When I became a mother for the first time, I learned that I didn’t know it all; that mental illness is something that happens to people like me; and that we can all survive on far less sleep than I had ever thought possible.
When I became a mother for the second time, I learned that I had not moved on afterall from the haunting feelings of inadequacy and failure after the birth of my daughter. I also learned that it was possible to enjoy motherhood in that first challenging year, and how a completely helpless, vulnerable, tiny baby had the power to heal me when I didn’t even know I was broken.
But even more than that I learned a whole new level of appreciation for my own mother, mum, nana.
Mother-of-three-under-five never meant much to me until I had my own children. Now I wonder how she, and we, are alive.
And then there is THE wonder that she is alive – she has fought the brave fight against breast cancer twice.
She has grieved for her father for most of her life after he died from bowel cancer on Christmas Day. She was ten years old. The detail that always makes my heart catch in my chest is that her father bought her an umbrella that Christmas. Do you remember what you were bought for Christmas when you were ten? I don’t.
She has grieved for a sister who, aged just 43, died too young from breast cancer. My mum was two years younger than I am now when it happened. I have a sister – just imagining losing her is too big and difficult a thought for my brain to wrap its thoughts around. I just can’t imagine it. And then to be told that you have fallen foul of the same disease that took your closest sibling, and your father, away from you? The terror. Just that.
Married at 18 and a mother for the first time at 24, she did it mostly on her own. Unlike many of her peers she did not have much support from her mother, or other family members. Some of the reasons for this are mundanely practical – others have the power to devastate if allowed.
She talks about all of the above with calmness, acceptance and not a trace of bitterness.
Now, as Nana, consciously or not, she is rebalancing the equation of love and support that should exist between a mother and her child. Her dedication to me as a mother, and to my children who she adores and who adore her in turn, is softening the hard echo of coldness that stretches down the years.
In its place she is fostering a place of patience, warmth, love, encouragement and wholehearted acceptance of who these small people are, and everyday she inspires me to do the same.
Before I became a mother I’m not proud to say that little of this registered on my radar so amongst the many blessings that my children have brought me is that they opened my eyes to the incredible woman who has been right in front of me for my entire life.
Read more from Nicola on her blog Too Much Mothering Information.
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