I love sea otters, and the sea otter and her pup has been my imagery for motherhood since I first saw them at Monteray Bay, CA when I was pregnant with my first child. Filled with these idyllic images in my mind, I was completely unprepared for what was to come.
Life threw me a real curve ball when my daughter was born premature and had a rough start to life. Labels and diagnoses soon followed. In reality, this meant she did not sleep through the night and she cried a lot. Essentially she could not be put down day or night. My days and nights became completely absorbed with caring for her needs. With specific therapies and home- based programs and tons of work from me and my husband, she started to thrive and continued to develop.
Over the years, the therapies turned into homeschooling, and I continued to spend hours a day providing her with the stimulation and structure she needed. Today, I am so grateful that she graduated high school with a fully accredited high school diploma and a 3.60 GPA. She has a City of Bellevue Youth Volunteer Award, performed with an award winning choir and cheer team and participated in community theater, martial arts and swimming. My husband and I are blessed with supportive family, friends and community. In many ways, our dedicated efforts on her behalf have paid off.
On the other hand, her attention, emotional regulation and social challenges continued, and the teen years have been particularly volatile with mood swings and parental clashes. And what about me, her mother? I had completely forgotten my own identity, I was burnt out, stressed, emotional. I felt wrung out, tired and old. I was only in my early 40s. I finally hit a point where I knew I had to do something. My lack of well-being was making it difficult for me to cope with my daughter’s challenges, and I could not be there for her in a healthy way anymore. I was angry and resentful.
It was then that I joined a yoga class and connected with an incredible yoga teacher. She had some 1:1 sessions with me when she realized my physical tightness was related to my emotional “tightness”. She essentially coached me to pause and pay attention to myself, my body, my emotions, my thoughts. She helped me practice self compassion. It was funny, but at that point in time, I could not answer even basic questions like what were my favorite things to eat, what did I like to do for fun? What was important to me or truly gave me pleasure? I had no idea. I had no clue who I was anymore outside of my role as a mother. I had lost touch with my true self completely. At least now I knew what I did not know, and somehow this mattered; I mattered.
(to be continued)