Innocence

“All of these lines across my face

Tell you the story of who I am

So many stories of where I've been

And how I got to where I am

But these stories don't mean anything

When you've got no one to tell them to

It's true... I was made for you.”

{Brandi Carlile – The Story}

Dreams

Barefoot and pregnant. Running starry-eyed through fields of wildflowers with my children, who would be all girls and have perfect sister bonds. Homeschooling and spending countless hours learning together, reading, playing. Brushing their beautiful hair and quiet conversations about girlhood dreams.

I revealed these innocent dreams of perfect motherhood to my classmates at my all-women's college, and much to my astonishment, was met with scorn because all I wanted was to be a mom. I didn't have any career goals. I love and admire women who are career driven, but my personal desire was to stay at home with children and to not pursue a career. I always wanted a sister, and I had dreams of raising girls of my own – sisters – and of beautiful mother/daughter relationships. My own mother stayed home when I was growing up, and I knew from a very early age that I wanted to do the same.

I did end up having two girls, born two years apart in the sunshine, vibrant colors, and new life of springtime in the southeast. I could not have asked for more. Then came frightening illness, years of medical testing, countless hospital stays, and out of state specialists for one child. Trying to be available in between all of that for the other child. Fear, exhaustion, and severe exacerbations of my own chronic disease. Hours and hours of research and desperate searches for support for the finally diagnosed genetic disorder. Dealing with insurance and medical supply companies. Nurses and therapists coming in and out of my home daily. Eventually, a broken marriage, allegations that I was unfit to care for my own children, and loss of custody. I felt as if my identity had been stolen. Without my children at home to care for, who was I?

Innocence Lost

My dreams of motherhood were lost. Nothing was as I could even have begun to imagine. I felt shattered, torn to shreds, and violated. It literally felt like my heart had been ripped out of my body. I began to actually believe I was an unfit mother and I felt worthless. I went back to school because I needed to be able to support myself and essentially became a single working woman. I lost the everyday moments of tucking my girls in at night, watching them sleep, and seeing them come downstairs all bleary-eyed in the mornings; all those moments of sweet childhood innocence. I go through moments and days where I wonder how I will survive this uncharted life, how I will even find the will to wake up and breathe each day.

Finding Hope

I will admit that my early dreams of motherhood were very innocent. Friends laughed at me when I told them that my daughters would be best friends and never ever fight with each other. By the time my daughters' hair was long enough for all the girly bows and ribbons I purchased the instant I knew they were girls, they didn't want anything to do with all things girly. In small and subtle ways, my dreams and plans were already being rearranged, though it was easy enough to walk through those changes. But the other stuff? How do I go on and live with it? The loss of normal motherhood is devastating. My girls live with their father and I am struggling through a career and chronic illness. But this is not the end of my story or theirs. It is just a completely different story, and, as our story continues to unfold, I continue to grow exponentially. No matter what, no matter where my children are, whom they live with, what happens in our lives, I am still a mother. They lived beneath my own beating heart for months as I carried them. Never in my life will I not be a mom.

What started off as innocent dreams and turned into painful years is brought full circle with hope and love and the firm knowledge that I am the only person who gave birth to my children. Would I trade all of this for the innocence that I once had? No, I would not. I am a different and better and stronger person. Most importantly, I have learned to truly savor every moment. To be in the moment and to enjoy it for what it is and not let my mind race ahead to what is next. I struggle, but I have grown in wisdom, creative problem solving, love, and contentment. I find myself making the most of every second with my girls instead of fighting frustration and battles. I find myself reacting to many more positives than negatives because I am much more focused on making the most of our time together. We write letters to each other in special notebooks and we make memories together. I notice tiny details that I overlooked before; things like chipped paint on fingernails, new freckles on their faces, and the beautiful colors of their hair in certain light. Don't get me wrong, I miss them so very much when they are not with me. In the end, no one can take my place in the lives of my daughters. I was made for them and my stories are their legacy.

Written by, Heather Legge