I’m five months pregnant, and the baby inside me has been making his presence known. His kicks are strong and fierce, and my belly hasn’t been shy about ensuring that he has adequate space inside my bump that already fills out maternity clothes.
I am growing a son. And although he is my third child, everything about this pregnancy feels new to me. With each step I take, I hesitate, as if I’ve never done this before.
I cried myself to sleep last night, and I’m not sure why. If I felt like admitting the truth, I’d say that I’m scared. So much has changed in the six years that have passed since I last gave birth; nine years have passed since I first became a mom.
I’m no longer with the father of my first two children. An abusive husband who turned into an abusive father, he has since vanished from our lives. I am blessed and I know it every day, because my wonderful new husband takes pride in his role as a daddy to all three of the children I have brought into existence.
But there’s a void in my life — one that has become increasingly apparent since this pregnancy began: it’s the place where my mother should be.
My mother is a woman whose life was riddled with problems. I can’t even say how long it’s been since I’ve spoken with her — five years maybe? Holidays have come and gone, birthdays where her memory seeped into my thoughts have long since passed. A person whose position in my life should have been safe and nurturing, is now a desolate and mostly forgotten memory.
I disowned my mother in an effort to save my life.
Abused as a child at the hands of my mother’s complicated mental illness, I went on to marry the same type of dysfunctional person that I’d been taught was normal. Eight years and countless abuses later, I found myself the single mother of an infant and a toddler, with no earthly idea how to pull us out of the mess I had walked us right into.
I hadn’t protected my children, because I’d never been taught how to protect myself. I tried to learn, to change the path that I was on, but when times get tough, you’re told to turn to your family. Each time I did, I was taught how to screw up a little bit more.
You hear so much about breaking the cycle of abuse, but people don’t consider how deeply that cycle becomes ingrained when it is passed down from generation to generation. And while I have never abused my kids, I wasn’t doing justice by them either.
Enough. I needed to change.
There were counseling sessions and support groups. There were boundary lines drawn and compromises broken. There were upsetting realizations and things brought to the surface that I could no longer ignore.
It wasn’t my intention to shove my mother out of my life, it just became apparent that unlearning what I was taught couldn’t be done with her around. And I didn’t know the last time I talked to her would be my last; I just turned around one day and realized that she was no longer there.
And I never went back.
I feel this baby moving around. I count his kicks and try to eat right, yet I’m plagued by fears that my past will catch up to me — that my mother will seep out of my pores.
I go to the baby store and I see moms shopping with their daughters for cribs. When I feel a contraction, I’m surprised that my first instinct is to pick up the phone and call my mom. I think that being mothered is an instinctual yearning. When you are creating a new life, you crave the bond you should have with the person who gave you yours … but I’m not sure I ever really had that.
I never intended to mother without a mother, but I also never knew that I could be a better mother without her.
These days, my children are thriving. They are smiley, happy kids with bright futures ahead of them. When I tuck them into bed at night and they throw their little arms around me proclaiming their love, I know they feel safe. In turn, I know that we are in a good place.
I am their mother, and now I am a loved wife about to become a mother again. When I look at my life, I can’t begin to compare it to the life I had five years ago; everything is different.
I haven’t had a mother since I was 29 years old, and since that time, I’ve learned how to become one.
In a few short months I will meet this baby inside of me. Although I’ll miss what should have been, I’ll know that everything is as it needs to be. I don’t have a mother anymore, because I am too busy being one.