Reflections on one year of motherhood.

Now that my daughter recently turned one, I notice that I’m feeling a little calmer, a little more settled in my role as her mama. My confidence is returning, one little bit at a time. The old me is peeking through the fog. But, it’s a better me, a me filled with the joy of a blessing so beautiful it’s hard to put into words.

The first year is hard. No one really tells you how hard. At least, no one told me. I was fortunate to feel supported in many ways, but there was one particular support that I missed and yearned for so painfully throughout the first year of my daughter’s life. It was my mother’s absence and the void of her unconditional, selfless love and support that made my own early experience with motherhood one where love, happiness, and sadness coexisted in an unbalanced harmony. 

One important thing the first year of motherhood taught me is that emotions are unpredictable and often out of our control. Who wants to feels sad and lonely bringing home their precious new baby? No one. But, in a life affected by grief, sadness and happiness can co-exist. Excitement and hopelessness can co-exist. Pain and love can co-exist.

The intense love you have for your child can and will co-exist with the sadness of loss. And that’s ok.

You hear about the sleepless nights and the endless diaper changes, but you never hear about all the other, quiet stuff. The endless winter days when it’s raining and gray and you’re stuck at home all day as the hours crawl by. The days when your baby is sick and so you are you, but you still have to be “on”. The days when you dream of a long, hot shower and addressing just one of your many long-forgotten needs. It’s hard. On your body, on your relationship, and sometimes on your soul.
But it’s also so, very happy. And humbling and pure. Bonding with and  caring for your baby is an experience that changes you forever. 

Motherhood makes you appreciate other mothers, especially your own, like never before. And if you’re one of the lucky ones, you get to tell your mother that.

My Mama and I on my first birthday


I saw this print at a home decor store the other day. What a statement. Simple. Painfully true.

This struck a chord in me because I realized then, looking at this thing, that it summarized my pain for the last four years. I miss my mom. I miss home.

(Motherless) Mom guilt and accepting your need for help

Sometimes I feel so alone in my situation. Realistically, I know there are tons of other women out there, doing their very best every single day to be great moms without the help of their own moms. But, in my day to day life, sometimes I feel like the only late-twenties, first time mom without a mom. Meaning no mom to come stay for a few weeks after baby was born. No mom to show me how to bathe my precious little bundle. 

No mom to take the screaming, teething baby girl from my arms and say “go sleep, I’ve got her.” You get the picture.

Now that my daughter is almost one, I will be starting to work again. I’m a real estate agent, so I’m grateful that a lot of my work will be done from home. I also have my mother in law living close by, to help out. I’ve been thinking lately about what would make my life easier during this tough transition. I feel like I need some neutral non-family help around the house. Someone to come over for a couple of hours every week and just hang out with my daughter so I can just do what I need to. Maybe work. Maybe take a long shower. The point is, I want to have someone kind and safe and loving, but not necessarily someone I have a personal relationship with.

Is that weird? My husband thinks it is. “Why don’t you just ask my mom to come over more?” he asks. Well, I just need a different kind of help. Any other mamas (motherless or non) feel this way?

A little reminder when I needed it most

I had a very strange and wonderful thing happen to me today. I was sitting at a coffee shop waiting for my friend. My baby girl was squirming on the leather armchair, me holding her by the waist as she went up and down, up and down. She’s at that stage where staying still just isn’t possible. I was doing my mom thing, holding her with one arm while I sipped on my coffee with the other. I noticed a pretty blonde girl directly across from us looking at us. She had a really warm smile and a peaceful energy about her.

We started chatting about my daughter and about babies. She told me she has a nine month old niece and was fascinated at how quickly they change at this age. She told me about her three year old nephew and how her sister has her hands full with a baby and a toddler. I nodded with a smile. That sounds so nice, I thought. They probably have a nice, big family. Lots of grandparents. Lots of love and support. Just at that moment, my friend came in. 

A few minutes later, my friend went up to the counter to order a coffee and I don’t know why, but I suddenly blurted out to this girl, “I like the idea of having two close in age. I would do it, but I’m scared. I don’t think I could manage. My mom died four years ago and it’s been really hard.” Why I would say this to a total stranger, I had no idea and I even surprised myself as it came out of my mouth. 

She got a weird look on her face. Like a half smile with sad eyes. Ok, I thought, I’ve shared too much and now she’s uncomfortable and doesn’t know what to say. What came out of her mouth next, I’ll never forget.

Our mom died four years ago too. My sister had a really hard time because she had her babies after we lost our mom. She didn’t think she could do it, but she did. You can do it too. Be happy, enjoy your family. You can do it.

And just like that, my friend came back. The girl’s husband came in to meet her. We parted with a smile and a “take care”. It may have been no more than a two minute chat, but it changed my day, if not my outlook. 

Whether I’ll ever have another child, I don’t know. We are not ready now and won’t be for a while. But I really needed the positive words today. I didn’t even realize how much I needed them. 

Life works in mysterious ways. Thank you, God, for the little reminder today. I sure needed it.

