The first 10 years of my life were picture perfect. I had both my parents, lived in a nice house and neighborhood and had toys galore to play with. Then it all changed. My mother went back to work and my siblings and I went from a life of home-cooked meals and quality time with mom and dad, to frozen dinners and our father wondering what time my mother would get home. Work became my mother’s life and she started to miss softball games, plays and ballet recitals. Seeing her and my father all lovey dovey seemed like a very distant memory and next thing we knew the arguments had started. My mother’s complaint? We were older and now it was time for her to do her own thing. My father’s? Doing your own thing is cool, but don’t forget your family. The battles seemed never-ending, that is until the day my father left and filed for divorce.
I hated my mother. I blamed her for breaking up our happy home and driving my father away with her selfishness. Our once close relationship grew distant as she moved on with life and I vowed to myself that I would never be the wife and mother she was. I was three years out of college and into my career when I met the man of my dreams. He came in swept me off my feet and after only a year of dating asked me to be his wife. I relished in the opportunity to serve and be there for him. No matter how late I worked or tired I was, he always had a hot meal, clean clothes and plenty of quality time in and out of the bedroom.
After two years of marriage we were blessed with twins Even though it was a struggle, I never slowed down my pace. I worked and took care of my family 24/7/365. I was determined not to fail, not to be my mother. I made dinner almost every night, made sure I was front and center for every event my children and husband had. I kept the house immaculate and hosted barbeques, dinners and parties like I planned events for a living. My friends wondered how I did it all and envied my ability to juggle all aspects of my life flawlessly.
The problem was I was exhausted.
Sometime after my twins were first born is when the pains started. I had chest pains and headaches that would cripple the toughest man on Earth. I was always tired, even if I'd had eight hours of sleep. Who has time for doctor’s appointments when presentations are due at work, kids need costumes sewn and my husband needs some adult play time? “I’ll go next week” or “I’ll go next month” is always what I told myself.
One evening after working a 10 hour day, rushing home to prepare dinner and then sitting through my children’s two-hour long school play, my body said “no more.” I collapsed in the parking lot. When I finally woke up from my coma—three weeks later— doctors told me I'd had a massive stroke brought on by high blood pressure, stress and a congenital heart defect that could’ve been treated if I had seen a doctor earlier.
I finally had time to focus on myself, but instead of going to the spa or catching up with girlfriends…I was learning how to walk and eat again.
Coming home after a month in the hospital was a huge adjustment. I couldn’t be the perfect wife and mother anymore and it was tough. I felt guilty watching my husband and kids fend for themselves. I felt like a failure. Then my husband sat me down and told me that he didn’t want a perfect wife, he wanted a healthy one. He apologized to me for neglecting to see that I was doing everything alone and he and the kids promised to help more around the house. Looking into their concerned eyes caused my thoughts on my role to change. The best gift I could give to my family wasn’t to flutter around in unrealistic perfection; it was to take care of myself. Take care of myself so that I could be there for them, create wonderful memories with them and most importantly to love them. Because that’s the one thing I do that they need and appreciate the most, and I want to be perfect at it.
-As told to Danielle Pointdujour