There are bleak days, days in which I view the world through a fog of grey.

I hear the chime of their laughter and see how their faces brighten when I enter the room, but there’s a veil between them and me. I don’t know how to push it aside. All I feel is the lead in my bones and the weight in my heart as I contemplate the distance between capability and collapse. The time stretches between the beginning of the day and when I can drift back into bed and let the fog rest inside me without guilt or expectation.

My children find me. Sometimes with anger and voices pitched to vibrate through eardrums. They cannot settle, cannot deal with the mother who isn’t quite there. They push, finding the weak spots in each other but not wanting to play apart. Their need is all they feel. It’s all I feel too, but I can’t find the way to assuage it. The day is chaos.

My children find me. Sometimes with baby soft limbs gliding into my lap, hands on my face and clear eyes searching mine. They stay close, collecting toys around the cocoon we’ve established in the living room. Each in our separate worlds but together, their games merge and separate throughout the day. Periodically we all curl up together, I tell them how loved they are.

My children find me. They look at me and whisper, “Once, we were babies in your belly!” I tell them the story of how they grew within my body while their Daddy and I waited for them. Waited for both of them – two years apart but somehow part of each other – waited for the parts of our family we knew would find their way together. I tell them we are a family. They nod and my boy whispers, “Don’t forget the kittens!” Yes, they’re part of our family too, I always forget the kittens.

I’m sure I’m going to break these two small people who are somehow mine. I’m sure they will note my periodic absences and label it as selfishness, or worse – something that has its origins in them rather than in me, in my brain, history, and biology.

I want them to know it’s not them. They are perfect. They are incandescent through the grey fog. They shimmer and I see them, I feel them. But. I can’t always get to them. I want to call to them, repeating until it’s stronger than belief: ‘You are magic, you are everything! I can’t always reach you, but I’m here. I’m still here.’

I hope they remember the good days when they look back on their childhood. The days I was there, utterly there. Days when I was drinking them in and smiling back at them. Days when we created worlds together, forts in the kitchen and fairy castles in the backyard. I want them to keep those worlds. I want them to keep those memories close in their hearts when I disappear in the fog.

However I don’t want this bright mother to be their only memory of me. I can’t say the person who hides behind the door and tickles them is their true mother – the real version of me. It’s not. I want them to remember the mother who collapses too. I want them to remember the days I fight, when they see me push through the fog to care for them when I cannot care for myself.

I want them to remember the love. The love I have for them when the fog is lifted and the love I feel even when it traps me. I don’t want them to inherit this illness I live with, but I want them to see me. I want them to remember this time in their life clearly, not the perfect mother or the broken mother, but me, the mother who loved them through both. The mother who will always be there for them and always love them as we all grow, together.