Content warning: discussion of suicide
There’s nothing in this world that compares to the moment you first hold your newborn baby in your arms. This small person that somehow came from you, perfect in every way, whose future is vast and full of opportunity. I had the chance, at 19 and 24, to experience this with my beautiful daughters.
When we bring these tiny bundles of joy home, we want to do everything right to ensure that they grow into the best humans they can possibly be. Books and psychology, for me, have always been the answer to the question of how to tackle this seemingly insurmountable task. I have never for a moment believed that any one person has all the answers, but if you read enough, you can create some amalgamation of all the data that will work for you, right?
My god, I have never been so wrong. My method of laying groundwork in the beginning to prepare for the dreaded teen years was quite possibly a complete waste of time. Nothing can prepare you for puberty. That sweet baby who grew into a child with doe eyes filled with hero worship for you—one day she looks at you with a cool, squinty expression and rolls those same eyes like you may possibly be the stupidest person she’s ever encountered. You try your best to check the attitude while waiting with bated breath for a tiny glimpse of the child you’ve loved more than your own life.
The teen years have proven to be the absolute hardest for me. My precious babies are 17 and 13 now. Try as I might, I can’t seem to do anything right. They hate me a good 60% of the time at this point.
This summer was the worst to date though.
My oldest daughter attempted suicide by overdose at the beginning of July, after we argued. She wrote several notes that night to multiple family members, telling them how sorry she was that she was doing this. In the note she left for me, she told me what a terrible mother I had been and how much she hated me.
About 12 hours after her initial ingestion of pills, her breathing became labored, and she started seizing. They had to intubate her because her body was starting to shut down. When they did that, she aspirated. She was unconscious and on a ventilator for three weeks after that.
I didn’t leave my daughter’s side the entire first week. I was a complete wreck. The hospital finally sent in a psychologist who convinced me that I needed to get some sleep because my daughter would need me more when she woke up than she did right then. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was leave the hospital room that night.
Several complications arose while she slept—aspiration pneumonia, full body edema, incredibly high heart rate followed by an incredibly low heart rate. She had a line inserted into one of her main veins that was nearly a foot long, and an arterial line that had to be stitched to her skin to keep it from coming out.
When she woke up, my daughter had no idea of the absolute agony I had been through. It was business as usual for her since she slept through the whole thing. Her body was ravaged though. She went through narcotic withdrawals, since the drug they used to keep her asleep was a close cousin to heroin. They took her to an inpatient psych facility for a week from there.
Things still aren’t right. Every day is a struggle. She’s on a mood stabilizer and antidepressant that are supposed to keep her from doing this again, but yesterday she told her psychiatrist that she still has frequent suicidal thoughts. We walked on eggshells around her in the beginning, but no one can live their life like that for long.
When the hospital psychologist came in to talk to me, I expressed through sobbing tears the immense guilt I’ve always felt for my shortcomings as a single parent. I was a child myself at 19 when I brought my first daughter home. I’ve messed up so many times since, I can’t even count all of my mistakes. The psychologist said something that really struck me. She said, ‘It must be exhausting carrying around all that guilt.’ She asked me if I thought I was a better mother now than I was in the beginning. I told her I definitely think that I am. She asked me if I thought I’d been a good mother more than a bad one. I agreed that yes, I have. Then she asked me when I was going to forgive myself for the mistakes I’d made.
Being a parent is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. I’m not perfect and I never will be. I’m in the middle of an absolute shit storm right now and it’s all I can do to keep my head above water. I have no idea where I’m going from here. But the one thing I’ve learned is that through it all, I have to offer myself a little grace and forgiveness.