I always knew I was meant to be a mom; that motherly instinct has been woven into my life from the get go. But, it wasn’t until my triplets were born that I figured out what type of parent I was destined to be. After the deaths of two of my children, I turned to my mother to find the strength to live my life after loss.
I consider myself lucky when I look back at my childhood. I was raised by loving parents who worked hard to provide a beautiful life for our family. Whether it was shuttling my brother and me to activities, or making sure we had a home cooked family meal—my mother was my role model. She comforted me on bad days and celebrated my every accomplishment.
When I became pregnant with triplets in 2013, my family was by my side. During the weeks of bed rest and health scares, my mother tended to my every need while my father stayed home in California to hold down the fort. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always go as planned and that was the case when I went into labor more than 17 weeks premature.
June 23, 2013 was a blur. The birth of your children should have been the happiest day of my life, but it quickly turned tragic as reality set in. My triplets had little chance of survival, being born between 22 and 23 weeks gestation. Our first daughter, Abigail, came out kicking and squeaking. But, as doctors raced to give her a fighting chance at life, we were given devastating news: our baby was too premature to survive. Doctors wrapped my daughter in a blanket and asked if my husband and I wanted to hold her. I was too ashamed to even look at my child, the baby I had delicately protected in my womb. My body had failed me and I, in turn, had failed my baby. At that moment, my mother held out her hands, ready to embrace and comfort her grandchild. As I began to process the death of my child, I looked at my mother and saw the strength and love in her eyes, overpowering the sadness.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, there are moments in life when you just need your mother. That summer I relied on mine to keep me afloat. She smiled through tears as we faced the ups and downs of the Nicu. She cheered as our daughter overcame obstacles and she cried with us as we learned our son was gravely ill. My mother was by my side the day our son passed away; her gentle touch on my shoulder giving me the courage to say goodbye.
It’s been more than three years since my triplets were born, and while I can remember each of the moments that have passed in that time so clearly, the sadness has given way to joy. We have a healthy survivor who is the light of our lives. Our daughter, Peyton, is truly a miracle child. She’s been a fighter since day one and we often see all three of our children within her, thanks to Peyton’s zest for life. She has made me a better person, and through testing my patience, she has made me a better parent.
As the months and years pass by, I find myself paying closer attention to the kind of mother I’ve become. I want the best possible life for my daughter and I work hard to achieve that. From reading books to playing dress up together, I’m a hands-on parent, just like my parents were with me. And just like my mother shares her love of cooking with me, I now share that passion with my daughter. Peyton’s brownie batter covered face is reminiscent of my childhood as I picture a young girl with pigtails and a chocolate sweet tooth.
My daughter’s laughter often fills our home, but it’s the gentle moments that I cherish the most. I long for the quiet nights in her room, the moon peeking in while I quietly rock her to sleep. Peyton’s petite arms are wrapped around my neck as she whispers, “Mommy, I need you.” It’s those four simple words that fill my heart with more love than I ever thought possible. And as I hold on tight to my daughter, I think about my mother. That unconditional love I’ve received my entire life is being passed down to the next generation. And in those moments when I’m brought to tears thinking of my two children in heaven, I look back at the birth of my triplets. I think of my mother’s resilience that day and I know I will be okay. She exudes strength and lives life to the fullest; two traits that have helped me become the mother I always wanted to be.
A version of this story originally appeared on Mamalode