My week started as any typical week of a busy solo- and self-employed mum of 3 children, so I thought.
The night before, my 16-year-old had been complaining of a sore tummy, but not enough to stop him from going to the movies. Early on Monday morning, he came to find me saying his stomach was sore and he hadn’t been able to sleep, but he didn’t want to wake me as he thought I needed my sleep.
So I took him to the doctor at 7am. When, eventually, he was seen, he was just given pain medication and we left around lunchtime. My gut feeling told me something was off, so I decided to keep a close eye on him. It turned out I was right, and around 6pm we headed to A&E which became the start of a long week in the hospital, trying to manage his pain and figure out what was causing it.
The doctor thought that it could be appendicitis, but apart from the severe pain, not everything was adding up to this.
I spent the first night in A&E trying to keep my son calm and advocate for him. This was not my first time in A&E or the hospital; I had a frequent flyers pass, both for myself and my other son, since both of us have congenital heart defects. We know the routines, and I slipped into hospital mode straightway. So much so that I was asked a lot if I worked in a hospital.
A lesson in letting go
What I wasn’t prepared for this time, was that my child was no longer seen as a child but as an adult. I found it hard because I wanted to protect him, advocate for him and make everything better, but I couldn’t.
The hard part of being a parent is wanting the best for your child but also learning to let go and allowing them to make their own choices. Especially when you know that when in pain, it’s tough to make clear choices.
At 16, at times he can be so grown up, but at others times like this, he still needs his Mum.
I suddenly had a real insight into how my Mum must have felt all those years ago. Those countless hospital stays with me, with my push back to be strong and independent, wanting space and to be left alone… And other times just really wanting her to hold my hand and tell me everything would be okay.
It turns out, this story is not about my Son, but about my journey of letting go, and recognising the lessons learned and those I still have to learn.
The week I spent in the hospital was very different from my normal role as a Mum. I didn’t take care of myself, and it wasn’t until I was home that I realised how stressed I was. I thought that apart from being a little sore from sleeping in a strange position, I was fine. Of course I was tired because of a lack of sleep and living off coffee, but I thought I was really okay.
But actually I wasn’t okay, but I was going to push on and be there for my son. Others told me to go home and rest, and I did eventually leave, even though there was no other place I wanted to be. He stayed in the hospital on his own the last 2 nights, and I even went to work and the last day of his stay: the Mum guilt was real.
Trying to be superhuman
But where I went wrong is that I was trying to be super woman. I wanted to be there for my Son, wave a magic wand if possible, and make everything better for him. And at the same time, I wanted to make sure my other 2 children were cared for and still run my business.
I should have just given myself the week off and give myself some breathing space. But instead I chose to cancel each day as it came, which was stressful as I didn’t want to let clients down and loss to much income. And in the and, I needn’t to have worried about losing clients. They were all super understanding, wished my son well and reminded me to look after myself.
I thought once I was home everything would magically be okay, but actually it was the opposite. I was completely exhausted. I couldn’t shake the overwhelming tiredness that felt like even sleep wouldn’t fix, and of course I was still worried about my Son. On top of that I also was aware that my other children had missed me and needed me and I was trying to rebook a week’s worth of client appointments, and missed housework into an already full week.
I think that when you're in the hospital, you have a type of wrap around support. But once you're home all of that’s fades away and the reality of what has happened hits you.
I was lucky that my partner stayed with me to help, and I was able to get some rest. But I still felt emotional exhausted.
Even as mindfulness teacher, it’s still hard to be human and be your own best friend. I realised that acceptance for what is, and having self-compassion when you’re faced with stress is one of the most challenging things to do.