A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
Print Friendly and PDF

Goodbye


The last time I saw my grandmother, she was settled into her rocking chair after a long day of church and family. 

“Baby girl,” she said. “Help me with my socks.”

I was in my 30s, but would ever be her Baby Girl. As I pulled the thick, soft socks over her small feet, she smiled.

“I used to be the one putting your socks on. The tables have turned,” she said.

“No! I never needed help with anything!” I teased her. I wasn’t comfortable, on that day, with contemplating my long-past youth and her advanced age. I knew it was our last visit.

I got up to leave the room, knowing it would be the last time I saw, spoke to, hugged my grandmother before she died. This visit had to end at some point, and I wouldn’t linger. From the doorway, I wished she would say that thing she always said one more time…the thing she said every day of my childhood when I left through her squeaky back door to walk the short path back to my own house…

“See you later alligator.”

“I love you, Grandmother.”

We all knew she was fading, and that’s why my husband and I had driven 12 hours for a weekend visit and a last chance to see her while she was still lucid. 

FEATURED VIDEO

I would speak to her again the night she died, through a phone held up to her ear. She spent her last days in my childhood bedroom, being looked after by my parents, my aunt and nurses. I was selfish and glad to not see it.

“I love you, Grandmother,” I told the phone. “We are all going to be OK, so you can go when you’re ready.”

Proust and the Madeleine 

In the study of memory, French novelist Marcel Proust’s description of eating a Madeleine with a cup of tea is the oft-cited connection between remembrance and scent in literature. Proust’s narrator smells the combination of tea and cookie and is suddenly overcome with the memory of his childhood. This case of autobiographical memory evoked by the sense of smell is known by cognitive scientists as the Proust phenomenon. These odor-evoked memories are typically vivid, emotional, and old. 

Cognitive scientists say memories evoked by scent are a conscious process, both involuntary and voluntary. As Proust’s character first registers the scent of the cookie and tea, he has an involuntary flash of a moment from childhood. It is then a conscious effort for him to pursue that flash to form a full narrative of the remembered scene. By searching out the scents of our past, we may recapture connections to places and people who have been lost to time.

Morning

I dip a Madeleine in a cup of Earl Grey with milk, inhaling for a revelation. The only memory to arise is of studying Proust.

My first memory of coffee came from a whiff of freeze dried Taster’s Choice crystals hitting steaming water in my grandmother’s kitchen. Sometimes she’d give me a sip, and sometimes my brother and I would instead dip strips of white bread in glasses of cold milk, sucking at them like kittens.

I forgot the pleasure of instant coffee until I was an adult. Fresh ground coffee beans can give off their own pleasing scents, but different roasts are too varied to attach to particular memories. However, peel the seal off a jar of instant coffee and the light brown pebbles will smell just like they did 30 years before.

When I realized the jar of instant coffee could take me back 30 years to my grandmother’s kitchen, I started drinking it every day. The memory is academic now, worn too thin to be emotional.

Memory trigger

One theory about the connection between olfaction and memory is based on the anatomy of the brain. The olfactory bulb is connected to the amygdala, hippocampus, and thalamus – parts of the brain which are also involved in emotion and memory. A psychologist specializing in the study of smell, Rachel Herz, believes sensations of smell and taste are especially “sentimental” because their ruling structures are connected to the hippocampus, where long-term memory is centered. The amygdala is also a converging point for smell, memory and emotion. Literary scholar Evelyn Ender suggests emotion is an essential component of memory retention. She wrote, “A memory image exists by virtue of an emotion. If it were just a flat picture, devoid of emotional vibration, this image would probably not have been retained.”

Bedtime

She was averse to scents, allergic to flowers, an opponent of perfumes; a migraineur on guard against olfactory attacks, but at bedtime, exceptions were made.

After a bath, she would emerge in perfect pink pajamas and a robe, glowing and dewy. She never went a day without coating her face in Oil of Olay and her body with Jergens lotion, each with their own potent scent. Pink Oil of Olay beauty fluid from a glass bottle smells chemical and vaguely floral. Jergens’ original scent is a cherry-almond blend. 

