I think I was about ten when I asked my mom a question that resembled a question that I would ask myself 26 years later when I was pregnant with my first child: “When you have a baby and you bring it home, how do you know what to do with it?” My mother’s answer was plain and simple: “Your mother teaches you.”
Tragically, she never got this opportunity; my mother died when I was 24: six years before I would meet my husband, and thirteen years before I would have my first child. I am a motherless mother, and like any other woman in this category will tell you, this fact, this state of being, shapes your identity as a woman and as mother.
Being a motherless mother is undeniably sad; that is obvious. I can actually feel my heart inside my body when I imagine her holding the babies she never got to meet, or even more so, when I think about the possibility of not being around for my own children (a thought I imagine all parents who have lost a parent consider). I have questions about myself as a baby and her as a young mother that I never thought to ask, and therefore, to which I do not have answers. (Topics like breastfeeding weren’t especially relevant when I was in my early twenties.) And while I have many incredible women in my life who have acted as mother figures and wanted to help as much as they could when my babies were born, there was a palpable void.
Being highly aware of this void, and being the incredibly supportive partner that he is, my husband’s Mother’s Day gift to me this past year was to compile videos of friends and family members sharing stories about my mother, with the intention that my children could watch it one day and learn about the grandmother they never knew. Tears rolled down my face as I watched these videos and listened to their stories, many of which I didn’t know. Yet it also made me reconsider and question this void. Yes, not having a mother when you become a mother is sad and terrible in so many ways, but because of this, I have had to forge my own path in motherhood — and in womanhood — relying so much on my partnership with my husband, and equally important, my relationship with myself. In doing so, I have had to reframe how I think of this void, from being one that is tragic to one that is empowering.
Take, for example, the moments and days that followed bringing my first child — my son — home from the hospital. While yes, it would have been incredible to have my mom to cook and take out my…