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I am thrilled to be published in The New York Times today, talking about an issue I’m passionate about: my son and his hearing loss.
How to address hearing loss in children is very controversial, which I didn’t realize until I was faced with it in my own child. I felt overwhelmed by the pressures to use sign language, or not. I’m not here to fuel that debate or say one side or another is “right.” Truth is, every child is different and deserves to be treated that way. I do want to thank everyone who offered me guidance, even if I didn’t take your advice! Information gathering is key so that parents can make their own decisions. I just wish there was not so much internal arguing among deaf people, advocates, doctors etc — as I say in the piece, what would help families is better support for their choices, whatever they are.
Remember when I said I was going to have to have fibroid surgery? Well, it’s already happened. It’s funny how sometimes you wait so long for something and then, bam!, it’s over. Here’s how it happened.
The surgeon at my fertility practice was booked up until the fall (how does that happen?), so I started looking into other surgeons who could do it. My fertility doctor mentioned one that was not in my plan, so I had to cross him off the list. When I asked her for other recommendations, she told me to look for a gynecological oncologist. A Google search for my local hospital revealed a surgeon whose name sounded familiar—sure enough, a friend had recommended him to me weeks earlier, but I had forgotten. I made an appointment a month away.
But once we had that appointment, things moved quickly. He seemed to know right away what needed to be done—after all, fibroid removal is probably an easy case for him. Although I still hadn’t been sure if I wanted to proceed with the surgery, after talking with him I realized if I wanted any chance of getting pregnant again I would have to do it. Plus, he said there was a 50/50 chance I’d need the fibroid removed at some point in the future. So we decided on the spot to book the surgery.
He had said to expect to wait two to three weeks for the surgery, but when the nurse came in she offered us a date only a little over a week away—May 10.
And now it’s over. I haven’t been able to blog because the recovery was a little tougher than I expected. It was full-on cut-me-open surgery, much like a C-section. The surgeon removed four fibroids, one of which was on my right tube, so he went ahead and took that out, too. Two nights in the hospital, and then the rest of the week in bed at home. And it still hurts.
But the most difficult part of the whole thing was what to do with LM. I certainly couldn’t take care of him—even now that I’m feeling a little better, he requires constant wrangling and has lately been prone to hitting and kicking. And I can barely walk.
Thanks to an army of grandparents, we are making it work. To be honest, I was looking forward to having a break from LM. He has just been so tough to handle lately, and motherhood is a 24/7 job. There are no days off. So having a week or so to rest and recuperate sounded really nice.
But I didn’t count on the boredom, even depression, that comes from being stuck in bed while life goes on around you. At first it was a welcome change, but as whole days went by when I didn’t see LM, I started to actually miss him. Someone else was holding him and taking him places and putting him to bed. Someone else was playing with him and feeding him and singing with him.
After a couple days at home Foggy Daddy brought LM into the bedroom to see me. We had tried to keep him away, lest his penchant for hitting was directed at my stomach. Somehow he looked older. Somehow he sounded like he had more words and was talking more. Something was just, I don’t know, different about him.
And when he left the room, I missed him.
I realized it was the longest I’d gone without picking up my child since he was born. I was able to give him a cursory kiss, but I longed to hold him and feel his weight on me as he napped on my shoulder. I longed to be the one he called for, the one who comforted him. Did he even miss me?
I’m sure that when I get back on my feet, I’ll wonder what in the world I was thinking. I’m sure when I’m back in the routine of caring for LM I’ll want another break, and wish I hadn’t squandered this one missing him. But if anything, this break gave me a chance to pause and to reflect on my place as LM’s mother. Yes, it’s unrelenting and tough. But it’s also filled with precious moments of snuggles and kissing and brushing the hair away from his forehead. Of watching his little mouth move as he chews. Of picking him up and swinging him around. Of just pure joy.
I’d forgotten that. I’m glad one of the side effects of surgery was to help me remember.
