Tag Archives: therapy

Mommy Guilt

Is it seriously almost July?? On some days summer seems to be flying by,IMG_8624 but on others…you know those “I’m SO Bored” days, it is as if the second hand on my watch is taking 60 hours to circle. At the beginning of June I challenged myself to a New Summer Attitude. One filled with appreciating each moment and being truly present to my children, rather than my normal, “When are these kids going back to school?” attitude. But in this quest for a new attitude I have discovered one issue that is sucking the life out of me…Mommy Guilt.

As I’m cleaning the kitchen after breakfast the inner voice starts, “Clean up later, play with your kids now!” So I do, then the voice says, “This playing is great, but Katie needs to be working on communication!” So I switch gears, then the voice responds to my son complaining that I never play with him, “You don’t, bless his heart, that poor 3rd child! Oh and by the way, your house is a wreck, there are still breakfast dishes in the sink!” Then the cycle starts back at the beginning and continues all day long with me never accomplishing anything. Nothing I do is ever enough for ME!

IMG_8646I have an image of what a “good” mom is supposed to be, she’s featured in those Mother’s Day Hallmark commercials. She is patient 24/7 and NEVER yells at her kids, her home always looks as if her entire extended family is coming over, she always has healthy meals and would never think about using spray sunscreen. And guess what? On most days I feel the polar opposite of this mom, because my life is not “normal”.

Instead my oldest daughter is tube fed manufactured formula and many of our summer days are spent at the doctor’s office or therapy rather than licking popsicles in a hammock. I often think, I’d be a better mom if my life was “normal”. The guilt is intensified by Katie’s impairments. I know in my heart there is a neurological reason she can’t talk or walk independently, but I often wonder why I can’t fix it all by pushing harder. I ask myself, if she had a different mother would she be doing more in life. That inner voice is exhausting!!

So I pray, and recall a conversation I had with my priest a few years back (because yes, my mommy guilt is an ongoing issue). I asked him if guilt is from God or if it is just made up in my head. He said you truly have to look at the cause, guilt can actually be a grace from God when we are doing something wrong. But feeling guilty because you don’t live up to an image you set for yourself (hello, Hallmark commercial) comes from your ego…WHAT? He said when you are focusing on an image of perfection you are too focused on what you appear to be and that leads to false guilt.

We were each made in the likeness of God so when we set unreasonable goals and then beat ourselves up for not obtaining them it is like a slap in Gods face. It is the same as saying God you messed up, I’m no good. But He never messes up! The false guilt stills my joy, it constantly distracts me from living in the moment and enjoying my perfectly not so normal life. I’m too busy thinking about what I SHOULD be doing.

I don’t think I’m alone in my mommy guilt, I recently saw a video of moms watching their kids on camera talk about why they loved them. Each mom sobbed in disbelief, they couldn’t believe the special moments and attributes the kids were describing. If I could only see myself through my children’s eyes. Every day is dedicated to them, I am the only mommy they will ever have and in their tiny world I am the center.IMG_8589 If Katie could speak I know she would say you are doing enough Mommy, you love me and that is more than enough.

As I strive for this New Summer Attitude I have to also look through Gods forgiving eyes. He does not have unreasonable expectations, He simply wants me to get up every day and LOVE. It is that plain and simple! It is okay if Legos line my stairs and my kids eat an occasional Oreo, as long as live for Him. As long as I never take one moment for granted and stop “guilting” my life away.

Great Expectations

Will Katie ever walk independently? Will she ever talk? Will she ever know how to spell her name? Will she ever eat a hamburger? These questions have crossed my mind a time or two over the past 10 years. The answers are just not known by us on this earth. I’ve never been told by any therapist or doctor that Katie will never do whatever it is that we are discussing. Which would sound like great news, but it creates an inner struggle that has consumed me most of Katie’s life. What to expect of her and what to accept she will never do.

