A few months after my college roommate had her first daughter, she posted a photo of herself with her daughter, mother, and grandmother on Facebook. "Four generations of women!" the caption read. While I loved my friend's photo and was so happy for her, it suddenly hit me that I'd never be able to post a photo like that of my own.
My mother died when I was 9 years old. It was a difficult time to lose a parent — not that there's any "easy" time. Being a 9-year-old girl is complicated. You're just about to start your preteen years, you start experiencing things that transform you from a girl into a woman, and it's usually a time when you just really need your mom.
As I prepare to start my own family someday, I wonder what it will be like without her.
I'm so lucky I had my stepmother, who I've grown to call "mom," to lean on. But losing my birth mother at such a pivotal time changed the way my womanhood was shaped. I never got to know my mother as a woman, or learned her views on things related to womanhood and motherhood. I don't know if she struggled with postpartum depression, or what she had prioritized teaching me as I grew up and why. I don't know if her pregnancy with me was difficult, or if she had stretch marks. I don't know her views on attachment parenting or her thoughts on natural remedies versus conventional medicine. I never got to grow up to be her friend.
As I prepare to start my own family someday, I wonder what it will be like without her. I can ask my stepmom to share her experiences, of course, but with my own natural disposition and physical makeup being closer to my biological mom's, I know that I will have a different experience. I won't be able to call my mom for help or advice, ask how it was for her in those early and sleepless nights, or take photos to put on Facebook.
Admittedly, I'm a little bit afraid to be a part of that biological mother-child connection. I haven't been part of that duo in 20 years. I'm afraid because I know how painful it is when that connection is severed, and I can only imagine that my fear of losing my child will be amplified a million times over because of my experiences. But I'm also unbelievably excited to reestablish that part of myself. I can't wait to tap into that part of me that knows, on a deep level, the love I will feel for my own children will be as strong as the love my mother felt for me.
When my mom died, everyone told me that she lived on through me. People tell me constantly how much I look, act, talk, and stand like her. When I have kids, I can't help but believe that a little bit of her will keep living on in them, and I'll get a piece of her, however small that may be, back.