Even the most cynical of people, the ‘I don’t do Hallmark Holidays’ types, have to concede that Mother’s Day is worth celebrating. Mother and child; the most fundamental of relationships. I say this as someone who recently gave birth and one who has been lucky enough to be the recipient of the most amazing mothering for all my life.
Most of us learn how to be a mother from our mother. In practical day to day terms ‘Mum how do I get poo out of white cotton babygros’ ‘Mum she hasn’t stopped screaming for 5 hours what do I do’ and so on and so forth. Also in experiential terms, we remember things from our own childhood that taught us lessons. It’s not just the practical stuff either it’s the love. That unconditional, all encompassing, relentless love. As a child you don’t ‘get’ it. You know that you are loved but it’s only as an adult that you understand the love.
For me there is a moment from my childhood in which I remember being struck by how loved I was by my mum. When I was probably 9 or 10 I had just started doing my own shopping for gifts rather than just putting my name to whatever my sister had chosen. I had gone into forget-me-not (a card and tat shop in the village) and chosen a tiny little teddy bear pin for Mum’s Birthday, it can only have cost a couple of pounds. Mum had made all the right noises when she’s opened it and off I went to school. When I got home that night she was on the sofa and she had been crying. I remember it so clearly because my first thought was that her dad must have died (he’s 91 and going strong!) Mum told me through the tears that she had worn the pin and it must have fallen off and she had lost it. She was devastated. Even at that young age I knew that it couldn’t possibly be the loss of a cheap “gold” pin that had upset her so much. It must have been because it was from me, because I had chosen it. The loss of that pin made me feel so immensely loved that I can remember the feeling of it even today.
It’s clichéd to say that you don’t appreciate what being a mother involves until you are one. It is also foolish to make sweeping generalisations about mothers given that we are all humans and therefore fallible. Every mother/child relationship is as individual as each romantic relationship is. As my mum has always told me the only two people who ever truly know a relationship are the two people in it. Therefore you must forgive the clichés and generalisations I make and know that I have in mind today those people whose relationship with their mother or their children does not fall into the flowers and cards category.
Saying all that, fundamentally as mothers we all go through the same things. It’s the reason NCT is so popular and Mumsnet thrives with people sharing advice, asking questions in the middle of the night. You know you’ve been there, that feeling of relief when the internet automatically fills in the end of the question you are typing into the search bar and immediately you know that you’re not alone!
Being a mother to child with complex needs changes the mothering experience, it complicates everything from the everyday practicalities to the dreams you have for their future. Around this time of year there are always lots of inspirational quotes, poems and ‘wisdom’ floating around social media about Mums and mothering. Often the theme is one of cherishing the moments while your children are little and making the most of them because one day they will grow up. One that I always notice is the one that talks ‘the last time’ that one day it will be the last time they want to sit on your knee for a cuddle or the last time they will be tucked up in bed or the last time they will hold your hand just because. It runs through me like cheese grater because for those of us with children with ‘life limiting conditions’ that checklist could be every day of our life. We live in dread of the last times, it’s not just a whimsical poignant reflection on the passing of time it’s the daily nightmare we try and push to the back of our minds. It’s things like that which shine a very bright light on how different mothering is for us. Cherishing every moment is part of the territory and it is one of the positive side effects of living in the moment. I know I will never take being a mother for granted.
I’m not sure what conclusions to draw, this post is disjointed and all over the place and not what I had planned. Like motherhood.
P.s Love you Mum.