10 Things You’ll Experience as a Motherless Mother

This is my truth about my first year as a motherless mother:

  1. After the birth of your baby, your grief will return with a vengeance. The loss of your mother will sting the way it did when it first happened. You will miss her with the intensity you felt in those first few months and milestones after her death.
  2. You will fantasize about how things would be if she were alive. You’ll imagine her bringing over dinner, taking your crying baby from your arms, and telling you “go get some rest, I’ve got this”. In a strange way, this will bring you comfort.
  3. You’ll look for company and solidarity with other new moms, but will feel sad when they mention what a support their moms have been in those first few months.
  4. You won’t go out much for the first year. Your circle of trust is small and caring for your baby will take all of your time and energy.
  5. A simple trip to the mall will make you sad, as you see endless trios of grandmas, moms, and babies shopping and laughing.
  6. When others shower your baby with love and gifts, it will make you uncomfortable at first. You won’t know why at first.
  7. When your mother in law gushes about being a grandma, it will hurt. In fact, any reference to a grandma will hurt.
  8. You will be so desperate for your mom’s presence, you’ll notice yourself start putting up more old photos around the house. You will want to be reminded of your mother as often as possible.
  9. You will wonder why you didn’t ask her certain questions when she was alive. You will kick yourself for not asking her about the little, mundane, everyday details of her life with you. Did she have a hard time putting you down to nap? How long did she breastfeed you for?
  10. More than anything else, you will wish you could tell her you understand now. You understand the love, you understand the sacrifice of motherhood.

“Because I feel that, in the Heavens above / The angels, whispering to one another, / Can find, among their burning terms of love / None so devotional as that of ‘Mother’” – Edgar Allen Poe

 

 

 

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. 

Life events, milestones, and the transformation of grief

No matter what you’ve read, what advice you’ve been given, or what your expectations are for your future after the loss of a loved one, one thing becomes very clear as time goes on. Grief doesn’t end. It changes its shape and direction, but it has no end. Every major event in your life and every milestone will cause your grief to re-emerge in a new form and you will feel like you are starting your journey from the very beginning. You will feel like you are right back in that very moment when you experienced the loss of your loved one.

Motherhood is the second and most intense milestone in which I experienced the transformation of my grief. The first was when I got married and those first few months of being a newlywed.  In the months that followed, filled with writing thank you cards and basking in that “new family” feeling, all I felt like doing was picking out sheets, dishes, and other meaningless objects, which only a mom could have the patience and excitement to go shopping with you for.

Motherhood has caused my grief to come back with a vengeance, which is something I have posted a lot about in the past. My experience has really verified for me the notion that my grief will never leave me. It will always be with me, re-emerging in different shapes and forms. It will always have a grip around me, whether it be a tight, suffocating embrace or a soft and gentle wrap around my shoulders.

After my mother’s death, I tried reading a few self-help books that explore grief and mourning. I was looking for a solution of sorts, a “how-to” for feeling better and being happy again. Looking back, I now realize my approach was the wrong one. My “situation” isn’t one that can be corrected. I don’t even know if acceptance is what I am after – will I ever accept my mother’s death fully and whole-heartedly? Will I ever think of her with peace in my soul and a smile on my lips? Will I ever remember a moment in our time together without that ever-present little pain in my tummy?

Grief is unfair for so many reasons. It’s especially cruel because it re-creates itself in a brand new version just when you have begun to make peace with its previous presence in your life. I made peace with the version of my grief in which I was a twenty-something newly wed, just beginning my career and adult life. I had accepted that my husband would never have his mother-in-law to joke about. I had accepted that my mother would not witness us buying our first home or celebrating our career goals. I had accepted that I would never go shopping again with her or watch American Idol together.

Then, I became pregnant. And my grief returned, with a new intensity I wasn’t prepared for. There were now so many “what will never be” tears alongside the “what I miss and once was” tears. My daughter is almost four months old and I think about my mother and her absence every single day. I have thoughts big and small – from wondering what my mother did about diaper rashes, to wondering if she was scared and nervous about raising a girl and passing on the wisdom that a mother gives to a daughter. In a strange way, I feel like my mother has just died. I am back in August of 2012. I have accepted so much along my path of grief over the past three years, but all of a sudden, I am bewildered and shocked all over again that my mother is actually gone. That she’s not physically on this Earth anymore.

When I have one of those dark days when I can’t stop thinking sad thoughts, I remind myself that nothing I feel or do will ever change the situation. This rationalization of my feelings really helps me get clarity and a grip on reality. She’s gone and nothing can bring her back. I think of what my mother wanted for me and it’s not tears, regrets, or sadness. If she’s watching over me now, which I strongly feel she is, she would want nothing but happiness for me. Happiness is the goal to strive for.

Miss you most when I’m happy

  
Current mood. Missing my mama so very much these days. I am still basking in that new mom bliss and so in love with my precious baby girl. I’m filled with positivity, hopes, and dreams for the future. I’m happier than I have been in a long, long time. 

And yet, the sadness is still here. I say still because I somehow thought things would change. I remember some rough days during my pregnancy, feeling lost, alone (and very hormonal). Once the baby’s here, I told myself, it won’t hurt like this. I won’t miss her so intensely. As it turned out, having a child had very little to do with missing your mother. One is happy and one is sad, but one does not cancel out the other. Some things have changed, but others have not. Grief is fluid and shapeless, without a pattern or direction. You don’t know where it is going, only that it will always persist in some shape or form.