Home > Death, Love, Parenting > A mother’s wish for Mother’s Day

A mother’s wish for Mother’s Day

I paid a visit to a dear old teacher a couple of weeks ago. The visit was purely practical until I sat cross-legged on the floor to change my newborn son.

That simple action catapulted me back four and a half years. I’d taken my older son to the very same clinic several times when he was a newborn.

I paused and turned toward the teacher, a lactation consultant, and said, “The last time I was here, my mom was dying. It’s funny how this brings it all back.”

She expressed her sympathy before I explained my tears weren’t tears only of sadness, but also the joy of remembering. Some memories are just sequences of motions recalled; others, like the one I was awash in then, oceans of all the emotions once felt. I had the sensation I could just carry my newborn son down to the car, plug in my headset and call my mom as I’d done several times in Li’l D’s clinic days.

Today-me knew I couldn’t. But then-me, for that moment, felt Mom was just a phone call away.

I originally posted the below May 7, 2011. Revisiting it now is a joy.

It’s not cards, flowers or chocolates I want for Mother’s Day.

My wish remains as I wrote it below.

A Mother’s wish for Mother’s Day

thank you, Li'l D, for making a mom of me

from the original post: thank you, Li’l D, for making a mom of me

Every day, each of us passes by countless strangers. To us, each of these people is simply “stranger,” but to someone else, they are mother, son, sister, professor, paramedic, any number of important, beautiful things.

Stop and think about it. That waiter you just chewed out for bringing you back a burger with onions when you specifically said “no onions”? Someone’s only son. The cashier you almost made cry by calling her manager when she gave you back a one-dollar bill instead of a ten-dollar bill? Someone’s mom.

All these people around us? They’re not just extras in each of our own life’s films. They’re features in their own lives, trying to break their way out of surviving and into living.

Sometimes the strangers around you will become an intrinsic part of your life. In my mom’s case, a lady who stopped by her garage sale and chatted with her for several hours one day became–through entirely different workings of fate or coincidence–mother-in-law to my just-younger sister, Rachael. That same lady, several years later, would be like an angel in my mom’s last days:

Jeanne held Mom’s hand. When Jeanne said it was time to go, Mom said, “Can I hold on just a little longer?” Jeanne smiled with her incomparable warmth, crouched down, and said, “Of course.” And Mom admitted for the first time, “There’s so much I want to do, but I just can’t get up.” ♥ Jeanne’s loving presence.

My angel came to me in a rather different but equally unexpected way.

I was struggling to get my son, Li’l D, breastfeeding. I was crazy–and I do mean crazy!–determined to get him breastfeeding at any cost. Every time my partner, Ba.D., would gently urge me to consider the possibility that everything would be OK as long as the milk got into our son somehow, I’d roar at him bestially like we were fellow predators in contest for one piece of meat.

Then I’d cry, because I was clearly both A Very Bad Person and A Very Bad Mom.

After seeing several lactation consultants to very little result, I took Ba.D.’s advice and called Li’l D’s pediatrician. She recommended me to one, S, who I mistakenly believed at that time was another cobblestone along Futility Lane.

She not only got Li’l D latching after about 72 seconds of consult, she answered my (needlessly panicked) questions via email at all hours of the day. She helped me ditch all of the physical pain I’d been experiencing and move toward the transition back to work.

Then, weeks after my mom passed away, I remembered the fliers posted in S’s clinics. A few contained information about women’s shelters that could make use of items her clients no longer needed for their kids. I emailed S for information on these clinics, explaining that the reason was my wanting to honor my mom’s memory by helping ease other moms’ journeys toward self-sufficiency. I felt my mom, a single mother of four and a domestic abuse survivor, would have been proud to be a part of that.

S replied warmly within a few hours. I gathered together already outgrown items–clothing, toys, seats–and prepared them for donation.

I donated everything, but only thought to circle back with S months later. In August of last year, I emailed her the following:

Li’l D’s just a few days from being 11 months old, and we’re still going strong. I’m going to keep pumping twice daily and providing many of Li’l D’s calories through breastmilk till his first birthday, then slowly transition more and more toward solid food. If he wants to keep going for a while after that, I’d be so happy!

The me of 10 months ago wouldn’t believe I’d come to so deeply enjoy the connection! It’s such an amazing thing to be able to sustain a human life with your body alone. And it’s also, funnily, a connection to my mom; she loved breastfeeding, and would have breastfed another dozen kids if she’d had the life she dreamed of.

To that point, I surprisingly found myself weeping almost the whole way through boxing things for donation and then finally dropping everything off. I knew my mom would be so proud to be honored in that way, but I didn’t realize how profoundly it would make me regret she didn’t get to enjoy motherhood with so comparatively little stress as I have faced.

At the time I wrote that, I was still devastated by all the suffering my mom experienced throughout her life. Why didn’t she get to know such love and peace as I’d been graced with? How freakin’ unfair could life be?

S emailed me back shortly with words that lit my heart as if they’d been sent straight through the storm clouds as a special delivery from the sun:

Since you mom did have the wonderful knowledge that her daughter was blessed with something that she dreamed of – that in it self is a gift – because we would always rather have our children receive the gifts than ourselves – has she had that satisfaction.

I bawled when I read those words, which were not only perfect but perfectly timed to my being ready to hear them. I remembered one of my mom’s cousins saying, almost in shock, “Your kids turned out so well.” My mom, either oblivious or unconcerned by any slight possible in those words, said simply, “You always just hope they have it better than you.”

