By Jen DeBouver
Growing up I was not one of those girls that dreamed of being a mother. I actually thought I would never have a child. When I met my husband neither of us wanted kids. 7 years later we were pregnant with our first daughter Olivia. I was super excited yet nervous about what kind of mom I would be. Kids were something that scared me. I didn’t even know how to talk to kids. But that dream ended before it ever began. Olivia was stillborn 7 months into the pregnancy. I was done! I blamed myself for her loss. What did I do as her mother to cause this?
Two months after losing her, I was pregnant again. Ok, a new shot at this motherhood thing while still grieving the loss of my first child. Everything was going great and then we learned our son who we named Asher, had congenital heart defects and that without a fetal intervention, wouldn’t make it to birth.
When Asher was born, I couldn’t hold him. The only thing I could do was sit at his bedside and hold his tiny hand. For 6 weeks I had to be a mom to a baby that I could never hold. I had no idea how to be a mom when I felt I couldn’t really connect with him. I was afraid of singing or reading to him because I didn’t want anyone to hear me and we were never alone. After losing Asher I felt like I failed him in a lot of ways. The guilt stuck with me for many years for both him and Olivia.
After losing them I became the best mom I could be for them even though they were no longer here. I created things in memory of them and basically everything I did was for them. But that wasn’t enough! I still longed to be a Mom to a baby here with us.
Four years after losing Asher, we welcomed our baby girl Nina. Due to developing severe pre-eclampsia, she was 6 ½ weeks early but amazing in every way. I got to hold her the minute she was born and it was the most amazing thing ever. She spent 4 weeks in the NICU which brought a lot of PTSD from Asher being in the hospital that I didn’t know I had.
When she got to come home, my husband told me “Motherhood suits you well.” It was the most amazing compliment I have ever gotten. I was once scared to death of being a mother and now it actually suited me. This little girl became my everything and brought joy I never even knew existed. Sometimes I sit and watch her in amazement that this road to motherhood brought me here, to her, that she gets to be mine.
There are still days where I wonder if I am being enough as her mother but I think as mothers we all question this. There are days where us mothers are so exhausted that we just can’t wait till bedtime but you will usually find us sneaking into their rooms just to get one last look at them before we go to sleep.
Every morning I can’t wait to walk into her room and say Good Morning to her and at the end of a long workday, I can’t wait to have her come run to me with a giant hug, even if it means dealing with toddler fits because in the mix of those is the sweetness and cuteness that makes my heart fill with joy.
I feel extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to be a mother to all 3 of my babies. All of my kids have taught me to be a better person and have made me a better person. I still have so much left to learn and so much left to teach Nina. Even though my daughter is only 22 months old, I am so proud of her. I hope that she looks back one day and thinks I am the best mom she could ever have.
Below are the bios of each amazing mom that participated in this project.
Jen is a mom to two angels and one rainbow baby. She loves spending time with her daughter, husband and two dogs. Volunteering has become a great passion for her since losing her first two children. To her it is a way to keep them with her.
Tori Smith is a mom and an advocate. She believes everyone has a story and when we share those stories, we begin to heal and become stronger.
Carol Raimondi is an adult CHD patient, a mom and a former nurse, living with Congenitally Corrected Transposition of the Great Arteries. She currently is the President of Pediatric Congenital Heart Association of IL(PCHA-IL).
Susan Swanson DeBouver
Susan is a mom, grandmother, and busy owner of Pilates Plus of Schaumburg. She is a self-professed, spirit junkie and combines her fitness/anatomy education with her spiritual education.
Michelle Williams is the mother of three children: Sadie, Sawyer and Landon. After Sawyer's death in 2010 she formed Sawyer's Heart Project - a non-profit organization that supports bereaved families in the Chicagoland area.
Sarah has a passion for the non-profit sector, working with volunteers, writing, and educating. She holds a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and works in non-profit management.
In 2016, she partnered with two colleagues to form a non-profit, where she serves as the President and CEO of the organization, which helps families experiencing medical conditions.
She and her husband have two sons and enjoy spending time together outside doing many activities like riding horses, running, fishing, and gardening.