This little photo popped up in my Facebook news feed today and it resonates with me.
I don’t often talk about the struggles of being a parent to a special needs child/ren. I feel guilty because my children are for the most part healthy. They don’t need fancy medical equipment, but they have very real disorders that need a lot of my time. Apraxia of speech, oral sensory issues related to apraxia, fine/gross motor difficulties, a phonological speech disorder, congenital trigger thumb, and possible hip dysplasia in my infant. It takes its toll. So here’s a brief glimpse into the mind of a special needs mama.
I feel myself buckling a lot lately, thinking I can’t, but then somehow I always do.
I am lucky. For the most part, my kids are healthy. But I am so, so very tired of specialists and therapies. No, my kids do not have any life threatening conditions. You really wouldn’t know that HOURS of our weeks are spent running speech drills, working on coordination, me researching how to best help them. Am I thankful that our life has not been a revolving door of doctors? Yes. But I’m still tired.
There are still days when I angrily ask God, why??? Why can’t we have ‘normal’. We don’t want to be special today we want to be plain ol’ normal, no speech, no upcoming surgery, no doctors calling to ask if we’ve taken our child for this screening or that screening yet.
Please don’t ask me how I do it. The answer is raw and dirty. I cry. Behind closed bathroom doors. In my van in the front seat before I dry my eyes so they can’t see. In bed silently while everyone else is asleep. I tell myself to suck it the hell up because there was a time when there were no babies. When my womb was empty or healing yet again from another loss. I get so mad at God all over again because shouldn’t I get to have it easy after it was SO HARD to become a parent to begin with.
In brief moments, He answers. He gently laughs and reminds me, this is it. This is what I was preparing you for. You worked for it. And now you work FOR THEM. Cry, let it out, then remember the strength you built through all the waiting and the loss. You get to be the mother of special children, and one day, no one will know the struggle until you tell them.
You’ll use it to encourage others who are crying behind bathroom doors and in front seats of vans. You’ll use it to tell the mom whose child is struggling that one day this will only be a memory. And I move on. And do it. Just do it, do the work to help the child that you prayed for.
Because the child is here, alive, and well.
One of the perks of using cloth diapers is that you can match the diapers to your baby’s outfit or even pick diapers to match holidays and events. Cloth diapers have come a long way from plain white squares of fabric and rubber pants. Nowadays, you can find cloth diapers in almost any color and print. Here are some of my favorites for Valentine’s Day.
Thirsties Limited Edition Sweetheart Collection – A diaper with a fresh white background and a splash of pink hearts make this the perfect Valentine’s Day diaper. Available as a cover, pocket, or AIO diaper you also gets lots of options to meet your cloth diapering needs. Orchid and rose are also great.
BumGenius Dazzle and Countess. A deep purple and a bright, hot pink make these adorable peeking out from under a cute Valentine’s dress.
Rumparooz Spice is a gorgeous muted red. Sherbert’s purply pink is rich while Amethyst is softer. Tulip is the perfect baby pink while Crimson is red hot. Lux would also make a fun valentine’s print with it’s blends of pink and red. Rumparooz offers so many Valentine’s friendly colors you could set up an assortment for the whole day!
Grovia’s Persimmon and Poppy add a little more color variation to the lineup.
BabyKicks Red would be perfect for your little gentleman.
Best Bottom’s Strawberry Shortcake gives us a little pop of yellow with our pink. Very Cherry gives a classic red and white while Wild Berry blends two purples. If you want to mix in a little green, try Plum Pie. For a splash of black and white try Cookies N Cream.
ButtomBumper’s Cherry, Plum and Pixie are adorable. Bubble Gum gives us a little bit of green with all the pink and purple while Licorice gives us a black and white chevron sure to compliment all those reds and pinks. Sweet Cherry mixes it up a bit with fresh cherries and flowers on a pink backdrop.
Funky Fluff offers Love Bug and Pink.
