Since I was old enough to answer, if someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always answered, without hesitation, “A mom.” It was something I knew I wanted my whole life. As a child, I liked playing house, and always had a baby with me.
When college came around, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study since “mom” wasn’t one of the majors I could choose. After many years in college, I finally realized that being a teacher was the next best thing to being a mom. I could get paid to spend my whole day with kids?
Fast-forward to three years ago, and my life was exactly everything I could have hoped for. I was happily married with two daughters, ages 1 and 3, and I was an early childhood special education teacher. I was getting paid to play with 3, 4, and 5-year-olds all day, and it was fun.
Now don’t get me wrong. My life wasn’t perfect. I was sleep deprived. I can’t remember the last time I’d worn makeup. My husband and I would pick fights with each other over nothing. My house was a mess. And, I often woke up to find a Cheerio glued to some random part of my body. But, I had everything I wanted. And I truly was happy.
Then, in an instant, that life was over. Done. Gone. A distant memory. A fairytale in a book I read somewhere. My new life began — a life battling chronic illness. While eating lunch one day with my coworkers, I became very ill. What I didn’t know had happened was that my entire digestive system shut down. It became totally paralyzed. I was diagnosed with gastroparesis and chronic intestinal pseudo obstruction. I became TPN dependent almost immediately and have been unable to eat much of anything since. After two years of traveling the country seeing doctors, the Mayo Clinic discovered that I have a rare autoimmune disease called autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy.
While I was struggling with this illness that caused the flu every day of my life, I was struggling more with the mental part of my disease. Suddenly, I went from a cheery, fun, silly mom to a bedridden lady with all the blinds closed, on medications, sleeping through HGTV reruns. My dream of being a mom had come true, but not at all like I had hoped. I wasn’t the mom at all of the school functions, cheering my kids on at soccer games, transporting the neighborhood kids to the park. I was the mom who practiced bedside parenting.
Bedside parenting? What’s that you ask? That’s my version of trying to teach my kids about kindness, love, sharing, telling the truth, reading, fashion, and life in general all from the (un)comforts of my bed. Let me tell you. I’m not very good at it, and it’s not easy. I have been sick for three years, and being an early childhood educator, I know how important the development of children is during the early childhood years.
Am I ruining my kids? Are they going to be failures because they didn’t have a mom who could show them what a real mom is like? Recently, I saw myself slowly spinning into a downward spiral. I was falling into the dark hole of depression that I have gotten to know pretty well in these last three years.
So, I texted my mom. I told her I was falling apart. I told her I was afraid for my kids. I told her I couldn’t handle the guilt of knowing that my husband has to be the mom and dad, the husband and wife. I told her I was lost. And I told her I was going to fall asleep and forget about it all until tomorrow.
Instantly, I received this text back:
Talk to you tomorrow. I love your strength, your courage, your spirit, and the intense love you have for your husband and your girls and all of us. You are an amazing young woman. I will always be proud to be your mom! Rest well, my sweet girl.
And like that, my heart and my head were calm. Because I just needed my mom. And I realized that I will never be too old to need my mom. And then I realized that I wanted to be a mom with such ferocity because of my mom; not because she was at all of my class parties, or driving my friends around town. It was because of how she loves me. It was because she knows just what to say when I’m feeling broken. It’s because her love for me is like no other, and I can feel that. And that’s when I realized bedside parenting is not as bad as I think. Yes, I miss out on lots of activities, but when my girls come home from those activities, jump into my bed and smother me with hugs and kisses as they excitedly tell me all about their adventures, I know that we share a love that can’t be squashed by chronic illness.
To all of you moms out there struggling: Please know that your children know no love like the love of a mother. You are doing a good job. Keep fighting. Keep trying. You are an amazing woman. You have strength, courage, and spirit. Believe me. My mom is always right.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Thinkstock photo by Ableimages