What can I say?
The only way I know how to even begin to express what being a mother means to me is to look at the people around me who have showed me and taught me what motherhood can be.
These are the 10 people who have shaped the mother I am (in no particular order of importance).
1. My baby brother
For six years I waited for my parents to give me a baby. My only condition was that I was to remain my daddy’s only girl. I practiced a lot of mothering on my baby brother. My baby brother taught me that the first thing a baby needs is your presence. The foundation of motherhood is built on presence, on just showing up, but I guess that is the foundation of all relationships.
2. My Oumie
My father’s mother is my Afrikaans Oumie who taught me to love HARD. Her love and cuddles were so powerful that she once snuggled a baby chicken to death.
3. My granny
My mother’s mother is my Granny Rae who taught me that motherhood is like gardening: it’s hard work, you’ll get dirty and you will need to find the perfect balance between nurturing and tough love. For her, it was just as important to nurture a plant/child with water, food and tender words as it was to prune, weed and direct growth.
4. My mom-in-law
A week before I married my husband, my mom-in-law gave me a hand written letter, assuring me of her continual support and love for me. But she wrote something in that letter about her son that has never left me: “when he acts more like a little boy than the noble man he really is, thank you for being a haven for him”. That is what she had done for that little boy that was inside the man I was marrying. My mom-in-law has always been his safe haven, even when he is at his worst. That’s motherhood.
5. My sister-in-law
As much as I love Camille today, welcoming another girl into our family was not easy for me. When Camille fell pregnant before me (with Miika), this did not please me. I think once Miika arrived, I loved him so much that my heart opened to Camille too – kids can do that. And once I was open to Camille, I could learn from her. Daily, we are in in trenches of motherhood together and daily she shows me how to be a better mom. I love watching other moms (I know, I am weird that way!) – not to judge, but to learn.
6. My friend who choose motherhood and the friend who didn’t
I like to think I choose motherhood. And while it was an easy choice to make at the time, I honestly didn’t think it through. Witnessing a dear friend choose motherhood through adoption and another friend make the choice not be a mom opened my eyes to how much motherhood is about very complex choices. Choices that involve and are constrained by our bodies, our families and our society. We always have choices as mothers, but our choices are not separate from the worlds we live in.
7. My daughter
The day my daughter was born, so I was born as her mother. As she grows, I grow. She changes, I adapt. Motherhood is not this fixed thing that I ever feel secure in and my daughter has taught me that’s okay. She shows me the mother she needs and I am learning to open up myself to those parts of myself that she requires.
8. The unborn mothers
By unborn mothers, I mean the mothers who have yet to have the babies they long for. I do not know why you are not holding your own child (yet). You have shown me the depth of your patience and persistence in waiting. I will try to be as patient and persist as I keep trying for my second-born. Hopefully, this patience and persistence will serve us well in motherhood when our time comes.
9. My mom
When Rachel was not even a month old, my mom came over so I could have some time to myself. As an on-demand breastfeeding mom, I probably only got 45 minutes off. I remember walking into Rachel’s nursery to find my mom changing Rachel’s nappy. Every word she said to my daughter, every movement in the nappy change, even the tone she used, was identical to me. My mom is in my blood. She is in my every heart beat. She shapes every parenting decision I make, consciously or unconsciously, good or bad. That’s more than good enough for me.
10. The moms I haven’t met yet…
Motherhood is never finished. So to all the moms I haven’t met yet, I know you have a thing or two to show me about how to be a mom. I can’t wait to see what you have to show me. Show me your motherhood.