My introduction to motherhood wasn’t like most peoples. When my baby was nine days old I was told I was going to lose her. I had only just become a mummy, our journey together had just begun and I was being told that I should prepare myself for the worst possible nightmare as a parent. You see when DeeDee was nine days old she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain stem tumour. It was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before and so no one could offer any kind of treatment, nor any kind of hope.
We spent the first six months of her life in hospital discussing the best way to manage her condition. There were many times we didn’t think we would be bringing our baby home as we were ferried between paediatric intensive care, high dependency unit and the children’s neurology wards. We experienced things that will forever stay with me and saw things I would never wish for anyone to see. I still remember the first child I saw loose her fight for life, a little girl called Kyra who had been brought in with meningitis, the speed with which it ravaged her little body was horrific and her mother’s voice will haunt me until I draw my last breath. She may have been the first but she wasn’t the last as child after child lost their fight whist we sat by Dee’s bed unable to do anything. I saw mama’s hearts breaking one after another, saw it and heard it. Because I can tell you when a mother’s heart breaks it is audible and it is a sound like no other. This experience shaped me as a mother and has dictated many of my parenting choices the last seven years.
When Dee was six months old she was able to be discharged on palliative care, with a “Wishes and Choices” form filled in, sounds lovely doesn’t it? It is actually a list of your wishes and choices for if/when the worst happens. And a personal resuscitation plan was put in place, a little scrap of paper that I have carried with me everywhere for the last seven years, it informs the medical professionals who treat her in an emergency what our wishes are with regards to resuscitation should we not be able to bring her back ourselves, which we do around seven or eight times a day on average.
Dee’s condition makes her very unstable and means that the likelihood of us having any warning as to when we will lose her is quite slim. The odds are one minute she will be here and the next she will be gone. Which leads me, eventually, to the purpose of this particular blog post.
After speaking to a variety of mothers over the years I have come to realise that we all have one thing in common, the fact that we put our children’s, and often our partner’s, parent’s, friend’s and the dog/cat/goldfish’s needs before our own. Being selfish isn’t in the nature of a Mama and is something you very much have to learn. Some Mamas learn early on how important it is and others take a little longer, I definitely fall into the little longer category.
It has taken me seven years to get to a stage where I am completely and utterly burnt out, seven years of putting the wants, needs and wishes of everyone else above my own. Being a special needs Mum is hard work, being a special needs Mum who is terrified of leaving her child to go off and do something, selfishly, for herself is even harder. “what if” the worst happens and I wasn’t there because I wanted to get my hair done/work on my fitness/spend time with friends is a hurdle that I personally have found very hard to overcome. I have lost friend after friend over the years, and who can blame them, I mean if I don’t have time for me, how can I find time for them? How can I expect them to stick around? And believe me when I say I know people have good intentions but they get bored, bored of the drama, bored of the waiting, they just get bored and they move on and each time they do they take a little more of the me I thought I was with them.
I recently got to the point where I felt that it was time to make a choice, sink or swim. Start learning to be selfish or drown. I have lost so much of myself over the past seven years. I barely remember who I was before becoming “Mama”, to be honest I also barely even know who I am since. I know I am “Mama” mama to four amazing, beautiful, funny, brave and wonderful children but above and beyond that? I honestly have no idea! And I need to know, I need to know who I am so that I can be the mother they deserve. I need to show my beautiful children that it’s ok to be selfish. I need to be healthy and happy for them as much as for me. I need to learn to walk away so that I can walk back, with a smile on my face. So that I can see me when I look in the mirror, not just “Mama” but me and a me I at least like if not love (let’s start small) See me because I got my hair done, went for a swim, had cocktails with friends. I need to remember how to be me so that I can be the best Mama possible, because they deserve the best version of me and by denying myself constantly I am nowhere near.
So, writing this blog for me, is the start of learning to be selfish, taking some time to do something that is purely and simply for me. It is an odd concept and one that, I’ll be honest, will take a little getting used to because seven years of putting myself last is a long time, a tough habit to break.
I decided that I would take a couple of hours away from the house, alone, each week to blog. Time without children climbing on me and asking, “Mama can you just…..” Time to just sit and think, type and plan.
Silencing that voice screaming “what if…” whilst still putting one foot in front of the other every time I walk out of the door is the hardest thing I have had to do. But do it I will because I have realised I owe it to my children, I owe it to my amazing husband but most of all I owe it to myself, so here I am writing this blog and sitting alone…… with no children. It is a small step, a tiny one in fact but one that, nevertheless, has been a huge hurdle for me. So, when the waiter asked, “will there be anyone else ordering to this table” and I replied “no, just me” I felt a slither of excitement, of pride and emotion that I didn’t expect or anticipate, a feeling I haven’t felt for a long time but by silencing the guilt and learning to be selfish I am looking forward to learning to feel again.
I want to end with a huge thank you for joining me on this journey, I appreciate each view I get. It validates my selfish journey and makes it feel worthwhile.
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