I always wanted to be a mother. For as long as I can remember, I had a desire to have children. I think my motives were based off of my thoughts and feelings towards my own mother, and wanting to prove to myself I was nothing like her. Today I have a better understanding of my mom and her disease of alcoholism, but as a kid I only knew she wasn’t there.
My parents divorced when I was two and my father was granted full custody of me. Knowing what I know now about alcoholism, this probably came as a welcomed freedom to my mother. Without having a child to care for, she was free to do what ever she wanted, and did. No one ever tried to explain, and I never questioned why my mother wasn’t around, but I had deep feelings of abandonment around it. In my mind, she had made a choice to leave me, without any explanation or reasoning. Part of me felt responsible in some way, like I wasn’t what she wanted or wasn’t good enough for her. I lived with these feelings for years, and decided that when I grew up I would be the best mom in the world. I would be nothing like her.
Having a child to prove your self-worth is not the best reason to have a child. When I became pregnant, I was about 6 months sober and really felt that the pregnancy and child could help save my life. I still feel that way today – and so far, he has. I was blessed to have had a little bit of recovery before getting pregnant. In the 6 months I had been sober, my thoughts and desires began shifting from selfish, self-harming things to improving and enjoying the life I had been given. I felt having a child was an opportunity to fulfill the dreams I had given up on in my addiction, and to begin living a life I had always dreamed of.
I wasn’t naive in the challenges that laid ahead – I had lived with women who had small children while in treatment, and knew that having a baby was not all cuddles and smiles. The difficulties would be there, and I had a program of recovery I needed to rely on. I am extremely grateful for the men and women in recovery who have helped me through my journey of motherhood – who let me vent my frustrations and fears without judgement or criticism. They have helped me keep my sanity, and realize that I am not the only one who has gone through or felt the things I have.
As most mothers will say, words cannot describe the emotions I felt the day my son was born. I had been anticipating this beautiful little gift from God for months and could finally put a face to the love I had been carrying in my heart. That day I not only reaffirmed my commitment to my recovery program, but I committed to caring for another life – not only to keep him alive (which seemed like a tall order), but to raise him into a smart, strong, kind, and loving human being. So far, the keeping him alive part seems to be the easiest.
As an infant, my son was wonderful. He was curious, interactive, quiet – everyone commented on what a good baby he was. I took him with me pretty much everywhere – including meetings. He was a complete joy to be around, and I was bursting with love and pride. I was able to maintain my regular meeting schedule, my sponsor and support time with other people in recovery, and continued to strengthen my spiritual connection to my God. I felt confident in my parenting.
Fast forward to today. My son turned 2 years old in January, and I swear a switch in his brain turned on. In this new phase of exploring and learning the world around him, my sanity seems to be slipping further and further away. Instead of sitting on the floor playing with puzzles or reading a book, he now prefers to climb up and stand on the edge of the couch, or try to climb up and down the stairs on his own. He is no longer interested in noise makers or rolling cars, but rather climbing into the refrigerator or dishwasher while I’m trying to get a simple task in the kitchen done. Now, these actions in themselves can be frustrating, but the real test comes when I tell him no. Or worse, try to remove him from the refrigerator or dishwasher. Not only does he fall to the floor screaming, he throws himself down (insuring his head hits the floor hard to enough to make a loud bang) and unleashes such an ear-piercing sound I never knew existed.
Now, I understand that this phase my son is currently going through is completely normal. I know that it IS only a phase, and he will grow out of it. In the mean time, however, I am left trying to navigate through this uncharted territory and ensure my son comes out on the other side a better version of himself, while I am trying to stay sober. A few months ago, after a particularly rough week of parenting, I gained a new understanding of my mother and her absence when I was young. I admitted to my sponsor (and my husband) that at that moment I fully believed if I were not working a program of recovery, I would have had no second thoughts about walking out and leaving my husband with the full responsibility of raising our son.
Admitting I am not perfect is fairly easy – I know that no one is perfect, and I will never achieve perfection. Seeing my humanness and my flaws in my parenting, however, is a very touchy thing. I know that each day I am doing the best that I can do, but the fear of my best not being good enough is always present. I feel guilty every day that I am somehow ruining my son’s life instead of improving it. When I give him his tablet so I can have 30 mins to regain my sanity, I feel guilty – even more so when that 30 minutes turns into an hour or two hours while I do household chores. When I pick him up off the floor because I can’t stand to watch him hit his head on the floor anymore, I feel guilty that I may not setting firm boundaries. When I fix him his favorite frozen vegan mac and cheese for dinner, I feel guilty because it isn’t a home cooked meal.
Motherhood has been a real struggle for me. Through this process, I have gained a better understanding of my own mother, her alcoholism and her feelings of guilt. I am not perfect. I know I have made, and will continue to make, many mistakes raising my son. The knowledge of my current and future failures would have been enough for me to give up while I was using. Today, I am able to continue to wake up and try again each day with the help of my program, my family, and my God. My son may drive me crazy most days, but I am utterly in love with him and wouldn’t change him for the world.