A Bittersweet Mother’s Day

My mom and a baby Betsy, 1981.


from the depths of my heart, hello.

This is Betsy and today, Mother’s Day, I’m coming at you on this rarely attended Home Decor blog that Sarah and I started over a decade ago to air my own life’s greatest grievance and celebrate my own life’s greatest achievement. All has occurred in this past year and on the topic of this sweet holiday.

My mom had an easy love for her 11 grandchildren. She looks at them all with such love and true joy.

It is my first mother’s day as a mom to my 9 month baby Julianna. It is my first mother’s days without my own mom. We lost her on March 22.

Sarah and I have always loved to pull together a nice little something for mother’s day for the blog and of course the shop. This past year I haven’t been particularly good at pulling together a nice little anything for anything, but especially this blog. So I realize I’m still prefacing, but its because its hard to jump into this well of emotion. It’s deep and frankly I haven’t truly faced it myself on my own. This stupid blog post might be my moment.

Julianna Joy, born on Sarah’s birthday July 16. Easy and not at all what I had prepared for.

On paper, to think this is my first mother’s day as a mom… is big. It’s huge on its own. My little JJ baby is weaning, she is growing, she is starting to stand and climb into everything and before I know it she will be walking without my hands holding her and it all goes so fast.

She pulled herself up onto her feet for the first time using the hospital bed that hospice brought into the living room of the home where I stood for the first time myself.

For a good while, nothing really mattered except this

Everyone stands for a first time. Everyone talks and walks and it’s really no big deal… except to your mom. It’s a HUGE DEAL TO YOUR MOM. In the biggest developmental months of my child’s first year, I experienced her many firsts apart from her sweet Daddy, and in the presence of my own Mom. She rolled over, each direction, she got up on all fours, she crawled, she took her first assisted steps and she pulled herself to standing, she did all of this to the joy of my dying mama.

My mom is gone now and all the rest of JJ’s firsts will be navigated without the helpful hand of my mom. This terrifies me and it’s so deeply sad that I don’t think I’ve actually swallowed it yet. It’s still in my mouth, and the taste is awful and I can’t commit to its truth.

My sweet mama looking over a brand new JJ in our mid-renovation Mountain House.

Only recently I was lamenting to my mother-in-law, my recent epiphany… a real breakthrough for me and one that has given my days wings…  that motherhood/parenthood is perhaps nothing but a series of challenges to face down, with worry and a hope, for a healthy outcome; but only to be followed by the next day, by the next challenge. It’s an Ouroboros. (I linked it but basically, it’s the paradox that all the ends, renews). Each day, it is JJ that teaches me that she has this and I’m just the one worrying that I’m gonna mess it up somehow. But she CAN TAKE A SIPPY CUP. She can grow independent of our physical attachment, she can eat, drink, sleep and sustain without my direct involvement. And most heartbreakingly exciting of all, she can do this all whether or not I’m fretting over it. She is nature, and I’m just a wannabe that is actually an over-analytical lady, listening to every podcast, reading every article or downloading every ebook that I can find to overcome this month’s latest developmental challenge.

What is a mom to do?

Her first sass.

Now Ouroboros. What do I do with the part of me that needs my mama?

I wanted to be ready here, by this holiday, to have it all figured out and to know. But I don’t yet.

I talked to my mom almost daily on the phone, she was my confidant. One of my few close friends and almost the only person in the world that I trusted to love me without condition and to whom I allowed myself to indulge my whole self in completely for that reason. I admit I feel a slight bit guilty for that now…. Wishing I had a chance to know her a bit longer since becoming a mother myself, so that I could more fully recognize alongside her how powerful the mother/daughter relationship is and so that I might give her a bit more room to be HER in our relationship, and not just my mother. Isn’t it funny how we feel we own our mothers.

The newly appointed Hospice nurse encouraged us to take a photo in the moments I learned that we were going home with finite purpose. Cancer was taking over, and my mom had declared bravely that she was ready to go home, and let it.

This year, I might feel resentment when I read your social media captions. Your photo of you and your aging mom, your mom holding hands with your tween daughter, your mom watching gracefully, blissfully on your children as the group of you gather a plateful of Sunday brunch… you are probably having a mimosa you lucky friend. You other mamas may have cried as you nursed your last baby for the last time, or maybe you don’t even remember it, or maybe you celebrated it and then your plateful of challenges moved on. You look back at the phase that I’m in with a wistful gratitude. We will miss our babies forever. Maybe you are still looking forward to your time as a mama, maybe you are struggling with the ifs and whens? Whatever your plot, we will always need our mom to look to, alive or not, to help us close the gap on this hugely incomprehensible circle of life.

I wanted to have a coherent message pulled together for this holiday. I wanted to have better understood the grieving process. I wanted to have a message to share. I don’t yet. I’m not done grieving and I still don’t even know what it looks like from a step back.

JJ has such a sweet Nama here in California to help her (and me) navigate in my mom’s absence.

I do have friends still to thank, for support, for love. I have torn thoughts to explore. I have mad thrashes of emotion to expel, to purge.

Yet, I have found peace in my day to day, in my contentedness with my life, my home, my family and my role as a MOM.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you, whatever your circumstances, whatever your challenges. My heart is with all women on this very special holiday.

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  • Betsy, I’m so sorry to know that you have lost your mom. Mine died from ovarian cancer June 11, 2005. You’d think the grieving would be done by now, wouldn’t you? But it’s an odd kind of hole. It never fills with anything else that the world can give. You say you don’t know what it looks like after a step back….I’ve taken many steps back and it’s still there. A dull ache, made deeper by people who say “Happy Mother’s Day” to me, not knowing that I have lost my mother and I was not blessed with children. I have learned not to say this to someone if I do not know them well. It hurts. Both directions. You don’t get over it. You don’t get through it. It is something that stays with you the rest of your life, that loss of the person in your life who could answer all your questions about your childhood. When they’re gone, so are many of your memories. I pray that your best memories will bring you comfort in the difficult days ahead. p.s. I found your blog on the list of the Top 100 vintage blogs, websites, etc. on feedspot.

    • Patty.
      I’m so happy that you found my post and I thank you for your comment. I have found solace in sharing this here and I hope that you have too. I believe you when you say that the hurt never goes away. I fear you are right and that it won’t. I thought, and maybe I continue to think, that there is supposed to be some major dramatic point at which I accept her death and then I figure out how to move on from there. I guess I’m slowly realizing there is no threshold upon which I’ll sit and understand any of this. It seems unfair. I’m terribly sorry that you have had to face this hurt from both ends. My heart is with you and thanks again for sharing with me here.

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