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Mothering without a mother...

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I wasn't sure where to make this post, but here it is!

I am not a mother yet, still TTC, but I was wondering if anyone out there has gone through the process of becoming a mother in the absence of their own mother? How did being pregnant and having a child affect you in those terms?

My mother, with whom I had a very close relationship, died when I was 15. I have heard that childbearing can be particularly difficult emotionally for women who have lost their mothers. I'm just trying to prepare myself for what I may experience.

post #2 of 12
I know that when I got PG I began to think alot about my mother and see things from her perspective a bit more, like how tough a job it is, how much she obviously put into it, etc. So that was very touching for me and you might find yourself getting very emotional (which is part of the pregnancy hormones, too).

However, I don't think she is playing any role in this whole birth thing, etc. For one thing, I and my brother were adopted and Mum has never been pregnant. She also, for that reason, never breastfed and seems to fall victim to all the myths her peers were told so she hasn't been all that supportive. Finally, we have very different ideas about how to care for a baby - she's into CIO, etc.

Don't get me wrong, I love my mother intensely, I think she did a fabulous job of raising me and my brother, and it is wonderful to share in the excitement of having a new family member (her first grandchild). But I'm not so sure she is going to be all that "necessary" from a practical point of view.
post #3 of 12
My situation is a bit different, but this is still an issue I can relate to quite well.

I was born when my parents were still relatively young (father 22, mother 21) and my mom was in no way prepared to be a parent. They already had a very rocky relationship, and my addition didn't make anything any easier and when I was a year old they divorced. I lived with my mother for about 6 months afterwards, but it was decided, due to the fact that she had a serious drug and alcohol problem, as well as an abusive new boyfriend, that I would be better off living with my father. So, at 1 and a half I went to live with my father and his new wife.

For years I had very little contact with my mom. She'd call occassionaly, and came to visit I think two or three times, but basically she wasn't in my life at all. It wasn't until I was 13 that I spent any significant time with her at all, and by that point I had a lot of anger and resentment built up towards her. The fact that she had gone on to remarry and have 3 more children that she didn't leave certainly didn't make things any easier for me. However, in spending time with her and getting to know her better, I realized that she really wasn't 'mother' material at all. She paid very little attention to any of my siblings, and was rarely home. When she was home, she spent most of her time yelling at them and telling them to leave her the h*** alone.

As I grew up, I slowly came to realize that she just couldn't possibly ever give me what I'd always wanted-the pure unconditional love that we all so desperately need. So, I learned, in effect, that I basically had to learn to mother myself. So I did, and I think I did a pretty good job of it.

But when I became pregnant at 19, all the issues flew back up to the surface. I wondered-how in the h*** can I be a mother when I don't know what a mother really is ? How can I possibly know what to say, what to do, how to go about this when I had no foundation for such a relationship. I also mourned the fact that I had no strong woman to help me through this incredibly life altering right of passage. Even though my mother was around-rather, was still alive-she certainly wasn't a present active participant in my pregnancy. (She did come when my dd was born, but then she didn't see her again until she was almost 2 years old. )

I spent a lot of time as a new mother struggling with my own mother issues. But then through reading and lots of soul searching, I realized that I really did have it in me to be a good mom-I just had to remember to mother from the heart-with all the love and compassion and attention that I never received from my mother. I've made some mistakes (a lot, probably) but I'm still confident and secure in the fact that I've done (and am continuing to do) my very best.

Now this time around, I have the support of my wonderful midwife and doula, as well as all the amazing mamas I've met through this and other forums. It's not exactly traditional, but yet I've still managed to weave together for myself a beautiful comforting blanket of love and support and that has made all of the difference in the world with this pregnancy.

So I guess my advice to you (though it's not much) would be to see that you have a good group of women (no matter how small) in your life to help you through the amazing transformative stage of life that is childbirth and pregnancy~because it certainly can leave a bit of an emotional hole in your heart if you are motherless. And although no one could ever replace your own mother, you can still find love and support from other places. And try to keep in mind the positives-For me, that's reminding myself that each and every day I am healing the wound of motherlessness by giving my daughter (and soon to be newborn son) all the unconditional love and acceptance I never received. Perhaps for you it would be helpful to remember that by doing your best to be pregnant in self love and then to parent in unconditional love each and every day, you are honoring the legacy of love your mother left you.

I don't know if any of this helped you-and sorry it turned into such a long ramble-but I wish you the very best of luck on your journey of ttc, pregnancy, and parenting. I'm sure you'll be a great mama!
post #4 of 12
My heart goes out to you. My dad raised me from age 9 and I have only had limited contact with my mom since then. Right now we are totally estranged except by email once a month or so. I did not want her to be around me when I was pg and a new mom so I didn't tell her about my baby until after she was born. My mom is one who would have taken complete control of my pregnancy and I didn't want that.

