When we think of being a mom we usually have a picture painted in our heads. But when reality kicks in, and you are finally holding your baby sometimes motherhood hits you with unexpected turns. Mama Jaana talks about the difficulties she has encountered, and the truth behind her motherhood. It’s not always butterflies and roses, but nothing can change the way she loves her little Stevie.
Read her journey in her words:
As with most women, motherhood turned out to be so different than I anticipated. And I anticipated motherhood for a long time. I always knew I’d be a mom. That was really my aspiration in life. And I was going to be awesome at it!
When getting pregnant turned out to be more difficult than we thought, my dreams to be a mom were put on hold, but we remained patient and after a few years of trying without intervention, I finally had a successful – and stressful – pregnancy. Oh my gosh I hated being pregnant. That should’ve been the first sign of things to come as it wasn’t the magical experience I was expecting! But when little Stevie arrived, we were so elated. A healthy baby boy, normal delivery, all was well! We had a super difficult time breastfeeding, but little did I know that would be the least of my problems.
At Stevie’s 2 week well-check, he was looking blue and we were rushed to the ER where he was eventually diagnosed with a Congenital Heart Defect and had to have emergency open heart surgery. There were some really dark days during that time where I was convinced we would lose him. It still makes my stomach hurt remembering the thoughts I had in that small parent waiting room, as he was put on life support to be worked on. And then waiting again when he had complications, causing him to go into cardiac arrest 6 times. He was so little, but swollen up from the medications. His chest was left open for a couple days just in case they had more complications. The countless tubes and wires entangled his little body and my husband and I sat by helpless. We cried often. And took turns holding each other up.
I don’t think about those days often anymore, but the thoughts haunt me occasionally, it was such a traumatic experience. We are fortunately among the parents who got to bring their child home, and being in the community around other children with heart defects and so much loss and heartbreak, we know how lucky we are.
As we came home, I was terrified to be alone with Stevie. I was constantly thinking I could see his skin turning blue again. He never did get the hang of breastfeeding and he didn’t like to sleep much either. We were kept busy with lots of doctor’s appointments and eventually added in 9 therapy sessions a week.
I was so wrapped up with scheduling that I was sort of like a robot the first couple years of his life, just running from one task to another, never missing a beat. I was completely exhausted and a part of my emotional attachment to him was shut down.
Looking back, I think I was still scared to lose him, so part of my heart literally had to close to reserve space for the impending pain. The combination of no sleep, stress over his health, hormones and demands of the daily grind had me feeling pretty angry at times.
Through the years, I have had to go through my own mourning process of sorts. First and foremost, I had to mourn the loss of the child I thought I would have. The loss of the parenting experience I dreamed of. I mourned the loss of our time together, as I sat near his hospital bed, unable to hold him for days.
I have to deal with all the mistakes I’ve made. I had to put the idea of more children out of my head for a while because Stevie needs so much from me. I have had to get over the fact that I can’t be as awesome at this job as I always assumed I would be. That Stevie doesn’t learn the same way as most kids. I mourned the loss of normal expectations long ago, whatever “normal” meant to me. I still mourn little things every single day as I see him struggle.
The bitterness is still there to some extent, but being able to share my story and use my experiences to help others is what makes me feel the strongest. And we are not so different, you and I. Our children are different, but we all have our challenges. I know people hear my story and think we are special in some way, but I don’t see it. We just do what any parent in this situation would do. I am not stronger than the next person. I feel every heartbreak and feel every fear and feel every bit of joy, pain, anger, and triumph that anyone in this situation would feel. That’s what brings us all together. We are all parents and we all struggle at times. So we need to lift each other up.
Parenting is hard work for everyone who chooses it. You will cry, laugh, learn, and teach. You will most likely yell. You will try. So. Damn. Hard. Some days will be harder than others. And on those hard days, what do we do? We all keep going. Because we have to.
We are mother-effin MOMS. Hear us roar!
You talked about hating being pregnant, why did you hate it?
It was so different than I expected. I thought I would really be his soulful, earthy mom that felt totally in tune with her body and the magical being it was creating. But instead, I just felt swollen and uncomfortable and did not enjoy going to doctor’s appointments all the time!
Breastfeeding is hard. What advice could you give with someone that is having a hard time breastfeeding right now?
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you want to exclusively breastfeed and you can’t, you will shed some tears over it. And that’s ok. Try a lactation consultant, but know that your baby can be happy and healthy if you use other methods too! I chose to pump for about a year, because I felt Stevie could use all the health benefits he could get, but as long as your baby is fed, that’s the most important thing.
You seem so busy with Stevie, when do you find time for yourself? And what do you love to do by yourself?
I don’t have a ton of time for myself because my time away from him is typically spent working. But on those rare moments that I’m actually free, I love to shop or get my nails done or even just sit somewhere, watch Housewives and play on my phone, with no interruptions.
The struggles manifest themselves through tantrums, but it’s so much more than that for him. He’s almost 5 but can’t do much for himself, so he relies on me heavily for everyday tasks. He can’t speak well, so he gets frustrated when he can’t communicate what he wants. He has a hard time socializing, so he needs a ton of guidance and prompting everywhere we go. And he doesn’t totally understand safety, so I have to be on guard all the time. When we talk about a full-time job, this is no joke.
How do you and your husband get through the difficult times? I’m not totally sure! Haha. Honestly, I think laughter really has been the best medicine. We still try to have dates and getaways together. And we are one of those fortunate couples who has grown stronger through adversity. Both of us know we couldn’t do it alone.
Now that you have told the Mother Effin Truth, who do you want to nominate to tell their story as a mother? And why? I want to nominate Christie Saunders! She is a fellow Heart Mom and I have admired her from afar (aka internet stalker). She a beautiful family and while she is an example of strength to many, she is also vulnerable. Not to mention, cute and funny and lovely and all those types of things. I look up to her so much, even though we’ve only met in person once!