Mama Instinct Saved My Daughter's Life, And Here's How

by Claire Nicogossian
Originally Published: 

Have you ever had the thought: I just can’t do this mothering gig.

Or the overwhelming feeling: Loving this sweet child of mine is just too much sometimes.

I can count on one hand the number of times — three to be exact — in my sixteen years of being a mom, when I have experienced what I call: Loving So Much Moments, in motherhood.

Each one of these loving so much moments happened in response to horrible things or incredibly stressful moments happening to my one four daughters.

The first time I experienced a loving so much moment was shortly after the birth of my first children, premature twin girls. My girls were born almost seven weeks early and spent two weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Relatively healthy, not needing any additional care upon discharge, the twins came home like any newborn.They were little and ate more frequently than full-term babies, but aside from that, pretty healthy.

At about six weeks old, during a midnight feeding, I was caring for Maria when, just feet away from us, Rose, her twin in the crib, made a horrible gasping noise. Holding her sister and pausing feeding, I went to the crib to find Rose with a bluish/grey pallor. Panicked, I set down Maria, and immediately picked her up and called 911. Within a few minutes, as I waited for paramedics with my husband, her color returned to normal, coughing and gasping for air as I held her. The paramedics assessed her and because of her irregular breathing transported us to the Emergency Department for evaluation.

As the paramedics loaded us into the back of the ambulance, I was on the stretcher, Rose in my arms, I could see my breath in the cold December air as snow flurries scattered through the night sky. If for any other circumstance it would have been a magical wintry scene and I remember thinking, as the paramedics closed the door: “I don’t know if I can do this, love her so much and live if something terrible happens to her.”

Thankfully, my daughter was OK, and for the next year, I am not sure if I ever slept through the night, developing a habit somewhat obsessive at times, of repeatedly checking to see if both twins were breathing. Eventually, the fears of losing her went away, and as the twins grew, I became more secure understanding there are moments in motherhood that are tremendously challenging, and thankfully, a low-frequency event.

There are moments in motherhood that are so incredibly overwhelming.

Moments when I have felt that perhaps loving my child so intensely, so profoundly, is too great to bear at times.

These episodes are what I call: Loving So Much Moments (in Motherhood).

The next time I had a loving so much moment was shortly after the birth of my fourth daughter. One of the twins, Maria, was invited to a birthday pool party. She was seven at the time and a solid swimmer. Once we arrived at the party, my newborn daughter with me only a few weeks old, I was encouraged by the host and hostess to feel free to leave. They were going to be “lifeguards” at the pool. Both parents were physicians, one a pediatrician.

Well-intentioned, they encouraged me to go home, get some rest, all will be fine. Something in my mama instincts said, “Stay, you need to stay.”

As the party progressed, I watched my daughter and her friends jump in and out of the pool, have pizza, cake and then back into the pool. I have to be honest, a few times I had this thought, as I was the only parent to stay. “You really can leave, everything is fine.”

But the nagging mama instinct told me to stay, so I listened. At the end of the party, parents began to arrive picking up their children. I went to the edge of the pool, with my newborn in hand, sharing with Maria we would be leaving in five minutes and to do “her last favorite thing.”

Standing a few feet from the pool’s edge, I turned around, placing my newborn in her car seat, securing the straps and snuggling a blanket around her. In the time this took, perhaps a few minutes, when I stood up turning back towards the pool, I scanned the perimeter and didn’t see Maria. Instead, my heart sank, and stomach dropped when I saw her in the deep end of the pool, silently clawing the surface trying to keep her head above the water, but she was slowly sinking beneath the surface. I could see the sheer panic and terror in her eyes through the yellow lens of her goggles. She was drowning.

I didn’t think — I reacted, jumping into the deep end of the pool, the weight of my black cotton maxi-dress pulling me beneath the surface. Swimming toward her took tremendous effort as the fabric of the dress absorbed water at record speed. Making it even more challenging, my C-Section scar, a few weeks on the mend, seared with pain as I frantically swam. To this day I don’t recall exactly how I made it to her, pulling her from underwater in the deep end of the pool where I couldn’t stand, to the edge of the pool. It was mama instinct for sure.

Not one adult noticed the commotion as the plants obstructed the scene. As I sat on the pool’s edge, my daughter coughed and spat up some water. At this point, the host noticed and did a quick assessment of her, apologizing profusely for not watching the pool and offering towels.

I just wanted to leave.

Soaked, my scar aching and shaking, I wrapped us in towels and picked up the baby’s car seat moving to our car. As we walked, understandably, she needed to process what happened.

Maria asked, “Mama, did I almost die?”

Inhaling deeply I responded, “Well, you didn’t but you were sinking underwater, and that was scary wasn’t it?”

She said, “I was drowning, and you saved me, right mama?”

Holding back tears, I softly said, “Yes, baby, I did.”

“Mama, I’m glad you helped me, that was scary.”

“Yes, Maria, that was very scary, for Mommy too.”

Trembling as I started the vehicle, I paused and needed a minute to regroup before driving home. As I took a few deep breaths, Maria asked another question, “Mama, can I have the lollipop in my goodie bag?”

“Sure sweetie, enjoy it.”

My daughter had moved on and was all about the goodie bag. I have never felt so grateful in my life for the distraction of a goodie bag!

Once home, my husband and two daughters were finishing a snack in the kitchen. Drenched and with towels my husband could see I was visibly upset and asked what happened. Bursting into tears I said words until then, I have never said out loud: “I just can’t do this, I can’t be a mother, I love them so much, it hurts too much.”

These episodes of Loving So Much Moments all of us go through in motherhood in some way, shape or form.

Loving So Much Moments happens when our child suffers, or something terrible happens to them, and we can’t fix or control it. In these moments, we suffer, because they suffer; because our love for them is greater than our love for ourselves, more important than our own breath.

As mothers, we pour our hearts and souls into loving, nurturing and raising our children. And when bad things happen to our babies, no matter what age they are, we hurt too.

For me, the Loving So Much Moments in motherhood I never expected, nor anticipated, and thankfully don’t spend too much time worrying about or thinking about.

But when these Loving So Much Moments happen, watch out — they have the potential to rock you to the core.

What helps me move through these stressful moments of motherhood when Loving So Much Moments happen, is to recognize — thank goodness — they don’t happen often. And when they do, somehow, someway, I navigate back to center, albeit, raw and vulnerable for a bit until I build back up the happy, every day mundane moments of simply living life with the most precious people in my life, my children.

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