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Choosing Presence:

Becoming the Mother I Never Had

Mother's Day.

Every year it comes and I can tell you, every year I have to choose how I focus my energy.

You see, becoming a mother for me was not only a blessing, one that I know not every woman is as fortunate to have, but it quite literally likely saved my life. I wasn't on the best path, no doubt. And no, I did not intend to get pregnant. After all, I was only nineteen years old. I was doing all the wrong things with all the wrong people in all the wrong places. I was sleeping around. I was doing drugs. I had recently been arrested. I was lost and quite frankly, just trying to find my place and my people that would actually care for me and like me. Um yes, clearly now I can see that those scenarios were very much not the answer.

Your Body Stores Information from the Very Beginning

I was raised by my maternal grandmother after my mother left me with her aunt and uncle. It wasn't until the last couple of years that I learned I was left there much younger than I had ever realized. I was an infant really, only fourteen months old. That environment wasn't the best by any means, and thankfully I was too young to remember much of that at my conscious level.

Through some amazing therapy I have learned that while our conscious minds may not remember all of those things, it is still stored in our bodies. We learn attachment styles in those developing years and stick with us through our lifetime, taking more effort to reshape our inner child wiring.

I'm forever grateful that my grandmother caught wind that my mom was about to grant my aunt and uncle to full custody of me and she did not allow that to happen. Thank heavens for that. So at the age of three, my grandma picked me up one day for her normal weekend visit with me and just did not take me back. At my grandmother's demand, my mother then signed legal guardianship over to her.

I'm so thankful for those years because as an adult I can now see how my therapist is correct about those forming years and how they truly shape us. I know that it's because of those years with my grandmother that I was able to pull myself back out of the hole I'd gotten myself into as a young adult. It's because of those years that deeper in my core, I knew that I needed to do better the moment I found out I was pregnant.

I've also learned how much those feelings of abandonment and rejection from my mother have remained with me throughout the years. I still struggle with it in relationships. It takes a conscious effort to have an internal dialogue to remind myself that my emotions are valid because they remind me of that story, but to also be able to separate that trauma from the present relationship.

From the moment that I learned I'd become a mother, I knew I was committed to making my son feel wanted, valued and loved.

Choosing Unconditional Caregiving Over Selfish Addiction

Was I scared when I learned there was a human fetus inside of my body? Um yeah. I mean, honestly I didn't want to believe it. At that time I was technically skipping my state probation, which I had done because I had just been raped and had my life threatened. So yes, I ran away. When I ran away, I did what I knew how to do best to deal with trauma then... drugs. I was strung out. I was so strung out that I could take naps while high on meth.

It was when I started to get nauseous by the smell of cigarettes and threw up foam from the drugs that I started to question what my body was telling me. In fact, about a month before I was laid back on a car hood with a girl I'd just met, looking up at the stars in Florida, and randomly said to her, "I think I'm pregnant." She said, "No shit, so do I." We went to the store and got pregnancy tests and they both came back negative. After the nausea and foam incident though, I decided maybe I should get another test. I woke up after one of those few hour naps and decided since technically it was my first pee of that day (at 3am) maybe I should pee on the stick. When the stick showed that little plus sign, I didn't want to believe it. In the back of my mind, I was terrified that this may be as a result from the rape. (It'd be four years later before it was finally confirmed my rapist was not the father, thank goodness.)

So I mentally ran away again by doing another line and went back to bed. When I got back up a couple hours later, I took another test. It also showed a plus sign and I knew it was true. That was the second to last line I'd ever do in my life, and certainly the last during my pregnancy. I quit smoking the next day, mostly because my body wouldn't allow me keep it up if I wanted to function without vomiting on myself and anyone near me.

