“The Heart of a Mother – Part 2”
by Gracie K. Harold
Trigger Word Warning: rape, miscarriage, drug addict, preterm labor, “bitchy”, life-threatening allergies, physical abuse, grief, domestic violence, threats of murder, traumatic brain injury, amnesia, auto accident, concussion.
In my last post, I shared about the unexpected pregnancy and miscarriage of my first child. I told of the journey I took into grief, pain, and forgiveness. Today, my story continues.
Eventually, I married a man who I thought would share my passion for children. Instead, I found out on my honeymoon that he was an active drug addict. We were 2,000 miles from home, and I had no money. I honestly thought my “duty” was to simply love my husband. I was erroneously counseled by a few others to “stop being so bitchy and just love my husband”. So I did.
By the time our first anniversary rolled around, I was pregnant with our first son. I ended up on bed rest for 10 weeks due to preterm labor and contractions. I was plagued with the terrorizing thought that I would lose my son through miscarriage. Miraculously, my baby boy was born, seemingly healthy. We later discovered his life-threatening allergies to peanuts, and many other complicated allergies.
My heart was captured by this determined and resilient little boy. Before him, I didn’t know how I could ever love another child as much as I loved the daughter I had miscarried. I quickly realized that a mother’s heart stretches and enlarges with each child; not in a way that replaces the first child’s place in her heart, but in a mysterious ever-expanding way that still leaves me awestruck.
At my son’s 1st birthday party, we announced that we were expecting our next child. On the 5th year anniversary of my miscarriage, my ultrasound revealed that I was carrying a girl. This pregnancy also had some complications, as well as 5 weeks of bed rest; but I went into labor with my “firecracker” girl during the grand finale of the local fireworks on the 4th of July. In honor of her big sister, she was given the same middle name. Her huge tender heart for others constantly stretches me to see the world through compassionate eyes.
I was often taken aback at how much I still grieved over my oldest daughter. Some people who knew my story and about my loss of my firstborn would say, “There. Now you have a new baby to replace the one that died.”
No child can ever replace one who dies. My children are each uniquely irreplaceable because they are each an individual person with their own distinct personality. I still have a spot in my heart just for my daughter that I miscarried. She cannot be replaced; she will always be my daughter. Always. Just as my other children will always be mine. Always.
Not long after my 2nd daughter was born, my favorite professor and mentor died from cancer. My grief left my heart raw. Soon thereafter, we were shocked to discover that I was pregnant again.
That day will be forever etched in my memory. My husband at the time snapped at me, “What are we going to name THIS child?” It was said through snarling lips and accompanied by rolled eyes.
I told him we would name the baby after my professor. While I was pregnant with our little professor; I slipped on the ice, broke my foot and started again with preterm labor. This time I was on bed rest for the last half of my pregnancy. I had contractions every single day until my baby boy was born.
He also has life-threatening allergies, and has been close to death at least three different times. Miraculously, he lives on. The local firefighters started calling him “Firefighter Boy”, because they responded on more than one occasion to keep him alive and breathing. They also told me that they called him that in faith, fully trusting that he would grow up to be strong and healthy.
Three months before my little professor was born, my dear grandpapa died unexpectedly. Grief engulfed me. My son bears grandpapa’s name as his middle name, and undoubtedly shares his tenacity.
What an incredible blessing to have such a goofy, dry sense of humor in such a compact little body. My heart seemed full, and I couldn’t fathom a more fulfilling experience with motherhood.
When my youngest son was only five months old; my ex-husband’s addictions spun monstrously out of control. He tried to find someone to kill the children and me, he threatened to kill us and make it look like an accident, and he threatened to harm my family members and friends if we left.
By the grace of God, we managed to escape and had to move to another county in order to stay in hiding. We moved into a shelter for domestic violence survivors. I felt like a failure at first, until a friend gently pointed out that if I had stayed I would have failed to be a good mother to my children. She reminded me that in leaving, I had the courage to be a single mother who taught my sons that a woman deserves respect, kindness and compassion. I was teaching my daughter that she deserves to be treated well by the men and boys in her life.
So, I dedicated myself passionately to being the best single mom that I could be. I read every article and book that I could get my hands on. My divorce was finalized, a Personal Protection Order was issued, and his visitation was revoked. We still continue to navigate the legal system in search of justice.
We attended a domestic violence support group, and sought counseling. We grieved the loss of our safety; as well as our expectations of a kind, caring father and husband.
Above all, though, I learned that I am a mother.
Single or married, employed or not, in shelter or out, I have the same huge places in my heart for my children. I am fiercely protective of them. If threatened, I will become like a mama bear that protects her cubs.
I am stronger than I realized.
We were blessed to find churches along our journey, people who stood united beside us in support and protection. One time friends from church surprised us with a camping weekend. They set up a borrowed camper so that the door faced the campfire. The men split shifts sitting by the campfire through the night to ensure that the children and I were safe. Words cannot express how much that promoted healing in us.
I eventually found a job teaching theatre, and I loved it! For a short time, I even homeschooled the children while I worked part time. My job responsibilities and time demands increased, and we found a school for the children. Life was busy, but fun. The kids and I cleaned the school every weekend for extra money, and I remember the fun we had playing “vacuum tag” in the school after hours.
One day, I backed out of my parking spot at a local library, and was hit from behind by another vehicle. It was my third concussion in nine years. I was diagnosed with Post-concussion syndrome, and suffered from amnesia. I had to re-learn how to speak, how to put on my make-up, the name of fruits and vegetables (at one point I was confused because I thought black pepper was a vegetable). I had to re-learn social cues, and I couldn’t sing for 6 days. I couldn’t drive for 6 weeks. I had physical therapy for a year.
Yet, I never forgot my children’s names or their individual allergies. I remembered their recipes for allergy-friendly foods. I managed their health conditions, and remembered all of the medications. Despite the fact that my short-term memory would initially reset anytime something changed, my children helped me figure out tools to not only cope with my disability, but to thrive in spite of my disability. I like to tell people that I felt like God covered my brain with His hand in order to preserve the memories of my children and their health conditions.
So even with amnesia, I never forgot that I am a mother.
In the posts that follow, I will continue to share my journey through life, injury, amnesia, and motherhood.