Because I didn’t figure out how to live life with a spinal cord injury for me; I figured it out for them. And I made that decision before they even got me into the ambulance. Somewhere along the way it became about all of us. But without them, I’m not sure how long that would have taken.
The flip side to all of this is that my recovery has been pulled in many different directions. Being accountable as a mom while also trying to repurpose myself as an individual and a wife has been tricky and, more often than not, exhausting! Spinal cord injury aside, it can be overwhelming to figure out how you fit into different roles as your life progresses. Even when I’m feeling emotionally and physically drained from the struggles of this injury, I’m still responsible for getting three little people through their days (let alone getting them to adulthood). Not only are my husband and I responsible for processing our own emotions surrounding the accident and this injury, we are responsible for giving our children the space, language, and time to process theirs. Some days there are tears all around. And some days our three-year-old daughter draws a mommy monster stuck in the bottom of a hole with the daddy monster up top and we all laugh. Because there are no rules on how to process these big, messy events that happen in life. But there is hope, and there is strength, and my three little people gave me both. So on the days where my parenting role is requiring more of me than I feel like I have to offer, I remember that they were the reason I had hope and they are why I was strong. They take the most from me but they are the reason I found myself again, the reason I have anything to give.
We have so much in our little family of five. The childhood that they share has now incorporated things that we never would have imagined. But how awesome for them to be able to find comfort, in one another, knowing that they are not alone in those memories. Maybe they won’t ever think of it that way. Maybe they won’t analyze things as closely as I do and their collective memory may differ because we all put our own spin on things, but I take solace in the fact that they don’t have to carry it alone. It was a mutual experience.
I know I reference This Is Us fairly often but it’s hard not to when you make so many connections. And in a recent episode, an adult Kevin is speaking to his mother about how she handled the death of her husband (his father) 20 years prior.
“You know, Mom, you were really strong for us when it happened. I can’t even imagine what that must’ve been like for you.”
I can only hope that one day, when my children are grown and have a better understanding of everything that has happened, they will see I tried to be strong for them. I hope they can grasp what I was up against and see that I did my best to still be the mom they deserved. They will see me falter; they already have. I’m not the mom who does everything, and I am not the mom who survives without breaks and date nights and moments to myself. I’m not the mom who can stay sane without the saving grace of Netflix, and I am not the mom who is called on more than dad because he has been equally involved in their upbringing and care since the moment they were earth side. I am the mom who wakes up every day feeling imperfect and exhausted. I am the mom who pushes past her own insecurities and feelings of inadequacy and gets in her wheelchair to be ‘mom’ the best way she can. I am the mom who shows up even when she doesn’t want to – when she is self-conscious to – because I am the mom who is living for my children and the mom who loves them more than anything. I am here and functioning and moving around this world because my children need a mother who doesn’t give up. And so I am the mom who will not give up.