To my darling beautiful baby girls –
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I have already received the cute little potted flowers and homemade cards that come home from school, and truly, they are enough. I love seeing the handiwork of those pudgy dirty little hands of all of yours. I cherish the construction paper cards with your stilted writing professing your love for me. And I guess I’ve never really thought much about what it means to actually be YOUR MOMMY on mother’s day before. For some reason, this year it has a little bit more meaning.
I guess because I have had to rethink my entire mothering “strategy”.
See, before Kendall came, I just followed “the books”. “The books” all say to feed your baby, take them to their well child visits, get them their vaccines, read to them, play with them, stimulate their minds, then ship them off to school. The end. Happy life.
And for you older three, that worked out pretty well. Sure we had a few bumps in the road, a few minor scares here and there, but I never questioned the path laid out in the books about how to be a good mom. You gained weight, you met your milestones, you grew, and you thrived. I cuddled you within moments of your drug-free births, confident that my milk was all you’d ever need to grow on, as my body had nurtured you for those 9 long months inside of me.
And then came Kendall. A surprise from the very beginning. I thought all “the book” wisdom would once again work for her.
the books say to “bond with your newborn right after birth by holding them and talking calmly to them, looking in their eyes, perhaps even nursing them for the first time.” But I couldn’t find the chapter about what to do when your baby is immediately whisked away from you to be placed under a warmer with oxygen. When 5 or 6 doctors come in to check on your baby and no one tells you what’s going on. When your arms ache to hold this product of 9 months of pain and 18 hours of labor – and they are empty.
the books tell you that to be a good mom you should “room in with your baby, breastfeed on demand, spend time getting to know your baby before returning to the demands of your home life”. But they left out the part that talks about what to do when your baby is laying in an intensive care unit, hooked up to tubes and wires and machines that beep. How do you bond with a baby who you aren’t even sure CAN hear you, who hasn’t opened her eyes yet, who struggles for every breath? How do you fight that urge to unhook all the tubes and pick up your baby and run far far away from the hospital?
The books all say that your child should be able to lift up their heads by this age, and should have gained so much weight by this age, and THIS is how you assess that your child is thriving. But they didn’t write a chapter on what to do when you are instead left to rejoice over a few GRAMS of weight gain, and you are excited that the biggest milestone your baby reached in her first month was breathing on room air, and in spite of all of your VERY BEST efforts to cram nutritious breastmilk and even some formula into her, your baby has a label of “FAILURE TO THRIVE” stamped in her medical record?
I thought I was a good mom who was able to track how much my babies ate, and know that they were getting enough of the best possible nutrition – until I had to learn how to drop a plastic tube down my baby’s nose and get it to end up in the right place (tummy not lungs) in order to feed her.
I thought I was a good mom who had only to figure out how to read a thermometer when my babies had a fever – until I had to learn how to read a pulse ox/BP/RR/HR readout at my baby’s bedside, or program a feeding pump to enable my child to “eat” with a minimal amount of pain involved.
I thought I was a good mom who could handle just about any cold/sniffle/minor boo-boo that my kids wanted to throw at me – until I had to watch an ambulance pull away with my one baby clinging to life with each labored breath, and still have enough presence of mind to pack up the others and drive to the hospital.
“The books” have a lot of good information in them about how to be a good mom, and I am so thankful for all the normal “goodness” i have been able to enjoy. so even though with Kendall i don’t always feel like a “good mom”, i have learned that I am more.
i am part of a TEAM of good moms, moms who have come alongside me and supported me and let me talk through this new world of mothering, moms who have given of their own time and efforts to support me in my efforts, moms who have exhibited their own “good mothering” skills with my kids as if they were their own.
I am a product of the years of good mothering of my mom, and her mom before that. I am held in the hand of my Loving Father as He teaches me to lean on Him daily for strength and knowledge and wisdom. I am still struggling with adjusting to this new standard of “being a good mom”, but I am learning.
So baby girls, as I watch you grow and bloom and yes, hopefully, THRIVE over this coming year, I ask for your grace. I will try to not yell so much. I will try to not be so focused on Kendall’s appointments and therapies and issues that I miss the bigger picture of your gymnastics skills blooming, your vocabulary increasing, your subtle little everyday ways of GROWING UP. I will take more time to play outside with you, teaching you how to make your own bubbles and make hopscotch squares the right way (with slightly less than 38 squares), and making cinnamon rolls for breakfast for you. I will do my best to not have to ever again decide whether to leave your sister in the hospital alone or miss a school event for you.
Keep growing, keep thriving. I’ll never stop loving you or trying to be the very best mommy I can be. I love you,