Katie has an impairment in most every aspect of her life. She has always qualified for physical, occupational, speech and even vision therapy. That is a lot to keep up with at home. For the first 4 years of her life we pushed her hard. When we were at home I had a schedule and it included lots of therapy. I made it as fun as I could, making games out of our goals, but it was hard work for both of us. And that quickly became exhausting and disappointing. It was an emotional rollercoaster because we worked so hard with little progress. Don’t get me wrong she did succeed at a lot of things, but I always wanted more. I wanted her to understand what I was saying, to turn the pages of a book, to take a step independently, to feed herself, to look at me when I entered the room and so much more.

image (22)Then came Lexi, I didn’t have as much time to do therapy all day and quite frankly I was tired of doing it so we took a break. We continued therapy outside of the home and I still did some home therapy, but not nearly what I was doing before. I justified it by saying it’s time to accept a few things in life. I told myself she is never going to do a lot of the things I had in my head and I took the easy way out. Then about 3 years later it hit me like a ton of bricks, “What am I doing?” NOTHING. Was the answer and I felt tremendous guilt. If we had continued with intense home therapy would she be able to walk, talk or what else?

So we started working hard again and it paid off, now 3 years after that wake-up call Katie is doing some really exciting things. imageShe knows her colors, some of the letters in her name and she nods her head “yes” and shakes her head “no” more and more every day. We are also working with a communication device to give her choices in life. Beautiful progress!

This scenario made me think of my own faith journey. What am I expecting of myself? How often do I hold myself to God’s standard? What am I accepting? How often do I say, “Oh well, I’m human I’m going to sin. As long as I ask for forgiveness, it’s okay.”

“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

My relationship with God is a process that never ends. When I become complacent, like I was with Katie’s therapy, I stop growing, stop progressing, just as she had. God wants me in constant motion moving toward Him, constantly learning more, striving to be better than I was yesterday. This comes from keeping my eyes on Him at all times. Taking time each day to learn more, to study the Bible and the teachings of the Church. It also comes from taking my focus off of myself and learning from the people that God has purposely put in front of me. Paying attention to what my friends, my priest and even the bank teller has to say, because God put these people in front of me for a reason, what can I learn from them?

So what does God mean when He says, “be perfect” in Matthew’s gospel? I think it means making a goal every day to not sin, I fall short, but if I never strive for perfection I will surely never succeed. And since I fall short I try to sit down on a regular basis and examine my conscience. I try to do this with a pen and paper. Where am I messing up? What are my weaknesses and how can I work to do better? This is the beauty of confession in the Catholic Church. Examining my life and saying my sins out loud to another human being is quite humbling and it really makes me stop and think. I’m far from perfect, and I often end up with the same shortcomings over and over again. But when I’m going to confession those shortcomings are on my mind and I consciously try to fix them.

So if God forgives us for our sins, if we only ask then why strive for perfection in this life? Because it is what God has asked of us. Reverend Ray Ryland says, “perfection means to realize fully your purpose on this earth.image (23) To strive to develop your unique potential under God to the fullest.” In other words be the very best me I can be. And always push Katie because she will continue to surprise us with her incredible abilities.

“Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-25

I really want to know what you think. Please share a comment on what you have learned about striving for perfection in your own faith journey. I would love to learn more from you.

Hitting Rock Bottom!

Complete devastation is the best way to describe my emotions. What did I do wrong? If we had waited to have a baby, maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Did the diet coke I occasionally drank do this? Did I take the wrong prenatal vitamins? Why ME??? Since I carried her in my tummy I felt like I was to blame, something must be wrong with my genes. I felt guilty and wanted answers. Why and How are questions we often ask and I can say over time you do see glimpses of the answers. “I chose you because you were the lucky one, this is how she was meant to be for a very specific purpose on this earth” those are the answers I know now, but in the midst of grief I couldn’t hear that.

After the initial shock I got angry. How could God do this to me? I felt like I had lost my child. I was grieving for the loss of the perfect baby I had pictured in my arms since I was 10 years old. The baby girl I would pretend that my doll was as a child. I can’t imagine losing a baby, so I certainly don’t mean to minimize that. I look back and realize I was lucky to have her, but at the time I didn’t feel lucky.

