DETOURS ON THE ROAD TO MOTHERHOOD
Written by: Ali A.
“Mommy! Mommy!” Growing up as a little girl I never really visualized myself as a mom. Of course I used to nurture my collection of dolls and spend time holding my little cousins as only a four-year-old “mother” could do. But honestly, I didn’t start thinking of starting a family until three years into my marriage at the age of 28.
As soon as you say, “I do,” you’re usually bombarded with the questions…”so when are you going to have kids/when are you going to start a family (or some iteration of these questions). Because my husband and I dated long distance for four years after meeting at a summer science internship (and never lived in the same state, let alone same city or house until five months after I became Mrs. Anderson), we were in NO RUSH to start a family. We vowed to each other during many of our long distance conversations that we would delay welcoming children into our family so we could just for once focus on ourselves, the dynamic duo.
Fast forward three years after our initial nuptials and we were finally ready to begin growing our family into an official trio. We got pregnant in no time. I never knew motherhood was what I even wanted or needed until I saw the 7-week flicker of my tiny bean’s heart. I instantly fell in love. At that very moment my mama bear instincts kicked in. August 25, 2015 is the day I officially became a mommy (to be). For the next seven months I gleefully and blissfully planned for the new arrival of my bouncing baby boy, until Friday, January 15, 2016 (a day I will never forget), I went in for a routine ultrasound of my 28-week old son only to be completely railroaded when the doctor said “your baby no longer has a heartbeat.” Seven dreaded words no parent/mother wants to ever hear. This was my first introduction to motherhood! All the excitement, anticipation, bliss, joy etc. was snatched away in a matter of seconds, just when I was beginning to finally visualize myself as a mommy. My excitement turned to terror, my joy turned into devastation.
My son DJ aka Derrek Anderson Jr. was born still at 6:48AM Monday, January 18, 2016 weighing only 1.5lbs. While he was born still, he was still angelic. This moment is when I realized that the passage into motherhood was not always straight. I initially thought that you decide you want to have a baby, then you are intimate, you get pregnant, and 9 months later you have a baby. But life is not always so linear. I learned that motherhood didn’t come in one package wrapped in a bow.
My first-born son now dwelled in heaven and I was the mom with the baby who could not be seen or held, the mom who had to say hello and goodbye in the same day. Through lots of grieving, prayer, therapy, acknowledging of feelings, journaling, support from family and friends, and sharing my story of baby loss, I was able to bounce back and heal. While my first pregnancy and the road to motherhood was not what I envisioned, it taught me an array of life lessons and left me with precious memories no one could take away. I will cherish DJ’s life and the lessons he taught me forever.
Even though my second pregnancy came with its own set of challenges and setbacks it had a much happier ending. Six months after birthing my angel baby DJ I got pregnant with my rainbow baby Grayson. The first half of my pregnancy was riddled with anxiety, waiting for the shoe to drop, bracing myself with the possibility that I could lose my growing baby at the drop of a dime. With so many feelings and emotions, on top of the big void in my heart, and anger I had to start over again, I didn’t really want to get fully attached to Grayson because at any moment his heart could’ve stopped beating. Unfortunately, this is the conundrum many grieving parents find themselves in after loss, toiling on a tight rope between hope and excitement and dread and fear of an all too familiar loss. Then one day (half way through my pregnancy) I decided enough was enough and I began to be intentional about my mindset and became more attached and invested in my son. The pregnancy went on without a hitch until my water broke six weeks early at 34 weeks’ gestation.
Again, I was faced with another unplanned glitch in my pregnancy plan and detour on my voyage into motherhood. I labored with Grayson about nine hours but the void and pain, anxiety of the uncertainty, and even the surprise of his early arrival all were washed away when I held Grayson in my arms for the very first time. To see his little body and handsome face…a real baby that I created…was a magical moment! But I was soon brought back to reality.
You see, I had a birth plan in place that I wanted to implement once Grayson arrived. I wanted to do skin-to-skin right away, I wanted him to nurse within the first hour of his arrival, and I wanted to have family bonding time with just the three of us. Sadly, in true unpredictable fashion none of this took place, because Grayson was born six weeks early. He hadn’t fully developed his lungs properly, so his little 5lb 5oz body was laboring to breathe. After delivery and holding him briefly, they rushed him to the NICU and my second act of motherhood was underway.
Grayson ultimately spent a week in the NICU. It does something to you when you see your helpless baby strapped to a gaggle of monitors and chords. But somehow we made it through our NICU stay fairly unscathed.
They say if you want to see God laugh, show Him your plans. He must’ve had a hearty belly laugh looking at my plans surrounding motherhood, because it was nothing like I envisioned. Yet it is everything I’ve ever hoped for. To lose your firstborn son 12 weeks before his due date, then to turn around and have a rainbow baby a year later born six weeks early spending a stretch in the NICU is a bit overwhelming and draining mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually etc. But despite it all, I’m still here.
Looking back on my journey up to this point I see how God used my loss, as a springboard for my purpose. I see how Grayson restored faith, hope, and love back into our family dynamic. And now as a stay-at-home mom to a busy intelligent two and a half – year old I see how God has provided for our family so that I can spend my days with my greatest blessing.
There is no “one size fits all” method to motherhood and there is no one-way to get to the title of mommy. You may be a mom of loss whose children dwell in the heavenly realm with no other subsequent children. You may be a rainbow mama tiptoeing the line of grief and gratefulness as your heart mourns the loss of one child while gratefully tending for the others. You may be a mom of multiples tirelessly giving of yourself so all of your children have their needs and wants met, or a mom who chose surrogacy, rounds of IVF, or IUI to bring your child into this world. You may even be a mom who has chosen the extensive process of adoption. No matter your journey to motherhood your excursion is validated and your experience is celebrated. Pat yourself on the back for staying the course and “running” in your own lane in this race called motherhood. I salute you mama!
Repeat this affirmation in the mirror daily:
“ I am a great mama!”
“I am doing my absolute best and conquering this mommy thing.”
“I am raising (amazing) tiny humans who will grow up and do sensational things.”
“I am attentive to the needs and wants of my spouse/partner and children, but most of all, I set time aside to celebrate and pour into myself, so that I can pour into others.”