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I am so excited to launch this series with Sarah Inman’s story. She is the founder of Career Renovations by Sarah, a mom and wife. She has a passion for helping others find the job of their dreams. Her story of pain and joy almost brought me to tears. It is a profound piece that illustrates the struggle, guilt and triumph we as mothers go through. Please read her story below, and don’t forget to read one of my favorite blog posts by Sarah, Top 5 Ways to Show Employees You’re Thankful. Don’t forget to follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest too!
I have a confession: I don’t really remember the first two months of my son’s life. Like, at all. There are a few moments of clarity that shine through now and again, but outside of photographs, I can’t really visualize what my little guy looked like until we hit around the ten-week mark.
I don’t say that from a “stressed-out, sleep-deprived, post-partum mom of two boys” standpoint (even though I am sure I was all of those things and then some.) The truth is, a very simple medical issue that arose right before I delivered wound up taking my family and I on a ride we had never intended.
Father’s Day 2015, my dad decided he wanted Golden Corral for breakfast. Yes, classy, I know. Our family lovingly obliged him and about halfway through the meal, I was struck with significant abdominal pain. I was 36 weeks pregnant and this was my second baby; I knew labor was an option, but this wasn’t anything like the labor pain I had experienced the first go-round. A trip to the hospital quickly determined that my pain was being caused by kidney stones.
Seriously? Kidney stones? Labor isn’t enough, I had to go and get kidney stones, too?!
My beautiful son Collin was born soon after without any complications. I went to the OR for a very simple lithotripsy procedure to bust up the kidney stones, and went home the same afternoon with no issues. I was on the mend, and looking forward to settling in to life as a mom of two.
When the post-partum nurse came to visit I mentioned that I had been experiencing pretty significant chills, and she assured me it was normal due to my hormones fluctuating, but that I should be fine within a few days. I spent that evening on the floor of my shower with the water as scalding hot as it could go, while bone-shaking chills wracked my body. I couldn’t shake the chills and was starting to doubt that this was hormone-related.
I awoke the next morning and my first thought upon opening my eyes was “I am dying.” I knew from the ache in my bones that I had a fever, and I practically had to drag myself to the bathroom to find the thermometer. After several minutes, this thermometer starting SCREAMING at me, making sounds I had never heard before. I pulled it out of my mouth to see a temperature reading of 105.4. “I was right,” I thought. “I am dying.”
My husband gathered up our kids and raced me to the ER, which mercifully was less than a mile from my house. I hesitated to climb out of the car as I looked back at my new baby; I didn’t want to kiss him goodbye, as I didn’t yet know what was wrong and didn’t want him to catch anything if I was contagious. Would I ever see him again? I was wheeled into the ER with tears streaming down my face, convinced that I had just laid eyes on my sweet boy for the last time.
The ER staff stabilized me and quickly determined I had an acute kidney infection, which had been brewing over the past several days. I was admitted as they started me on multiple rounds of antibiotics, all of which were ineffective. After days of no change in my condition, they brought in an infectious disease specialist who told me that inexplicably, my kidney stones had contained e. Coli, and the lithotripsy to break them up to make them easier to pass had caused the bacteria to settle in my kidney. It was resistant to almost all of the antibiotics I was given, until they finally found one that worked. I spent days being wracked by chills and fever, and the doctors kept promising me I could come home “soon”. They wheeled down a hospital-grade pump from the floor where I had delivered my son just a short time prior, and I pumped and dumped through the day and night to try to maintain my milk supply for my little one at home.
Over a week later, I was sent home with a PICC line and instructions to get an outpatient antibiotics infusion every day for two weeks. We scrambled to arrange for someone to come stay with my son each day, as my husband had started a new job a few months prior and had little time off. With the exception of the hour each day where I received my infusion, I was alone with my son. And sicker than I ever thought imaginable.
Oh, he was a good baby. I do remember that. I don’t know if he was good because we were just lucky and he was born that way, or if he very quickly figured out that he had to be, because his mommy was barely hanging on. I was going through the motions, and praying that each moment would bring me closer to when my husband would arrive home to save me.
Every time he would wake up through the day and night, I would drag my body to his cradle and muster every ounce of energy I had to lift him. Because of the PICC line in my arm, I could only hold him on one side, and I quickly tired and lost energy. We spent a good deal of time simply lying on a blanket on the floor, staring at each other. I wasn’t much of a mommy during that time; frankly, I wasn’t much of anything. Just getting through the day felt like a monumental struggle, and he sadly spent far more time than I would have liked in his swing, while I lay on the ground underneath him and tried to rest, all the while feeling like I was failing my baby.
Slowly, the fog and haze started to lift. I had my very last round of antibiotics and the PICC line was removed. The chills started to subside, and my energy started to slowly return. I started to feel more like a human being, and I could interact with my family once again.
And do you know what I found? My baby boy LOVED me. His eyes lit up every time he saw me, and followed me around the room. I soothed him in a way than no one else could manage. All that time I thought I had lost with him, he still knew me. All that time I spent wishing away the moments so I could return to a place where I felt well again, those were moments he spent learning who I was, and loving every broken piece I had to offer him. He hadn’t suffered, or been neglected – to him, I was still the very best mommy in the whole world. My body still felt battered, and I had a long way to go before I made a full recovery – but that realization, in one fell swoop, healed my soul.
Now that he is older and I have returned to work full-time, I reflect on that moment of realization when I start to have doubts that I am “enough”. When the working mom guilt feels overwhelming and like it may overtake me, I remind myself that to my boys, I am utter perfection. They don’t know any different, they just know they love me and that I love them with every ounce of my being.
And guess how much of that terrible time my boy remembers? Right. Zero. He was an infant, for goodness sake. The guilt, the sadness, the regret? Those are all things that lived in MY head, not his. It was time to let all of that go. My time with him wasn’t lost at all. In that moment, it was exactly what he and I both needed.
That feeling has helped me carve out my identity as someone who truly “has it all” – in my own mind, anyway. (And at the end of the day, isn’t that whose opinion of me matters the most? My own?) I have crafted my own idea of what having it all looks like and to me it means a women who is successful in her career, fulfilled in her relationship, and confident in her ability to raise happy, well-adjusted children the best way she knows how.
So if you are a parent who struggles with time you perceived as “lost” with your kids, be it from having to work, or post-partum depression, or splitting custody, or whatever you particular situation may be – I would encourage you to simply look into the eyes of your children. They are your best barometers for the truth. Do you see that light in their eyes? You put it there. And don’t ever forget it.