Not a vain woman, still she made choices which protected her pale, soft skin. I never saw her in direct sunlight and heard stories of her bathing in milk as a child. After a childhood of tucking my hand inside her perfectly smooth palm, I could sketch her hands from memory. Her nails perfectly filed, her rings loose, soft blue veins across the top of her hands. Her hands were cold, her heart warm, as they say.

I keep her nail file next to my bed. I wear her ring on special occasions. I don’t use Oil of Olay or Jergens because I’m afraid the potency of their scents will fade from overuse.

My daughter was born five years after my grandmother died. I imagined the two convening in some way, hoping my two beloved spirits could connect in the ether, even if they never would in life. When my baby stirred in the middle of the night and settled again, I imagined her Great Gran checking in on her.

It was a comfort in the addled postpartum months to believe my grandmother lives inside my daughter in a way that is not precisely reincarnation, but more like a thinning of the veil. I find evidence in the way she looks at me, like she has known me for ages. She asks to smell my instant coffee. I apply her bedtime lotion and then breathe her in.

For the first few years after Grandmother died, I did not want to remember her too acutely. I did not want to see her house remodeled for a new occupant or read her handwriting on old papers.

I accepted her visits in dreams; we never talked, just sat and held hands. I accepted her visits to my daughter, comforted by the stories I told myself, that Mamie and Grandmother would love each other immensely.

By remembering Grandmother as clearly as possible, I can bring the two together deliberately. I can let Mamie smell my coffee, and I can look for recognition in her eyes.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

By: Justine LoMonaco


From the moment my daughter was born, I felt an innate need to care for her. The more I experienced motherhood, I realized that sometimes this was simple―after all, I was hardwired to respond to her cries and quickly came to know her better than anyone else ever could―but sometimes it came with mountains of self-doubt.

This was especially true when it came to feeding. Originally, I told myself we would breastfeed―exclusively. I had built up the idea in my mind that this was the correct way of feeding my child, and that anything else was somehow cheating. Plus, I love the connection it brought us, and so many of my favorite early memories are just my baby and me (at all hours of night), as close as two people can be as I fed her from my breast.

Over time, though, something started to shift. I realized I felt trapped by my daughter's feeding schedule. I felt isolated in the fact that she needed me―only me―and that I couldn't ask for help with this monumental task even if I truly needed it. While I was still so grateful that I was able to breastfeed without much difficulty, a growing part of me began fantasizing about the freedom and shared burden that would come if we bottle fed, even just on occasion.

I was unsure what to expect the first time we tried a bottle. I worried it would upset her stomach or cause uncomfortable gas. I worried she would reject the bottle entirely, meaning the freedom I hoped for would remain out of reach. But in just a few seconds, those worries disappeared as I watched her happily feed from the bottle.

What I really didn't expect? The guilt that came as I watched her do so. Was I robbing her of that original connection we'd had with breastfeeding? Was I setting her up for confusion if and when we did go back to nursing? Was I failing at something without even realizing it?

In discussing with my friends, I've learned this guilt is an all too common thing. But I've also learned there are so many reasons why it's time to let it go.

1) I'm letting go of guilt because...I shouldn't feel guilty about sharing the connection with my baby. It's true that now I'm no longer the only one who can feed and comfort her any time of day or night. But what that really means is that now the door is open for other people who love her (my partner, grandparents, older siblings) to take part in this incredible gift. The first time I watched my husband's eyes light up as he fed our baby, I knew that I had made the right choice.

2) I'm letting go of guilt because...the right bottle will prevent any discomfort. It took us a bit of trial and error to find the right bottle that worked for my baby, but once we did, we rarely dealt with gas or discomfort―and the convenience of being able to pack along a meal for my child meant she never had to wait to eat when she was hungry. Dr. Brown's became my partner in this process, offering a wide variety of bottles and nipples designed to mimic the flow of my own milk and reduce colic and excess spitting up. When we found the right one, it changed everything.

3) I'm letting go of guilt because...I've found my joy in motherhood again. That trapped feeling that had started to overwhelm me? It's completely gone. By removing the pressure on myself to feed my baby a certain way, I realized that it was possible to keep her nourished and healthy―while also letting myself thrive.

