Grieving my old life, five years later

It’s been about six months since my last post. I have a lot of factors I can blame – work, family commitments, mom life… but at the end of the day, I know I just didn’t do enough to prioritize writing. I’ve really missed it.

I’ve been going through a bit of a hard time over the last few months. I’ve been feeling down, overwhelmed, and at times very lonely. The weird thing about my loneliness, though, is that I’ve never had so many friends as I do now, at this point in my life. I have met a lot of amazing women since I became a mom and I maintain a pretty social life with my toddler and with friends and family on weekends.

My loneliness isn’t one that’s obvious from the outside. My loneliness creeps up on me in the middle of the week, on a rainy Tuesday morning while my daughter is napping. I still miss my mom desperately.

My grief has changed lately and while I still long for her on the milestones and the special days, I miss her the most on a rainy day like this one, when it’s just me and my little girl at home.

Last week was especially difficult. I was feeling a lot of depression, anxiety, and a constant feeling of being overwhelmed. I couldn’t turn my mind off – a constant stream of everything I had to get done, all the groceries that had to get bought, all the people I had to get back to, everything I needed to do for my business. I’ve heard some people refer to the “mental load of motherhood,” and I am thinking maybe this is what they mean. Ever since my mom passed away, I have been having increased anxiety in my life. Lately though, it’s gotten to the point where the smallest things will stress me out in such an intense way that my day-do-day life is being affected.

I decided to seek out a counselor. I don’t know where to begin, as I’ve never seen a professional to address any of my issues with. I am scared to let myself be open and vulnerable, but I know I need something or someone, a safe third party that is neutral. It’s been five years since my mom died, but some days I feel like I haven’t made any progress in my grief journey.

I don’t know if other people feel this way, like some days feel like the first day without their loved one?

I want to be a better mom and wife and I want to feel better for my baby girl and my husband. I want to find a way to start living for my new family and take some of the focus off of what I have lost. Even with all the blessings that have come my way over the last five years, I still find myself grieving my old life.

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Do we ever stop needing to be mothered?

Today I picked up my Motherless Mothers book that my husband had gotten me two Christmases ago. I love Hope Edelman’s honesty and the way she uses so many women’s experiences, women from all backgrounds and circumstances, to shed light on the experience of “motherless mothering.”

Having been a brand new mom at the time, I had asked for this book and really looked forward to the insight it would offer. Life got busy, mommy life took over, and my book lay half-read on my nightstand for months. In picking it up again today and starting where I left off, it was interesting to notice the change in my perspective, from a brand new mom to now, one year later.

Hope talks a lot about the idea of needing to be mothered. She emphasizes that the first few weeks after your child is born is the time in which this need is greatest for women and the loss feels new again in the experience of motherless mothers.

This got me thinking – do we ever lose the need to be mothered? I hear the way my 82-year old grandma talks about her own mother, who died only ten years ago. Having her mother into her seventies, my grandma still mourns her loss so tenderly. She misses her and her presence in her life so genuinely. It makes me think that a “mother” is not only a person, but a feeling.

Having lost my mom almost five years ago, I can say that unfortunately for me, my need to be mothered has not lessened since she passed, but increased. Having a child of my own has made me miss my own mom more than I was ever prepared to. The initial few weeks at home with the new baby were really tough as expected, for countless reasons. Hormones, lack of sleep, lack of experience, nervousness…the list goes on and on. In her book, Hope talks about mothers’ mothers usually being the ones that support the daughter most greatly in those first few weeks after bringing home the new baby. For motherless daughters, usually mothers-in-law, sisters, or aunts fill this role. While I did have physical support in those early weeks, from my sweet husband, his mother, my dad, etc., I still felt very much alone. It’s sad to admit, but the joy of my new daughter’s arrival was overshadowed by this feeling of a void.

I couldn’t shake the feeling. Yes, my fridge was full. Yes, my floors were vacuumed. Yes, I had someone to drive us to our first doctor’s appointment. No, I didn’t feel supported. I remember there were days where I barely ate one piece of food in my haze of changing diapers, nursing every two hours day and night, and everything else that comes with a newborn. And nobody noticed. Everyone’s attention was on my daughter and having her needs met, and rightly so. The thing is though, if my mother was here, her attention would also include making sure her child’s needs were being met.

Despite feeling more confident in my role as a mother and finding somewhat of a balance in this cycle of motherhood, career, friends, and family, I still yearn so much to be mothered. I don’t know why, but it feels embarrassing to admit. I try hard to be strong and don’t like to ask for help – just the way that Hope writes motherless daughters do. Lately I’ve been trying different things in order to find some relief from this feeling of being overwhelmed. I feel so guilty writing this because I know how lucky I am. I have my little blessing who I love more than life itself. I have an amazing, supportive, and loving husband who is an amazing dad to our daughter. I have an emotionally-disconnected, but helpful dad who means well. I have many people that love me. And yet, something is missing. Obviously, someone is missing.

Like I said, I’ve been trying different things in hopes that I find a little tiny piece of what I am missing. I hired a babysitter once a week to come to the house and hang out with my daughter while I attempt to get some work done, since I work from home. That felt weird and wrong and I spent the entire two hours she was here listening from the other room and feeling anxious. Then, I hired a cleaner to come help me out with housework every few weeks. Well, my house is cleaner, but I am still overwhelmed. Finally, last week, I put up a post on Facebook, which reading back now sounds sad and pathetic. I asked for recommendations for a mother’s helper to come once a week to come and read and play with my daughter in Bulgarian (my mother tongue) in the hopes that it will develop her language skills. I asked for a woman experienced with small children. I asked for someone warm, kind, and patient. It finally dawned on me – I was asking for my mother.

My brain knows she’s never coming back, but my heart somehow refuses to accept it. I keep searching for her in other people. Small parts of her, qualities she possessed. I watch from the sidelines as mothers nurture their own adult daughters and fantasize about what it would be like if those women were us. I feel like I can’t go through this whole lifetime without any parts of my mom’s presence in my life. It may not make sense, but it’s hard to put into words. Her total absence from my daughter’s life seems devastating to me, today and in the future. I just don’t know what to do about it. Do I hire a neutral third-party helper? To give me a breather once a week and know my baby is in safe, experienced hands? To have a friend or family member try to fill that role seems more painful. Hope writes: “It may be emotionally easier for motherless women to accept help from a compassionate stranger for hire…With a skilled professional, there will be no hurt feelings, no crushing disappointments, no family drama if the arrangement doesn’t work out. Most importantly, a baby nurse or doula is less likely to be perceived as a substitute for the mother…”.

 

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

 

 

 

(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.

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.