Hi my name is Christina and I am a recovered anorexic perfectionist. Oh, and I’m a mom.
I am one of those women who always assumed I would have children but as my career blossomed and the social life of my 20’s raged on, I didn’t worry too much about it.
When I married at age 29 and quickly delivered our first child toward the end of my 30th year, I was pretty pleased with myself for being on plan and on time. I had always said I would be married with a child by the time I was 30, and so CHECK!
As you might be thinking, yes, I am that girl – the one with the check lists, and the plan and the controlling approach to just about everything in life.
So, it is fair to say I was shocked and appalled when I set out with my Babywise guided schedule to learn that my precious first born son was not happy with the 2 ½ hour break between feedings.
And I was completely defeated when I realized around the 8 week post partum mark, that I, Miss in charge and in control, was indeed suffering from post partum anxiety and depression. The first few months of my first child’s life were a web of anxiety, confusion, anger, and resentment. But, somewhere in that web, were sparks of joy, true happiness and finally, transformation.
Well…that makes it all sound rosy, doesn’t it?
Lest you think, “oh man, she stayed in control of things and now it’s all just great”…travel forward with me 3 ½ years to the day my husband and I decided we should probably go ahead and try for one more. I mean, we had this incredibly cool little boy that just needed a sibling. We tried for a few months with no results, and then about 8 months into it, I peed on the stick, 2 lines showed up and we rejoiced.
YAY! I was pregnant again!
When we finally made it into Dr. G’s office for the ultrasound at 10 ½ weeks, what to our surprise should we find flipping and floating around in that uterus of mine? A healthy little baby, you ask? Why yes, but wait, “you do know there are 2 in there, right?” says Jan the ultrasound tech. Queue the slow music and spotlight on my face, which went completely blank as I lost sight and a loud ringing began in my ears.
“Let me go get the doctor,” said sweet Jane. As my vision and hearing returned intermittently over the next 20 minutes or so, we learned that yes, I was pregnant with twins, and yes this put me into the dreaded category of a “high risk” pregnancy…and on and on and on with anxiety inducing details.
If I had deluded myself by thinking I was still in control as a mother of one child, the delusion ended right about then. We endured the twin pregnancy with a truly good amount of joy, and a fair amount of cautious concern. I was fortunate to be in pretty great health at the start of the pregnancy and was able to carry the twins to 37 weeks. As we left the beautiful hospital lobby and waded out into the big, real world without a team of nurses and helpful aides, we had no idea just how hard it would be.
We were now officially a “large family” of 5 and I was officially now a Mom of Multiples. We could no longer sit at the 4 top tables in a restaurant. I would soon learn that Amazon was the only place I would shop for the next 2 years. Oh yes, the days of Christina has it all under control were officially over. I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t fight it. I did not suddenly morph into a zen mom who just rolled with the punches and learned to ask for help. The day did come when I learned to ask for help, but that day did not come without me kicking and screaming, and very frequently sobbing and raging against the loss of control and the delusion of perfection.
This time, I did not struggle with the post partum anxiety or depression again. If anything, I was punch drunk happy that my twins were happy, healthy, albeit tiny little beings. There were so many risks and so many moments of fear during the pregnancy, that their thriving was all the more miraculous.
These days, I am a mom of two preschoolers and an elementary child. Most days are a blur of joy, frustration, and uncontrollable laughter. Many days, I feel like I will never get back to the in control, have it all together powerhouse I once was, and sometimes, that gets me down.
And in those moments, all the insecurities of a serial perfectionist come flooding back to me. You’ll never be the perfect mom. A great mom wouldn’t lose her cool and yell at her kids. A great mom doesn’t make chicken nuggets from the freezer and throw it on a plate with a bunch of grapes and call it dinner…a great mom woulda coulda shoulda….
And thankfully, just when those thoughts are about to take over, one of my children will walk into the room and say something like “Mom, where is my tae kwan do belt?” And I will return to the present moment, and patiently answer, “In your top draw next to the uniform where it always is.”
I’ve heard it said that becoming a parent is payback…or that watching your children is like looking in a very revealing mirror. In many ways, this is true in my experience as a mother.
When my daughter gives me her sugary sweet, but sly grin and says, “Chocolate please” at 9 in the morning, I hear a part of myself…when her twin brother snuggles up close on the couch and asks for “eskimo kisses please”, I see a part of myself; and when their older brother slides into the living room in his socks to sing Ave Maria in his funniest “Italian” accent…I know he is mine.
Also, when my daughter screams with all her might, “I DO IT”, I hear a part of myself in her mix of frustration and determination. When her twin brother falls to the floor whimpering while resisting naptime, I see a part of myself in his desire to not miss out on anything. And when my older son storms off the soccer field yelling and crying, “it’s not fair”, I must admit that he is mine – big joy, but also big anger and sometimes big fear.
I’m sure we all often see parts of ourselves reflected in our children as they grow – the good and the ugly parts alike. But sometimes, we find something else in our children we didn’t expect– we find grace. When my children crawl into my lap and snuggle close for nothing more than a hug, their embrace is so real and so vital.
In that one simple gesture, they say all the perfectionist in me has ever hoped to hear,
“Mom you are enough. You are so much more than enough.”