Tidy Tot’s rounds out our Valentine’s Day diapers with Violet, Cheeky Cheetah, Pink Circles, and the adorable Tweet Heart.
Of course, the best part about all of these cloth diapers is that they can be worn every single day to add a bit of love to your baby’s tushy.
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As parents, we spend so much time taking care of our children and our families that we often become the background noise in our own lives. We spend each day ticking off items on a list – appointments for the kids, a project for friends, maintaining our homes, work obligations…. At the end of those long tired days it is very easy to just snip off the end of list that we’ve put ourselves on and forget those tasks. But the easy way, isn’t always the best way.
As I stared down the barrel of what looked like sleepless nights and a plate fuller than what I thought I could handle, I started taking off the parts that were for me. When your days are already filled, it’s hard to imagine adding anything else even if it’s something you want and believe in. I thought taking away those parts would make me feel relieved and at peace, but instead it left me feeling empty. Yes, my days would be clear to fully devote myself to my children and my family, but there would be little room for myself.
Room for self – that’s an important part of being a parent that many people forget. It’s easy to do. From the time you become pregnant people’s reaction to you changes. It goes from, “Good morning, how are you,” to , “How’s the baby, have you picked a name yet?” For nine solid months your life will revolve around your growing baby and that growing belly. When the baby enters the world, your own focus is fully centered on feeding, diapering, bathing, and loving this new being. You will think of your child almost every single second of every single day. Their care will, at first, leave little time for your own. You may feel guilt when you leave them for the first time even and if you aren’t careful, you may very well lose yourself entirely.
The role of mother does not have to be the only one you take. It does not have to replace your role as wife, friend, daughter, co-worker, even business owner. While it can permeate each of your other roles, molding and shaping who and what you are, that isn’t a bad thing! Motherhood can teach you patience, compassion, and perseverance. It can show you just how strong you always were and how much you can accomplish when you are dedicated. It can teach you to be humble and you will learn to multi-task with far greater ease than you ever have before.
Last week I gave up. At least temporarily. I threw in the proverbial towel and I resigned myself to give up the roles I wanted for myself. Lucky for me, I’m not alone. I have friends, family, prayers, and a power greater than myself. Thanks to a combination of all these, I was guided back on track. I realized that deciding to give up on the parts of myself that were just for me might make completing all my daily duties easier, but it wouldn’t be living in its truest sense. When we exist without passion or goals, we aren’t truly living and I want to do more than exist – I want to truly live.
There’s a popular saying that God only helps those who learn to help themselves. In one sense, I very much believe this. I believe that God helps those in need, but I also believe we have to play an active role in bettering ourselves and our lives. When you’re given an opportunity – take it. When you’re given a chance to try something you’ve always wanted, you owe it to yourself to do it. To be the best parent you can be, you must also take care of yourself and learn to let go of guilt when you do. An evening away or a decision to take on roles in addition to that as a parent are good for you and your children.
There was a time in my life when I couldn’t imagine anything more fulfilling than being a mother. I longed desperately to be a mother and finally, finally got my wish. A struggle with infertility had made being a mother feel like the only thing I needed to be complete. And for a while, it was.
Before having children, I worked full-time. I enjoyed working and had no intentions of becoming a stay-at-home-mom. However, once my oldest son was finally here and those weeks were speeding by to the end of my leave, I realized that I just couldn’t leave him. I trusted the daycare providers we had chosen and visited, but there was a strong bond between my heart and this new being’s that pulled me ever so close to him. There was no way I would be returning to work. That was just over four years ago and I’m now a stay-at-home-mom to TWO little boys. My boys are still young, but they are no longer babies. They are capable of playing independently for longer stretches of time and I’m no longer caught up in bottles, naps, and mountains of diapers and spit-up laundry. I’m still quite busy being their mother, but I’m often not nearly as content as I was in those first three years.
