I remember it vividly.
The friends and I planned a girl’s weekend a few hours away, and I was the first-time, trying-to-keep-it-all-together mom who contemplated bringing baby or not.
At the time, I pictured what this ladies’ weekend, would be: unlimited amounts of coffee, diet soda, giggles, good food, and shopping. I sat and pondered. I asked other friends. I prayed. Another mom was bringing her baby, but she was still nursing. I had quit nursing after six weeks of a nipple shield, bleeding breasts, and a baby that would drink a full bottle after 15 minutes on each side.
I even asked a mentor, (my friend’s mom) and I remember her advice: “if you chose to not bring him, then trust it—and leave all of him at home.”
The choice was made. I was going on a friend’s trip, wild and free and with no baby. The pros outweighed the cons. For a night, I laughed and giggled and enjoyed life. It was everything I had wished for. Amazing dining with no child to bounce as I ate. I found some clearance clothes for my postpartum trying-to-love-body. It was a night that turned into an early morning, with deep just-what-I-needed sisterhood talks.
It was all great — until we were on the way home. It was raining hard, and I was not driving. With a couple of hours left in the drive, I called home. There, I heard my husband’s overwhelmed voice and a screaming baby in the background. He was done. My sweet baby was done. And, I — well, I was still a couple of hours from home.
I started to panic. The guilt, the shame, the sadness, the wanting to rescue my two men at home, filled my mind. My heart pounded as the rain pelted the windshield of the slowly driving forward car. I looked over to my left and saw a sweetheart little girl, just a week younger than my little baby boy at home. More guilt came. This feeling of “what kind of mom would leave her baby” shame started eating me from the inside out.
A friend noticed that I had no blood in my face, and my wild-and-free self was now poorly attempting to take deep breaths and think happy thoughts. I gently tried to whisper to her, what was going on at home. I knew I couldn’t ruin the car’s mood of laughter and blaring REO Speedwagon.
I knew that “it was time for me to fly” (like REO sings it) home. I knew that the car was no speedwagon, but I needed it to go faster. I needed to drive. I needed to hold my sweet boy, and whisper to him that he was okay and sometimes dads get overwhelmed.
So, I offered to drive. The friend who was driving declined, which lead me to playing shame stories in my head of an abandoned baby boy and his ridiculously selfish, childish mother. Mile by mile, the stories grew. The rain continued. Until, finally, we pulled into my driveway and I grabbed my clearance bags of clothes and ran into our home like I was preparing for the 100-meter dash in middle school track.
I can’t remember what I opened the door to that day. For the life of me, I can’t say if my sweet boy was crying or smiling and if his dad was doing the same.
But I can reflect on what it’s like to let go as a mom. That sweet boy is now 19 years old, and he has a younger brother and sister. Truth is, that feeling of not being able to leave my kids because something overwhelming might happen has stayed with me. That feeling of thinking that I know best, and I parent best (above my husband) has also joined in. That feeling of trying to protect my babies (that are now mostly adults) from life, from relationship ups and downs, has taken its toll.
And, that feeling of being an unmet, selfish, guilt and shame ridden mother? Well, she’s still there.
At times, I need to remind myself that my kids do not need the perfect life. They do not need a mom that will never leave and will never trust anyone to watch her kids or a mom who focuses on all the dark areas of her parenting.
What they do need is love and support — from all avenues. From moms and dads and family and neighbors. From their whole community. Imperfect love. Overwhelming love. Not trying to rescue or control or save love. A we-are-all-in-this-together and everyone needs a little help sometimes love.
First-time mommas, mommas to fur babies, mommas to teenagers, mommas of all kinds — know that you are doing your best with what you have. Know that babies and mommas and dads and seasons change. And, know that it's okay to talk about our unmet momma feelings. It's okay to ask for a hand. And when you get a wild and free weekend, drive fast with the music blaring to REO Speedwagon, possibly?
All our kids need is a daily reminder throughout the years and the lessons that no matter what, you will keep on loving them. (just like REO sings)
And all us mommas need is a reminder that everyone needs a little help sometimes.
Until next time, turn the music up high and love on imperfectly.
-Michelle K Massie
Michelle Massie is a family coaching specialist for Lutheran Social Services in Dickinson, ND. She works with families on raising children birth through adulthood navigate through rough waters, ensuring families have the right materials at the right time to construct, maintain or repair well-being. Call 701-223-1510 or fill out the form at lssnd.org/help to get connected with this program.