I have been so surprised and pleased at how good a mommy I am just naturally. I think because of support with boards like these, books, and the most important thing, listening to my own instincts and letting my baby teach me how to parent her. There have been times when I wanted to ask another mom a question. I either come here or I call a friend with kids and they give me their experiences.

About childbirth-- I had an epidural birth that went just fine. I wonder if I might have been stronger if I'd had some support. Next time I might have an epidural again because it was enjoyable to me (but I know that not everyone has a good experience with it) but I'll also have a doula to be my personal support and perhaps play that role my mother might have. I saw some doulas on Baby Story and they were awesome, caring people. Hiring a doula is not that expensive, and sometimes they have doulas in training who need extra hours before getting certified. They will often do it for free or a very reduced rate.

If I'd had any friends who had babies I would have also invited them to the birth, but I was the first in my crowd to be a mommy. The cool thing is my pg friend has invited me to be at her birth because she too is not close to her mom.

We are here for you, okay?


post #5 of 12
My mom was 17 when I was born and was just not cut out for the whole parenting thing. She gave me up in favor of her boyfriend and his fast-paced drug lifestyle. They are still together although it seems they are drug-free.

I haven't lived with her since I was seven and we've only seen each other a handful of times since. I had a lot of anger toward her for many, many years and only with my pg and birht of my daughter, have I been able to let some of that anger go.

I see her as a person: fallible and human. She made choices I would/will never make--now I can concentrate on forming a different kind of mothering relationship with her.

But I am still quite alone in the mothering sense. I haven't ever had one mother, instead different people have filled that role for me at different times in my life.

Sometimes it's very lonely.

One thing I can say is that having a daughter has been very healing for me. Somehow the cycle is complete and I can rely on my instincts to parent her in a loving, mothering way.

I am creating the role of mother every day.
post #6 of 12
well, i miss my mom quite a bit. she passed about 11 years before i became a mom, and i've often wished i could share things with her.....unfortunately, i can't give any advise on the pg/labor issue as dd is adopted.

while my mom had some serious shortcommings as a parent, i never once doubted her deep love for me. so as i strive to be the best mom i can be, taking into considerations all of the ways i don't want to be like her, i also know that just sharing that deep well of love is healing in itself.

i do believe that those who are passed can still be called upon in times of great need. if it feels right, you may want to call upon her to give you strength. or just either talk aloud or write to her whatever you may want to share - it can be a great way just to process your emotions. best wishes
post #7 of 12
It wasn't until my second pregnancy that I read - in Dr. Sears' Pregnancy Book - about pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood bringing on a tidal wave of feeling and memories from a woman's own childhood. I wish I'd read this the first time I was pregnant. I probably would still have been unprepared for the storm unleashed in the first few months of motherhood. To be honest, those feelings are still there.

One thing that has helped me and continues to sustain me is writing. I keep a daily journal for each of my children where I record the mundane, write out my heart, laugh, vent, wonder, and plan. I kept pregnancy journals much less regularly but these also helped.

My own mother is not deceased. She is a brilliant and incredibly talented woman. She is also abusive - no longer physically so that I'm an adult, but still emotionally and psychologically. For years and years I longed to be a mother but could not and would not because I feared I would be like her. Tremendous love for my husband led to me adopting a puppy for him - our first child, a big bear who loved me unconditionally and showed me the gentleness that is me and always was. Some people are insulted by the idea of a dog as a family member, but to us he was. He went to heaven while I was pregnant with our youngest.

I thought I'd also mention that being a new daddy was an emotional roller coaster for my husband. He had such anger at his own father for the years of beratement, abuse, and neglect he endured as a child. As a result, he could no longer maintain a phony hows-the-weather-see-ya-at-christmas relationship. We have no contact with them.

I don't mean to go off about my own family. I just want to share enough to say that yes, becoming a parent is transformative and emotionally intense. There may be tremendous pain because of family situations and memories. There is also incomparable joy and awakening. The intensity and meaning of our lives makes me wonder how my husband and I were so happy and content before we knew the kingdom of childhood through the eyes of our two wee boys.

It strikes me that only a very sensitive and aware mommy would be thinking of these things before her child is born. Trust that you will be wonderful in the love for your wee babe!
post #8 of 12
I hope you have found some answers here, there certainly are some real pearls of wisdom in this thread.

My own mom is alive, but we are emotionally distant (geographically too). I felt like I had no role models for being a good mother. I have sought peers, friends, neighbors, who I felt were good mothers and studied them. Also I think to mother from the heart is very important.

