When you lose someone, there's a point in which you go from being a person grieving the loss of someone you love to just being a person who happens to not have this someone in their life. You’re a girl without her dad. A man without his sister. For me, this person was, is, my mother. And I'm not exactly sure when this point was.
When she first passed away, two days after my wedding, I was manic. I was the self-appointed person responsible for holding my family -- my father and sister -- together. I grocery shopped; cooked; washed my dad’s sheets as if he was one of those men clueless as to how a washing machine works. I was more whirling dervish than person, and in a fucked up way, the weird headspace I was in made me feel good, because for the first time, maybe ever, I felt like I really had a purpose. But eventually, as the months passed and I moved and got a new job, I became less ... driven, more sad. And then, when even more months went by, I sort of, for lack of better words, got on with my life.
But when I had my daughter, everything changed.
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All the clichés were right. The corny messages you see on hideous tchotchkes at Hallmark. The annoying things your annoying mom friends say about their kids. They’re true. There is nothing in this world like holding the baby you grew inside of yourself for the very first time. It changes everything. It takes your perception of what love is and stretches it out bigger and wider than you ever thought possible. It changes how you look at yourself. It changes how you want to live your life. And it changes how you look at your own mother, who you now know has these same crazy, inexplicable feelings for you. You’re let in on the secret. You want to turn to your mom and say, Ohhh ... because you get it now. And because you can’t believe that someone actually feels that way about you -- and you didn't know it.
But I couldn’t turn to my mother, because she was gone. She left before it was about to get really good, before things were about to change for the both of us, before she could meet her very first granddaughter. I always had a good relationship with her, but having a child of my own would have made things so much different. It would have been better.
The days that followed the birth of my daughter were mostly sweet, but definitely tinged with some bitterness at times. I missed my mother in a way I hadn't yet since she died. And there were moments when I even got angry with her for not taking better care of herself. It seemed like such a selfish thing to do to your kids, leaving them without seeing them get married or have children. How could you do this to me? I’d think to my mother as I paced the hall of my tiny one-bedroom apartment, crying baby in tow. Everyone has their mother help them when they have a baby. Everyone has their mother hold their baby and tell them how much they love them. Where are you?
As life goes, though, it isn't like that anymore. I don't get angry these days. I mostly get sad. But it's a manageable sad. A more mature sad than a petulant one.
I like to imagine what my mother would look like holding my baby. I think about her scooping her out of my arms sometimes when the baby is fussing. I think about the nicknames she'd give her, and all the adorable clothes and toys she wouldn't be able to resist buying for her granddaughter. I think about her changing and feeding my baby -- without me hovering over her making sure she's doing everything okay. Because I'd trust her.
I also like to think that if she were still alive, and preferably vibrant and healthy and loud like she was in better days, that I’d thank her; that I’d have this big conversation with her where I say the things to her that I’m saying right now. But I probably wouldn’t. And I wouldn't have to. She'd know exactly how I felt without me having to say anything at all. Because she's my mother.
Did having a baby change your relationship with your mother?
Image via Nicole Fabian-Weber