Being a stay-at-home-mom has awarded me the luxury of witnessing so many of my children’s firsts. I saw first steps, crawls, rolls, laughs, words. I’ve watched fine motor skills become more precise and language skills flourish. I’ve watched my children began to discover just who they are and what they enjoy in life. It has truly been miraculous. When they were infants and still loved to nap, I reintroduced myself to sewing and learned that my talents and passion for it were stronger than I’d remembered. I learned to crochet, cook from scratch, and grow a garden. I became an advocate for living more naturally and frugally. I learned to help moms learn to cloth diaper and embrace more natural products. My children not only brought me (and my family) joy, they brought me back to life. They were an awakening I hadn’t known I’d needed. It’s almost painful for me to look back on a life before them because there was always such a strong emptiness with me back then. There was always anger covering a pain where my soul was aching for these little beings that I didn’t even know yet. There was part of me there…but my kids brought back the rest of me.
I love being able to stay home with my kids. We make sacrifices so that I can be so involved in their lives and I truly wouldn’t change that. I would be lying though if I told you that it still left me totally and completely fulfilled as a person. I wish it did! I know mothers who are truly content and happy being ‘just’ moms and I admire them so much. While my children changed me for the better, I am and will always continue to be an individual. My own wants and desires did not fade to black when the occupation of mother was added to my résumé. I am very proud of the me who was so content and happy staying home and devoting her every being to the care and love of her children. I’m still that mom, but one wants to add in parts of my old self once again. After all, isn’t melding parts of our old and new how we evolve into something better?
We all too often doubt who we are as mothers. We shouldn’t. Whether we’re the mom who is juggling a career and motherhood, the mom whose whole life is staying home, or the mom whose found a balance somewhere between – we should embrace the parents we are today. We won’t get to relive these moments, we won’t get do overs. If we’re teaching our children to love and we’re loving them back, we’ve got at least part of it right. Love yourself mama, your kids already do.
Everything happens for a reason…it’s a cliché I often loathe. Rarely, if ever, spoken in times of happiness it’s meant to offer comfort. More often it incites anger when one’s nerves are still raw. Given time to heal, time to breath and let life fill one’s soul again, there is truth to be found in those words.
When unsavory things happen in our lives it is easy to brush them aside and move along forgetting to take note of what the event has to teach us. Dwelling on the event is hard, letting the emotions in to feel is painful. If we want life to go on, we must see the lessons it has placed before us. Brushing off hard events as bad luck or simple mistakes is far easier, yet I feel as though the events often carry lessons we were ignoring. Little snippets of knowledge placed into events so that some good comes from the pain.
I was certain of the path my life was set upon a few months ago. Precise plans and goals laid before me, a concise timeline to the road my life was to take. I had plans mapped out and still I felt restless, as I always have. Then life was placed in my womb, only to be taken away a short time later. The bitterness and anger ensued. As is often the case I questioned all I had planned and wondered if there was a better path to be set upon. Over the course of a few weeks, my plans were altered beyond my control and then thrown back on course.
Perhaps the seeds of life planted into my womb were never meant to grow into a child, but an idea. Perhaps that tiny growing soul was sacrificed to teach a lesson that I have long sought after but never found. While I mourn the loss of the precious baby that never got to experience life and all the wonders it entails, I am grateful for the awakening it provided. Once I stopped searching for what I was meant to do, life presented its answers on its own.
While I have been ever-present in my children’s lives, leaving behind work and school so that I could care for them full-time, I feel like I may have missed the mark in some ways. I’ve performed all the motherly tasks, loved them without condition, but I have spent many hours wondering what I would do when I was ‘done’. What would I return to when they were in school? Would a career, or a new educational path be waiting on me? I’ve rethought my career choices many times and I dare say that I have often sacrificed these valuable years with my young children by planning a future that always felt so uncertain. My reason for uncertainty was, and always has been, that I am doing what I was meant to do. There is no reason to constantly reconsider my choices.
