Every morning I wake up, brush my teeth, and take my pill. One little pill that keeps me grounded and on this side of heaven. Silences the rage and keeps the tears back. Makes life easier. Although medication eases the depression, it does not fill the hole in my heart. I feel inadequate as a mother and wife. I struggle with comparing myself to other mothers. I am convinced that I lack the motherhood gene. I feel like I’m never going to be a good mother. I spend a lot of time asking Jesus to help me. “Please don’t let me screw up my children.” If anyone complements me, I find at least a dozen reasons why they shouldn’t. I’m sure my children will become adults and pray, “Please don’t let me be like my mother.” After all, I am the one who signed a document at age 14 that I would “never get married or have children.” How did *I* become a wife and mother of three?
The psychiatrist and I decide I need to take time for myself. I begin pursuing outside activities. Although they are meant to bring more balance to my life, they cause me to pull farther away from my family. My children are in a day school 3 days a week; the other 2 days they are home. When the husband gets home in the evening, I proclaim they are his children and retreat to my office to be alone.
About a year after I begin the medication, my youngest will not stop biting her peers and teacher; we are asked to take her home. She will not let anyone watch her, feed her, touch her, bathe her; I am the only one she wants. On bad days we stay home and sit on the couch. On good days we go for walks in the park or shopping at Target with my best friend. This child will not let me out of her sight. She becomes the motivation to change the way I interact with my family.
One morning I don’t feel like taking the kids to the school. I tell the husband and he looks at me, “Are you sure?” Yes. I’m absolutely sure that I’m spending the day with my children. I make them a special breakfast. I ask the boy what he wants to do. “Can we go to the park?” I pack up all three kids, snacks, diaper bags, and an entourage of lovies and we head to the park. I am engaged the entire time. They are running, giggling, singing. On the way home I decide to stop at the library. We pick out a pile of books to read. After a simple lunch it’s time for a nap. I tuck the girls in and give them kisses on their foreheads. The boy announces that he’s a big boy and doesn’t need a nap. I tell him that he may not, but momma does. As I give him a hug, he says to me with his blue eyes staring at mine, “This is the best day ever.”
I go into my room. Lay down. And sob.
My children do not nap. They cat nap. Fifteen minutes later they are refreshed and ready for more fun. The boy brings me the pile of books. The four of us sit together huddled on the floor, reading book after book. They don’t understand the words, but I realize that’s not what is important. I may not be organized. I may not be able to get all three kids dressed and out the door without a lot of chaos. I may not be able to juggle the roles of wife, mother, and all the other responsibilities of being a modern-day woman. I AM able to read. I begin to read to my children. ALL. THE. TIME. We read Dr. Seuss so many times I’m dreaming of green eggs and red foxes in my sleep. Even the girls love looking at their simple picture books. Reading connects me with my children.
Our daytime reading becomes a bedtime routine. Momma reads a story, daddy prays for them, and then momma rubs their backs until they fall asleep. And although I’m exhausted and want time alone, I begin to cherish these quiet moments snuggled with my children, reading a book. My heart begins to heal and I begin to embrace being a momma.
One day I sit on her couch again. The psychiatrist. I am struggling with emotions and memories I don’t want to deal with. I tell her I just want to be a good mother. She looks at me. “What does that mean?” I look at her. “I don’t know.” She doesn’t let me get away with that. “How does that look?” I sigh. “She gives kisses and hugs. She rocks them to sleep. She wants to give them a better life than she had. She does everything to protect them. She loves her children.”
As I speak, I listen to myself. Tears begin streaming down my face. I know what she is going to say…“So, by your OWN standards, YOU are a good mother. You need to let yourself believe that.” I’m oh so stubborn…because even though I have done EVERYTHING to make sure my children feel safe, happy, and loved…I still don’t believe I am a good mother.
The day arrives when all three children are attending the local elementary school. Although I am proud of the strong, independent little people they have become, I miss them. I am not there as they learn to read their first words. I am not there when my son realizes he doesn’t want to work in an office. I am not there when my daughter meets her first “best” friend. I am not there as my daughter jumps the highest she ever has. I had only 5 years to see the world through their eyes, and I spent a good portion of it asleep. I am filled with so much regret.
I pray for peace. Peace to let go of what I can’t change. I desperately want my children to know — although our lives were darkened by depression and their momma checked out more than she should have — their momma loved them deeper than she could EVER explain. That she’d give her own life to keep them alive. That she would give anything to have those moments before school back again.
I had NO idea that Abba heard my cries and he would heal me in a way I never imagined.