In celebration of Mother's Day. A little late, but who says we can only celebrate those who mother one day a year :)
It's crazy to me that it's been14 years since my mother died. Sometimes it feels like days have passed, but mostly it just feels like it's been waaaaay too long since I've seen her, hugged her, smelled her, listened to her laugh.
I was a fresh 17 year old when she was taken from us. Tottering between childhood and adulthood. Confused and about a lot of things, sure of a few. My mother was one thing I had always been sure of. Her presence, her love, her faith, her gentleness, her sincerity, her laughter, the way she embraced both people and life, and of course her food. ;)
So when she died, that certainty that I had held onto for so long was sort of pulled out from under me. I survived such a magnitude of loss by grasping onto my faith, leaning on friends and watching my father's undying faith. And by taking one step at a time, day by day.
And, this probably sounds strange, but in some ways I feel that my experience since entering motherhood has been similar. I can't speak for most mothers, but I can share my experience.
Having a baby has been one of my life's greatest blessings. I really feel that it was a privilege to hold a tiny life inside of me, nurturing and growing it for ten months. And what an adventure it has been since giving birth! The last year has been filled with so many emotions, changes and transitions. And, for me, there are two aspects that have made it particularly challenging: living in a foreign country (far from family and many close friends), and my own mama not being able to be physically and emotionally present with me through it all.
I know other new mamas also experience feelings of loneliness and loss, crazy ups and downs, and often impossibly challenged. I've had to remind myself that all of this is normal. But what's hard for me to convey is the deep longing and feeling that something is missing, no matter how happy I feel (or perhaps it surfaces most when I'm happiest?). I felt similar emotions when I got married.
The other day it hit me that my son will never know my mama. She will never be here to hold him, feed him, play with him, giggle with him. I believe that she is in heaven. Once I prayed that if my mama is aware of our lives on this earth that God would show me a shooting star, and a few seconds later as I glanced up to the sky a shooting star streamed across the sky. So I believe she sees our lives in some way. And I hope in the deepest part of my heart that we can all be together again one day. But it's just not the same as having her physically here. The older I get and the more I move, fewer and fewer people I know even knew her. Rarely am I asked about her...which doesn't leave for many opportunities to talk about her, to remember her, to honor her. Fourteen years later and I'm still trying to figure out how to "cope" in some ways.
Since I've become a mama one thing I've observed is how much more connected to my own mother I feel, but at the same time feeling as though there is still a hole in my heart, and wishing so badly that I could share all of these things with her. Growing up I was naturally closer to my dad, I think because we are a lot alike. I always assumed I'd be closer to my mama when I was a little older. And then she was gone. It's the biggest regret of my life, and I've worked hard to not dwell on the things that weren't. So now that I'm a mother myself, I feel like it's opened my eyes to understanding my own mother as a person (as a mother) more. I can empathize with her even more. I respect her even more, for the way she lived her life, for the way she loved us, for the many ways she sacrificed.
Last week I woke up and, out of nowhere, felt like I had pulled a back muscle. It's been almost a week now and it still hurts. The craziest thing is that, as a mama of a 4.5 month old, I haven't been able to slow down or take it easy. Mamas don't get days off, they tend to their children's needs even if it means (and it often does) tossing theirs to the wayside for a while. I don't believe anyone should ignore their own needs, but as a mama I see how much sacrifice and self-denial are an interwoven piece of parenthood.
Mamahood is backbreaking work, literally and figuratively. It's also intensely rewarding, if you allow it to be.
One of the biggest lessons I've learned since getting married and having a baby in Korea is to not dwell on what's missing and what's not. There are so many things/people I have wished I could have in my life these last few years, but when I look at all that I've gained...I instantly see how full my life is. I see how blessed I am. My life isn't perfect, by any means. My back aches. My body feels different. My emotions go a little cray cray. I'm usually sleep deprived. I get lonely and insecure about being a mama, about feeling like a woman again. I get overwhelmed. The list goes on. And I am tempted to wallow in self-pity when I think about it all.
But at the end of the day, I just want to feel free. I want to live and love freely and fully. That picture up there is of my mama and I when I was maybe a year old at the duck pond close to our house. It's one of my favorite photos I have of my mother and I. That laughter and simple joy beaming from my face. Nothing else mattered to me, I'm sure, than being with the people I loved. This is something I hope I can hold onto and teach my son. And when those we love feel far away, perhaps that's when we need to look back into our hearts so we can be close to them again.
To all who mother and father and nurture; to all who hope to one day; to all who have a little hole in their hearts because someone took a piece of it with them...may this be a happy day!