Mother to a neurotypically developing child, Mother to a child with special needs, Wife, Doctor, Daughter, Sister, Friend... These are just some of the roles in my life. Which is most important??? Does there need to be one that takes priority or can I just fulfill them all fully?
We all have different lives, but we all have many roles in our lives. Which are some of your roles???
Up until 2 years ago, I just lived my life. I remember being young and wanting to be a doctor. I remember focusing on what I needed to accomplish in order to fulfill that dream of becoming a doctor. It was a lot of hard work, but my life was somewhat on auto-pilot...follow these steps and do well and I knew I could reach my goal. I was so focused, busy and exhausted that I didn't think much outside the box and just kept going.
I met Roberto, my husband at age 17, as I started my undergraduate education. He had the same goal to become a doctor...so together we accomplished it.
We got married after dating for 7 years, I was 24 years old. At that time, I was in medical school...still busy and focused.
I think I just kept doing what was expected of me...keep moving forward. I completed residency and started to practice medicine...as did Roberto.
We waited to start a family until we were "ready"...after we had great careers and a home. Again, I just kept following the path of what was right and was expected. Don't get me wrong, I was perfectly happy. I married the man I loved and I fulfilled my lifelong dream of becoming a doctor. However, I was so busy just staying on track and moving that I never really did any soul-searching...who am I truly as I embark and take on new roles in life? How is this all changing the core person that I am, or is it not changing me? Should it change me? I am happy, but where is this happiness coming from? From my roles in life (from being a wife and a doctor), or from inside? Does it matter?
After 10 years of marriage, Olivia was born...with a little surprise. Up until this point in my life, I felt everything had been perfect. At least, everything went as planned. For the first time, a curveball had been thrown my way. A child with Down Syndrome? That's not what we planned (of course nobody plans having a child with special needs), and at the time, I wasn't sure that's what I wanted. (read "I'm Sorry Olivia" post for more on this). I was suddenly learning to be a mother, and how to address my child's unique abilities, all at the same time. I learned of extra appointments and therapies that were going to be needed for a child with Down Syndrome. Due to all these changes, Roberto and I decided it would be best if I cut back at work to part-time.
Five months after Olivia was born, as I was starting to adjust to my new role as a mother and accepting the fact that our child was "different" (that's how I saw it at the time)...I found out we were expecting our 2nd child. Yes, I am embarrassed to say (as an OB-GYN) that the second pregnancy came as a surprise. It was too fast...too much.
Robert was born 14 months after Olivia. Another role now added to my already full schedule in my life. Mother to a baby boy with a difficult sleep pattern until age 3!
This is just a quick flash of my life. We all have so many roles and so many things to do, that I think many of us get lost in the chaos of it all. I know there are amazing, strong women who keep it together and multi-task as they juggle all their duties and fulfill all their roles. My hat goes off to all these women...and please give me advice on how you do it!
But for me, as I was dealing with two infants, therapy appointments 3-4 times a week, lack of sleep, getting called for deliveries at the hospital, coming home from work worried about a patient and following up on lab results, having some patients not listen when I said "smoking and drinking is bad for your baby", coming home to cook and put kids to bed...and having a husband who felt a bit abandoned through it all...it became a bit too much. I was exhausted, irritated and had a low threshold to explode when the kids acted out. For a while, however, I did not realize it...and I kept going. Trying to fulfill all my roles, and not really being good at any of them. Now, looking back, I absolutely needed to ask for help. In addition, at the time I didn't realize I was going through depression that I never voiced and I completely ignored. I told myself, "I can handle this...I'm a doctor...how can I not handle two kids? There are women who work with five kids, and they are fine...so I have no reason to complain. "
But the truth is, I was drowning. I was simply trying to stay afloat...as I pretended to everyone I was fine.
The last straw was one day coming home from work. I was cooking dinner and was tired after a stressful day at work and a sleepless night with my son on the sofa (because he went through a phase that he only wanted to sleep on the sofa with me, and I was too tired to enforce sleep training!)...I remember I was in the kitchen and Olivia came into the kitchen repeatedly calling for me, "Mommy, mommy, mommy...", it progressively got louder and louder, followed by "Play, play, play!". I remember I turned to her and said, "Olivia, please get out of the kitchen and be quiet...Mommy has to finish cooking! I can't play with you right now!"
I didn't realize at that time how horrible that was, but soon after, I couldn't believe I told my daughter with Down Syndrome who was clearly using her words to express her needs, to be quiet. For the two years prior to that, we worked day and night to get her to speak and use her words...and she was doing the one thing I had wished for so long, and I completely shut her down. How could I do that to her? What had I turned into???
Multiple things in my life felt to be spiraling out of control...and something had to change.
This happened almost 2 years ago, and I had to re-evaluate everything. Who was I and what were all the roles in my life?
Then, I realized I had forgotten the most important role of all...the role of being Mayra. I had to be me again, figure me out and figure out what I needed in order to be able to be good at all my other roles. I was stretched thin and I completely lost track of me.
Although it was difficult , I began to focus on me. I realized only I can take responsibility for my life and my happiness. I started to focus on my physical, emotional and mental well being, and became a bit more selfish.
It is soooo hard to do, but don't lose sight of who you are as life gets busy!!!
It's definitely a work in progress, but I am trying to focus on me...and that allows me to help make life better for all those around me, especially my family...