The following is based on a ‘Letter of Independence’ that I presented to my daughter about 30 years ago, in the early years of my drug and alcohol recovery process.
Hello My Girl:
Did you know that mom is not who I am?
I was quite certain that I qualified for the part. After all, I was female, had a Mom of my own, played with dolls, babysat younger siblings, and stared with amazement each time another ‘bundle of joy’ was brought home from the hospital.
To further ensure my success, I faithfully watched the tv ‘Super Moms’ on Leave it to Beaver and Father knows Best, memorizing their scripted behaviors and responses by heart.
I was so anxious to get on with my life’s purpose that by 17, I had set out to realize my dream.
The experienced blonde haired, blue-eyed, chizel chinned Swede seemed the most likely prospect to make it happen. Pregnancy ensued, after just a few short months I would be introduced to the stark reality so many Moms have experienced.. the loss of the unborn child. Still, in some unknown place in the heart, the significance of the role was recognized.
A couple of years later, with both mind and heart now engaged in the process, destiny stepped in and 11 months after a beautiful wedding, you arrived. The first time they brought you in, I unfolded your blanket. There you were, all five and a half pounds, 18 inches of you, like a mini version of him, with your dark curly hair and olive skin, tainted just a bit with jaundice. You were perfect!……and I was scared to death! This tiny being was entirely dependent on me to save her life.
Today, as I revisit that precious moment, I have so much compassion for that young woman, really, still a girl, who desperately searched the annals of her mind to access the role, to channel the assuring words of June Cleaver and Jane Wyman and allow the Perfect Mom Script to unfold.
I wish I could tell you I was great at it, but oftentimes I felt like a failure. Even in the hospital, unable to relax enough to allow my milk to flow, I couldn’t nurse you.
At six weeks old you were admitted into the hospital with bronchial pneumonia. Each time I sat by your tiny form in the hospital incubator, my fear and grief was triggered and amplified by the memory of the loss of my previous unborn child.
When I brought you home and held you, my tears seemed to trigger yours, so, in spite of the overwhelming feelings of incompetence, I learned not to cry. I read the books , observed other moms, watched more tv series and marvelled at how women have played their part so naturally, for eons.
The saving grace presented itself one night when, frightened and exhausted, I placed you in your Grandmother’s arms. She was a strong woman, yet so gentle. Just one month previous to your birth, she had buried another baby girl. She would eventually have experienced eighteen pregnancies, with just half of them surviving.
She held you like she knew you, and within moments, I knew you were safe. As I watched you sleep, your tiny head cushioned against her breast, in that moment, I recognized the personification of what it truly means to be a Mom. It wasn’t the role the women in the movies or on television played. It wasn’t clean and starched with perfect hair and high heels.
It was the vision of this seasoned, little woman in her nightie, rocking you back and forth. She knew the fragile, delicate nature of your tiny Being. From the Truth of her experience, she knew that there was a fifty-fifty chance for your survival. She innately trusted herself… and trusted that Something Greater would guide her to the destiny of this Soul. She looked up at me for a moment, and years later I finally realized that long ago, she held me in the same way.
Like me, she would have been ‘just a girl’ with a dream to be a Mom. Through pain and suffering, joy and sorrow, trials and errors, she grew into the role.( How often, since then, I’ve thought, our child bearing years should begin in our 40s).
I was at the beginning of my journey. I would like to say that she was my role model, but in truth I cannot. Shakespeare said, “The world’s a stage, and we all must play our part.” For so many reasons, oftentimes, I just didn’t play my part, at least, not well.
Today, I want to tell you that, although being Mom wasn’t what I was best at, I’m so grateful to your Grandmother and all of the other supportive, nurturing women who journeyed with us, and ensured that you would know what being a Mom meant.
Each contribution has assisted in creating the solid foundation of the strong, yet gentle woman you have come to be…the kind of Mom we would all feel proud to be.
In celebration of Mother’s Day, I choose to relax the identification of the role and ask that we begin to meet one another, woman to woman and as equals. I want to meet the independent woman that you are, and to have you meet me.
Over the years, we have supported one another. I have often said, ‘Even if she wasn’t my daughter, she is one of the most remarkable women I have ever met.’
I would like for us to continue to share our own unique interpretations and experiences of life, without judgement, criticism or expecations.
We are adults. Adults don’t need parents, rather they can choose to have other supportive adults share their journey. I think I would like to be one of those supportive adults in your life. Based on having met who you authentically are, I know I would choose to have you in mine. Happy Mother’s Day My Girl.