As far as childbirth...have a good midwife, a good doula, friends you trust, etc with you if you want. I think the element of wise-woman is important, but it doesn't necessarily have to be your bio. mother, just women who will care for you in your moment of need. Good luck ttc...
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 

I just wanted to take a minute to tell you all how very much I appreciate your time and energy in responding to this thread. I am also thankful for your advice. Although it had only been a peripheral consideration for me before, I will now seriously seek a doula once I become pg.

Teastaigh - I thank you for your kind words. My hope is that I can pass on to my child the deep sense of belonging and love that my own mother gave to me.

I am in my 6th cycle of ttc right now, and will let all of you know when I am successful.

post #10 of 12

Sorry I didn't reply earlier when I first read your post but I wanted to think about it before I replied.

I lost my mother to cancer when I was 28 (I'm 42 now)....she died after my 1st dd was born who is now 17 and before my 2nd was born who is now 11 months (1 year old next week!). My father died the year after.

My mother and I were very close. I had the kind of relationship with my mother that my friends envied, particularly during the teenage years. She was supportive, loving, kind and gentle. We became even closer as I became an adult. I was devastated when she died.

I was very happy that she got to know my first dd. She loved being with her and showered her with much love and affection.

I wish so much that she could have met my dh. She would have loved him, they have so much in common. My dh is a musician and so was my mom. My dd#1's dad was not a good guy and neither of my parents liked him. We divorced after my mom died. She would be happy to know that I found someone like my dh.

I also wish she could have met dd#2. I thought about her a lot when I was pregnant and when I gave birth. It was emotional but in a good way. I felt like she was there with me.

There are so many things about dd#2 that remind me of my mother. It is really quite incredible. My mother used to sleep with her arm kind of raised up and across her forehead. My dd#2 does that. My dd#2 has incredible rhythm and loves music. She dances and taps her feet. She claps and "sings" along with the songs. My mother used to direct a choir and my dd#2 "directs" music with her drumstick (yes, she already has drums....my dh says a guitar is next) in the same manner. Actually, she has many mannerisms that remind me of my mother.

One of the things that has helped me so much has been a good relationship with my MIL. She doesn't try to replace my own mother....but she does many things for me that my own mother would and in a manner that is respectful for my feelings of my mother. She is a great lady and we have become quite close. She treats my dd#1 just like all of her other grandchildren. She goes to her marching band performances, choir concerts, honor award banquets, and calls her to see how things are going in her life. She is a wonderful person and seems to help plug up that emptiness of not having my own mother around.

I also have an older sister, who I am quite close with. She is a wonderful person and we have been through a lot together. We help each other through the tough times. She was there for the birth of dd #2 and was so excited for us all through the pregnancy. She also helped out quite a bit after dd#2's birth.

I think that if you try to feel your mother's presence during your pregnancy and the birth of your baby, it will be helpful to you.

Have you ever read Motherless Daughters? It might be a helpful book for you to read.

Good luck ttc.
post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
dfoy - It's funny you should refer to Motherless Daughters - I was one of the women interviewed for the writing of the book. Of course, I was about 21 at the time. So needless to say, I have a copy on my bookshelf.

It's nice to hear that you too were so close to your mother. It has been a long road for me in the acceptance of the loss of my Mom, but I am finally able to say that even though I don't have her here physically, that she is in my life every day. I am lucky to have had her for the 15 short years that I did. So much of who I am is her creation.

Blessings to all of you.

post #12 of 12
I have a shaky relationship at best with my Mum. It's kind of OK now I'm 37 & live on the other side of the world & we can talk about neutral things like gardening since we have zip in common otherwise.

I had dd#1 when I was just 20 & I lived up the road from the folks. I had an easy birth - Mum wasn't there. I bf ( Mum did too ) But Mum was a social worker & just kept getting in my face & trying to take over. & essentially caused me a whole heap of stress coz of our different attitudes.

Now I live over the other side of the world. I had dd#2 at home. I have no mother figure ( Mil is a toxic nightmare ) to help me or guide me. I had an easy birth & bf no probs. I found it better in some ways not having my Mum here altho' harder in others. Like I have no one to baby sit but then I'm not sure as i would want anyone to or want the pressure of someone wanting to. I also am not having to deal with differences between Mum's ideas & in my non-negotiable parenting ideas. You know like the whole family bed thing as an example. It is very nice not to have to either lie about it or put up with stress about it.

What I would really love is a mother like an older version of me in terms of parenting ideas so I could feel supported & validated! Plus Saffron would have a grandmother who I could trust.
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