motherhood

Since becoming Shayne’s widow, motherhood during this two years has been an intense blessing, but also, in all honesty, felt at times like a curse.

Why on earth would I consider motherhood to be anything but something extraordinarily wonderful, a gift, every day I wake up and still here to love these babes? Don’t get me wrong here, I love, deeply and fiercely love, my ladies… no one can touch that, and I feel abundantly grateful for their beautiful little selves and lives and I am still here to watch them grow up.
That’s not a question.

Because.
The person I went into this soul and body contract with, who I signed the dotted line with to get these little people here and become the mommy I am, exited the world. That has been excruciatingly painful. Because of how important, exciting, beautiful sharing that journey with him was, parenthood. On top of all the losses I came to endure upon his departure, that one nestled down deep. He trusted me enough to mother his babies, he’s permanently gone, how do you reconcile with that?

And I thought over and over and over, “Why?”
Why did you have children with me, bring them here, just to leave them, leave us?
How could you abandon them, when you were so good to them?
Why would you even give me this gift of being a mother, and leave me here to it alone?
Why… do I have to do this without you?

The first year, especially after moving here, is almost such a blur to me now.
But I think its where I grew the most. I was the most tired, the most taxed, the most raw and angry and sad and lonely. And I just kept moving. And showing up.
In survival mode.
I was still in shock and had maneuvered us through all these changes in such a short amount of time, against the opinions and wishes of people who loved us. I just played every day, one step, one next right thing, at a time.
I didn’t think farther than a few hours ahead at a time.
The girls and their well-being were my primary focus. I had been a stay-at-home-mom since Audrey was 6 months old, so it wasn’t an entirely new hat, but it was with added stress and emotional density. My daily steps in survival revolved around them, getting this 2 and 4 year old up, fed, dressed, entertained, potty-trained, clean, off to school, picked up, fed, I mean… we’re talking about a toddler and a kid in pre-K. They needed me. All day. As self sufficient as I needed and wished for them to be, which they were and are for their ages, that age and the two of them together …requires A LOT.
We were off balance from being a foursome, for sure. But we were (and are) still strong.

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However, in the midst of so much chaos, it was in the familiarity and comfort of taking care of them I settled in a routine here in a new town, and a routine breathed in me focus, and focus is how I got days done. Just done. Nothing more, nothing less. Days turning into weeks, weeks turning into months.. and here I am.
And it was no less exhausting. Parenting without him.

Doing bath time, I remember it being the end of a day and putting them in the tub together and sitting on the toilet with my head in my hands, my eyes uncontrollably leaking big heavy tears in the humid bathroom, right next to them splashing and giggling. I hated doing bath time because that was typically Shayne’s daddy duty. Rage would hit me and I would get so mad I was doing it alone. Heat would rise up in my chest, my hands would cup my face, fingers digging into my cheeks and forehead and I’d tremble with anger. Then shame would follow close behind. It was ugly. It felt ugly. I didn’t recognize anything. I didn’t ask to do motherhood like this. I didn’t want to do motherhood like this. I didn’t have these girls so I could mother them alone. Did I?

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How do you mother when you’re grieving?
You mother, and you grieve.
Or you have the courage to do it at the same damn time. You have the courage to show them what your sorrow looks like. You show them, circumstances can take you down but you’re not out.
You cry while washing the dishes.
They see your pain, and you make sure you pour on the joy.
You hold them, everybody crying, “we miss Daddy,” while you brush your teeth.
You get the urn out of the closet and let them hold their Daddy’s ashes in their tiny hands and let them tell you what they want to tell him, you tell them, you’re hoping, he hears it.
Its not pretty, its not for the faint of heart.
It’s crying. Its balloon releases on his birthday, and you’re the only one drinking champagne, gulping down tears with the bubbles.
You’re not sure how this is imprinting their heads and hearts but you go on being brave with your grief and your love.
Its a constant second guessing your entire existence, literally how and why you were chosen to wake up today and he’s still not here, but doing the next right thing, because …they’ve already lost one.
Its looking at these little people’s faces and trying to explain to them what “dying” means, having that conversation more than once through tears that just won’t stop. Carrying the knowledge of their hurt and confusion about where exactly daddy went and not sure how to ease it.
Still, a lot of crying, showing each other your tears and sadness, while doing things to get shit done around here. Crying in the car on the way to a beautiful sunset, emptying out so you can take it all in with gratitude.
Its raw, and being angry at your deceased husband for having to try to get your kid to shit on the toilet and nothing is working, he would have had this handled already.
Its going without dinner, and just feeding them because it hurts too much to eat at the table with them, where there used to be 4 now there’s 3.
Its screaming into your pillow after you’ve put them to sleep. And rising to another day, they’ve gotta get to school, you’ve gotta get to living.
Its making time, after bedtime, while they’re at school, whenever you have uninterrupted time… to get reacquainted with who you are and what you want with nobody’s needs to tend to but your own.

