There are situations in our lives, circumstances we live through that forever change us. Something so huge and life altering it can cause us to change our world view. To change our entire perception on life and living. Motherhood was one such thing for me. It was a monumental change in everything I knew and everything I was comfortable with.
I was 33 when Jacob came along. I had been on my own since I was 18--before that really, when one thinks about how we pretty much raised ourselves in boarding school. I was married a week before my 27th birthday. I was used to my life being all about me. I knew where my paychecks went--they went to support Me. Free time was spent playing and entertaining, well, Me. Then along comes this tiny, little human--wholly and dependent on...Me. And it was the darkest, most difficult, most challenging time of my life. It had nothing to do with postpartum depression and every thing to do with having given birth to a child who did not sleep and married to a man who was barely home.
In a heartbeat, my world was forever changed. I, as the center of my universe, no longer existed. I found myself filtering all of my decisions through that. For example...I have never been a timid driver--I learned to drive in a 3rd world country. Overnight I became a very cautious, careful driver. And it wasn't just because of the most precious passenger in the backseat. Not only was I tasked with protecting this tiny baby, but I was tasked with doing everything in my power to remain the Mommy. When Kyleigh was a newborn and needing so much of my focus I refused to go out by myself with both children. I knew I would be unable to maintain the sense of awareness necessary to keep all of us safe, at the same time providing the attention both children needed. The baby was almost four months old when we ventured out as a threesome to the park. (And ended up in the emergency room with Jacob getting four stitches in his head. And unable to get a hold of their dad. But that's a different story all together!) My point is this...as parents our priorities shift and focus on our children. At least that's the way it's supposed to be. There are rights I had before that I no longer have. I no longer have the right to be selfish. I no longer have the right to put myself before all others. Even for those who find themselves as parents and don't want the job--that child's life comes first. Always.
I've spent a considerable amount of time this week in the pediatric ward of the hospital--the past couple of days in the pediatric intensive care unit--with Baby Brandon...who is doing fabulous, by-the-way. Yesterday afternoon I met a delightful little girl named Jenna. Her first birthday is today. The only love and attention she receives is from the picu staff--who spoil her totally and completely rotten. I don't know her full story or even why she's been in the hospital for the past three months. I do know her parents never come see her. When she leaves the hospital she'll go into foster care. I cannot even begin to fathom how a mother can abandon her child and yet, I know it happens all the time. I understand giving a child up for adoption--that's a completely different issue based on doing what is right and best for your child if you know you will be unable to care and provide for her. This is different--this is a case where a child got sick and her parents simply did not want to deal with it anymore.
This morning I sorted through some of Kyleigh's old clothes I had put aside for a friend. I washed all of the 12 month size jammies and disinfected some of the toys we had pulled out of the toy box--ones both children had outgrown. I had promised Jacob a trip out to pick up a new Lego set with some of his Christmas money. While we were out I found a small toy that a one-year-old girl might enjoy. I carried an extra bag with me tonight when I went out to visit Brandon and his parents. My first stop on the picu ward was the nurses station. I explained that I had met Jenna yesterday and my friend had told me a little about her history and that today was her birthday, I got her a small gift...if that was okay.
The gratitude, shock and amazement was overwhelming. One nurse even made a point to find me to let me know how much Jenna was enjoying her new toy. What did I do? I brought in used toys and clothes. It breaks my heart that I can't do more. That I can't bring her home.
I would like to believe that I would have felt this level of compassion and heartbreak all those years ago--but I don't know that I would have. I've recently come to accept one of my few regrets...I wish I had learned to be the woman I am now much earlier in my life. However, I know that it's because of my children I am who I am in this very moment. I like this version of me a whole lot more as well...I'm a far better person, woman, wife...human...because of these two who call me Mommy.