Receiving emails containing contributions for the Celebrating Moms Series makes my day. Receiving an email from one of my oldest friends containing a wonderful piece about motherhood and her precious daughter, Olivia, warmed my heart. I am incredibly lucky to be able to share motherhood with someone I have known since I was 11. I know Lisa’s piece will touch you as much as it touched me.
“Being a mother is hard”. This was one of the first statements I heard when giving out the news of my first pregnancy, in addition to the common “Congratulations” of course. I thought I understood the meaning of that and immediately accepted it. I knew I would be up at all hours during the night for at least the first year, I would never sleep in, I would give up my freedom and cheap date nights, I would be paying a lot of my income to day care, and a lot more. I knew what was coming since I have had so many friends and relatives who I watched and helped go through it. For these reasons, I put off having my first child for at least the first four years of marriage. I wasn’t ready to give all of that up just yet.
This past year I have learned the true meaning of that statement, and much more. I now understand that you would put yourself in your child’s place in a heartbeat, if it meant that they would feel better. I now understand what it feels to really love someone as much as you love your husband and family. It all makes sense now.
Olivia was born in February of 2010 and was a healthy 8 lb 10 oz baby who I immediately became attached to and also worried about from day one. My main concern that first year as a mother, was making sure she reached every milestone and on time. And that she did, from holding her head up, rolling over, sitting up without support, sleeping through the night, crawling, walking and talking. Everything she did was right on cue, if not before, and my worries and fears of her not being a healthy and normal child slowly diminished. As Olivia turned 18 months, I watched as her language bloomed and she went from speaking one word to two word phrases. She understood everything I said to her and even picked up on some of the Spanish I had taught her. It was exciting to watch. A few more months passed and on a nice day at the park, I noticed some kids her age running and walking up the stairs, not crawling up them like she was. Fear set in again. Why wasn’t she doing this yet? Is this a milestone I am not paying attention to? I thought everything was happening when it was supposed to, but something started to seem off about her gross motor development.
Months passed and then a year of seeing many different types of doctors, until I found out why she was not running, jumping or walking up stairs. My daughter has low muscle tone in her lower body, making climbing, running and jumping extremely difficult or even possible. We do not know why she has low muscle tone, but do know that physical therapy is the key in helping her to strengthen those low tone muscles. We also know that low tone has no cure, and the only thing we can do is just keep her in therapy to help make her stronger. This past year has been the hardest for me as a parent. Going to see an orthopedist, a neurologist, a physiatrist and going through early intervention all took up a lot of my hours and days as well as emotions. She was put through tests to make sure there was no underlying disease, one of which she had to be put under. Luckily for us and her she has tested negative for all of those diseases which are all degenerative, so we have received some good news from all of this.
The hardest part for me as a parent is watching her try to jump, or run after other kids, and she just can’t. She complains how tired she is from trying so hard, and wants to be held a lot since just the simple task of walking is tiring for her. She has to work extra hard than the typical child and a lot of times she will just give up. I notice other parents looking at her strangely or others will even ask me why I hold her so much. I want to shout at them that she has a disability, but I keep my mouth shut. They don’t know and I would have never known myself if I never had to go through this.
Olivia is three now and has been receiving pt two times a week for the last two months. So far she has improved on walking up the stairs and has figured out how to ride a tricycle. She still can’t run or jump, but I try to stay positive and pray that soon she can. I want her to be a normal kid and be able to do what every other three year old can do, and it’s hard as a parent to watch your child feel left out already. What parent doesn’t want this? As I take her to PT 2x a week, I try to remind myself, it could be worse. She could have to wear braces, she could be in a wheelchair, she could not be able to talk, etc. I see a lot of sad sicknesses in kids when I take her to therapy, and realize how blessed we are that this is all it is. I remind myself how blessed I am to have great insurance, a great teaching job that allows me to leave an hour twice a week to take her to therapy, family support, I could go on. I have to say though, having a child who has anything wrong with them that limits them in any way, is one of the worst feelings to have. It makes you think as a parent, where did I go wrong? Did I eat something I shouldn’t have during pregnancy to cause this? Did I hold her too much as a baby instead of letting her muscles figure it all out on her own? Do I do everything I can every day to help her? I would trade myself for her issue any day. I truly have learned the meaning of that phrase “being a parent is hard”. It really is.
About Lisa Kastner-Maver
Lisa is a mother of one beautiful three year old girl, Olivia, and soon to be a mother of another baby that arrives in September. She is married to her husband, Rob, of eight years who she met in the teaching field. Both Rob and Lisa are currently teaching sixth grade academic subjects. Lisa teaches Spanish and Rob teaches Social Studies. Rob helps to appraise houses in the summer with a long time high school friend, while Lisa discovers what it’s like to be a stay at home mom for 2 months.
Do you have a story to share about motherhood? Please send your contribution to Meredith at firstname.lastname@example.org.