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I'm a Motherless Mother

A few days after Christmas, I received an Etsy gift card in my email inbox. The note attached simply said, “Merry Christmas and best wishes for a great 2014! Lots of love, Mom.”

It caught me off guard. I hadn’t heard from my mother in several years, and I hadn’t had a relationship with her in nearly 20. My dad took full custody of me when I was 13. I don’t mean that he was simply the custodial parent, with my mom receiving visitation on holidays and weekends—I mean, he took full custody. I never had another visit with my mother again.

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Contact after that was sporadic. I was an angry teenager, as could probably be expected. The years before my father took custody were ugly, with my mother making a lot of horrific decisions at the expense of her children.

When I was 15, she told my father she wanted a relationship with me again. After a long talk, he consented—so long as she agreed to a few terms, one of them being family counseling for both her and me. We didn’t hear from her again. Apparently it had been too much to ask.

Still, this random gift certificate wasn’t something I would put past her. When I was 26, I received a Facebook friend request from her. That was it—just the request. No message or mention of the fact that we hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in nearly four years at that point. Just a friend request, as though that was the most logical way in the world to open up the doors of communication.

I denied it.

I look into her eyes, and I feel a love so real and pure that I lose all ability to comprehend the choices my own mother once made.

As an adult, I wouldn’t say I carry hatred toward my mother. I understand why she is the way she is, and the personal struggles she endured that made it so difficult for her to simply see me as a child. I have compassion for her, and all that she has experienced. But I do harbor a strong need to separate myself from her. She has tried, on several occasions, to be a part of my life once more now that I am grown and am no longer in need of a mother in the way that I once was. The last attempt was a few years ago. I have remained closed off to each of those attempts, though. The truth is I just do not believe we could ever have a healthy relationship. I had no choice in much of what happened during my childhood, but I get that say now. I get to choose who I allow to be in my life today.

In the end, I’m actually not sure it was even from her. It turned out to be a gift card in Canadian dollars, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Etsy customer service agreed to cancel it, without sharing any information about the actual sender, but my guess is that this gift card was meant for someone else. Likely someone with an e-mail address simply similar to my own.

The whole thing got me thinking though, once more, about what it means to be a motherless daughter, and now a motherless mother. I hear all the time that we are destined to repeat the mistakes of our parents, but I can’t imagine that same fate for myself. I look at my daughter, and I know in my heart that I could never walk away from her—not for any reason, or under any circumstances. She is my life. My breath. My everything.

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If anything, having her has made me want to build that wall between my own mother and myself even higher. Because I look into my daughter's eyes, and I feel a love so real and pure that I lose all ability to comprehend the choices my own mother once made. I look into her eyes, and I know I would sacrifice everything for her safety and happiness. I will make mistakes, I have no doubt about that, but there will never be a day in her entire life when she does not know my love.

I am a motherless mother, which means that I never had the greatest example of what being a mother should be.

But I know exactly what it shouldn’t be.

And that is a lesson I will carry with me, always.

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