When the girls were pregnant I was able to share my own pregnancy stories with them and we compared how similar or different our experiences were. During labor I watched how Adrian breathed through the contractions and didn’t want to be touched as the wave of pain flowed through her. I did the same. The bond created by nursing is one of the most special memories I have and watching the girls provide that sustenance to their own babes brings joy for me because I know they, too, will recall those most intimate moments to their deepest core. It made me wonder, however; did my mom nurse me? I doubt it. Those were the fifties and women just didn’t do that, or so I believe. She also smoked during her pregnancy, I’m pretty sure, if the rare photographs I have of her are evidence.
There are so many questions I had then and continue to have that I wish I could turn to my mother and ask.
I was recently interviewed by a local newspaper reporter who, for the Mother’s Day holiday, wanted to write a different story angle. She highlighted women who have lost their mothers and asked how they handled Mother’s Day. One woman interviewed had been abandoned by her mother when she was young; another woman lost her mom just a few years back when she was only sixteen. As usual, my mother-daughter experience was unique. I feel as though I never had a mother, not in the traditional sense at least, so my portion of the story always adds a bit of a twist. It’s the same when I head up the local chapter of the Motherless Daughters group meetings that I recently became the organizer for.
Just like when I was a child, I am set apart from others due to my unique status as an orphan; a survivor of the domestic violence that took my mother and the suicide that claimed my father all when I was just a year old. Now that’s a story one doesn’t readily share in casual conversation. When I do share my personal experience, as I have been doing since I started to write about it, I find there are so many layers of feelings that I tap into, yet am unable to express. When I am confronted with images and moments, such as when I’m with my girls and their babies, or with the women of my group, I have no way to compare the complicated emotions or thoughts in my head with their experiences. So, I just quietly acknowledge the existence of my thoughts and feel joy in knowing that I am a part of the creation of memories and special moments as the mother and am grateful for that.
As I make my way into another phase of my life, that of aging woman, I once again wish I could turn to the one woman I could ask those intimate questions such as: “How did you experience menopause? What symptoms did you have? How did you feel about growing old? Are you afraid of dying?”
Since my personal journey is one I take without benefit of a mother’s advice and counsel, I will be content with knowing I can be that guide for others. I feel blessed that I am able to have the experience at all, thanks to my own daughters and their need and desire to ask me those same questions.
She may not be with me in the physical form, but in my heart I know my mother is with me, guiding me to be a mother to my children and to her great-grandchildren. I am the conduit and everything she passed down to me came from a place not seen with the human eye but exists nonetheless. And long after I am gone, however I pass from this world, my descendents will carry my unique story and the legacy of my existence with them. It’s a mother-daughter connection that not even death can extinguish.