If my life plan were a highway, I would find it on a map winding through places that I never imagined it would go. All of the road signs would be in a different language except for the one that says “detour” and my journey into motherhood would begin where the shading indicates difficult terrain. Although I have not traveled this highway to its end, the following lessons I have learned should make the rest of the trip a little less treacherous.
While these lessons applied to a specific journey of mine, they also apply to any change of life plans in which you find yourself feeling derailed, out of sorts, angry, sad, or just plain confused.
1. Don’t succumb to other people’s negativity.
I became a mother on August 30, 2015, four weeks before my due date and about six weeks before the day that everyone predicted I would go into labor. (The first one is always late, they said.) I was excited to share the news of our newborn daughter’s arrival, particularly because her gender, in addition to her entrance, was a surprise.
However, amidst the congratulations came questions of wonderment such as “what was wrong with you?” and “what was wrong with the baby?” In the following days, my joy turned to shame. I wanted to scream “my baby is perfectly fine” at the top of my lungs or publish it on the front page of every single American newspaper. The general public’s perception that something had to be wrong continually ate away at me until I learned to negate it with positive thoughts about my baby and my own self. Developing a positive mindset helped me gain the emotional strength and confidence that I needed as a mother. It is important to be strong on the inside so that outside forces do not cave you in.
2. Respect your privacy.
Fifteen months after the birth of my first premature child, I miscarried my would-have-been second born. It had been a teacher’s “perfect” pregnancy with a due date of June 26 and an opportunity to welcome a child on the birthday of a very special person that I used to know. Fearing that people would ask what was wrong with me again, I kept the news to myself and only shared it with a few close friends and family that I knew would be supportive.
The socially-connected world that we live in is not always conducive to the healthy sequence of events that it takes to heal. It is not a requirement to share our trials and tribulations with everyone that we know right away. I can talk about it freely now because I allowed myself the patience and privacy to overcome it.
3. Identify your support network.
I was rattled with anxiety when I got pregnant four weeks after the miscarriage so I scheduled an early doctor’s appointment to confirm a heartbeat. Guess what? There were two! I went home and walked around in shock for 48 hours. I could only think of the minivan that I would have to buy, introducing more premature babies to the world, my salary that wouldn’t cover daycare costs, etc.
Since I didn’t have family in a 215-mile radius, I decided to write down the names of people that I could call upon for help and reference it in times of desperation. I identified people, near and far, who could help with babysitting or just provide adult company and words of encouragement. When I felt alone, I could look at the list and see that I was not. As I began to ask for help, I was happy to spread out my requests over an array of people so that I did not exhaust one person’s helping hands.
4. Go through it.
I had been anxious about the birth of the babies (whose genders were unknown) since the moment I had learned there were two heartbeats. Their first year of life was bound to be chaotic for all who were involved! I anticipated having approximately 12 hours from the onset of labor to do some last-minute mental preparation. It was twelve days before my daughter’s second birthday when a familiar pain woke me up from an afternoon nap. Two hours later, I was en route to the hospital in Friday night rush hour traffic.
Within minutes of arriving at the hospital, I gave birth to the first twin, a girl, before the hospital staff could even check my ID or insert an IV. Feeling he had room to stretch out, the second twin flipped around to a breech position which resulted in an emergency c-section. I could the hear the words of a doctor I’d consulted saying that this “never” happens. Yet, it was happening, and there was nothing I could do to change it. Sometimes the only thing we can do to get out of a situation is to just go through it.
5. Cast off judgment.
Here I am today, a stay-at-home mom and minivan driver raising three children who are 24 months apart. Everywhere I go, people stop and stare. I often get questions and comments on how I have my hands full! I enjoy talking to the people who cheer me on, compliment me on my composure, or give me helpful advice. I have learned to dismiss negative reactions and judgments. After all, I am doing the best I can with what I have. That is all that matters.