I am terrible about going to doctors. I'm not afraid of them -- I just don't go. This week, I had to. Jack had strep throat that took two antibiotics to get rid of; I have a sore throat and I don't want him to get strep again. My regular doctor was out of the office, which meant I saw the nurse practitioner. He had blue eyes. He asked me about my recent exams. I wanted to be honest with those blue eyes.
Him: Have you had a recent mammogram?
Him, staring: Physical?
Him, staring meaningfully: OB-GYN visit?
Him, staring intensely.
I had the Clint Eastwood of nurse practitioners. Yes, I felt guilty, but I was annoyed. I mean, I have A LOT GOING ON HERE! I'M JUGGLING LIKE MAD. Just give me a prescription and let me outta here, you and your beautiful eyes.
I know I need check-ups. I understand the oxygen mask concept -- getting me taken care of so I'm healthy, re-energized and ready to be a better parent -- and I believe it. I don't actually do it because I have other things that drive me.
Like shame. The voice in my head tells me what a bad job I'm doing -- and I'm doing a bad job at just about everything. Those dust bunnies -- why haven't you vacuumed yet? You forgot to order Jack's glasses -- for the fourth day in a row -- when are you going to take care of that? You didn't change the cat litter and you just got in bed -- what were you thinking? Whatever makes me feel the worst is what gets done. I am never doing enough. I will never get it all done. I will never catch up with what is a perfect parent, a perfect wife, a perfect woman.
When I went through infertility, that voice told me I was a failure as a woman. In my head, being a woman was about being attractive, fertile, pregnant, giving birth, breastfeeding. And not just doing those things, but doing those things easily. Naturally. With no effort. Anything else meant I was a failure as a woman. When my baby was born severely ill, when I couldn't produce enough breast milk, when he was diagnosed with autism, the voice shouted, "I TOLD YOU SO. A REAL mother gets pregnant easily, gives birth naturally, breastfeeds exclusively, and has healthy, happy babies." My genetics, my womb, my body, my diet, my stress -- I did something wrong.
Autism advice feeds that voice. If you did this therapy, your child wouldn't be having so many problems. If you took this supplement, he wouldn't sleep so badly. If you just put your foot down, he'd behave better. Everything I hear about autism, the voice uses against me. It tells me that I am the reason for my child's challenges. It tells me that when my child doesn't achieve something, when he doesn't meet a goal, it's my fault. Which means I can never do enough.
I still hear that voice. I know you do, too. I know you are a whirlwind of activity to prove that you are a good mother.
Here's what you need to know: You are already a good mother. You already are. Infertility, breastfeeding problems, autism, learning difficulties, teen rebellion -- these things happen. They just happen. We didn't cause them. We don't have control over them. The fact that our children need supports or that we need support doesn't take away from our worth as mothers. We are worthy because we are there every day with love, hope and faith. We love. We laugh. We encourage. Even though we don't know what the future holds. We mother in spite of that uncertainty.
Our mothering is courageous. Our mothering is more than birth, breastfeeding, autism or therapy. It's as big as our hearts. And that is enough.