I didn’t want to and couldn’t leave them in there by themselves, but I really just wanted to leave them in there by themselves and fall apart by myself in my own bathroom. It was exhausting. Showing up for them as their only, constantly pouring into them and their needs and then emptying out my deficient cup and grieving by myself. I wasn’t in therapy, there was no process I was following. I don’t rightly know what I was giving at that point, to anyone in my life, if anything. Fumes. So yeah, each moment I found joy or happiness, I devoured it, intensified it. And then immediately gave it away.

Going from being one half of an all-in, seamless parenting duo… to being… just me… its important to understand, widowhood is not single parenting, its solo parenting. There’s a difference. I wasn’t a single parent. I was a left-behind, solo parent.
And to say I was deflated and tired is a sore understatement.
But I did it. Alone. Anyway.
Because that’s what mothers do. And women called to be mother’s – no matter if they have birthed the babes or not.
Thats the heart-to-heart, binding contract we have with these little people who never asked us to show up here.
We have our pains and heartaches and devastations and knowledge about the world, but we have our everlasting love for our babies. And the love wins, and points us to our priority. Protect and serve these little humans at all costs. Even your own grief.
Give it up. They need baths. Make the lunches. Get your head in the game, ma.

As a mother, you know, before that first baby arrives… so much is exchanged. Words, glances, promises, trust, faith, hope, all of that you pour into this person to help you do this. To bring these little people into this world, you get some shit straight with yourself and each other, and the bond between you gets stronger. Priorities shift. Hearts expand, (as simultaneously, bellies and waists!)
You’re bringing your devotion, your commitment, your love out to live, in the flesh.

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You go into the deal hand-in-hand, knowing, I jump, you jump…. we are in this together. No matter what. I’m not going anywhere, you’re not going anywhere. This new life we just created is a life-long tether between us. We make these babies, we gotta job to do when they get here, the funs just begun.
And Shayne was the best partner I could have tethered with. And thankfully, regardless if he is physically here or not, I did. Because the tether remains.
I can’t put a lid on that, and I won’t.
And it would be “appropriate” since I am with someone new to limit and curb sharing about Shayne, like I am minimizing whats in front of me now.
But Shayne helped grow me into the mother I am, the lover I am, and the survivor I have been.
So I need to lift it up and out… it needs to get out.
Speak their life, your life, honestly. No guilt, that someone might be uncomfortable. If they are, they weren’t meant for the message. Carry on.

He was an extraordinary father to his ladies, he deserves that. It poured out of him effortlessly like honey, the way he was with them. What was he going to think of next to shower them in his love, it was truly amazing. And he treated me like …well, like I had just birthed his babies. And to him, that was the best thing I could have done for his life, and heart. I know he cherished me because of that. And he intentionally, purposefully reminded me often. Because I had done something really freakin’ important to him. And for him.
There’s a lot I miss, but that… I miss that. A lot.

I went out of town to a conference for a weekend, and upon my return home he had put up construction paper, posted in the van and all over the house, with welcome home signs from him and our ladies, and one read, “Our heroine.” …thats what I had, and have.
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And it has been one of the most painful realities to carry. It just is.
That constantly running faucet is out of order, permanently. And when you’ve been the receiving end of abundance like that, its devastating to realize …that truly was it.
You’ll never get that, what you grew accustomed to, in that way, from that person, ever again.

And I have come to the conclusion and began making peace with… that part of my life, Shayne physically and emotionally giving to me, is over. But I now have all this love to give away. It is my purpose, and choosing, to give it away. And there’s possibility to be loved, and love, in an entirely different way than anything I could ever imagine is what I was capable of.

And miraculously, somehow, believing it within my whole soul through even my darkest moments – the universe conspired so that I don’t actually have to do this alone. I thought about Jessep, and him being in my day-to-day life so much and so often… it was a matter of time until he was here. There’s no question in my mind I manifested this.

This man, another extraordinary man, honors me in both my imperfect motherhood and messy widowhood. And takes me just as I am. With both these hats on. Last year, my second Mother’s Day without Shayne, I kept it a secret but… I received a big beautiful bouquet of flowers from Jessep. We had only met twice at that point, but here he was… showing up for me and my heart, I don’t even think he could have understood how big it felt.

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I hate to think he doesn’t know or understand how much I love and appreciate him and feel overwhelming gratitude for just his beating heart in the same room as me. Just knowing he’s present, he’s shown up, and loving me and us. From a year ago?, that is just something I can’t quantify my gratitude for.
And its just my heart work as his person now to make sure he is reminded, and is confident in my love and gratitude for him. If I have to bust open and share Shayne to get to the bigger love I have for Jessep and will receive from him, so be it.
Share big, dare greatly. I’d rather go down giving it all up, emptying totally out, than holding it all in and keeping it for myself the rest of my time here. Its too much, and would be too heavy.

