I got a call from Lisa, Sofie’s daycare provider, this past Monday, informing me she was sick. Again. Not able to get through to her doctor, I took her to urgent care. The doctor thought she might have strep, deftly took a throat culture, and told us we would have results back Wednesday afternoon. Great. I get to miss work. Again.
It is SO frustrating to watch over the past many months all of my sick and vacation time disappear to zero, literally. I’ve had to take time off for Sofie being sick or Lisa not being available, not to mention me getting sick, usually from Sofie.
Tim was able to spare 3 hours this week to care for Sofie. In his defense, he had important meetings scheduled all week.
Turned out she didn’t have strep, but man!, was she a grumpy, shrieking baby for a couple of days. Sofie and I reached a new level of annoyance and frustration with one another.
I often find myself proclaiming, “I don’t want to be a mom anymore!” This week, I often felt it in my bones. But now that I reflect, while I may have felt it in my bones, I never felt it in my heart.
I stumbled upon this adapted poem soon after I was thrust into my role as Mom of Sofia the Micro Preemie. I believe Ms. Bombeck actually wrote this about mothers of “disabled” babies, not preemies (hence adapted). However, when I began my journey into not just motherhood, but a mom embarking upon the bumpy, uncertain road of life with a micro preemie, I actually found solace and hope in these sappy words.
When I first read the line about selfishness being a virtue (Score! I am soooo virtuous.), I actually felt a glimmer of hope begin to glow inside me… Hope that I could do this motherhood thing, and assurance that Sofie came into my life intentionally… She and I are supposed to be together. Poor kid.
I keep this poem around to reignite that glimmer of hope and purpose within myself, reminding myself that the universe brought Sofia to me for a reason… not necessarily in spite of my perceived shortcomings, but because of them. Hmm… perhaps they aren’t shortcomings after all.
While I was pregnant, my psychiatrist also spoke words echoing this sentiment. Children have a way of dredging up within our parent selves issues we can no longer dodge. We finally have to rise to the challenge of addressing and conquering demons from the past, character weaknesses, and phobias.
For me, one of my issues is my inability to ask for help… or ask for much of anything… from anyone. As the oldest child in my family, a ridiculous amount of responsibility was thrust upon me at far too early an age. I was told to not ask for anything. Told that it was my responsibility to take care of my sisters as my parents’ marriage dissolved. Told (by my dad) to never rely on a man for anything.
Those times when I did muster up the courage to ask my folks for something really important to me (e.g. driving me to all city honor orchestra practice for which I won a seat to perform; help filling out financial aid paperwork to try to get funding for college;…), I was often shot down, made to feel as though I was bothering them or imposing upon them, and told “No. Stop bothering me about it.” (I do not exaggerate. And, correct. Ten year old Gina did not get to play her violin with the orchestra, not having transportation to attend practices. Correct. I got no money for financial aid because as a dependent of my parents, I needed their tax info, which they refused to provide.) Asking for things only got me in trouble, leaving me feeling like a burden.
I realized years later as an adult that their hostile reactions were often more the result of them feeling badly for not being in a position to entertain and satisfy my requests, whether due to lack of resources, IRS dodging, etc. They were mad at themselves, but deflected it upon me. My dad realized this impact upon me years ago, noting that as an adult, I never ask for anything from him. It made him feel like I didn’t need him, which made him feel bad. A positive thing, I suppose, that he’s owned his role.
I love my parents. As an adult, I own my issues, having a lot of insight into them, and realize it’s up to me what I do with/about them. I do not play the victim card, and have no tolerance for those who do. You can only point the finger at your parents for so long.
Yet, despite all of this profound insight, I’m still screwed up.
I secretly hope people would just offer help or resources to me, or better yet, just do. People saying, “I’m here. Just ask.” doesn’t work for me because I still have to, well, ask and take them up on it.
I tend to be proactive when I extend help, and I typically am inclined to offer assistance in any way I can. I often just do without being asked. I think the way I help others is the way I secretly wish I would be helped, although I do realize there are drawbacks for others with my ways of helping… I am prone to just doing the whole xyz for them.
Bottom line: I want a fairy godmother.
So, back to my psychiatrist… I was concerned about how introvert me would get enough time for myself and manage to do it all with a baby, when I can’t ask anyone for help. He informed me that issues such as my inability to ask for anything would be challenged once I became a mother.
“You’ll see. You’ll no longer be asking for yourself, but for your baby. And while it’s going to be extremely uncomfortable, because it’s for her, you will ask. You’ll have to, and with that, you’ll have no choice but to exercise resolving this issue of yours.”
And by golly… While I’m still a long way off from normal in the asking department, Regina the Mom has certainly made progress.
The Special Mother (adapted from Erma Bombeck)
Did you ever wonder how the mothers of premature babies are chosen?
Sometimes, I visualize God hovering over Earth, selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, he instructs his angels to take notes in a giant ledger.
“Beth Armstrong, son. Patron Saint, Matthew. Marjorie Forrest, daughter. Patron Saint, Celia. Carrie Rutledge, twins. Patron Saint … give her Gerard. He’s used to profanity.”
Finally, he passes a name to an angel and smiles. “Give her a preemie.”
The angel is curious. “Why this one, God? She’s so happy.”
“Exactly,” smiles God. “Could I give a premature baby a mother who knows no laughter? That would be cruel.”
“But does she have the patience?” asks the angel.
“I don’t want her to have too much patience, or she’ll drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wear off, she’ll handle it. I watched her today. She has that sense of self and independence so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I’m going to give her has a world of its own. She has to make it live in her world, and that’s not going to be easy.”
“But Lord, I don’t think she even believes in you.”
God smiles. “No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just the right amount of selfishness.”
The angel gasps, “Selfishness?! Is that a virtue?”
God nods. “If she can’t separate herself from the child occasionally, she will never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn’t know it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a spoken word. She will never consider a step ordinary. When her child says ‘mama’ for the first time, she will be witness to a miracle and know it. I will permit her to see clearly the things I see – ignorance, cruelty, prejudice – and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side.”
“And what about her Patron Saint?” asks the angel, his pen poised in the air. God smiles.
“A mirror will suffice.”Filed under motherhood, psych, sofia | Comments (3)