Thanks to my mom, I do. Thanks to S, I was able to see that.

Sometimes my heart is still heavy when I look at pictures of my mom and wonder, why couldn’t you have had an easier life? But I remember S’s words and smile, knowing that, in seizing my every dream with vigor I am fulfilling my mom’s own dream.

I hope someday my son will be able to fulfill my dream that he have it better still.

I hope, too, that he will know the awesome graces that may be imparted on us by strangers. I pray he will treat each stranger as if they were a possible friend, and have the courage to apologize in the cases where he does not. I wish for him the patience to see, even in the midst of frustration, that every time he speaks a hurtful word, he’s taking away someone’s energy to be the best sister or son or mother they can be.

I pray, too, that he will have the fortitude to smile even when he wants to curse, thus perhaps helping someone else believe there is much goodness in the world yet to experience, and to share.

If my son can see each stranger as a future lifesaver, wondering as he walks away who they might become to him, I will rejoice.

I could not dream of a better Mother’s Day gift.

Kangaroo care helps. I'd been doing a little, not realizing an hour per go is essential.

added today: thank you, too, Littler J


  1. Sunshine
    May 6, 2014 at 9:41 am


  2. May 6, 2014 at 9:47 am

    lovely post, thanks for sharing. All the best to you.

    • May 6, 2014 at 10:17 am

      Thank you! It’s still a little rough here, but getting better by the day. Best wishes to you, too.

  3. May 6, 2014 at 10:09 am

    “All these people around us? They’re not just extras in each of our own life’s films. They’re features in their own lives, trying to break their way out of surviving and into living.”

    So very well put!

    • May 6, 2014 at 10:19 am

      I know there was some exchange that inspired this sentiment, which turned into the post. It happened at Albertson’s, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. Still glad for it, and glad for this reminder now!

  4. May 6, 2014 at 10:57 am

    You make me smile through my unshed tears of bright happiness. I feel you right down to my soul. I love you.

    • May 9, 2015 at 8:19 am

      Weeping while I walk having read this, and again, they are not just tears of sadness. ao glad to be a mom. So glad to have such loving support. Love you.

  5. May 6, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Lovely, as always. We’d do well to remember that everyone we bump into in the course of life is someone’s loved one. Raising a child to treat even the most peripheral of people as a valued human is the best gift we can give.

  6. katy
    May 6, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    sobbing. JUST SOBBING. You always just get it so completely and describe these feelings in ways I never could, but absolutely feel to my depths.

  7. May 6, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    So happy I read this, Deb, as I didn’t read it upon its first posting, I guess. What your mom said “You always just hope they have it better than you.” is exactly true. This why I do everything for Maycee that I do, the driving force behind every action. And, my childhood was not terrible in any way, shape, or form, but my adolescence and early adulthood, heck, my recent adulthood, has been sprawled with challenges that I hope Maycee never has to face in her lifetime. Thus, we do what we do, and the best Mother’s Day gift for me is always the one who came from me: my daughter. Blessings and love! XOXO-Kasey

  8. May 6, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Beautiful. I love especially how you remind us that everyone is somebody’s baby, and therefore we should treat everyone with kindness and care. xo

  9. May 6, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    I loved reading and rereading these words. And I love that your views on “strangers” and how you hope to teach your children about them and the world around us are so similar to my own. I keep trying (and hopefully succeeding) in teaching BoyGenius that everyone is a stranger until you meet them; even our best friends were strangers in the beginning.

    I feel your frustration when you write of your mother’s hardships and the unfairness of the hand life dealt her, but I also feel certain that all of that helped you become the beautiful loving person you are today. Same for your siblings. Your mom knew what she was doing, even at the worst of times, even when it must have felt that her best at that time couldn’t possibly have been good enough. Look at y’all! She did good; you’ve all done good. ♥

  10. May 6, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    I always think of you, Deb, when it nears Mother’s Day. 🙂 Your post was just a little bit more beautiful this time with addition of Littler J’s picture! I hope your Mother’s Day is a celebration of just how doubly blessed you are, my friend. ❤

  11. May 6, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    Your sense of emotional intelligence is high Deb, I think your young family can only benefit from such a gift.B

  12. May 7, 2014 at 4:28 am

    Your words are balm for the soul. I still blush to think I contacted you to meet last year unwittingly not knowing it was Mother’s Day. D1 was having a rough time but you softened that time with our visit as we enjoyed our young ones at the beach. Our visit and conversation gave perspective…enjoy this moment…who knows when we can meet again.

    “All these people around us? They’re not just extras in each of our own life’s films. They’re features in their own lives, trying to break their way out of surviving and into living.” Thank you for entering our feature film last year, and thank you for sharing yours with us.

    What a gift to sit on the floor and experience that sensation, that feeling your mother was just a phone call away. In just such moments you meet again. And you share her powerful presence with us. Your words are amazing capturing the instances of the ineffable and the fleeting. They are so subtle, soft, imbued with understanding and insight giving loving texture to what is really important. This is a wonderful Mother’s Day post.

    I had an administrator tell us at a faculty meeting as he addressed the subject of parents and difficult moments with kids… I’ll never forget…He said, “This is our child zone. Handle with love. They send us the best they have.” It put perspective on little frustrations.

  1. May 10, 2015 at 6:08 am
  2. July 9, 2015 at 11:46 am
  3. July 18, 2016 at 8:53 pm

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