How I’m learning to mother—without my mom

To my Mother,

There are days when I feel like I’m a supermom and capable of running a household and raising children—that I can do it all, even without your help. There are times I deny eight years have passed since I’ve seen your beautiful face, and your absence just feels normal in the day to day routines.

There are moments when I look at my six-month-old son while snuggling him close, our faces nuzzled, all wrapped up in that smell of his and I think of you. I think about the love between a mother and her child, understanding how incredibly strong the bond is and how you could never truly leave me. In those moments I know that maternal love cannot be broken—not through time, or death or distance or energy.

But there are also days and moments where all I feel is grief. And I miss you constantly, an ache I can feel down into my bones. All I want to do is scream at you for leaving this world at 39-years-old—so healthy, then not, then gone. And leaving Dad and us four kids to figure it out without you, the glue that held our entire family unit together.

When I gave birth to my son, I not only became a mother, but a mother without a mother.

And mothering without you means a lot of things:

It means I don’t have your extra help or advice or that “go to” person for everything baby related. It means I can’t ask you questions about what “normally” happens in a marriage when a newborn arrives, or how I should “normally” feel postpartum. It means I can’t call to say how my son’s pediatrician appointment went, when in reality, you’re the only one who would really care. I can’t casually ask you to watch him while I run to Target or escape to a yoga class. I can’t have a conversation with you about how long I should wait before having more children. And when I’m dumbfounded with the happiness my child brings me, I cannot tell you how amazing it feels.

Mothering without you also means that my son will never know you. It means my husband will never one day look at me and say, “Wow, you acted just like your mom when you did that.” Or my future kids won’t ever have you for a Nana. It means I only got 17 years to witness how you mother, and that was not enough.

But mothering without you has taught me that I am never alone.

You are always with me. In those times when I lose my cool under frustration, like yesterday when Everett was whining and simultaneously the dog threw up all over the carpet, I can feel you witnessing it all. I can feel you helping me, calming me or laughing at the chaos and confusion you used to know so well.

Mothering without you has taught me how strong I can be and what I alone can persevere through.

That I can rely on myself for more than I ever thought possible. Knowing that I faced both your diagnosis and death and am now a mother “on my own,” well, that just makes me feel like I am capable of anything, especially raising children. It makes me fearless.

Not having you has made me into the mother I am today and for that, I am thankful. My job is to carry you onward and through my mothering journey, and by golly gee I am trying.

Love always,

Your daughter

Hayley is a new first time mom, having finally ended up where she’s always wanted to be: home, with a husband and baby. The oldest of four kids, she loves and covets her siblings and family above anything. She’s practiced and taught yoga since her teen years and credits it to helping her be a better and more present parent.
Through her mothering journey, Hayley writes to her late mother about the beauty and trials that come hand in hand when raising a baby, always remembering that a mother’s love is the strongest love of all.

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