I knew that Mother’s Day would be especially tough this year. I have been really missing my mother over the past several months. Judy Lee, my mother, passed away three years ago. My mother was very annoying; she wanted everything for me that I didn’t want. She wanted me to dress in nice dresses, skirts and dress shoes for school and church, while I preferred more of the tomboyish look of comfortable t-shirts, jeans and snickers. Yes, I was a tomboy growing up-you can blame it on my three older brothers who at times tried to plait my hair and who I tried to emulate on the t-ball field and later in band. She would at least beg me, correction, made me dress up for church and I would be the typical daughter and be upset with her. “Mom, God likes me just as I am, right? So why do I need to dress up?” I would say. There was no need to wait for a response or try to argue with my mom. I would proceed to go to my room and change into what I thought was a ridiculous dress that she had bought from saving her meager earnings from working in a daycare and in church nurseries to buy the overly priced dress from the Hub. She was a gentle giant in our now two-person house. She was kind and sweet, chiefly due to the fact that she never said anything negative, those at her homegoing testified so. But at the same time she commanded our house and what Ms. Judy said is what was done.
When I started experimenting with independence, I let her know that I am who I am and it’s my body and I’ll wear what I want to wear, do what I want to do when I want to do it and how I would do it. Bahahahahaha. Ain’t nothing like a mother, because she will check your shit. Well let’s just say it didn’t go down in Ms. Judy’s house. I still remember the day she slapped me. I think she only laid hands on me once, not that I got in trouble a lot or disrespected her, but when I got out of line, she could give me that look and I knew to stop whatever in the world I was doing immediately, but when she did hit me, I went flying straight across the living room and that was the first and last of that. I still don’t know how she got up off that couch so fast.
My mother had a deep love for children. During my life, in her passing and even today, people tell me that they loved my mother so much, because she gave so much love. She took care of their children at daycare. Parents trusted my mother with their children; no matter what color, handicap, sex of the child, my mother spoiled them rotten. She knew their distinctive personalities and everyday told me about her children-Jacob, Caleb, Zarkaria, Mya, you name them, she remembered them all even as they got older, they were all her children and it didn’t bother me that I spent so much time with my mother and with my “adopted siblings.” My mother could hold several babies at once, rock them all in her bossom, knew their distinctive cries. While many children didn’t want to leave their parents at other daycares, here they were jumping into my mother’s arms in the mornings. If Opera is to Pavarotti, then Taking care of children is to Ms. Judy. I saw babies grow up as I grew up.
It was only a matter of time, that my mother began talking to me about children. I couldn’t believe her; I mean she already had several other grandchildren. But like I said earlier, she always wanted for me what I didn’t want for my own self and on the topic of children, it was no different. Sometimes the arguments of children were intense. I thought she could focus on the fact that I was a successful educated woman, I was getting my Master’s degree in Washington, D.C. and later, worked as a diplomat. But she insisted on me having a family. I wrestled with the idea-I couldn’t really see myself with children knowing how selfish and self-centered I am. How could I be responsible for taking care of something/someone 24/7? Shouldn’t I get a dog first as a trial run I thought? And even that seemed overwhelmingly. I came to the conclusion then that my mother had missed the whole woman’s right and civil rights movement. After all, she had graduated from Bate High School-the all black school in Danville, KY in 1964. I thought she really hasn’t grasped this whole idea of equality. “We are in the 21st century mother, the days of being in the kitchen and being knocked up at home are over,” I argued. “Everyone needs to experience childhood, and have a man,” she always responded back.
My mother’s health took what seemed to me a rapid turn for the worse while I was working in Mexico. After her heart attack, I flew home and visited her in Lexington at the hospital for several weeks. She was released to the nursing home where I visited her once last time; I tried to talk to her, but already she couldn’t recognize me. I’m not sure if it was the tumor on her brain, the chronic struggle with diabetes or her weight. After leaving my mother’s bedside the next morning, my supervisors took me out of a training class I was leading to tell me that my brother had called and they are just so sorry.
