I wanted to jump back to the present for a post before I go back and finish writing about how we got here.
Today (well, yesterday) was Mother’s Day. I think about how much I’ve changed since becoming a mother. I know people say that being a mother changes you, but it’s insane to look back and see how much. Who am I? I’m the mom of L, A, and R, above all else. If you told me seven years ago, when I graduated from law school, that I would be a stay at home mom to a toddler and twins, one of whom has special needs, I wouldn’t have believed you. My intelligence and career choice have always been what made me ME, and I was proud of that. I looked down on moms who left their careers to stay home with babies (I should go back in time and slap myself). Anyone could watch a baby. Not everyone could write winning motions and appeals.
Then, I had L. I got it. What a bitch I was to judge before I knew how much of your whole self, not just your heart, is consumed by a child. I finally understood how heart-wrenching and painful it was to leave your child with someone while you drove away to spend the day at a computer or in a deposition. Nothing was as important as L. I pushed through each workday thinking of him, missing him, worrying about him, and wondering what he was doing. Being a lawyer wasn’t that important anymore, but we just couldn’t afford for me not to work. I gradually accepted that I wouldn’t be there for his every move (or the first time he walked), but as I like to say (and as he’s started to say, too), “it is what it is.” He was still happy and adorable, and I spent every possible minute with him when I wasn’t at work.
When I was pregnant with the girls and going through so many complications, we looked into whether I would need to go back to work. We might be able to make it work if we had to, but we were waiting day by day to see if we would have micro-preemies, preemies, babies with health problems, or even perfectly healthy babies. We had no idea what to expect until the very day the girls were born. Until then, we were in the market for a new babysitter or daycare, because we weren’t confident that L’s babysitter could handle 3 babies when I returned to work.
The day the babies were born, and we were told that R had brain damage and microcephaly, we knew that I would need to be home with her, with all of them. It was so hard to say goodbye to my coworkers, my boss, and the office where I worked for five years, but I knew it was the right thing to do. We had no idea what R’s life would look like, what her abilities and limitations would be, and we couldn’t possibly trust a stranger with her or our other kids.
It was the right decision. I know that. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have some regrets…well, not regrets in the typical sense, but frustration that I can’t have it all. No mom really can. Lean in all you want, but the more you lean in professionally, the more you lean out of your house and away from your kids. I miss my coworkers and some of my clients, I miss the routine of getting up, showering, and even the hour-long commute to work. But, I get to play monster trucks. I get to make mini pizzas for lunch. Sometimes I get to go to the park. I get to pick out the matching outfits and blow raspberries on chubby bellies. I get to snuggle. I’m who they look to for comfort, to meet their basic needs, and I know they know that I’m mom. I’m the one who’s there for them. There’s no babysitter who mistakenly gets called “mom” because she’s there during the waking hours more than I am.
Recently, two local jobs that aren’t typical “legal” jobs have opened up. They sound perfect for me, but not THIS me, the former me. The me who didn’t have to go to doctor’s appointments in Orlando and therapy 2-3 times a week in Vero Beach. I would apply, but I know I’d feel resentful if I were offered a position and had to turn down a job. I don’t want to feel that on top of every damn emotion in the spectrum, which is what I feel every day.
I constantly wonder if I’m doing enough. I’m not enforcing drinking from a regular cup enough. I’m not holding the babies enough. There’s two of them, and I only have two arms (and a toddler). I’m not keeping the house clean enough. I don’t spend enough time with my husband. I’m not breastfeeding anymore — I couldn’t make enough. It’s never enough. I just can’t be enough. I’m trying hard to be OK with not being enough as I work through this jumble of emotions every single day. But I love them more than I’ve ever imagined. I’d lay down my life a million times for any of them. I may not be enough, but I’m there. I’m me. I’m their mom. That’s enough.