My First Motherless Mother’s Day Being a Mother
I want to be angry.
I usually reserve this day [Mother’s Day] as my right to be secretly bitter and jealous. You all go on and on about how great your mother is all day long while historically I would hide in my room with the covers over my head, counting down the hours until it was safe to emerge. I am allowed to do this once a year, having lost my mother to cancer when I was just 14. This last year though, everything has changed.
In August, I became a foster parent to a dear child, on the cusp of becoming a teenager. I met her 7 years ago when we were neighbors and quickly became friends. I was between jobs and took advantage of my free time by investing in my community, something my mother taught me was invaluable. I set out to give the kids on my block a good summer, never imagining 7 years later I would be adopting one of them. I remember her approaching me with great curiosity and quiet strength, “are you the one handing out popsicles?”
I started mentoring this adorable, bright kid and quickly transitioned from Miss Cambria, to Aunt Cam, as my term of of endearment. Over the years, we stayed in touch even when we were no longer neighbors. I took a job as an adoption social worker in 2010 (that I am still at today) and found myself questioning what it was to be a mother, as I was surrounded by Philadelphia children, who were wards of the state, also without mothers. After my mother had died, I swore off ever having children, or even a family–the potential for pain and loss seemed just too great; however, as I have gotten older, the desire to mother those who are without mothers began to grow in me.
Late in 2012, this precious child, almost 12 years old, found herself in foster care and with no one to take her in. When this sweet girl that I had come to love found herself without a mother who could care for her and asked if she could move in with me, I immediately said yes and knew somehow all along we were destined to be family.
The legacy of my mother: warmth, generosity, compassion, has shaped and guided every step I’ve made in life. There’s always been a fear in my capacity to mother, being motherless myself, that I cannot explain–what if I’m not good at it…who do I call? Except for the fact that I haven’t always been motherless. I was fortunate enough to have a mother who loved me deeply and fiercely for 14 years. I am deeply saddened knowing I can never share my own journey of motherhood with her; but, she is always with me. Every single day. The way I teach my daughter about the world, make her lunch, and even our bedtime routine all have the presence and influence of my mother. Through becoming a mother, I have found a way to restore her legacy and have felt closer to her now more than I have in the last 15 years of being alone.
This is my first Mother’s Day being a mother and this is my daughter’s first Mother’s Day knowing she is unconditionally loved. We both used to dread this day and now we are on a healing and restorative journey together becoming a family, her adoption should be finalized next year, and every day learning together what it is to mother and be mothered. Becoming a mother to another kind of motherless daughter has been one of the most beautiful and humbling experiences of my life. This Mother’s Day we don’t have to hide under the covers because we have each other and we will choose to celebrate all there is to be grateful for in life.