Late to the Stay-At-Home-Mom Game

And so Clara sat and watched and waited. And knew the agony of doing nothing.”

Louise Penny, Still Life

*Trigger Warning* Miscarriage

I had originally scheduled my next book review for today – and may post it as a bonus post later this week instead – but as I have been focusing on my mental health this week in response to the latest (albeit unsurprising) extension of the lockdown here in Ontario, I felt a change of plans was in order.

This is a post I have been ruminating on for a while now. A difficult one for me to write because I’m not sure how much of the insanity of last year I want to share with the world just yet.

Despite my hesitation, my feelings on this topic have been begging to be written down, to be shared, to be allowed a resolution and a sense of closure. So, here goes.

I have technically been a stay-at-home mom (though one working several freelance contracts simultaneously) since July of last year. While I went back to work initially three months after giving birth to Aria, I found that the stress of keeping on top of all my work tasks while keeping a little human alive was too much for my mental health to handle. Not to mention the fact that we were all also trying to find our rhythm in the midst of a global pandemic.

I don’t know how mothers in countries without parental leave do it…

But I digress.

It took until Aria was already almost a year old to finish this room for her. But isn’t it beautiful? (Photo: Erin of the Hills)

Louis and I had been vacillating about whether we could afford for me to stay home with any future children for years but the tipping point for me ended up being the day I started looking for a daycare for Aria. Before she was even born.

Other moms had warned me that spots were hard to find, that they filled up quickly. What I had not been warned about was the agony of thinking about sending your child away to be cared for by someone else before you had even held them in your arms.

Now, I want to be clear here.

I am in no way shape or form judging moms who send their kids to daycare for whatever reason, whether because they can’t afford not to work, because they have too many to care for, or simply because they prefer to continue their careers. Every decision is a personal one and there will be NO Mom shaming here. Especially not only a week after Mother’s Day!

But, for me, the thought of sending Aria to daycare at merely 9 months old (when our leave would be up) was unbearable. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I sent out queries as to whether various home daycares and daycare centers would have space in the Fall of 2020.

And that was it. Decision made.

I would stay home with the kids until they were all of school age. I had to, for my sake.

But the question remained as to whether or not I would keep my job. Louis was on leave until October and my job was only three days a week and entirely worked from home. Since Aria would be older by the time Louis headed back to work, I wondered if I might be able to do it all: care for my child and work part-time.

Before I could figure out which path I wanted to take, a change in my health made making a decision necessary – it was one or the other and the clear choice was Aria. I couldn’t do both.

But even once I had made this decision, my health didn’t improve. The spring was spent making trips to and from hospitals and doctors, trying to figure out what was the cause of my weird neurological symptoms (answer: likely postpartum anxiety compounded with the stress of learning how to parent during a global pandemic). I’ve actually written about this in detail before so I won’t go into the intricacies of what I went through again here. This was followed by a fairly healthy summer but one in which I was so exhausted by all my physical symptoms that even the smallest task of rocking Aria to sleep was too much for me to handle.

The comfy, blessedly big, room where I spent most of my convalescence (Photo: Erin of the Hills)

Fall came and I began to feel better. I thought things were finally looking up and I could at last take on the full-time care of my baby. Perfect timing, too, since Louis was heading back to work.

I hoped too soon.

Around Halloween, we found out unexpectedly that I was, well, expecting again. While this was of course wonderful news since we knew we wanted more kids, my body wasn’t ready. Two months of absolutely debilitating nausea that left me bedridden most days was followed unfortunately by a miscarriage just before New Years.

We were heartbroken.

For those family and friends who were not aware of this, I hope you will forgive me for letting you know through a blog post. I have been thinking for months how to tell all our loved ones about the experience without having to revisit the trauma over and over again. This was the best way for me. I hope you all understand.

A beautiful gift from a fellow mother who has also experienced a miscarriage (Photo: Erin of the Hills)

On top of the mental anguish of losing a child, there was the physical toll which was worse than I could have imagined. If the postpartum recovery of the previous year had been hard, this seemed near impossible. I couldn’t move without feeling dizzy. I was bone-tired all day every day. Any physical activity was out of the question and I didn’t even trust myself to hold my daughter.

More hospital visits confirmed that both my hemoglobin and iron stores were low. That it would likely take months for me to feel myself again.

And, again, Louis and our wonderful extended family stepped in and up to ease my personal guilt and our collective burden. Friends who had gone through a similar experience brought care packages. My mommy-tribe on Facebook checked in on me daily to make sure I was doing well mentally and physically, or as well as could be expected.

Most importantly, Aria was well-cared for. But not by me. I needed to focus on my own healing and the waiting was unbelievably hard. I watched as Aria grew and changed, but from a distance. I still wasn’t strong enough to be the mother I ached to be for her.

During the past year my body felt like a patch of grass dusted with dandelion seeds. With a simple change of weather came a whole host of new symptoms (Photo: Erin of the Hills)

Finally, though, things began to look up. My energy and strength slowly returned. I was able to hold my beautiful little girl without being worried I would drop her. She reacted to this positive change in our relationship by cuddling me aggressively, as if making up for lost time.

I had been so afraid that I had lost my chance to be an involved Mom. To be the type of Mom who got down on the ground and crawled after her beautiful creation. I thought perhaps that ship had sailed, that our relationship would be forever defined by how it began.

But kids are forgiving. Aria took no time at all to get used to me being around more. To Mama giving her baths, feeding her solid foods and even putting her to bed. Finally, more than a year after her birth I was able to truly call myself a stay at home mom.

And I’m loving every minute of it.

So, a very Happy Belated Mother’s Day to all of the mothers, mother figures, and those who mother out there. Regardless how you do it, this job is not easy. But it is so worthwhile.

You are loved, you are seen, and you are my hero.

And, remember, life is beautiful.

Xo Erin

7 thoughts on “Late to the Stay-At-Home-Mom Game

    1. Thank you, Lucy, I know you have experienced something similar far too many times from reading your blog. I am wishing you a healthy delivery (coming up?) and can’t wait to see your baby’s room (if you choose to share or draw it!). Thanks for reading ❤

      1. If it arrives on target, that’s coming up in … 2.5 weeks? (Yikes, very close!) Currently we don’t have a ‘room’ for the baby, we just have it’s cot and other things set up in our bedroom, so not very exciting at all. But we plan to re-purpose the spare room in 6-12 months for it when it’s a little bigger.

  1. Oh, Erin. I am sorry for your loss. Also I struggled when having to return to work. In the UK we can have up to a year but work pressured me and financially we were struggling so I went back when my daughter was 5 months old. I hated it, regretted it but none of my friends were stay at home mums. Childcare took most of my income. My second child, I returned to work again but he was a little older and only part time but two childcare spaces meant I bought home no extra income so I had to get a second evening job to keep us a float. I felt so much guilt but at the same time pressure to bring in some money that after a while it was too much. I gave up the office job and kept the evenings. Best thing I ever did. Enjoy every minute of being a Mom.

    1. Thank you, Gemma, that truly means so much to me. And thank you for sharing your story! I think it is so important for people to hear these stories as there is still so much pressure on Moms especially to choose between career and staying home with their kids, even if that isn’t the best option for their mental health. I hope we can eventually craft a society where this choice is truly an individual one and not something forced upon parents who are already overwhelmed at trying to find their feet when it comes to raising the next generation. I’m so glad you found something that worked for you! I’m still working on that for me, but I know I’ll get there ❤

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