While I grieved and was depressed for a while at the passing of my mother and best friend, I came to the acceptance that she was out of suffering and thus in a better place. It was okay for me to move on with life. I thought a lot about my mother. What would she think of her daughter a year later living in Pakistan? She wasn’t too keen on me traveling the world, but yet was so proud. It was a cautious support she provided.
My mother’s mother, Granny Johnie Mayfield, had lost three children, one named Corey I believe who died of a now-treatable disease as a child who I of course never met, the second was Veronica-who lost a battle with cancer and then my mother. Every now I then, I would hear Grandmother say, there is no pain greater than losing a child. I never paid any attention to those words until this moment that I write about the loss of my own child. My grandmother passed away while I was in Pakistan last year and I was unable to make the trip back home to attend the homegoing ceremony-a guilt that weighs on me today.
When I returned to the US, little did I know that life was growing inside of me. I was shocked and I took 3 pregnancy tests to confirm – two solid blue lines appeared every time. While a complete shock and unexpected, I looked to my mother to inspire me. She was a single mother who raised me on a nanny’s salary and looked how I turned out. I’m not conceited or trying to brag, but we can say that she had unconditional love for children and people and that’s what I wanted to emulate. If she could parent, so could I. My mom would be so happy that I was going to have a baby. In a crazy way, I became closer to her, because I remembered all the things she did raising me and I would think to myself, I am going to be just like Ms. Judy, a tough disciplinarian that everyone knows not to mess with, but have a heart of pure gold. In terms of motherhood, I looked to no one else but my own mother for guidance and as a role model.
I cried sometimes. Being pregnant was a constant reminder that she wasn’t here. I wanted someone who would share the excitement, joy and to be honest-the anxiety that unexpected pregnancies bring. I never talked about my birth with her, but I know I had to be a surprise; after all there is 14 years age difference between my youngest brother and myself. I wanted someone to go shopping for baby clothes with and the free babysitter that I knew she would be. I wanted someone to dress my baby up in ridiculous baby clothes like she did with me and we could argue all over again like good times. It was tough at times, but I thought if my mother made it through tougher times, I too would overcome this.
As Mother’s Day 2012 approaches, I find myself as an Orpan and a Childless Mother. On April 8, 2012, Easter Sunday, I lost my child, Angel Easter, to a terrible illness that occurs during pregnancy known as HELLP Syndrome. If I ever needed my mother it was and is right now. I would have to look in her eyes and see her disappointment that I lost the baby and couldn’t have any more. But also be a witnessed one more time to her faithful love for me and children. I would be rocked in her arms and comforted by our shared pain and loss. I would hear the words that only a mother can give to comfort their daughter.
As I think about my loneliness and desire to have my mother and baby physically here on Mother’s Day, I know it cannot be and I know that I am not alone.
To those who have children, expecting a child or never conceived and/or have their parents- throw your sorries out the window-I don’t want it, nobody does. May you simply be reminded of how precious life is. May you know it is okay to talk to us who have suffered painful sudden losses. May you take a step away from the chaos we call life to forgive those who have wronged us and just give love. May tonight you hold your child a little closer. May you send flowers and hugs while we are alive. May you be reminded of what really is important.
To those who feel like orpans, those who have lost a parent or both, to those who sit in shelters and in foster care, may you know that you are loved, may you know that you are being watched over, may you feel the warmth of a mother’s hug and kiss everyday. May she wipe away the tears on you cheeks. May you become the parent you so long for. May you send her a kiss whether you have met her or not or regardless where she may physically be. May you know on this day too, you are being thought of.
To the Childless Mothers, whom often suffer a grief in silence, that have experienced miscarriages, delivered a child that was stillborn and/or had a child that died of SIDS, may you know that you do not suffer alone. May you be reminded that today, on Mother’s Day, you are a mother, may you know that your child is not forgotten, may you know that your child knows that you always and forever will love them. May you be reminded of the joy your child brought to your life, even if it was only a few seconds, a few kicks in your womb. May you know that you deserve flowers and a homemade card with crayon stickmen. May you know that pregnancy and childbirth still is a blessing. May you know that life is beautiful. May you buy yourself something today. May you know on this day, you are special, and that you were, still is, and forever will be, a Mother. Happy Mother’s Day.