My love for my children is eternal. Drew and I were given a gift of three healthy babies all at once. We raised three incredible babies into amazing young adults and found parenthood challenging. My mothering skills were what they were.
I was not perfect and never will be.
When all three were accepted into three prestigious colleges, boxes were piled high to the ceiling to ship to all three destinations across the country. I was so confident and excited for them. Everyone was worried about me falling into the empty nest syndrome, but I was so ready to see them blossom.
I felt that this was the end of an 18-year child-rearing journey, now it was just my husband and I alone in our home. Like many 18-year-olds, they were ready to leave home and be on their own. Paulina was by far the most ready to go to college. I was extremely sad to see her go, even though our relationship really seemed troubled. When Paulina came home for spring break a year and a half later, I was supportive of all the choices she made. I even supported her in dying her hair pink and purple. I thought New York had brought out her artistic side. She made big changes, like quitting ice skating and joining rugby, but I was excited for her. I remained supportive in every way I could, and I flew to New York to film and photograph her many games and musical theater performances as often as I could.
The moment Paulina told me about her eating disorder, I could see the weight of her secret lifting off of her shoulders. I could feel her relief and I could see how difficult it was for her to tell me.
I was terrified and speechless. I had no idea how to respond, since I have no formal training in this subject. In a defeated voice I muttered my response, not to hurt her, to advise her as a mother would. Maybe I was angry because she hid this from me. As a mother, I’m frustrated and confused, even talking about it now. I feel like I failed as a mother and I sink into a deflated self. My baby girl was suffering from an eating disorder. How could I have not known? Her periods were normal, she was always at a good weight, and I never saw her vomit. No one knew.
I have realized that things my mother said to me left a lasting impression. I find myself saying the same type of things, as much as I despised hearing them from my mother, and I’m truly sorry now that I recognize the pattern. I did not know I had such power in my words until now.
After a few months passed, we all sat down in our first therapy session. These sessions helped strengthen my relationship with Paulina. I also realized how much my family history with my mother had impacted how I was as a mother, and learned my obsession with my appearance should not be passed down to my daughter. Even though I personally don’t have an eating disorder, I suffer from poor body image because my appearance was how I made a living when I was young woman and we all have to do many things in order to survive.
When Paulina was born I kissed her little head and said, “You have an opportunity to be what I always wished for myself and couldn’t be.” I wish only the best opportunities for her and will give her whatever it takes to accomplish what she dreams. She has exceeded my expectations already, and now I want her to be comfortable in her own skin every day of her life. I now understand that the mind and soul are really what is most important. Our body is a vessel in this lifetime, one that we should take care of in order to stay here, but our soul continues into eternity. Thanks to Paulina, I will always remember this.