I'd be four months pregnant before I'd actually see a doctor. I was honest with my probation officer when she called me after my own mother told her where I was. I plead with that probation officer to not make me return permanently because I knew I'd be too tempted to stay on drugs. And quite frankly, I was still scared for my life after the threat from my rapist. Thankfully she cut me a deal that I could stay out of town as long as I agreed to spot drug tests within twenty-four hours whenever called upon. I happily agreed.

The upcoming journey of what it would be to climb out of the rock bottom hole I had created for myself would take years.

But I was committed. It wasn't for me. It was for him. He deserved it.

I couldn't always live in a hotel room. Then it became I couldn't always live in a friend's house. During my pregnancy I lived with a boyfriend in a mobile home that was free for us to stay in. It didn't have a working kitchen. It didn't have anything more than a window AC unit and a wood burning stove. The windows were cracked. My then-boyfriend even fell through the bathroom floor one day while taking a piss. The hot water went out in November and I had to take freezing cold showers while six months pregnant. I pleaded with my family to forego getting me any gifts for Christmas that year. All I wanted was cash to help us put a deposit down on somewhere decent to live. They heard me and came through.

We'd soon move into another trailer. This one had central heat and air, a working kitchen, only one cracked window and the hole in the floor at least had a piece of plywood covering it. But the baby's room was already painted blue and the dining area window would be perfect to put up a Christmas tree for my little one's first Christmas. I'm grateful for the cash that year because it helped me create a space that felt much more comforting to bring a baby home to. And they even got me a rocking chair for Caleb's room, which I still have to this day.

Building Momentum One Season at a Time

The following months and years I'd slowly find myself moving into homes that were slightly better than the last but still not my ideal situation. Getting into my first house, rather than a mobile home trailer felt like such a win!

I started to gain my confidence through off and on therapy and better jobs.

I'd had several traumas in between, don't get me wrong. But every time it came back to what could I do to be doing better for my son.

I returned to school since I had dropped out of college when I found out I was pregnant. I got a job, then I got two. I started a marketing department for two small businesses.

I kept growing. I kept improving. And you know what, I admire that about myself.

You see, I know several women who haven't done that. I know that it's not something everyone chooses to do. And I know that some start to and then the difficulty and the temptations creep back in and they give up. I didn't.

By no means have I done it perfectly or am I doing it perfectly, but I know deep inside how hard the journey has been. And I know that I wasn't feeling valued enough on my own to pull myself out, but the birth of my son gave me the motivation of knowing that it's not just for me anymore.

Unconditional Love

My son is my world.

I can't even think that sentence or write that sentence without tears immediately swelling up in my eyes. I feel it to my core. That's how I know that I do know what unconditional love is.

I want so much for him. I want to show up for him in all the ways I didn't have. I want him to be able to avoid all the things I did wrong. I want nothing but for him to feel loved and worthy and valued.

Of course I want him to learn life's lessons along the way, but I'm constantly having to remind myself that he doesn't necessarily learn the same way I do and that my job is to support him through it and be there for him on the other side.

When he tells me I'm his favorite person in the whole world, I believe him. It's assuring to me to hear him say that not for the validation that he sees me as that person for him, but because it means he's heard it enough from me that it sticks and resonates with him to feel it back.

As his eighteenth birthday gets closer and closer, my heart aches. I want the world for him and yet, I'm so scared that it won't treat him well or that I haven't prepared him well enough.

But then I remember that regardless, I know I'll be there for him. And I trust that he knows that because of the unconditional love I've shown him through the years.

Mother's Day 2022

Loving Me and My Inner-Child

And it's because of all those things that every year I choose to keep my focus on him on Mother's Day. Otherwise I drift into the thoughts of my own mother and how I still just cannot understand how she hasn't been able to pull herself together enough to see that she's missing out on so much. Not just by choosing to not be there in the most basic sense for me, but for him.

She's missing out on both of her daughters' lives and her three grandkids. For so long I felt like I was trying to take the higher road and keep the relationship going. It came to a point that I felt like I was the only one trying. That is not how any child wants to feel. It became so painful. Too painful to keep doing it. It feels like rejection and abandonment on repeat.