I just spent twenty minutes searching Facebook to a link for a mom blogger opportunity I had seen that I forgot to mark as “saved.” I went back and forth, back and forth, and just couldn’t find it. I Googled it. Nothing. Awesome, another wasted opportunity, I thought. What if that was my big chance? All because I forgot to click “save”?
This is what I do. I push and push and push myself and then can’t forgive myself when something falls through the cracks. When I can’t be everything to everyone at every minute. When I feel like I’m not good enough at feeding LM the right foods, or teaching him enough skills, or getting him on a better sleeping schedule. When I feel like I need to pitch more stories, promote my work more, submit more, write more. When I think about how someone else is a better writer than me, a better mom than me, a better friend than me, a better wife than me.
I find the smallest thing — so what that I didn’t save a FB link? Is it the end of the world? — and turn it into something major, as if I’ve missed out on the greatest thing to come my way ever.
This weekend is Mother’s Day. I’m not doing anything special, as far as I know. Maybe my husband has something planned. Maybe not. But it shouldn’t really matter, because that’s just looking for more outside validation, for someone else to tell me I’m doing a good enough job.
What I really need is to tell that to myself.
I need to forgive myself my little faux pas and flaws. I need to accept that I’m not going to be able to keep every ball in the air. Some are bound to drop.
This is OK.
I know we’ve all heard about “mom guilt” and how we have to accept that we can’t be the perfect mother. I know that rationally. But emotionally, I’m still struggling. I don’t think I quite believe that I am good enough. I focus on every mistake I make and blow off my successes. I’m doing it now, for God’s sake — I’m critiquing myself for my habit of critiquing myself!
Where does it end?
Maybe some moms have figured out how to get off the merry-go-round of guilt. Maybe they’ve managed to side-step the downward vortex of perfection seeking. But I feel like I’m being sucked in, and I’m drowning with the pressure of it all.
So, this Mother’s Day I need to stop. Just stop. At least for one day allow myself not to be perfect. And what’s more, to not even attempt to be perfect. Just have total acceptance of myself. As a mother, as a wife, as a writer, as a person.
I can’t be the only one who feels this way, right? Who feels like it’s just all too much and I can’t keep my head above water? OK, so I know I have additional challenges: LM’s hearing loss and everything that goes along with it (don’t even get me started on fighting with the school district about preschool). Trying to have another child (still in limbo on that one). These are not things that all other moms have to deal with.
Other moms also have housecleaners and gardeners and money to redecorate and nannies to watch their kids so they can go to the gym more than once a week and lose that extra 15 pounds they’ve been carrying since they had a baby and just can’t seem to get rid of. Maybe they have huge houses and swimming pools and finished basements with movie rooms. Maybe if they do have deaf children they can afford to move to the rich town where the school for the deaf is so they can be in the right school district and not have to fight to make sure their kid gets the best education.
Wait, I’m doing it again, aren’t I?
Stop comparing yourself. Just stop. Some other moms will always have more than you — but some will also have less. Much less.
Ugh, so you’re saying I’m an awful person for wanting a bigger house because other moms are living in poverty? I’m so selfish.
Yes, you are selfish. But it’s OK to be selfish. Everyone is selfish.
No they’re not.
Well maybe not everybody, but it’s a natural reaction in life to want more, isn’t it? Some people just have this drive in them, which is good because it propels them to achieve things. But it’s also bad because it never ends. When you achieve a goal, you just set a new one. You think you can reach the top of the mountain, but it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
So what do I do?
I don’t know, I guess it’s about finding balance. A balance between accepting your life and striving for more. Between being happy with what you have and recognizing that it’s human nature to feel bad about what you don’t. To realize that everyone has their hardships in life, and so you just can’t compare. You are not perfect. They are not perfect.
This is what I’m trying to give myself this Mother’s Day. Permission to not be perfect, to want to be perfect, to feel bad about wanting to be perfect, to feel good about striving for perfection, to recognize it’s not necessary to strive for perfection.
I’m going to try to see myself though LM’s eyes. Through my husband’s eyes and my family’s eyes and my friend’s eyes.
I’m not a perfect mom. But I’m a good enough mom.
What gifts are you giving yourself for Mother’s Day?