36. What does it mean to be a mother when you can’t do the Mothering? – Jayne Ann Osborne
" During that time, I had a lot of time to think. Perhaps too much time. Sometimes the thoughts were heavy and difficult to endure. Sometimes the thoughts were questions I would try to work through. One such question began as a plague and ended as a treasure."
Pregnancy is difficult for everyone in one way or another. For me, “difficult” came as a medical diagnosis of a pregnancy disorder called “hyperemesis gravidarum.” My pregnancies were awful. I experienced extreme nausea and vomiting all the way to 40 weeks with each of my four children.
As hard as my pregnancies were, physically and emotionally, they were also quite difficult for the rest of my family. I knew, going into the pregnancy with our youngest child, that I needed to try to prepare myself and the kids for what was to come.
As the nausea and vomiting began to hit in the summer of 2021, I tried to explain to my three little ones that I was going to be very sick for a very long time. I tried to help them understand that we were making this sacrifice to help their little sibling come into the world. I tried to explain that everything would be worth it in the end.
They nodded and tried to understand. But some things you just can’t fully understand until you actually go through it.
The weeks wore on. I got more and more sick. I got so sick that I was almost completely bed bound for months. I lived on IV fluids and the angelic, helping hands of family and friends.
During that time, I had a lot of time to think. Perhaps too much time. Sometimes the thoughts were heavy and difficult to endure. Sometimes the thoughts were questions I would try to work through. One such question began as a plague and ended as a treasure.
What does it mean to be a mother when you are too sick to do any actual mothering?
Thoughts swirled in my head as I watched other people run my life. They were needed, and oh so appreciated, and at the same time, I was devastated. At first, my little ones would come to the bedside for the usual things – a sandwich, TV time, a game, a tattle etc. However, moving at all would trigger vomiting. Even the sensation of speaking – the vibration in my throat – would trigger vomiting. I would redirect the kids to ask Dad, or Grandma, or Natalie (our summertime babysitter). Eventually my children stopped asking me for anything, and their needs were met without me.
I felt worthless. I felt useless. I knew this was how it had to be, but it was so hard.
Who am I to my children when I can’t do all the mothering things? What use am I when any functional adult can make a sandwich? Am I really so replaceable?
These thoughts were relentless, and yet they didn’t sit right within me. They didn’t feel like the truth.
I began asking the same questions, but now with a sense of curiosity.
Who am I to my children when I can’t do all the mothering things?
What do I have to offer that is unique to my role as their mother?
Am I replaceable? Or is there something more to our mother-child relationship, outside of the things I can and can’t do?
Eventually, I began to come to a deeper understanding of what it means to be a mother. That understanding has made all the difference in the world.
What I can and cannot do is not who I am. What I can and cannot do fluctuates – it can change based on impermanent circumstances.
There is nothing in this world that can change who I am to my children. Being their mother is forever. There is no sickness, no injury, not even passing from this life can change the fact that I am their mother. No matter what state I am in, physically or otherwise, who I am will never change. Who I am as their mother will always matter in a special, unique, irreplaceable, permanent way.
I believe that now, all the way down to my bones. I believe it about myself, and I believe it about you.
Who you are is the most important thing. What you can do is just a bonus.
Jayne Ann Osborne is a stay-at-home mother of four, and a four-time hyperemesis gravidarum survivor from Salt Lake City, Utah. Her experiences in pregnancy led her to write and illustrate the children’s book, “When Mommies Get Sick.” Her book serves as a guide to help children understand what to expect and how to help during times and/or seasons of maternal illness. Jayne Ann is passionate about helping mothers find joy through intentional parenting, no matter what life throws their way. Her blog and collection of published books can be found at www.life-onpurpose.com.