Last night I got to thinking while I was washing up about what makes a good mom. What kind of mom I want to be. I’ve thought about it before but it crossed my mind again then. This morning while I was doing my eyebrows I start thinking about being an ‘ill’ mom and what the implications of that were. That sparked off a thought about the fact there are many different types of moms we each are, or aspire to be – whether it’s a ‘fun mom’, a ‘good example mom’, a ‘young mom’ etc. So I thought I’d explore some of these in the upcoming weeks on the blog. Starting with the one that’s probably been the most unexpected and most challenging one for me: being an unwell mom. Not sick as in cool, do the kids even say that these days?
Being unwell, wherever you are on the spectrum between slightly unwell for a short period of time or being drastically ill or permanently disabled throws up extra challenges. You may have known about your condition or illness beforehand and had the change to prep a little, you may have it thrown at you unexpectedly.
As I was most acutely unwell in the first ten weeks of Alexandra’s life, for me the impact was not getting to bond properly with her, not getting to learn how to be her mom in those first precious months, not physically spending as much time with her as you’d expect to get with a newborn ie 24/7. I missed her first smiles, her first set of jabs, her eight week check up, night feeds and so many cuddles
I didn’t look after her completely on my own for any length of time until she was about 14 weeks old and when I did it was both a physical and an emotional challenge. I had to think my way through everything – how would I get her up and down the stairs (answer: I just didn’t until I was strong enough to get her and myself around), how would I change her nappies and clothes (answer: I learned to do everything differently, from poppers to bottles). I had to work out I could feed her if I held her with my right arm, which meant I wasn’t using my dodgy hand and then my good hand was free to hold the bottle.
Now if you saw me out on the street you probably wouldn’t see any difference between me and any of the other moms out there. But everything has been harder, everything has come slower, I still find myself facing situations every day where I struggle a bit more than I would have done before.
As she grows up, Alex probably won’t notice a huge difference between me and her friends’ moms although there will always be the little signs. I’ll always be on meds, we don’t think I’ll ever have full feeling in my hand (although there have been improvements in recent weeks), I’ll never join her if she decides she wants to follow daddy and go diving, she’ll never see me drink alcohol and of course she’ll never have a little brother or sister.
When the time comes we will have to explain those things to her, but I guess she will never know any different so it will all seem normal, whereas for us it’s taken a lot of getting used to (I’m still not there with it all). All in all, I feel incredibly lucky to now be at the stage where I can parent her fairly effectively. Where I can have her every day by myself without assistance. Where I can play with her, take her out and see to her everyday needs.
Being a sick mom hasn’t been easy to come to terms with and I feel like we’ve had a harder journey than most but I count myself incredibly lucky because there are three things which would have been far, far worse: if the illness had denied me of the chance to have a baby, if its impact had been much more severe and I’d not been able to take on her day to day care, or of course if I hadn’t made it. Being an ill mom is definitely infinitely better than being a dead mom.
Harriet and Alexandra X