Over and over again through the years, I repeated to myself that I just wanted to be a normal mom. I had dreamed about what my life as a mother would be like.
For a brief 25 days, I got to be a normal mom. I found out I was pregnant for the first time on a beautiful Saturday morning in July. We enjoyed all the happy moments of surprising grandparents, excitedly wandering into the baby section at the store, and celebrating with family.
Then August brought a late night trip to the emergency room, and heart break as we listened to the haunting sounds of our dying baby’s heartbeat. We were told I was having a miscarriage and nothing could be done. Our first baby was dying inside me.
Life After Loss
In the months and years to follow, I grieved the loss of my first child. And I longed to be a normal mom, and I grieved that loss, too. I felt like I never got the opportunity to enjoy a normal motherhood because I lost my first baby. I missed out on so many blissfully happy moments with my little angel, and also with my living children. Fear and sadness crept into the joyful moments now. Life became bittersweet.
I spent my following pregnancies battling the fear that it could happen again. My living children’s first smiles and first steps were happy and sad occasions. With each milestone, I thought of my baby that never lived to experience those moments.
At night, I woke to check that my sleeping babies were still breathing. The possibility of SIDS keeping me anxious as I tried to sleep. (Years later before I go to bed, I still check on my sleeping children and wait to see the rise and fall of each breathe. I will forever bear the scars of child loss.)
Losing Normal Motherhood Again
As the years passed and I learned to live a life after loss, I dreamed new dreams for my motherhood journey. After working hard to make it possible for me to stay at home with my young son and daughter, we moved into a different house. I had spent the first few months as a stay at home mom preparing to sell a house, move into a rental house, and unpacking. I was hoping I would get to settle into this stay at home mom thing and start to do what I wanted to do now that the move was complete.
No, it seemed I would not get to be the normal mom I wanted to be. A few months after becoming a stay at home mom, we ran into some financial setbacks that changed everything once again. Determined to keep me at home with the kids, we made major cuts in our budget. This was not how I wanted my brief time home with my children to turn out. I was once again grieving the motherhood I once dreamed about.
No more fun outings that cost money. No trips to the zoo, date nights out, or mommy and me classes. We were limited to free activities and whatever I could figure out using what we already had at home. I shopped only for necessities, and I stayed up late at night cutting coupons and figuring out how I could save money so I could continue to be a stay at home mom.
I only had a couple years before my children started school, and I felt guilty that I had already wasted precious years. If only we would have had our finances in order sooner, I could have been a stay at home mom from the beginning. Now I had to scramble to continue to be a stay at home mom with the little time I had left. This is not what I wanted these years to look like. I wanted to enjoy them, without the burden of financial stress hanging over me.
A Normal Mom, I Will Never Be
Fast forward past those years, and my kids are now school age. Life did not go as planned, but we learned how to manage and live with less. And I was able to stay at home. Just when I thought I was pretty close to being a normal mom, our life was turned upside down again.
Almost 10 years exactly to the day that my life as a normal mom ended, my son was diagnosed with a life threatening food allergy to tree nuts. His first reaction, thankfully, was not severe, but the scary truth about food allergies was made clear to me in that emergency room.
The emergency room doctor prescribed an epipen and told us to call 911 if we needed to use it. After finding out we lived 10-15 minutes away from the hospital, he told us to also ask for an ALS ambulance when calling 911. With resolve, I asked, even though I dreaded the answer, “What’s an ALS ambulance?” And then once again came the moment that changed my path as a mother, “An ambulance with advanced life support.” That was my initiation as a food allergy mom. (Learn more about how to recognize a life threatening allergic reaction here.)
Over the weeks that followed, I once again found myself grieving over the loss of what I thought my life as a mother would be. Now I have to live in fear that eating could kill my child. My first baby who lived, the one I desperately hoped and prayed over. My little one who was with me as I faced my greatest fear.
Living With Fear
In those first months after my son’s food allergy diagnosis, I felt like I was transported back to the time when I was pregnant with him. That time when I anxiously awaited each doctor’s appointment to be reassured by the sound of his heartbeat and the doctor’s words. I felt anxious when I woke up and anxious when I fell asleep.
Yes, I was back in this place, and I knew this place well. When I was pregnant with my son, I had lived here with fear, my ever present companion who followed me loyally wherever I went.
Until the day I decided to put fear in its place. Fear was constantly chattering in my ear, and I was tired of it robbing me of the joys of pregnancy. So I decided to choose joy instead of fear. When fear would start its tirade, I would not let it consume my thoughts. I would focus on the things that brought me happiness. Each day I would have to choose, joy or fear? Sometimes I would have to assuage fear and quietly wait to feel my baby son move in my womb. Other times joy came more easily. And the more I focused on the positive, the more easily it came.
Years later, I was facing fear once again. Infuriated that once again life was not letting me have the normal motherhood I wanted. I grieved for myself and for the normal life my son may never have, so I dug deep into my sorrow, my anger, and my fear. I let myself feel because I know the only way to get through it, is to feel it.
The Mom I Am
With tears in my eyes, I eventually came to this realization. What if there is no such thing as a normal motherhood? Perhaps I have been mourning the loss of something that never existed. My motherhood journey includes child loss, financial burdens, and now life threatening food allergies. Another mother may be dealing with depression, ADHD, or divorce.
Perhaps there is never a normal motherhood, for each of us lives a unique life with unique struggles. So the best we can do is to make the best life with what has been given to us.
So maybe I didn’t spend years not getting to be the normal mom I thought I wanted to be. Maybe instead of having something taken away from me with each struggle, I received a beautiful gift. Maybe I got to spend almost my entire motherhood as a Bold and Daring Mom. A mom who has struggled and learned to look at fear and say I feel you, but I am NOT going to let you stop me from having what I want in my life. A mom that says I am going to do this even though I have never been more scared in my life. Maybe instead of being a normal mom, I get to be a Bold and Daring Mom.
What about you? How has life shaped you into a bold and daring mom? Let me know in the comments.
Update: My son’s numbers from blood work were low enough to try an oral food challenge at the doctor’s office! We are so happy to report that he passed his food challenge! He now eats small amounts of his previous allergens in his diet to prevent the allergies from coming back, and he no longer needs to carry epipens!