I didn’t know what I had hoped for as I dipped my toe into the icy water, but it didn’t work. The ice had barely melted from the lake, but my soul had not yet thawed. Thin tendrils of fog danced on the surface of the water as I watched from the edge of the dock. My feet dangled and I pulled the thick quilt around my shoulders until it was so tight that I could almost feel it holding me upright. I hadn’t bothered to grab a coat. I wouldn’t be here long.
It was still hard to breathe. When would that get easier? When would I be able to pull oxygen into my lungs without thought, without a conscious effort? I exhaled and the fog from my mouth mingled with the rest, and I couldn’t help thinking I had brought this upon myself.
It was too hard. I didn’t want to do it anymore.
I knew it was going to be difficult to raise a child. I had prepared for the sleepless nights and selfless exhaustion, but how could I have guessed that I would be caring for two—one tiny perfect daughter and one struggling, disintegrating mother?
They call it “the sandwich generation” as if something as innocuous as a sandwich could even begin to describe the stress of being pulled in every direction. I signed up to feed my baby girl, not my mother. I chose to bathe the perfect little human I had created, not the one who had created me.
It was too much.
I yelled. I cried. I pummelled my fists into my husband’s chest when the frustration became too overwhelming.
If only I had known how much harder it would be to say goodbye.
I would take those moments back in a heartbeat. I would suck my hateful angry words back into my mouth and smile through the trials.
She didn’t mean it.
She didn’t intend to make me want to pull out my hair.
She couldn’t help relying on me, yet I was furious for it.
And now she was gone, and with her any hope of redeeming myself.
I saw her burnished casket being lowered into the ground every time I closed my eyes.
My heart pounded in my empty chest as the tears fell, tracing their paths down my cheeks. I imagined they would make it all the way to the lake, but they wouldn’t. My tears didn’t deserve to be free, and I didn’t deserve to let them go.
The third board creaked, like it did every time someone stepped on it, and I knew I wasn’t alone.
He never judged. I did that enough for both of us.
I felt him sit behind me, his legs straddling me as his arms enveloped me. I rested my back on his chest and he held me in my grief. It was all he ever did, and all I ever wanted. We sat together in silence until I inhaled and let the icy air prick at my lungs. “Does she need me?” I asked, wiping the tears from my eyes.
“Yeah.” Together we stood, and together we made our way back to the house.
She was waiting for me in her bed, her blanket askew and her soft eyes watching. She too was patient with me, waiting for me to heal. I reached out and my fingertips brushed her hair from her face.
My voice was barely more than a whisper. It was all I could manage.
“Hi mom,” I said.
For the YMC Voices of Motherhood 2015 contest, we asked mothers from all over Canada to submit their story based on the theme “Stages of Motherhood: Past, Present, or Future.”
We received over 100 thought provoking stories that made us laugh, cry, and nod our heads in agreement. Our judges had their work cut out for them to narrow it down to the Top 10.