Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mother's Day-- Now that I'm a Mom

I've been thinking about where Mother's Day comes from, and how best to use this day to celebrate my mom when I am 5,000 km away. The cards have been sent off and a gift has been arranged, but I won't be the same not to get up early, put on a dress and jacket (because it always seems freezing on Mother's Day) and go out to brunch with her.
I spent the last two Mother's Days at home in Ottawa, as travel just seemed to work out, and those were my first two as a mother myself. The ones where I could look to my mom and convey that I knew what it was about now...

When I first moved out, our relationship morphed into more of a friendship, because I was choosing to call her and visit and catch up. I understood more about adult responsibility, and she helped direct me when I sometimes didn't.
When I moved up North, I was sad to leave her behind. Of course she has her own life, but for the first time, mine took me in a different direction and we were forcibly separated. I felt bad for leaving the woman who had wanted to have me for so long, then spent twenty years raising me right and dedicated herself to my well-being. I didn't get how tight a tether connected us at the time, but as a mama now, I can say I am already dreading the day Abby leaves. And I am still sorry I broke that connection and put so much geography between us.
When we planned my wedding, I learned how to tactfully communicate as an adult. In watching her, I learned how to deal with stress, money, socially awkward situations and strange family members in a way that ensured most everyone felt at ease. I learned how to step back and make something not about myself. After years of being her focus, her pride and glory, her project, I started to learn that the world did not revolve around me. I was not her sole focus, but I was a daughter she raised into an adult. That lesson is understated here: I'm unable to come up with the right words to illustrate, but suffice it to say I learned how to find my place in the world without demanding from everyone in it that my role was any more important than theirs.
When I became pregnant with Abby, she helpfully reminded me to follow my instincts and not get my feathers ruffled over what the pregnancy books advised against doing. She mailed me up the book she followed when pregnant with me, and things began to come full circle.
She watched my belly begin to pop when I visited home at 13 weeks. We talked about letting go of fear and began dreaming about the little person who would make her a grandma and me a mother.
She helped me stay calm when hormones directed otherwise, and put my anxieties into quiet calm with her reassuring voice. She felt Abby's movements and kicks when I went home at Christmas, and threw me a beautiful baby shower. I wonder now why they don't have celebrations for mothers as they watch their own daughters become mothers, some sort of grandmother rite of passage. After all, the fruits of her labour had gone forth to multiply, and I can imagine no more satisfying accomplishment.
She flew up as soon as Abby was born early, and coached me through my first few weeks of parenthood. It's kind of a secret you need to be let in on through your own experience, but I will share that having my mother with me after my own first baby was born is beautiful, religious, and cathartic for everyone involved.
I was a mother, and I started to know what it meant.

When I flew home a few months later to introduce Abby to her extended family in Ottawa, we got to celebrate my first mother's day. I got it. I understood that my mom had not been a thorn in my side through my teenage years because she felt some sort of self-imposed martyrdom, or in need of being judge and jury to my reckless behaviour. I understood, very clearly, that everything she did for me was born of love. She had waited nine months for me, just as I had, and she had dreams and wishes and excitement for my arrival. She had taken care to make sure I had everything I needed, including healthy food, a warm bed, and boundaries through which I could not pierce.
Since becoming a mother, I have felt a kind of kinship and empathy for mothers I see in the news, at the mall, anywhere really. I understand that they waited for their babies as their bellies grew big, and that in all likelihood they were desperately trying their best to raise a wonderful person.
This kinship with my mother is even more deep a well than I could have imagined or understood since before I was a mother. I know the aching need to want a baby. I know the fierce protective fight I can produce if my baby is threatened. I know I am not the centre of the universe, because now I have my own little planet orbiting in my axis who draws many more stars and planets into her own universe. And I am happy to step back and watch her grow, with a little cuddle and push from her mama, as needed.
I am so thankful that I was chosen as my mother's first baby, and that it was her who raised me and kept me safe. I have many more lessons in motherhood to learn, and I am made confidant in the face of those trials by the experience and support of my own mother.

My mom and I at the Takhini Hot Springs right after I moved up to the Yukon.
She took her entire summer vacation to help me move in.

3 comments:

  1. oh Sarah....you are so so sweet. What a beautiful tribute to your mamma and to the connection that you two share. Tears are a streaming down my face.

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  2. Wow Sarah. This whole post brought tears to my eyes. What incredible insight and truth.Just beautiful.

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