At one point in all this soul-searching and life questioning I decided to checkout. It was all more than I wanted to handle when I was already emotionally lost and reeling from the departure of a soul I’d never get to meet. Sleepless nights spent staring at a dark wall, tears burning hot on my cheeks before I’d even knew they fell – they took their toll. Mind and body weary, I decided to just let it go and not think about careers or college paths. Then the magic happened.
I sat down to play with my boys, fully immersed in their world of super heroes, race tracks, and stroller races around the kitchen island. I soaked up their crayoned projects and I joined in their silly dances and dress up masquerades. I laughed with true happiness as we rolled around on pillow forts and fed baby dolls with wild hair. I cried tears of true joy as my toddler curled up upon my lap to nap. I watched, truly watched him, as he slept. The long eyelashes void of earthly cares. The innocence that surrounded his play and slumber slowly seeping into my own veins and reviving me from the life I had been physically present in, but emotionally absent. Seeing myself finally at peace and at ease in the life I had unknowingly been fighting brought back the calm we all needed.
I’ve often felt judged for my decision to stay at home with my children. I have always felt a need to explain myself, to justify my reasons for staying home and not returning to work. Perhaps it’s because we live in a society where women are so often taught that they can do whatever men can do. Perhaps it’s because we live in a world where monetary gains take center stage in the worlds of success and apparent happiness. We pay entertainers, athletes, and brokers large sums of money while many child care workers and teachers barely make enough to scrape by. It’s a message that even when unspoken is quite clear in today’s modern world.
Whatever the reason, I have spelled out my financial reasons to stay home more often than I can count. Rarely have I spoken to or justified the emotional needs that I am meeting or the bonds I am fostering. Rarely have a referenced the moral obligations I feel I am meeting or the motherly bonds that I am enriching. While I spend my days feeding my children’s bodies, nourishing them for life outside my home, I am also fostering their hearts. I am teaching them right from wrong, compassion, empathy, love, and how to apologize. I am not opposed to women, or men, who work to support their children. I support them, I admire them. I am also finally giving myself permission to validate my life and recognize that it is okay and acceptable to be content (and happy) in this simple way of life.
I don’t need to explain or justify my life as ‘just’ a mother. I don’t need an answer for, “What will you do when they start school?”. My life as their mother does not end when they depart my home for a few hours each day. My life as their mother and their support will not end when they move from my home. I don’t need to serve some greater goal to feel like my life has meant something. My children, and my husband, are my greater goal. The work I do in my home truly makes me happy, it is that missing puzzle piece that has left me so restless all these years. Upon recognizing that I am doing what I want to do and that I am happy, truly happy, my restless soul has found peace.
I am not lazy. I am not without goals. I do not need to be rich. I do not need a larger home, a nicer car. I do not need society to accept my lifestyle. I am in no need of ‘saving’ nor have I been brainwashed into believing that ‘a woman’s place is at home’. My husband would support my desires to do whatever I chose. A woman’s, or a man’s, place is wherever they find happiness. The pursuit of happiness is grand in that it can mean many things. I have found happiness in life’s simpler pleasures and its everyday tasks. For me, that is enough.
I’ve gone through the grief process associated with miscarriage several times now. Each time is a bit different and as my maturity and life changes, the process changes a bit too. It’s never easy and for someone like myself who feels things deeply, it can be overwhelming and feel devastating.
The loss of a child who had just started to grow within your womb is a hard one to understand for those who have not been through it. People often have no idea how to express their concerns or feelings of empathy. Some of your family and friends just ignore it almost entirely because they don’t want to upset you. Others will do little things to comfort you or just be there while you vent. This can be a double-edged sword because you need to talk about the loss, but are sometimes relieved when no one forces you to.