Katie couldn’t nurse, so I pumped and gave her bottles (which was a nightmare because apparently my milk ducts were not down with that). At first, when we would give her a bottle she would suck and scream, we didn’t know why, I felt helpless. The one thing we do as mommies is feed our babies. I would sit in the rocking chair and beg God, “please let her take the bottle this time”. But she wouldn’t, she couldn’t, then I’d say, “how cruel you are God, you put this child on earth without the most basic ability”. My anger grew deep.

It is very difficult for me to talk about this anger towards God…I love Him so much now, I feel tremendous guilt! At the time I couldn’t see the gifts he was giving me, like the Occupational Therapist who helped us feed her. She told us Katie had an uncoordinated suck, swallow, breath pattern…translation…she was choking on the milk with every bottle (talk about Mom of the year). She taught us a technique to feed her and it went much better, but still I couldn’t hold her in my arms to feed her like a mom does with a typical newborn. And Katie cried ALOT! image Probably 60% of her waking hours and those waking hours were always at night, from about 9pm-5am. Andy and I took turns on night shift because I was still working in radio early mornings.  Between sleep deprivation and the helplessness you feel when you can’t soothe your babies cry, I think we were absolutely losing our minds, it was a very dark time.

Simple trips to the store were challenging because she hated riding in the car and spit up (that’s the nice baby term for projectile vomit) all the time. And the stares, I hate admitting this now, but I really struggled with worrying about what other people thought. That is one thing Katie has taught me…who cares!! But I remember one time going into a store and one of the workers said,”oh, your baby looks drunk” (Really, thanks, that’s the look I was going for). So I mostly avoided going out and became pretty isolated.

This is when I hit rock bottom. I was so mad, I would literally scream at God, it was in a very dark place. My precious, faithful mom kept saying just pray and it just made me madder. I felt so abandoned, I was begging God for help…not healing just help her take her bottle, stop crying, stop throwing up everything she ate, but it all continued. I pretty much stopped going to church, because I didn’t feel comfortable putting her in the nursery and she cried the whole time. image (1)We had her baptized, but rather than seeing God’s beauty I just got mad because she cried during the ceremony. I would never talk about this anger towards God if I didn’t hope it would help someone. This is so raw and difficult for me to write, but if one person feels a fraction of this anger right now, I want you to know it will pass. I talked to a priest and a counselor, but getting out of the depths of this was so much bigger. It was truly a process. I can’t say that this was the only difficult time I have had, but it was the hardest to get out of, because I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. All I saw was doom and gloom.

But it was time to put my big girl panties on and be her mother. I wish it were that easy, but I did have to put my emotions aside because I loved her and she needed so much. To be honest that is what got me out of bed everyday. We spent most of our time doing therapy, therapy and more therapy. Physical, Speech, Occupational, Vision, Swimming and more. There was progress, she sat up around 9 months,image (2) began to crawl around 2 years old, she learned a few sign language signs. I can remember our routine, she was my only child and I had quit work by this time so it was ALL about her needs. The Early Intervention therapists would come into our home and do therapy with us, they were literally angels that gave me so much hope. I know several of you are reading this right now…I hope you know that you were a major contributor to getting me out of that dark place. I could see a glimmer of hope. I was slowly starting to find my way.

Besides all of our therapy appointments Katie had at least 4 full sessions a day with me at home. I was pushing her so hard. I began to battle with the guilt, I have to be doing therapy all the time. The battle surrounded two things, what to expect and what to accept. We still had no diagnosis so we had no idea what her full potential could be. Not that a diagnosis tells you that, but you at least have a guideline of what others are doing. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis guilt continues today, I think it will continue until the day I die. I want to always do the very best for her, help her do all the things God has planned for her. But does that mean working her hard everyday,  all day or just loving her and making sure she knows God. I now know it’s all about balance. But finding this balance is not easy for any parent.

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Things were getting better, by now Katie smiled and laughed…oh that laugh…it was so contagious. I loved her so much. God had begun to show me (I began to listen) that life was no longer about me, I had a job to do and I was accepting the challenge.image (4)