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On Being a Mother Without a Mother

Being a mother without a mother is something I’ve been thinking about very often, almost daily, in the almost four years since my mother passed away. How do you do it? How do you raise a child without your own mother? There are points of almost every day when I reach for my phone to text or to call her, or send her a picture, or ask for advice.

I’m lucky because my mom wrote two super-detailed baby books for me, so a lot of the questions I have I can find answers to there. And it’s almost like having her there, most of the time. And I’m lucky, too, because I have wonderful women around me who I can ask questions of, from questions about sleeping to picky eaters or favorite arts and crafts activities.

But it’s not the same. I really want to talk to her about my son, to have her be able to hold him (although, at the end of her life, she wasn’t able to do that.) I wanted to be able to pick out needlepoint canvases for his stocking with her (the stocking she made me is one of my most cherished possessions.) And I had so much left to ask her. It’s hard to fathom how much you will miss someone when you lose them, even if at first you think you know, even if you think you’re “prepared,” or as “prepared” as you possibly can be.

And it’s not even necessarily the “important” things I miss about her, but a lot of little things–like her sense of humor, which was exactly like mine, or being able to talk to her on the phone every day, or how supportive she always was. I never felt like she wasn’t supportive of my decisions to pursue, say, anthropology instead of a more marketable major, or my move to D.C. after college. And I wonder about the relationship she would have had with my son, and the type of grandmother she would have been. I think about that a lot.

I don’t think there’s ever a way to really “get past” missing someone so important in your life, or picturing them there with you, or just reaching for the phone to talk to them. Sometimes I really want that to get easier, but at the same time, I don’t. Having these feelings still, missing my mom still, is the way I can keep her with me–and I don’t want to change that.

2 thoughts on “On Being a Mother Without a Mother

  1. This is absolutely beautiful! As heartbreaking as it is for you to be without her, how lucky to have had such an incredible human as your mother. It’s small- to no-comfort, I am sure, but how wonderful for those who didn’t know her to read about her here.

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