When you reach that ever looming stage of anger, you can be surprised who you direct that anger towards. There can be a maddening rage over anyone whose pregnant, recently had a baby, or those who just ignored your loss all together. You can direct your anger towards yourself and the body you feel failed your baby. You will at some point likely cast anger on your spouse, wondering why they don’t feel or express their anger, frustration, and pain the same way you do. It’s all normal, and it’s okay to feel these things. They way you direct your anger, hurt, and loss is the most important aspect.
For me, I can sometimes wallow in my pain for weeks. I’ll let myself fall into a depression that I lose all strength to climb out of. Laying on the couch, not really watching whatever happens to be on the television. No desire to eat, feel, or talk. Just numb to life and what is going on in it. Or I will switch into overdrive staying constantly occupied with something, anything, to take my mind off the pain.
The trouble with overdrive mode is that you crash…hard. All the physical exertion to avoid the mental pain leads to exhaustion both physically and mentally. I stayed in overdrive this time, until I crashed. Dead tired, just so exhausted mentally and physically. It hit me late last week and I couldn’t distract myself anymore. I’d been crying in the shower, over the washer, anywhere I was alone. And suddenly, crying was all I could do. My empty womb was all I could think about. The idea that I may never carry another child successfully hit me hard. As I sorted through my children’s closets and packed away outgrown clothes I realized that there might not be another child to wear them. Still, I folded them neatly, labeled the bin with the size and contents, and added them to the ever-growing stash of outgrown baby things in my basement.
I grieved, and then I decided to push forward because those clothes were not going to go unworn. That currently unused crib, rocker, swing, and all those bins of baby clothes would be worn again. I had prayed on it, thought about it, talked about it, and it was going to happen somehow.
While I may be quite experienced in dealing with the grief of a lost child, it has created a strength and determination in me that did not exist before. If I want something, I figure out a way to make it happen. While the number of children I have lost is higher than the number of children I have living, I really don’t give up. To me, that means I have yet another angel looking over my family. Another little miracle worker to make the impossible happen and to bring forth more happiness and light in our lives.
The healing that takes place after miscarriage is often a long process. Your body often heals long before your heart. You’ll go through days where you’re okay and you’ll go through days where you need to let yourself grieve and process all the emotions that have been thrust upon you. It isn’t a road with a clear path and the outcome can often be surprising.
What I’ve learned is that you have to let yourself feel it all to heal. It’s messy and it’s often scary, but in the end, you’ll come out okay. You’ll likely be changed, but you can work to use it to your advantage instead of letting it consume you.
My social media feeds are always filled with moms or things about parenting. Mom friends, mom blogs, parenting sites, parenting products…I’m bombarded with motherhood all day every day, even when I’m taking a ‘break’ from my own children. Most days, this is what I enjoy. I was born wanting to be a mother. I nurtured baby dolls from a young age and was overjoyed to finally get a baby cousin when I was older. I even pursued a degree in Early Childhood Education. I would say for many years, I was a bit obsessed with children.
Then I had my own. And yes, they are snuggly, often sweet, and always irreplaceable. I still love hearing about other people’s children and I still find pregnancy and infancy fascinating. Yet, as I sit here in my third pregnancy, I can say that after this baby, I think I am ready to close the chapter on ‘baby obsession’. I feel like I have fulfilled all the wants of motherhood, babydom, and ‘pregnancy euphoria’ that I could handle.
I am by far not the same person who gave birth to my oldest son almost four years ago. While some of me has remained the same, much of what I have experienced and learned has changed me. There is no more wild-eyed curiosity at all things baby. I no longer wish to stroll through baby stores and baby departments for hours. Almost every baby thing I need is packed away downstairs in my basement. Yes, I am excited to see my new little bean on the ultrasound screen. I am excited to feel s/he kick and move. To find out the sex, nail down a name. I’m more scared of delivery now than I ever was. After hemorrhaging on the delivery table twice, I’m left a bit scared of what’s to come. Granted, my doctors and nurses were amazing. The bleeding was stopped, I did not get dizzy until I stood up afterwards to pee, and I required no transfusion. So things went really well for me. But, hemorrhaging is still scary. Especially when you have two little ones already and tend to be the type of person who reads up on every potential bad outcome… It’s scary.
