We each entered motherhood with ideas of what kind of mom we wanted to be. Did you dream of cooking wholesome, organic food for your children? Did you plan to always clean up at the end of the day? Were you planning to have lots of snuggle time while reading books? Did you want to hike the trails in the Sandias with your kids? Did you want to work full-time? Stay home?
What happens when you can’t be that kind of mom?
The Kind of Mom I Wanted to Be
There are so many ways I am not a perfect mom. I don’t like to cook or go on lots of hikes. My kids watch more television than is probably optimal. On the other hand, I do read to my kids, and I keep our schedule simple, so the kids have time to play, draw, and read on their own. I also like that I simplify my husband’s work schedule. Since I write from home, I can handle doctor’s appointments and home repairs, and my husband doesn’t have to miss work.
One of my favorite things is being a BioPark mom. Every summer, we head over and explore the Zoo, Aquarium, and Botanic Garden for hours at a time. I have the layout of the Botanic Garden memorized. Sometimes we even bring a picnic lunch to the Japanese Garden. I can talk to other moms while pushing a stroller. I connect with other moms and introduce the kids to some of the wider world.
When my youngest was two, I started having pain in my hip. Driving became painful. I went to physical therapy, and the pain improved….
Until it got much worse. Walking at more than a shuffle triggered acute pain in my back. My frequent hisses when the pain surprised me probably freaked out my kids. Forget taking the kids to the BioPark—I could barely pick them up from school.
After more physical therapy, I was sent for an MRI. The MRI was actually pretty relaxing, because it was upright and I got to watch HGTV (we don’t have cable).
A few hours later my nurse practitioner called me.
There was a mass.
In my spine.
I was sick.
I still feel like screaming when I type that, and it’s been two years.
I don’t remember that weekend very well. My husband did research on what the “mass” might be, and I am thankful that he did not pass on how grim some of the options were.
After another MRI, the radiologist thought it was probably a benign tumor. And benign is definitely better than cancer. But, well, there just isn’t that much space inside your spine, so I needed surgery.
Two family friends who are doctors helped us sort through what sort of surgeon to look for. (Answer: one who’s done that exact surgery a lot of times). So that summer, instead of taking my kids to the BioPark, we all went to Houston. And that’s where my tumor and I parted ways.
What Kind of Mom?
I was in the hospital for almost two weeks. The surgeon and his team were fantastic, but the tumor was more “involved” than we had all hoped.
Parts of my back and left leg were numb. So I had to relearn walking.
Instead of taking my kids on outings, I felt so awful that I wasn’t even up to them visiting me every day. My parents, earning a grandparent medal of valor, flew to Houston and drove my kids all over Houston so that the kids could think about the museums instead of how sick Mommy was. During the day, my husband stayed with me at the hospital. At night, he went back to tuck the kids in, so that something would be normal for them.
When we came home, it was time for physical therapy, six weeks of radiation, and even more physical therapy. For so much of that time, I said “no” to the kids.
No, we couldn’t go to the BioPark. I was too tired, or not strong enough, or I wouldn’t be able to chase down our youngest if he ran off.
No, I wasn’t going to cook something more interesting than hamburgers. Even serving the food that our church family brought us tired me out.
Forget simplifying my husband’s work schedule. He went into work late so I wouldn’t have to scramble to find childcare during my radiation treatments. He considered it his privilege, not a burden, but I felt guilty.
Although my husband was faithful to point out how much worse things could have been, and how much progress I’d made, I struggled with focusing on what I couldn’t do, what was still hard. And I felt like a failure for being sick. I just couldn’t do what I wanted to as a wife and a mom.
But if I wasn’t the BioPark mom, if I couldn’t do so many of the basic mom things I’d wanted to because I was sick, what kind of mom was I?
Originally published June 2017.