All these years later, I still think about what kind of mother I used to be. It took me three years to become a real one after the birth of my daughter. Motherhood is much harder than most will tell you or admit to. I couldn’t understand why people said that it was so worth it. I was 32, broke, divorced, my small business in shambles, and the fight for
my own survival made being a good mother very difficult. I loved my daughter, of course. Gina was sweet and feisty, a natural performer who liked to sing and dance around the apartment.
There was no space to unwind and not one moment of my day was idle from the time I woke up to when I collapsed into bed. I buckled under the responsibility and had little to no fun. I was a single parent with no family nearby that could help me out. I had to be on all the time. Gina had a habit of following me everywhere, to the bathroom, kitchen, always marching right behind me. After I put her to bed, she got up time after time and peeked through the door. Again and again I picked her up, put her back in bed, often holding her closely in my arms until she surrendered and fell asleep. Often I did, too.
It was exhausting and Gina was my little “Klingon,” the Star Trek race so named, I was convinced, by frustrated mothers trying to get some work done. Motherhood felt so overrated and it appeared that to do it right you had to give yourself up entirely.
I wanted to be out with girlfriends, drinking wine, dancing, and perhaps commiserating about our ex’s, but that’s just it. I had no girlfriends then. Painful wounds from my childhood made me feel that I had no safe place or person I could trust.
From all the stress I developed IBS, a chronic digestive condition that made leaving the house unpredictable, adding to my insecurities and despair.
My spiritual practice was the one thing that kept me going. One night, after a particularly hard day, I was sitting on my bed doing my automatic writing that I learned from the book Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch.
I asked a simple question:
Why won’t Gina leave me alone for one moment?
The answer came instantly: Because you are in no shape to be left alone for one moment. So I have sent you an angel to watch over you and make sure you can make it through this.
I shook. I sobbed. It felt as if someone touched my heart in a way it never had been. A flood of regret swept over me as I saw the truth. I had projected my misery on my daughter, whereas this beautiful little girl, so pure and enlightened, intuitively sensed that she had to watch out for her mama. A three year old had become the protector of a discouraged woman feeling sorry for herself.
That was the night I became a mother. A real one.
From that day on I understood how it worked. I took responsibility for my stuff and made sure I supported Gina properly, not the other way around. I had failed before at that and now I was going to get it right. Three months later, Gina stopped breathing one evening after days of coughing. A frantic trip to the ER confirmed that she had developed asthma. The message was clear to me. The pressure on her to look after me had literally taken her breath away. I prayed like never before and took care of my little girl, assuring her that no matter what I would always be there for her like a mother should.
Gina grew out of her asthma and hasn’t had any breathing problems since. Today, she is 20, beautiful and talented and probably headed for the stage. We are extremely close and I eagerly count the days, then the hours, before her visits during college breaks. I am proud of her beyond words.
And did I mention that motherhood is so worth it?