I learned this new acronym recently from a dear friend and fellow metster, Emily Garnett, who has an amazing blog (Beyond the Pink Ribbon) and podcast (The Intersection of Cancer and Life) that all of you should follow if you aren’t already.
FOMO = Fear of Missing Out
I had never really experienced this concept with my kiddos until very recently. When I learned I was pregnant, I was committed to being the best mom I could be. While the natural birth didn’t happen with either of my kiddos, I threw myself into motherhood with all that I had. No one who knows me is surprised by this, since I’ve never been able to anything in moderation. We co-slept, we nursed and nursed and nursed and I pumped and pumped and pumped. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, we were tandem nursing and the boys were about to turn 4 and 2.
All of a sudden, everything changed with my parenting and mothering experiences. I absolutely believe that there is no one right way of parenting or mothering or being a cancer patient, etc. For me, I had to learn how to be a mother without breastfeeding and being in pain. Breastfeeding is so much more than food; breastfeeding meant that I could physically address whatever was going on with my boys effectively. I learned that through trial and error. Adjusting to being a mother without nursing has been traumatic in so many different ways, but nearly two years after weaning, I can confidently say that I’ve learned new ways of mothering that are just as effective, just not as easy as sticking my breast into my boys’ mouths.
That’s a good picture of how things can change and the structure of a parenting relationship can change, but the underlying foundation is still there and is still strong and resilient.
Each loss and each change brings with it unique trauma and adjustments.
Recently, I experienced another loss in my relationship with the boys. I’ve dealt with being in pain for a while and sometimes I literally forget that I’m not as able to move well. It “sounds” weird to say/write, but I do actually have times when I forget and react instinctively. The recent “loss” that hit me pretty hard is to do with the physical interactions with the boys.
First of all, we took the training wheels off of the boys’ bikes over a recent weekend and they were practicing learning how to balance and ride their bikes without the safety net of the training wheels. Their bikes are pretty low to the ground and they needed someone to hold on while they were practicing. I discovered that despite my new found flexibility (thank you regular massages and lots of yoga) and less pain since my steroid shot last fall, that bending down and attempting to move quickly still sends lightening pain through my hips and down my legs. After I tried a few adjustments that did not make it better, I had to settle for watching, applauding and cheering them on. That’s important too, I know, but facing the loss of having to sit on the sidelines rather than being in the mix is humbling and sometimes shocking and leads to a fear that I’m lacking in some way.
Secondly, recently my youngest, a fearless three year old with no sense of his own limitations, decided that running out of a gate at the playground that had a road immediately outside of it was a good idea. I didn’t think, I didn’t look around, I simply reacted. I took off running at my top speed (not exactly fast) to grab him and ensure that he was out of danger. Total mama-bear moment–nothing was getting in my way in my quest to ensure his safety. Spoiler alert, he is fine, doesn’t even remember the incident and I experienced a good deal of extra pain for several days.
I did what I needed to do as a parent, but I’ve paid for it in pain. Not unfamiliar pain, but pain that interferes with everything else.
I’m very well aware that parenting and mothering changes. My relationship with the boys is probably stronger now that I spend so much more time with them and am able to focus on them now that I’m not as distracted. However, I do ruminate on missing out, on not being able to be as physical with two active little boys, and how that makes me feel as a mother. It sucks, big time.
At the same time, I know I’m a good mother. I know that my boys are loved and nurtured and they are happy and supported in their authentic selves. I know this because that is my focus, every single day, and they are surrounded by people who love them fiercely. I am intentional about my relationship with the boys. I’m not perfect and I definitely don’t succeed all the time, but I think I’m succeeding more often than not.
I still grieve that I miss out on specific activities.
I still grieve that I can’t do what I want to do and that my kids want me to do.
I still grieve that terminal cancer has affected my relationship with my children.
I still grieve that my body doesn’t work the way I want it to.
I still grieve that I pay for movement later.
I still grieve that I have to plan so much more to be able to go to activities that I want to attend because I only have so much energy and only so many spoons available (check out the spoon theory of chronic pain if you haven’t heard of it before: https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/).
Life can be frustrating and hard and excruciating and beautiful and amazing all at once. Every day, I make myself get up and connect with my kids and EMBRACE all that we have together. I still have some FOMO, but for my kids to remember me, I have to be in their lives now. That’s what I’m going to keep doing for as long as I can.