Reclaiming Motherhood

By on April 9, 2012

The Crash Shattered More than Just a Rental Car            

Do you ever question your motherhood, fatherhood–asking if you’re doing a good job? If a child fails a class, or cannot make friends, or lies about a fight at school are you asking Where did I go wrong? If your son or daughter moves away and rarely calls, are you asking Why didn’t I say this, remind them of that?  

Such problems can be tough, but they are mild compared to other stories. I’ll share one of mine.

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A car shattered my belief that I was a good mother. I was driving my two adult daughters—my older daughter in front with me, and my younger daughter in back. Maneuvering to make a left turn across an intersection in an unfamiliar town, I didn’t see the car coming. I turned the wheel, the girls screamed, and the car kept on —ramming into the right side of my rental car, ramming into my two daughters, and eventually into my motherhood.

No! This isn’t happening. Chaos. People everywhere—people calling 911, a man sopping up blood spurting from one daughter’s forehead, a woman holding me while I sob as I try to awaken the other daughter slumped over in her seat.

Nightmare in broad daylight. Sirens in the distance. The driver of the other car—totally fine. Like me. My brain on overdrive but not handling any information well.

I had caused this. I had almost killed my two amazing daughters. And even as I tried to keep a clear head, to comfort them as they were lifted into the ambulance, I didn’t know what lay ahead—one bleeding and crying, the other on a backboard with neck brace, awake but shaking.

These are moments no one ever prepares for. And I’m an RN. I made the awful phone calls necessary to alert family members. If I wanted to fall back into a chair and wring my hands, I didn’t, instead used my nursing knowledge to move things along. It helped.

The backboard and neck brace were removed after a normal c-spine, though my eldest did have a concussion. It took longer to discharge my other daughter who had a broken nose and deep cuts that needed stitching. Oddly, despite all their education and maturity of years, the accident dragged them back to clingy behavior patterns that reminded me of their childhoods—they were traumatized. Early hospital discharges forced us to a hotel room where I spent the night repeatedly making ice packs for each of them. If I lay down to sleep, I kept seeing that car crashing into us. I had to shake the vision, get a grip.

During that dark night, I saw myself as a deeply flawed person, a mother who had almost killed her two children. Insecurity was building in me every second. I wasn’t sure I could say anything meaningful to my two daughters or do anything that would make them look at me with love and understanding. In one short turn of the wheel, I had ripped up twenty plus years of admiration and respect that mothering had previously earned me.

Though in my core I knew my daughters were going to be fine, my belief in myself was crushed, left mangled in the remnants of the rental car. I entered a place foreign to me, questioning my capabilities as the mother of three children. Then came a gift.

When daylight filled the room there was a knock on the door. My brother stood there having taken the red-eye from LA to bring one daughter back home safely. His eyes reflected love and understanding. I hugged him.

“They’ll never be the same,” I said leading him inside. But there they both were awake and smiling. He flew home with my one daughter; a friend drove me and my other daughter to her apartment. I stayed a few days as she settled into a routine of more ice packs and physical therapy and then I too went home.

They healed. I had trouble sleeping. Driving a car was fraught with fear—a kind of posttraumatic stress disorder. I dealt with the accident paperwork, filled out insurance forms for both girls, and was there when my one daughter had plastic surgery on her nose. They went on with their lives. I was stuck.

Insecurity about the event affected my relationship with them—I avoided phone calls, held back advice. I told myself I hadn’t properly prepared them for life—they were successful in spite of me. I had just been fooling myself all along.

My youngest son still at home helped me heal, his presence in my life reassuring me that I was a good mother, had always been. Accidents happened and the events of that day had been out of my control.

At Christmas my brother handed me a rectangular package, as my children stood around me. The torn away wrapping revealed a framed photo of my two young women smiling warmly at me and holding a plastic Holiday Inn room key. My brain clutched. “Don’t you see?” my brother asked me. “You didn’t think they’d ever be the same again, but they’re more than fine.” My daughters hugged me.

The photo will always sit on my desk, a reminder that despite the accident I was and had always been their guardian and a good mother to them. There was trauma, but I got them through that trauma.

None of us are perfect and I have come to realize that if the car did crash into something, it was the myth of the Perfect Mother. Honesty works best in any relationship as no woman is the Earth Mother and no man the Fearless Hero. Weaknesses can bring us closer as we love and care for each other and love ourselves despite our faults. I finally saw that and reclaimed my motherhood.

Photo Courtesy of Egoralas Photo Stream


Originally posted on Boomer Highway.

About Beth Havey

Beth Havey is a Boomer, member of the sandwich generation, passionate about health and the snags in the fabric of life that affect our children and grandchildren. Help me slow life down on BOOMER HIGHWAY Be sure to stop and to chat with her.

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Reclaiming Motherhood