For the first year of my son’s life, I was the mom I always envisioned I would be. We had the best time together, and I refer to that year as “magical.” Around the time he turned 6 months old, my health started to decline. It was a slow decline at first, and I sought medical help that initially gave me some relief. But shortly after his first birthday, things started to spiral out of control.
I have a chronic bladder condition called Interstitial Cystitis. It was manageable for several years prior to my son’s birth, but I began to have a significant increase in bladder pain and new pelvic pain that eventually became debilitating. I prayed to God every day to make the pain go away and wished to return to my prior state as a strong, healthy, capable woman.
My health struggles wreaked havoc on my ability to function as a “normal” mom, wife, professional, person. For about two years I was primarily homebound, dependent, and in agony daily. Due to this rapid, drastic change in my physical state, my mental and emotional state were also affected, and I experienced anxiety and depression. My husband and I decided to send our son to daycare when he was 16 months old because I was no longer able to care for him and myself on my own. For a few months, I had sought out help from friends and babysitters—a solution that was not sustainable in the long run. And though my husband worked from home at the time and was able to pitch in here and there, he is the sole source of income for our family and had to focus on his job.
My son’s first day of daycare was the worst day of my life. I cried on and off the entire day. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had let him down, that I had let my husband down. I knew getting childcare help was the right thing to do for all three of us, but it still crushed my mothering soul to allow someone else to care for my child and to be apart from him for several hours during the day when we had been inseparable for so long. This only exacerbated my depressive state.
Over the next year and a half, with help from my incredible husband, family members, new healthcare providers, friends, and my own grit and determination, my health improved. It was a slow progression during the first year, and at times it was difficult for me to accept that I was getting better. Eventually, my pain diminished (but has not disappeared), I gained back my strength, and regained confidence in myself and my body. I still have some physical struggles, but I have learned how to adapt and cope.
It has been about a year and a half now since I have been able to care for myself and my family as I did before my health issues interrupted my life. It is never easy, but most days I think I do a pretty good job. Still, there are some days I am disappointed with my performance as a mom. Some days when I think I could have done better. When I feel this way, I reflect back on the moments or events that displeased me and ask myself how I can adjust my approach for the next time. I also wonder if I am being too hard on myself. Should I have more compassion, given my situation, and know that I did the best I could?
I often think, if only…
If only I never had these health problems to begin with.
If only things never spiraled out of control way back when.
If those things had never happened, I believe I would be a different person. On second thought, would I? I guess I’ll never know. What I do know is that there’s not one mom out there who gets it right 100% of the time. Maybe the fact that I judge and doubt myself sometimes is a good thing. It means that I care, right? Maybe my limitations have nothing to do with it, and I’m just like so many other moms out there who sometimes question their parenting skills and abilities.
We all have things about ourselves we wish to improve upon. For me, being a great mom to my amazing son is one of those things. So, there will still be some days when I wish I had done better, whether or not it had anything to do with my physical state. But I just have to accept that and move on. Learn from it, and then let it go. After all, I know there will be many more days when I succeed.