this is motherhood {too}: Laesa’s story

July 17, 2018, This is Motherhood Too, 2 Comments

“Mom, is there a nurse here today?” my five year old son asks me as he rolls out of bed and fumbles into the kitchen, waiting for some sort of breakfast to be placed in front of him.

It is a common question these days, for him to glean what to anticipate from the day.

Will mom give him the attention he desires, or instead of splitting the attention evenly will it be fully directed towards his baby sister today? Will mom drive him to and from school, like all the other mammas do? Except without a sibling in tow, resting on her hip, like all the other mammas do. Will he get to tag along at the grocery store, or accompany his sister at a doctor’s appointment?

He has learnt the rhythms of our days. And mostly, having a nurse here is the deciding factor for how it will play out.

He knows that if there is a nurse here he will get my full, [almost] undivided attention. A day with a nurse means he gets me and she gets them.

Though if there is no nurse than the day will be slow, dull even, and I will be almost entirely distracted. His meals will be prepared for him, but mostly he will eat alone. Rides will be arranged to get him to any activity outside the house and he will get his things together himself to get out the door. And if there is nowhere to get to than he is captive here too, at home, along with his sister and I.

My daughter lives and breathes with a tracheostomy tube. She has other medical complexities including a feeding tube, a severe congenital heart defect and seemingly random physical anomalies throughout her body. But the trach is what qualifies her for home health nurses. Every single night a nurse is in our home, sitting in her bedroom, charting her vitals, cleaning her medical equipment, stocking supplies, preparing tube feeds, suctioning her trach, and being on standby in case of emergency. When we are gifted a nurse during the day, they ride in the backseat of the car beside her, to allow me to safely transport her to doctors appointments and follow ups and the odd play date. Or they stay home with her to work on her various therapies and get her down for a nap, allowing me to get errands done, spend time with my son, or have some moments to myself.

Since the day she was born I have released my daughter into the arms of another. There has been no choice in the matter. She was surviving on a ventilator, growing beyond her birth size of 1500 grams and recovering from surgery after surgery.  The most I could give her was the milk from my breast and a finger to hold. So each day I gave her just that as I sat bedside and watched as another cared for her. And I left each evening, with an ache in my belly to have her back within.

Having a nurse was necessary while in hospital, for obvious reasons. But I never anticipated needing a nurse present when we came home as well. I never anticipated that I would share so many mothering duties, share the privacy of my home, or share the most intimate piece of my heart: my child.

But, I am not enough for her.

I have known this since I was 31 weeks pregnant, and my body was failing at keeping her safely inside. When she was born a week later and my breasts were bursting with milk that she couldn’t yet consume, I knew she needed more than I could naturally give. When a hole was discovered between her trachea and esophagus, and an expert surgeon was brought in to keep her alive, I knew my prayers and my hands were only capable of so much healing. When the long days at the hospital came to an end, days of holding and pacing and pumping and staring and wishing and dreading, and I had nothing left to offer, I would leave. I made my way home, leaving pieces of myself behind, leaving her in the care of others, because I knew I couldn’t be it all.

I needed to let go, so that I had more of myself to bring back to her the next day.

This is motherhood, too. Continually, letting go.

I let go of my instincts and desires as a mother, for the greater good of her needs as a medically complex baby and my needs as her sole caretaker. I have let go of idyllic pictures I once envisioned of enjoying my children at the same time, in the same space. I let go of what I envision as “normal” and instead have learnt to create our very own normal. I let go of making plans, which inevitably may be disrupted. I let go of expectations that I place on myself, on others.

I let go so that I can receive the capacity to be more. An act of releasing in an attempt to expand. I can do all of it well, I have learnt, when I give my time and energy in pieces. Pieces for her and for him, pieces for us and for me.

And these pieces of me, scattered about, seem to be more enough than my whole self could ever put forth.

I let go of her, into the arms of a nurse, daily.

My son calls for my attention from the other room.

I pull her little fingers from their grasp around my neck, and I place her into the arms of another. We lock eyes during this transfer, and nod knowingly at each other.

She knows this is necessary. She knows it is ok. And she does not fight it anymore. Though, sometimes, I wish she would.

By Laesa Kim

Photos by Katie Cross Photography. Clothing provided by June Isle Clothier.


  • Reply Nurse Dawn February 22, 2019 at 11:49 AM

    I am one of those home care nurses, who cares for other children with complex needs. I’ve done this work for over a decade. I’m also a mom of two young kids, aged 4 and 6.

    Thank you for teaching me about your experience about what it’s like to have nurses in your home, and how it has shapes your dynamic with your children.
    I respect parents like you, who have to hold on and let go at the same time.

    Wishing you joy and peace in motherhood.

  • Reply Carly Turner July 17, 2018 at 7:09 AM

    Beautifully written! I am a mama who has been there, only with two older brothers. They grew up with so much compassion and patience because our days had to be scheduled around their sister. Sadly, my daughter went to be with Jesus 4 years ago and it was strange to not be bound by a nursing schedule. Praying for continued grace for you and your family.

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