“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” –C.S. Lewis
As I sat in a bed about to deliver my baby, hoping for the anesthesiologist to come quickly, or even more than that, to have a mother there to tell me that everything will be OK. I imagined that she would sit next to the bed, holding my hand, reassuring me that the pain would subside soon, but preparing me for the difficulty of postpartum. Her calm voice and truthful words would bring comfort. Knowing that I had such a strong woman to lean on during and after delivery reminded me that I was capable of motherhood.
But I am a motherless mother.
And instead of having a mother by my bedside ready to celebrate the arrival of her grandson, I had my husband and the lingering feelings of grief, as though I had lost someone. But the reality was that I had never lost a mother. I just never had one. I never had that woman who could calm, inspire, and prepare me for the things that the world would throw at me. It has always been just me, paving a path into the unknown alone. And here I was again heading down another path, without a mother to provide any guidance.
My husband calls me a “strong woman.” And I won’t argue with him. I am. I have overcome a lot of adversities in my life and come out of it with a few scars but also with an optimistic outlook that I can handle what the world throws at me. I learned to rely on myself and allowed myself to trust my spouse for support. But after I delivered my son, I sat in the hospital room with no mother to call to celebrate his birth. My heart ached for that woman to come reassure me. To reassure this scared and frightened girl and to tell her that everything was going to be OK and that she was going to be a good mom.
But I am a motherless mother.
Those first few months of parenting were very isolating. This new form of isolation made me realize how very alone I was in the world. I did not have that annoying mother who would wedge herself into my life. Making any excuse to visit just to see her grandson. And it was in that isolation that my longing for a mother turned into fear, and I feared the worst. I feared that I would become a mother like the one I had: harsh, abusive, and unable to connect with her child. And I unknowingly allowed that fear to spiral into postpartum anxiety. I found myself awake for months unable to fall back asleep, unable to turn off my mind and dismiss the what-ifs that filled it.
I am a motherless mother.
I struggled for months with my undiagnosed insomnia and anxious thoughts. Fearing that motherhood was the one thing that I could not do alone. Eventually, I allowed my doctor to give me a sleep aid and began to fill my days by surrounding myself with other women, other mothers, who motivated and supported me, laughed and cried with me. And then the fear lifted like a fog, and I realized that I was doing motherhood quite well and I was not alone on this path at all.
My son will turn 1 in a few days. I sleep well most nights now and don’t feel those feelings of grief and fear anymore. Like with the death of a loved one, I knew I had to continue living. I continued moving forward onto this path of the unknown relying on my strength and intentionally surrounding myself with those I love: my husband, my beautiful son and my sweet dear friends.
But I am still a motherless mother.
Although my mother has not died, it doesn’t lessen the pain I feel and the ache in my heart. A motherless mother, no matter if the title is earned due to death, orphaned, or just a broken relationship, still feels pain as if we lost something very important, because we have. And I know those feelings of grief of wanting a mother will hit me again at any time, like a wave that comes unknowingly ready to consume me.
Maybe it will be as I hear my son say, “I love you,” for the first time or maybe when I watch as he waves goodbye heading off for his first day of school. Whenever that sense of loss will decide to creep back into my life, I know that it will hurt. But I know that I will be able to pick myself up and continue on with life. I will keep living, laughing and savoring these joyous moments.
Because I am a mother.