Truly something I just cannot understand. I'd came to a place where I was even able to accept that she wasn't ever going to be the grandmother who just begged to come spend time with her grandson. But what I haven't been able to accept yet, is that she cannot look past all of her own faults and my faults and just be the parent in this situation.

Yes, I am an adult. Yes, I am a parent. But I am also a child. A daughter.

And yes, I do still crave to be treated as someone so important to the woman who brought me into this world. As someone who you would so desperately want them to know that your world is so much better because they are in it.

I can't bear to think of something happening to my child. I can't bear even more to think that I wouldn't know because I don't even stay in contact.

It was an extremely difficult decision to make to decide to stop showing up for my mom. And if you know me, you know that I don't make tough decisions lightly.

No, I had gone into my last visit with her with my purposeful viewing goggles on. I paid attention to how she showed up, rather than me feeding all the updates and details to her. Sadly, I noticed that she did not ask me about my son at all, my new job, the new city we were living in, or my (then) husband - not a single time. She played on her phone.

She wasn't showing up for me.

She wasn't seeing me.

And it felt like she didn't care.

Hear me when I say, that by no means do I think she does this on purpose, and she likely isn't even aware. I am working very hard in therapy to come to terms with accepting that it's all she's capable of.

I'm not there yet. It's so hard to accept such a thing when I look at my son every day. I cannot understand, fathom or accept that a woman could walk out on not one, but two daughters, and could then live without checking in on them when she's known both of us.

I empathize with her because I imagine she is hurting. When I say I can't imagine how she "lives" like that, I wholeheartedly believe that she isn't living fully. I believe there's an emptiness inside of her. That she hurts. That she's sad. It makes me sad for her. It makes me sad for me, for my sister and for both of our kids.

And for right now, the little girl inside of me just needs me to take care of her first and not feel responsible for my mom. I need to parent that little girl inside that hurts and comfort her. To let my inner-child know that adult me is here to care for her and it's okay to be sad sometimes but to know that I will care for us.

So every year when Mother's Day approaches, it hurts to pass the cards that say the most beautiful things about the mother who raised you and taught you everything. It hurts to pass them up on purpose and to make a conscious choice to not pick one up. It hurts to consciously choose not to send her a message. It hurts just as much as it did when I would send her a message and just get the generic holiday-only responses. It hurts.


Maybe one day I'll be in a season where I've comforted that little girl inside me enough that we can move forward in total forgiveness and acceptance of who she is and how she doesn't show up.

Celebrate the Choice to be a Mother

Until then, I soak up Mother's Day for me, unselfishly. Because I chose to show up for my son, even when becoming a mother came from the depths of despair and I had to rebuild my entire life from a single Rubbermaid tote. And I do not waste that opportunity.

He is my greatest gift. Being a mother is my greatest reminder that I can do hard things. I can do the hardest job on earth even without a role model of unconditional motherly love. I am doing it fully, not just barely. I am doing it in a way that my son loves me so much he always tells me, even in front of his teenage friends. He hugs me every day he is with me. He tells me he is proud of me. He celebrates with me. He plays with me. He laughs with me. He models to me what is being modeled for him. And that is what is most important to me on Mother's Day.

So to all the mommas out there raising a human being, celebrate yourself because it's hard work. It's good work. And apparently it is a choice. And you chose to do the hard work.

You're strong. Stronger than you can imagine. And the reward is so grand. The love a child gives back when they know they are cared for and loved. That desire they have to feel known, seen, cared for and loved - it never goes away. So a mother's job is never done. Keep going. Keep going for that baby you were blessed to bring into this world, when so many women don't get the chance. Keep going for your child who looks at you admiringly, trusting you'll be with them along the way. Keep going for you, proving that you are committed to choosing to be a mother, no matter the hardships.  Keep going.



Happy Mother's Day,

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