I spent yesterday in a horribly melancholy mood. As I scrolled through my social media feeds, I saw moms doing fun things with their kids. I saw birth announcements, newborn cloth diapers. I saw moms praising their children, some lamenting. Normally when I feel like I’m not being the best mother, those posts about what crafts, perfect outfits, or nutritious meals other mother’s children are having make me feel bad. Yet somehow, yesterday, they didn’t.
My children weren’t doing anything fancy. They played with scented stickers, watched some shows about letters and learning to read. They built forts, played mailmen, and chased our cat. We had peanut butter crackers and graham crackers for lunch. Yes, I let them drink juice and no, nothing was organic. We even had super, not healthy pizza for dinner and boy did we gobble it up! I wasn’t ‘exceeding’ any expectations yesterday, but I didn’t let myself feel the mom guilt I so often do. Why? Four years of parenting has taught me this…
What you don’t see in those photos of moms with manicured nails, perfect hair, and NOT in their pajamas, is that they have dirty piles of laundry too. There’s a room in their house where toys likely cover the floor. They have days they aren’t taking photos where they get stuck in their yoga pants and ill-fitting t-shirts just like me. While we love to take pictures of craft time, learning time, and ‘good’ days, we’re not taking photos of tantrums. We’re not taking photos of us crying in the bathroom because it’s Thursday afternoon and we’re lonely, tired, and need a break. There are rarely photos of poop explosions, crayon walls, and food covered kitchen floors. Yet these things make up parenting just as much, if not more so, than the other things.
My transition from idealistic motherhood to the real life thing was not easy. Find a mom who says it is, and I’ll bet she has a full-time nanny. The more I let my children guide me and let go of the expectations to be ‘perfect’ – the more we thrive. I don’t measure my worth as a mother by what other people, or other mothers, think of me. I don’t care if you bottle feed, breast feed, cloth diaper, baby wear, work, stay home, eat organic, vaccinate, or live off easy meals. What I care about is that you love your children. That you provide for them. That you teach them what it means to have love, respect, and compassion for our world and the people in it. I don’t devalue you if you need help from SNAP or WIC, we’ve all needed help at some point and it does not determine your worth as a parent or a human. I don’t care if you home school, public school, or send your kids to private school. Just teach them, in whatever way you can.
The point is, all these little things that others choose to judge us for – they don’t matter. What matters is that our children grow up loved, educated, and nourished. There won’t always be good days and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If every day were filled with rainbows and lollipops, we wouldn’t learn. If we received everything we ever wanted, we’d know nothing of value, respect, and hard work.
Motherhood took off my blinders. The world isn’t always nice and pretty and there are certainly people in it who are out to destroy any piece of happiness and contentment you offer yourself. However, you don’t have to let others judgment change you. You don’t have to take it to heart. In turn, you don’t have to be the one who judges.
If you see a mom who looks like she needs a hug, offer her one. Offer the mom with two kids just trying to do her grocery shopping a hand, not judgment. Play peek-a-boo and make her kid laugh, it doesn’t take much effort. Stop rolling your eyes at the whining toddler, the crying baby. It’s stressful enough without a stranger’s judgment. Don’t sigh and make a scene when you get behind a mom or dad using WIC in the checkout line. Think about how you would feel if you had to humble yourself to ask for help to feed your baby. I guarantee you, it isn’t easy and they are doing what they need to do to make sure their child has what they need. Don’t turn your nose up at the kids munching happily on nuggets and fries. You don’t know their daily eating habits or how long of a day their parent(s) may have had.
Stop judging and start respecting your fellow human-beings… Stop judging yourself and embrace the world through the eyes of your child. They’re too young to care about those things that we place our value in. They see your value in its truest terms – how you treat yourself and how you treat others. As parents, that’s a lesson we would do well to learn.