Sunday, May 22, 2011

Perfectly imperfect

I wanted to be a mummy.
To mother a child.
To give birth to a precious bundle created within me.
To watch over and protect them.
To love and nurture them.
But what did I understand of parenting?
Of raising a child to have values?
Of disciplining them?

We may well know that we will be a good mummy but can we truly know what it takes to "parent" before we are actually parents?

In the instant that becoming a mother became a possibility I think that I started to "parent": I read books, I cruised the Internet, I sought advice.  I wanted to be a good parent - no, I wanted to be a perfect parent (doesn't every mother share that dream?).  I would be a perfect parent, living a perfect life with a perfect husband and 2.4 perfect children.  But life isn't perfect, is it? 

Our perfect life squealed to a halt when our perfect little sixteen month old daughter was diagnosed with a genetic condition which means that she is intelligent and independent and beautiful and wheelchair dependent.  Eilidh is perfect in her imperfection.

Suddenly my perfect little life seemed imperfect (which some may well feel is a little harsh)and I felt so very, very lost.  I felt empty and had nothing in reserve.  No books could tell me how to cope with the diagnosis of Spinal Muscular Atrophy or the realisation that my daughter would never walk, that she was disabled.  No books would tell me how to tell her sister that they would never run or skip or hop side by side.  No books could tell me how to look at my daughter or even cuddle her when inside my heart was breaking and I was sobbing.  I forgot how to be  my perfect imperfection's parent. I was still her mother but I no longer knew how to parent Eilidh.

"A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world.  It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path."

Agatha Christie

At some point, however - and I don't remember when - my instincts kicked in; instincts so powerful that I couldn't ignore them. When all seemed to be falling apart I concentrated, with my whole heart and my body, on my instincts.  I realised I did know what to do: I knew how to love her, how to hold her, what to tell her sister, what to do to save my family.  I became more confident as I realised that my instincts were worth trusting: my instincts are innate, part of my very being and they are a powerful force in creating two wonderfully independent, creative and empathic little girls.  I realised that when raising children, if you listen to your instincts, imperfect parenting doesn't exist.  You don't need to seek perfection: you don't need to be a perfect parent  to be a good mum.  You have everything it takes - you just might not know it within your heart of hearts yet - and when life seems tough, you need to look within and trust your instincts.

So I'm trusting my instincts while parenting my perfectly imperfect family.
My instincts tell me what is right and what is wrong.
My instincts tell me that I will do anything and everything for my family.
Perfectly or imperfectly, my instincts will help me be a parent and a mother to my perfect daughter and my perfectly imperfect daughter.
We will have a imperfectly perfect life...
Actually, we are already living it.

and if all else fails...

This Be The Verse

They f**k you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

Philip Larkin

This post is included in the @BritMums Carnival about Imperfect Parenting
at Mummy from the Heart.
Thanks, Michelle for including Touch & Tickle.


bod for tea said...

Oh my dear this is such a beautiful post, so honest and heartfelt. I wanted to be the perfect parent all the way through bumpdom and it wasn't until DD was born and cried every night for weeks with Colic that I realised I didn't have a clue what I was doing. A perfectly imperfect life is perfectly fine with me.

Romi and Bob said...

This brought a tear to my eye. I am pretty sure your daughter is perfect and will have a happy life with you. I can be quite hard on myself and sometimes wish I was 'perfect.' Being a parent often is very different to how we think it may be, but the way it really is is sometimes better. This was beautifully written, can I link on my blog? x

Michelle Twin Mum said...

A beautiful post, thanks so much for sharing. I am so glad to hear that you realised that what you needed was inside you all the time.

Mich x

Midlife Singlemum said...

I j ust got round to reading the imperfect parenting carnival. I was moved to prickly eyes and lump in throat as I read your post. I also love the quotes on your blog - every one is true and poignant. Good luck with your beautiful family.

Looking for Blue Sky said...

Really lovely. It perfectly expresses my transition too. Mum, Dad, beautiful daughter, lovely home, two good careers, and then suddenly being thrown into a new world of premature birth and disability and all certainties ended xx

ever hopeful mummy said...

thank you for stopping by blue sky. i have just re-read the post and it reminds me that i'm doing ok despite everything - even on the days when the world seems to be crashing down on top of me, i'm doing just fine xx

Di said...

Our journey is interesting to say the least. It might not be the one we had our hearts set on but we can't go back.. we just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving. At least our lives aren't boring!! ;)

LittleMamma said...

Enjoyed reading this. I think it perfectly sums up that feeling of uselessness that comes with realising that your child isn't perfect. Or that they're perfect just in a different way! I genuinely remember re-reading a Gina Ford book in the vain hope that it would teach me how to teach a severely visually impaired and globally developmentally delayed child the difference between night and day, when to sleep and when not to sleep. Bearing in mind the whole routine and structure didn't work for my ever-so-greedy-feed-me four-times-a-night-perfect-child it was hardly going to help with Little H now was it? And then you're right - instinct kicks in and you realise, "Gina Ford can't tell me what to do, nor The Baby whisperer( - whatever her name was, oh I had ALL the books!) The Bounty website can't help, there's no tips on the babycentre site, nope - it's up to me!" And somehow you realise you knew all along!

Also, loved the little Philip Larkin poem at the end. Made me smile. :D

ever hopeful mummy said...

Di and LittleMamma
Our lives are just not as we imagined them to be are they? and we have to accept and love the lives we have because we have no option - the love of our children keeps us going and we learn to live within our perfectly imperfect life...