I share a lot of myself and my mothering successes and challenges on social media. For example, the birth of my second child is a popular YouTube video. When my children say something brilliant, I post it. When they do something awesomely adorable I snap a picture and post it. When I yell too much, I post my regrets. If I feed my children dry cereal for dinner, I apologize via Facebook.
Motherhood has taught me so much. Much more than I ever imagined. When I planned for an all natural birth and ended up with an emergency C-Section with Ayah, my oldest, I learned to be gentle with myself when things don’t go as planned. When I gave birth to Ameen in a tub at home surrounded by family and friends, I learned the true meaning of the power of the “village”. When I birthed my littlest person, Ajani at home after laboring for the majority of the day alone (by choice) , I was taught to trust and believe in my own power and majesty as a woman. Breastfeeding 3 children back to back without a pause has taught me to appreciate my body, flaws and all.
I’ve mothered in many different contexts. I’ve worked full time outside of the home. I’ve been a stay-at -mother. I’ve worked from home. I’ve homeschooled, I’ve had a nanny, I’ve sent my children to child care. I currently have a hybrid of all of the above happening. I’ve learned to manage time effectively by not managing time effectively. I’ve learned to be a better steward of my finances by being a horrible steward of my finances. I’ve shared many of those stories with my on and offline ‘village.’
But, I haven’t shared the most painful moments…
Because it’s painful to relive.
Because I’ve healed much and sharing it now seems to have potential to reopen wounds.
Because I’ve wanted to protect the other people in the story.
Because I was embarrassed.
Because I don’t know where to begin or how to share it.
I’ll start with the present. I am mother to three beautiful light beings. Ayah Sol (5), Ameen (3), Ajani (1). We live in an apartment in Chicago with their father. He used to be my husband. For various reasons he no longer is. Not many people know this. This is my first time saying publicly that he no longer is my husband and it feels a little weird. We have figured out a way to co parent, co live, and share financial and parenting responsibilities despite a painful past. It’s taken an infinite amount forgiveness, tons of tears, daily killing of ego, some intensely painful conversations, and constant reflecting on the things we need from each other in order to be the best parents we can be to our children. We struggle from time to time with communication. There are days we cant stand to look at each other, but we talk it out and work through it. Our children are young, there’s 3 of them. Life would be much more complicated for us if we lived in separate households. And frankly, I’m not ready to live alone with 3 children and have the majority of my parenting time be solo.
One day, maybe soon, this arrangement will no longer work. And I’ll have to navigate what mothering looks like in that situation. I’ve spent the majority of my time as a mother trying to navigate motherhood with a broken heart. Their father and I have been on and off again throughout our relationship. The most significant time apart being for the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of my 2nd pregnancy. I was mothering a feisty 1 1/2 year old, pregnant, and preparing for a homebirth during our first separation. There were mornings I couldn’t get out of bed because I was so hurt that this was my life. So I slept with granola bars and fruit in our room so I could feed Ayah without getting out of bed. There were many sleepless nights. I spent cuddling with my firstborn because I needed to be held and her little arms were all I had around. I was afraid of living alone in my neighborhood. So I always triple checked the doors, slept with my baby on my chest and purse, keys, and phone next to me. But nothing was as scary as accepting the fact that the man I loved and who’s child I carried would rather be my co-parent than my husband.
I went to work everyday. A very demanding job. I told few people what was going on at home. So I had very little support. He came every morning to help get her off to school and most nights he stayed till she went to sleep. He was so close but so far and it hurt. But I mothered through it.
He came back as I got closer to the birth. To help prep for the homebirth and stay until I got in my groove with being a mommy of two. I loved him still. I needed him longer So, He stayed longer. Almost a full year. And then we split again. This time I was so devastated, I couldn’t bear to stay in the same city. I gave away all our things, only kept what fit in my car, parked my car somewhere safe and bought one-way plane tickets. We lived a nomadic life for a few months. He missed us and came to get us. I had no clue what was next so we decided to try us again, or so I thought. Then pregnant again. And during that pregnancy I realized that I couldn’t bear another separation and it felt inevitable so I made the decision to stop working on our marriage and focus on being partners and parents together. While I focused on healing from our situation on my own. The ups and downs were unimaginable.
But we made it, I made it.
The greatest lesson I’ve learned in all of this is that there is no one model for what a loving family looks like. I’ve learned to ebb and flow and to forgive myself for allowing myself to be hurt as well as those who have hurt me. I’ve learned to summon my village for support when I need it, and not try and bear it all alone. I’ve learned that when a little set of eyes asks me what’s wrong i need to be real honest and affirm myself and my pain, so that my daughter knows that it isn’t necessary to hide her pain for the comfort of others. I’ve learned that people can love you and still not be in a place to be what you need them to be because they aren’t where they need to be for themselves. I’ve learned that it’s okay to hold grudges for as long as you need to, but its just as okay to let go. I’ve learned that there is no book, no parenting model, no mommy blog that could’ve prepared me for mothering through pain, and so one day, when I’m strong enough to share more details I’ll write my own.