Just like when you’re considering expanding the family and bringing that second or third beating heart into the world, “How could I love anymore or any bigger than how I feel?” “I can’t love another kid more than my first born!”
Oh, but you do. Your heart and love expands. That little heart starts beating, that first cry breaks upon their arrival and your heart just bursts open a little bigger. You start to glimpse the potential of your heart and love. It really is infinite.
I do have room and capability in my heart for all of it. Jessep, Maddax, Audrey, Brookie, Shayne, everybody. And willing to live and love even bigger and I’ll say it, …better, than I could have ever imagined.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to level up.
My love truly knows zero bounds and won’t ever be small.

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And somehow it also conspired that I actually get to be a bonus mom. Motherhood 2.0. Amped UP!
The universe is confident I have a big enough space in my heart to grab hold of this other little person.
That is by far my biggest, “ME!? Are you sure??? You picked ME!? To hold this OTHER little person’s heart, who I didn’t birth, and is also grieving losing a parent, too!?” I mean. Wow. Its blind leading the blind over here. Grieving leading the grieving. Grief on grief on grief. Motherhood, next level. Check back for updates.
Where’s the handbook on that? …I’m writing it.

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I think back on my first hours and days as a mom.
Draws similarities of my first moments, YEAR, as a widow. The exhaustion.
Seriously, everything about it was tiring. While motherhood rendered me exhausted mostly physically, widowhood’s exhaustion hid inside and eventually made its way in and out of my body. I had a two-fer going on.
Seconds into motherhood, my body was so …not my own. I couldn’t and didn’t sleep, barely ate… (but didn’t lose any weight from breastfeeding, seriously are they still telling that farce?)

I didn’t recognize myself, my life, my mind and the racing thoughts. I gave up myself to do this, grow this being, birth this baby and get her home and try to heal my effed up body from the waist down, and wow, that was terrifying.
I sacrificed. I traded in my life as I had known it, my freedom, my body, my time, my energy, my focus, …it all went to keeping this little tiny person alive, fed, clean, bathed and soothed. All.the.time. Best job I ever signed up for but holy shit, its all encompassing. But you don’t even realize how fast and much your life changes until you look back and truly, once that tiny human exited your body… everything shifted.

Sounds like widowing, besides signing up for the best job ever. Worst job I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, ever. But alas, I traded it all in. And sure, in the first weeks, all I got was grief, couldn’t see any positives or joys or sweet newborn faces. Feeling happy felt out of place, so I didn’t burden myself with attaining that. All I got was pain and anger and shame and guilt and loneliness. And they intensified as time went on and I settled into this entirely new life.

But as I have grown in widowhood, just as I have grown as a mother, and each of the milestones have passed… I’ve surpassed some growing pains, and look back and see all that I have gained. With miles still to go. But… they’re there.
The wins. The indescribable joys. Because of loss, because I’ve been down, I can appreciate my life, and those I love …even more. The perspective I now have, about a lot, including motherhood…
I respect it all.

It all moves so quickly, its all so temporary, its especially important to note …yes, even the  gut-wrenching pain doesn’t last forever. You eventually go to bed, whether you cry yourself to sleep or not, and if you’re still here you got another chance, didn’t you? With all that pained you yesterday, you did today, didn’t you? See? It will come, and it will go.
You will have your days in the shit storm, and then you’ll sit in the sun.

You have your days (& middle-of-the-nights) your baby won’t nurse and the damn nipple shield isn’t doing a damn thing to help your preemie latch and you’re at your wits freakin’ end with this whole breastfeeding bit and Instagram’s Earth mama’s are all, “breast is best!” and you’re like, “holy shit, FOR WHAT!?”
God, I get it.
And the next day, the heavens part and bear the sacred gift of your little bundle sleeping 8 hours for the first time, and you fiiiiiiinally got to throw those huge, stretchy panties from the hospital away and take a shower with a loofah, and wash your hair, and you peed without it hurting for the first time in like 3 weeks and the world …evens out. Even Steven. Its just how it is. The sweet, and the sour.

Some days we’re wanting to rip our own heads off with grief …and in the next hour, we’re crying tears of nothing but total blissed out joy and gratitude at what this new life, even if we’re branded widows, has given us. Because out of feeling so much sorrow, wow… I can’t believe I am capable of feeling joy. What a phenomenal gift. To be given so much loss and pain and still be adequate to feel joy, and… peace.

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The same as when I entered motherhood, somehow the universe decided when it took away Shayne, I was going to sacrifice a whole lot, and lose something I would never know again going forward, but it was going to give back. And force growth.
I know this now, it wasn’t going to take away without giving something back.

What are you willing to lose to possibly gain …more? You’ll have to open up to find out.
Grow and grow and grow to …expand.

Still lots of room for growth. But my perspective has been chosen.
It was written. And going to try showing me, for me to learn someday, that I would in fact gain… maybe even much more… than I feel I lost. Is that even possible? Is that okay to say?

Yeah, I do think its actually trying to show me that.
Motherhood, and widowhood. Give to gain. Gain to give.

joy&health and happy mother’s day,

 

caroline

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