Recently, I stumbled upon one of the most breathtaking photos I have ever seen.
This beautiful grandma, in a hospital nursery, embracing her newborn grandchild for the first time.
She’s crying, and hugging the baby, her eyes shut tight as she holds in her tears and takes in that newborn baby smell.
She loves that baby. Her love for that baby is palpable. You can feel it through the screen.
And while it brought me great joy to see such a moving tribute to an amazing grandmother, it also left me feeling empty, hollow.
After all, I would, without a doubt, give almost anything to have a mama like that. I feel like I got punched in the chest every time I envision my mom holding my baby like that. Loving my baby like that. Loving ME like that.
I do not have that. I don’t have anything even close to resembling that. I think I used to feel jealous, maybe even a little resentful, when I saw my friends with their doting, loving parents who had turned into extra doting, extra loving grandparents. Now I feel genuinely happy for them, and I just feel sad for me (and others like me).
You don’t get over having a toxic or absentee mother. You can learn to cope, you can learn to re-frame, you can even forgive, but you can’t erase the feeling of being left behind or treated poorly by the person who was supposed to love you the most.
Nobody can fill the void that is left by a mom who doesn’t show up.
After you have children, this loss can become even more profound. It did for me. I realized how I felt about my child, and how I would literally go to the ends of the Earth for that baby without being asked, how my heart had never felt more full, and I realized what had always been missing for me. Why wasn’t I enough? Why didn’t things get any better as I got older?
I thought, perhaps, my mom could make up for some of her shortcomings by being the grandma I wanted my kids to have. I love my own grandparents deeply and credit them with nearly all of my accomplishments because their unconditional love and support are what made my broken world go around. They kept me safe. They showed up for me. They offered me the home life that I needed to thrive.
But nobody can fill the void that is left by a mom who doesn’t show up. I feel that void to this day. If I let my mind go to that place, my eyes immediately begin spilling tears. For all the memories we didn’t make then, and for all the memories she’s missing out on now.
I dream of having a mom who loved me and fought for me like I love and fight for my kids. Even a fraction of what I feel for my kids would suffice.
I thought becoming a mom would be a turning point for us. That maybe she would learn to love and accept me and bond with me in the way most mothers bond with their daughters. That she would realize I was worthy of her time, love and attention. That she would look at me in the same way she looks at my younger brother and sister. That she would want to make up for some of that lost time by immersing herself in the lives of my children, by helping me through motherhood.
I dream of having someone who insists on watching my kids, so that my husband and I can go on an overdue date night.
I dream of having a mom who invites us to a mid-week dinner just because she wants to see us for a bit.
I dream of having a mom who just fucking loved me and fought for me like I love and fight for my kids. Even a fraction of what I feel for my kids would suffice.
But that’s not going to happen for me. My mom will never be the mom in that picture.
I have no control of that, but what I do have control of is me. And I’m going to be the mom I didn’t have, and I’m going to be the grandma in that picture. I can promise you that.