Grief and the jealous heart

I’ve really been struggling with something big lately. I don’t know why now or why with this intensity, but I’ve entered a unfamiliar and confusing chapter in my grief journey.

Two days ago marked four years since my mom’s death. Four years. Not exactly a big, dramatic number – without the intensity of one year or the quiet finality of five years. Regardless, it stings. I haven’t hugged her in four years. 

Her death anniversary wasn’t actually the agonizing day I was expecting it to be. It’s the last few weeks that have been really challenging. I’ve been having a difficult time with jealousy. In particular, jealousy of people with moms. Even more in particular, jealousy of moms with moms

Everywhere I go, there are women with their mothers. Every mall, every coffee shop, every brunch spot. Now that I have my daughter, I notice the other types of women with their mothers – the moms with moms. It’s like a recurring theme in my life right now. I’m obsessively spotting them everywhere – the happy shoppers, the grandma watching the baby while mom browses. The travellers – the mom juggling the luggage while grandma holds the little girl’s hand in the check-in line. They’re everywhere. Seeing them makes my heart hurt.
I realize now that the reason seeing this bothers me so much is because I had this in my life as a child. My mom, grandma and I were a fierce trio. We had so much fun together. It’s funny how you take things for granted when you accept them as your reality. It was just the way things were, I thought as a littl girl. Why would I ever not have it? I guess in a way I’m processing the idea that my own daughter will never experience this most magical relationship and connection. I’m devasted for her over what will never be. The what could have been is too sad for me to cope with right now…

I need some guidance, but I really don’t know where to turn. How can I stop being so jealous? I can accept the heartbroken me. The devasted me. The grieving me. The missing my best friend me. But, I just can’t accept jealous me. I don’t like her. She bothers me. 

When grief and jealousy intertwine, is there any lesson to be learned here? Are we meant to wait out this phase until it passes? Is it even a phase? I really want to see a mom-child-grandmother trio and be unaffected one day. How can I channel my sadness and jealousy and transform it into positive fuel to make me be the best mother for my baby girl I can be?

The alone generation & mothering motherless

I had a really rough day today. My baby cried and cried. It was hot and she was uncomfortable and her gums were hurting. She didn’t want to be held, but she didn’t want to be put down. She was exhausted, but didn’t want to sleep. I couldn’t help her. I was feeling so low and overwhelmed. I put me last. I wanted a glass of water for an hour before I could get myself one. I wanted my mother. I wanted her so badly today. 

I fantasized about her coming over and taking the baby from me without uttering one word. She’d know what to do. She’d give me the look that would tell me she’s got this. I would go have a cool shower. I would have time to brush my hair and moisturize. I would come out, refreshed, and there they would be – my mom cuddling my daughter in the big blue armchair, reading her a story in her warm and quiet voice. I would smile, grateful for the break to make me feel like a human being again. 

Thinking about all this, I had a realization. I don’t have any female family members or know of any in my husband’s family, that have raised a baby with as little help as I have. My grandma had her mother as live-in help. In fact, it was more than help. She cooked and cleaned for the family and took care of my mom all day while my grandma finished her graduate studies.

Then there was my mom. She didn’t have live-in support, but she had a solid group of close female relatives that helped with caring for me. She had two devoted aunts, one recently-retired mother, and one strong, able, and wise grandmother. All doting on me and carefully taking care of my mom in her new role of motherhood. 

And then, there’s me. I have my dad, but he works full-time and lives an hour away. Plus he’s a man. Sorry, it’s not the same. I have my brother, but he’s 16. Enough said. I have a mother in law who wants to help, but is very busy with her own 90-something year old mother. I have my wonderful husband. He works a lot, but when he’s home, he’s the best partner and support I could ever hope for. 

Is it normal to feel so alone as a mother? Is it normal to have these moments when all you want to do is hand your baby over to a trusted pair of hands and just walk away for a minute or two or sixty? 

You guys, I’m very much alone in this. I don’t feel alone, I am alone. It’s a fact. I haven’t known any other way of mothering. It’s what I am used to. I am used to falling asleep in front of the tv at 9 pm. I am used to rushing every shower during her morning nap because it’s the only chance I’ll get. I’m used to the exhaustion being so great that I am too tired to even talk to my husband before bed. 

I wonder if this is my generation. Even girls with mothers – will they have the same “it takes a village” experience when they raise their babies?

I love my daughter in ways I can’t even begin to explain in words. She’s my soul, my heart, and my most perfect love. I could cry right now, just thinking of what a blessing she is to me. But man, I am tired. I keep busy. I see friends, often ones with babies. Sometimes I just miss being me. The old me. I miss thinking about my own needs. That’s the biggest shock of motherhood to me; All of sudden, no one, not even I, cares about my needs. They don’t come second, they come last, maybe even become invisible.

I wonder, is this normal? Is it healthy? Do I need to accept the fact that I don’t have a “village” of family raising my child? Should I just create support for myself artificially? Should I hire someone to help me once in a while? Is there any shame in that? 

In my heart, I feel like there is. Mothers should do it all. They’re invincible after all. They wear invisible capes.