So now, sometimes we use the bottle. Sometimes we don't. But no matter how I keep my baby fed, I know we've found the right way―guilt free.


This article is sponsored by Dr. Browns. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


You might also like:

Learn + Play

If there's one item that people claim is *so* worth the price-tag, it's a Dyson vacuum. The cordless tools have become essentials in homes, cleaning up messes quickly, all without the hassle of a cord.

If you've avoided purchasing one because of the high cost, you're in luck! They're having a sale on Amazon right now. Some of the most popular vacuums and air purifiers are up to 40% off.

Dyson Cyclone V10 Lightweight Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner, $379.99

dyson vacuum on sale

Arguably the most popular of the Dyson family, and marked down 20%.

BUY

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

You might also like:

Shop

Beyoncé's new Netflix documentary Homecoming hit the streaming service today and gives us an honest look at how difficult her twin pregnancy was.

"My body went through more than I knew it could," she says in the film, revealing that her pregnancy with Sir and Rumi was a shock right from the beginning, and the surprises kept coming.

In the film she reveals that her second pregnancy was unexpected, "And it ended up being twins which was even more of a surprise," she explains.

Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé | Official Trailer | Netflix

The pregnancy was rough. Beyoncé developed preeclampsia, a condition that impacts about 5 to 8% of pregnancies and results in high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the mother's urine. Preeclampsia poses risks to both the mother and the baby. People who are pregnant with multiples, like Beyoncé was, are more at risk to develop preeclampsia, and the only real cure for the condition is to give birth, which proved to be another medical challenge for Beyoncé.

"In the womb, one of my babies' hearts paused a few times so I had to get an emergency C-section," she shares in the film.

Thankfully, Beyoncé made it through her extremely difficult pregnancy, but the physical challenges didn't end there. The road to rehabilitation for the performer was difficult because, as she explains, she was trying to learn new choreography while her body was repairing cut muscles and her mind just wanted to be home with her children.

FEATURED VIDEO

"There were days that I thought I'd never be the same. I'd never be the same physically, my strength and endurance would never be the same," Beyoncé recalls.

We know that becoming a mother changes us in so many ways, and in Homecoming, Beyoncé shows the world the strength that mothers possess, and rejects any ideas about "bouncing back."

Becoming a mother is hard, but it is so worth it, and Beyoncé isn't looking backward—she's looking at a mother in the mirror and loving who and what she sees. "I just feel like I'm just a new woman in a new chapter of my life and I'm not even trying to be who I was," Beyoncé said in the documentary. "It's so beautiful that children do that to you."

You might also like:

News

Warmer weather is finally here, mama—and that means it's time to switch up the family's wardrobes. 🙌 If you love matching with your little, or are determined to *finally* get those family photos made this spring or summer, we're obsessed with these mommy and me matching sets.

Here are some of our favorite mommy and me matching outfits for spring. 😍

1. Ivy City Co Jumpsuits, $42.00-$62.00

mommy and me matching jumpsuits

This linen set is perfect for transitioning from hanging out at home to dressing up for days out. Plus, plenty of space for growth!

BUY

2. Madewell x crewcuts Denim Set, $55.00 and up

mommy and me matching denim set

We're obsessed with the '90s vibes these sets give. Now to decide which to choose—denim jacket, shorts, or dress?

BUY

3. Old Navy Floral Midi Dresses, $10.00-$22.50

Old navy mommy and me matching dresses

Nothing says spring quite like florals. The whimsical prints are dainty and the rayon fabric is breathable for those warmer days. Shop mama's version here.

BUY

4. PatPat Matching Family Swimwear, $19.99 and up

matching family swimwear

Match with the entire family with this pinstripe set. We love the one shoulder look, too!

BUY

5. Keds x Rifle Paper Co Sneakers, $44.95-$79.95

mommy and me matching shoes

Twin with your little in these embroidered canvas sneakers. Bonus points for a rubber outsole so no slipping. 👏Shop the version for mama here.

BUY

6. Lily Pulitzer Shift Dresses, $58.00-$198.00

Lilly pulitzer matching dresses

Still not sure what to wear for Easter or that summer soirée? Pick up these matching shift dresses for the most beautiful family photos. Shop mama's version here.

