On this day, two years ago, I was waddling around the mall with my husband and mother. Doctor’s orders. He told me to walk thirty minutes every day, but the plantar fasciitis ravaging my tired feet made it nearly impossible.
Still, I tried.
I was on Week 40 of a rough pregnancy and desperately needed this baby to come out. My mother was only in the country for three weeks and my husband was slated to begin his new job in three days.
Timing was critical. And urgent.
I remember eating at Buca di Beppo and playfully encouraging my daughter to start making her way. Later that night, around 1 AM, she did.
My mother whisked us away to hospital, where my water conveniently broke all over the sidewalk. Go time. Or at least, that’s what I thought.
Seventeen long hours later, I was holding this tiny, six pound, baby girl on my chest while my mother tearfully cheered from behind the curtain.
I know you’re supposed to say that you were instantly in love, but honestly it was one of the most confusing, frightening moments of my life.
Sh*t gets real…
Unfortunately, within a few minutes of holding her, complications arose (for me, not her) and the rest of the night is a blur.
I know I had an allergic reaction to medication one of the midwives put into my IV, that I was incoherent for the next five hours, and nearly landed myself in the ICU.
Even though it’s absurd to feel this way, I still get a twinge of regret for being unavailable to her in the first hours of her life.
After a failed trip home, I was readmitted to the hospital and had to stay for a procedure while my mom tended to my baby girl at home. Meanwhile my equally overwhelmed husband traveled two hours each way to his new job and tried to make heads or tails of this new life we found ourselves in.
It was a lot. For everyone.
Growing pains of being a new mom…
The weeks and months that followed were a firestorm of doctor’s visits, sleep deprivation, isolation, and tears – hers and mine.
If I’m honest, I wasn’t always sure I’d make it.
Tomorrow is my daughter’s second birthday.
Two years since she made me a mom and changed my life.
I was about three weeks sober when I found out she was the reason I couldn’t keep food down or get a handle on my moods. I have no idea what my sobriety would’ve been like had I not been pregnant, if I’d have been as successful.
Sharing your body with another living being changes the way you treat it.
At least, it did for me.
She was everything…
There was no level of craving a cigarette or drink that was strong enough to surpass my innate desire to protect her. So in many ways, she saved me.
Being her mother has taught me how to be selfless.
Like most people who abuse alcohol, I was self-absorbed. The volume of my pain was so loud that I struggled to exist beyond it.
Two years ago, that changed.
Being a mother has taught me how to put another person’s needs ahead of my own. To love and care for something beyond myself without expecting anything in return (except maybe a decent night’s sleep).
Loving her has taught me patience, something I continuously work on. And humility. There are days when despite our best efforts, we fall a little short.
Being a parent is understanding that you cannot plan or control everything. Go ahead and try. See what happens.
There are things in this life that you just have to let be.
Your kid is going to have a poopy blowout at the most inopportune time. She’s going to throw the food you just made her on the floor. She will cry for no reason.
There will be days when you don’t feel well, but you still have to cook dinner. Your pot has started to boil and she’s climbing on top of the couch, threatening to jump, while the doorbell rings for delivery and you have to manage it all without losing it.
She needs you strong, and she’s watching to see what you will do.
Any time I’ve caught myself wondering about drinking again, I think about what it would be like to look at my daughter while I’m boisterous and wobbly. To pick her up when I’m unsteady or see her watching me light a cigarette.
I think about what kind of mother I’d be hungover. How short my fuse would get. The ways I’d try to pawn her off to the television or iPad so I could nurse myself back to functioning.
I think about what it would feel like to remember that I had done that to her a day or two after the hangover passed.
It turns my stomach.
My sobriety is for me, but it’s my gift to her as well.
She deserves a mother who doesn’t drink. She deserves a mother who is emotionally available and not constantly wrestling with decisions about drinking – how much, how often, to what end.
There is a lot that I get wrong, but this isn’t one of them.
I have no idea if I’m setting boundaries correctly for her, teaching her the right things, or understanding her developmental needs properly.
But I do know that I’m not drinking again. And whereas she will never have a perfect mother, she will always have a sober one.
I’m sure I will let her down, but it will never be because I was drunk or hungover.
Motherhood transformed me.
Loving my daughter taught me how to love myself. And I don’t mean that in the hearts and puppies sense of the word (though that’s part of it).
I mean love in its most naked form.
The kind of love that sticks around on days you want to tear your hair out. Love that is not diminished by meltdowns or missed opportunities. The kind of love that makes you instinctively know if there’s a sharp corner in a room within seconds of arriving.
Loving my daughter through some of her most unlovable moments has taught me how to do the same for myself.
And that kind of love is the foundation of my sobriety.
We are growing up together, my daughter and I.
She is learning who she is, and so am I. She’s shaping her world, and so am I. She is fearless (maybe to a fault), and I am learning to be.
Even when I fall short (which is often), I don’t allow myself the luxury of falling to pieces. Where would I find the time?
Tomorrow I get to celebrate my baby girl a little extra.
I’ll run around after her and let her chase me back, her tiny voice promising, “I get you!” I’ll let her capture me. Her giggles and joyful squeals will be my soundtrack.
We’ll get gussied up for dinner with daddy and friends, maybe let the servers sing Happy Birthday and wear silly hats.
Later on in the week, we’ll happily subject ourselves to Pink Fong’s Baby Shark The Live Musical because she loves it and watching her dance and giggle is a better high than any drink or drug.
And I will be awash with gratitude for this beautifully wild life she has given me.
Happy birthday to my moon baby. Mama loves you.