I frequently get comments from other mom’s asking me, “How do you do it?” referring to taking care of Jenna’s “special needs.” (She has a MIC-KEY gastrostomy “button” that we attach a feeding tube and pump to several times a day. This is currently the only way she “eats.” The picture above is her wearing her feeding pump in a backpack with a tube feeding her.) I’m always a little bit taken by surprise by the question. I guess my answer is, “The same way every mom does it.” Just like I rarely think of Jenna as “different” or “special needs,” I rarely think of myself as different from other moms. Oh sure, I have those moments of feeling sorry for myself or feeling sorry for Jenna. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t ‘fess up to that. BUT, those moments are few and far between and I try to chase them away as soon as they come. The fact is that, just like most moms out there, I take one moment at a time. That’s right. THAT’S the secret!
Secret 1: One moment at a time. In fact, when I start worrying, fretting, or sinking into a pity party, I usually realize that I’m NOT taking one moment at a time. The secret is to do what has to be done in the moment – savor the good stuff, deal with the bad stuff – and repeat. Yes, Jenna throws up more than most kids and sometimes her tube pulls out. I deal with the “crisis” in the moment by doing what needs done and move on to the next moment. I truly think this is what all moms do, they just don’t give themselves enough credit. My crises might be different than yours, but you have your own, and I’m glad I don’t have yours! For example, Jenna is hooked to a feeding pump overnight while she sleeps, and has done this every night since she was an infant. Some might feel sorry for her (or us) being in this situation. But the fact is, as a result, she has slept soundly through the night (most nights) since we brought her home from the hospital. For TWELVE hours every night. HEAVEN for sleep-loving parents. We have friends who have a child who rarely slept and would wake every hour or two. This went on for a year, and still the sleep isn’t great. It doesn’t take long to go insane when you’re sleep deprived. How do these parents do it? I’m sure they take one moment at a time. They do what needs done in the moment and carry on to the next.
Secret 2: Know your limits. You’ve got to learn to recognize that point when you need a break – hopefully, before the “I-can’t-take-it-anymore” point – and ask for help. Ask a partner, a friend, or a relative to cover for you and take some time for yourself. In the absence or non-availability of one of the people mentioned, find someone to hire. Even if money’s tight – your sanity is worth it. We don’t have grandparents nearby, and don’t feel comfortable hiring just any babysitter (or asking friends) to watch Jenna because of the extra care she requires. This means it was hard to get a break sometimes. We live near a college with a great nursing program. One day my mom asked if I had thought about hiring a nursing student to babysit. Brilliant!! We hooked up with a wonderful student who came once a week during the school year, and will come back next year again (her senior year). I had to learn to do two things: ask for help and accept it graciously. I simply learned that when I don’t take a break for myself now and then, I stop following Secret #1. I start feeling too overwhelmed to take one moment at a time.
So a better question might be, “How does ANY parent do it?” I’m convinced beyond a doubt that parenting is the hardest job out there. My friend and I tell each other that parenting is not for wimps. (Although we frequently confess to feeling wimpy). It’s physically, cognitively and emotionally demanding. It’s also phenomenally rewarding and the “payoff” is like nothing else out there. When my daughter hugs my leg and offers an unsolicited and completely sincere, “Wuv you, Mommy,” I know that this moment is one to savor, and I linger in the loveliness. THIS is how I do it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kudos to all the parents out there taking it one moment at a time and loving the journey on the way.