Six years ago, God blessed us with twin boys. Prior to their birth, I learned that it was common for identical twins to have developmental delays or medical issues. While my mind knew the facts, my heart was not prepared for how it would play out in our lives, specifically for how it would influence the way I viewed myself as a mother. I also wasn’t ready for the stress it would bring logistically and financially. I should be clear that our boys have never experienced life-threatening issues, but there have been more obstacles than I had imagined when I pictured motherhood. We have been involved in multiple types of therapy and medical intervention, the longest one being speech.
I asked Leslie to write her story, because personally it’s encouraged me as we’ve worked through our littlest’s development. More importantly, Leslie’s story touches on themes we’ve been dealing with: overcoming shame, mothering, jealousy, and more. I know you’ll be moved by her authenticity. Please read, comment, and share.
Leslie is a mom of four, and writes for Outnumbered.
At the beginning of this journey, a meeting occurred where four different professionals listed in detail every possible skill area where my son was exhibiting delays. It was a struggle to sit there and listen to it without letting the tears flow. I felt overwhelmed. My heart was shattered. As soon as they finished with their reports, we had to go through my other son’s reports. I barely made it through the meeting without sobbing.
I remember thoughts flashing through my mind: This is your fault. You’re not a competent mom. You waited too long to get help. Why is this happening? What if the intervention doesn’t help? The list went on and on. When the meeting finally ended, I was handed written reports so that I could later torture myself by reading them over and over.
After crying on his shoulder, I shared the reports with my husband. He didn’t question if he was a good or competent father based on these reports. Why did I let them push me to question my own competency? I lost perspective. I began to measure my mothering skills by their progress reports instead of God’s standards. If the boys didn’t make what I considered was enough progress at their reviews, I blamed myself. Secretly, I would set a deadline for them to be done with services. The date would pass, the boys would still need services and I would be devastated.
In addition to judging myself, I felt like I was under a microscope. I felt judged when therapists would comment about the boys’ behaviors or developmental shortcomings. I felt judged by other moms when they said what their child could do and expressed shock that mine couldn’t do that yet.
In the hardest moments, I felt insanely jealous of other moms. I saw other children, approximately the same age as mine, talking in full sentences. I’d tell myself, â€œyou read to the boys way more than she does, its not fair that her child is talking so well.â€ I’d hear moms going on and on about how sweet it was that their toddler said this or that. I’d get angry or jealous or both. I did not need my toddlers to be composing poetry in iambic pentameter, but it would be nice to hear them say “Mommy”, their own names correctly, or an animal sound when I asked them what a cow says.
Sometimes these moms were intentionally bragging to me or judging me, but sometimes, they were just proud mamas. They were excited to finally have two-way communication with their children. I understood that, but I was still easily wounded.
As the years passed, the boys made significant progress. In time, they learned their animal noises and how to pronounce their names correctly. Today, they both say â€œMommyâ€ at least a hundred times an hour and never seem to be at a loss for words! They still receive some school-based therapy services, but about a month ago, they finished private therapy after almost six years.
Interestingly, they think therapy is awesome. Seriously. To them, therapy means playing games, doing fun crafts and getting one-on-one attention. Its a win-win. They have never viewed it as a struggle or in negative terms. Never once have they groaned about having to go to therapy.
I’d like to say that I never groaned about having to take them to therapy, but that would not be the truth. While I never complained in front of them, I groaned inwardly about it. It was not how I imagined motherhood. I did not plan to spend our â€œextraâ€ income on private therapy or making multiple trips a week to therapy appointments. I did not expect to have so many professionals involved in my parenting. At the same time I groaned about it, I was also thankful. Thankful for insurance. Thankful that we did have the money for therapy, even if it meant sacrificing in other areas. Thankful for great therapists who invested so positively in my children. Thankful for the progress that my boys have made.
I have made significant progress too. I stopped seeing the delays as a direct reflection of my mothering skills. I quit trying to be in control and instead daily choose to surrender to God’s control. I don’t let myself dwell on my jealous or angry thoughts, I chose to be thankful instead. I gave up judging myself through comparison to other moms (sometimes easier said than done).
Every mom and every family has struggles. They aren’t the same. On any day, we can look from our vantage point and find someone whose struggles make ours seem easier or harder. The point is not to diminish our struggles or to build them up based on comparison to other moms. The point is to be honest about them and what we’ve learned from this journey. Moms who do this for me can make my day, and bless me on those difficult days of mothering.
We each have one story to share: our own. We can choose for this story to perpetuate the mommy wars of judgment. Or we can choose to be honest about the struggles.
I choose the latter.