BUY

7. Maisonette x marysia Swimwear, $57.00 and up

Mommy and me matching swimwear

These are definitely splurge-worthy, but we can't get over how adorable they pair together.

BUY

8. PatPat Gingham Dresses, $17.99-23.99

mommy and me matching gingham dresses

These will be your go-to pick for every outing this spring and summer.

BUY

9. Old Navy Striped Oxford Shirts, $13.00-$22.00

matching striped oxford shirts

A relaxed oxford is a staple in everyone's closet. It's versatile enough to dress up or pair with denim for a more laid back look. Shop mama's version here.

BUY

10. Pink Chicken Garden Dress, $72.00-$198.00

pink chicken matching garden dress

Whether you have a spring wedding to attend or want something flowy to wear for vacation, we adore these garden dresses. Bonus points for working for maternity wear, too.

BUY

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

You might also like:

Shop

Being a perfectionist has naturally been part of who I was since as long as I can remember. I could blame living in the continental U.S., where perfectionism is highly esteemed, or the family dynamics that come with growing up in a household of five women.

Deep down, though, I think it all really stems from a deep and instinctual longing to be loved, accepted and approved. Whatever the reason, it has never really been a part of me that I considered a problem.

That is, until, I became a mom.

When I had my first child, I did the best I could to keep it all together, to prevent people from seeing how my perfection was being pulled apart at the seams.

A nap schedule was, of course, essential. My son was easygoing and slept through the night like an angel baby. My house was still spotless and I managed to somehow work part-time and keep healthy meals on the table every night, but I did struggle tremendously with breastfeeding.

Since I took this failure as a great assault at my abilities to properly nurture my child, I let mom guilt run rampant over the issue. I decided I would just step up my perfect-parenting game in another way by pumping breastmilk around the clock until my son was around 18 months old.

FEATURED VIDEO

For anyone who has ever exclusively pumped, you know it can become total madness and take away the joy of feeding your child.

Managing a toddler was definitely wild, but with my background in pediatrics, I knew how to keep him busy while I kept things "under control." In other words, with just one child, I could still play the part of being perfect. All was fine until I became a mom of two children. It wasn't long after my daughter was born that I realized I needed to start letting go of perfection.

I was living alone in a new city with no help and my husband worked long hours. Managing a 2-year-old and a newborn, all while trying to keep a perfectly clean house and healthy dinners on the table every night, was, to my surprise, impossible in every way. My body was a wreck, not "bouncing back" as it did with my first. My daughter never slept for more than three hours until she was over a year old. She cried for hours on end most nights, as I tried relentlessly to calm her.

I remember bouncing her in her carrier for hours trying to get her to calm down and settle in for sleep. Meanwhile, I was a zombie and my son tore every square inch of the house into pieces. Keeping a naptime schedule was nearly impossible with another child to consider. Dinner was often takeout. There were days when I didn't look in the mirror or have proper clothing on until 5 pm.

The demands of motherhood laughed at my idea of picture-perfect motherhood. Every night I went to bed feeling like I had failed my children. I cried. Oh man, did I cry.

It wasn't long until I came to the realization that if I wanted to be a good mom, that is, to focus on things that are actually important, I had to stop sweating all the small stuff.

Even though I didn't really know how I was relieved that I didn't have to keep up with myself anymore. I had grown so weary of the high standards I had set for myself and those around me. I wanted a way out of the perfectionist trap and to loosen the reigns.

I realized that the most beautiful encounters with my children had been when I decided to say, "Oh, don't worry about it!" (i.e. the house, dinner, naptime schedules, etc). Love and joyful encounters with my children was incomparable to the latter. I knew my children needed me to look at them and not the 3-day- old stain on the dining room floor. The beauty in the moments, when I intentionally chose stillness and gratitude over productivity, was the reason I decided it was time to lay down a life-long pattern of perfectionism and control.

The problem was, I didn't really know where to start. I had been living this way for more than three decades. But I did know that I needed to start somewhere. So I started practicing being imperfect. Just like I had been teaching my 4-year old son. "The only way to get better at something is by practicing," I would tell him.

So, I did. And so I still am, practicing being imperfect.

You might also like:

Life
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.