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Motherless mothers

(108 Posts)
LeoTheLateBloomer Wed 27-Jul-11 06:58:00

By that I mean those of us who lost our mothers before becoming mothers ourselves.

I've recently started reading the book by Hope Edelman and was just looking for other peoples' perspectives and experiences.

I lost my mother when I was 5 and have basically allowed that loss to define me throughout my life. Now I have a 15mo DD of my own and I've recently separated from her father. I'm at a strange point where I don't know how to define myself: a child who lost her mother, a soon-to-be-divorcee or a single mother. (Maybe I shouldn't try to define myself so strictly, but that's a whole other thread).

I've only read the introduction to the book so far and feel like I identify with some of what she is saying. There have been times when I've thought "oh but I don't do that" and wonder if there's something wrong with me that I don't fit this mould of motherless mothers. She talks about women being preoccupied with the idea that they might die early and leave their children motherless. I confess to not being so worried about that but more worried that I will lose my daughter. I suppose a more selfish version of the fear of loss.

Anyway, I won't ramble too much now. (I've got plenty more I can say on the subject!). For now I just wondered if anyone was up for a bit of a support thread on the subject or just a chance to share experiences and/or wisdom!

miamama09 Wed 27-Jul-11 10:12:27

What was the name of the book you are reading?
I lost my mother a few years before having my first DD, now pregnant with second DC. I think it greatly affects how you are as a mother to your own children... it's hard to say how.
I may have a look at this book and see what she says...

browneyesblue Wed 27-Jul-11 10:12:27

I haven't read the book, but my mother died quite suddenly when I was an adult.

My DS (16 months) was born 5 years after she died, and I do feel huge waves of sadness every now and then that she will never meet him, and vice versa.

I also feel a certain weight / loneliness at times from not having my mother around to lean on - the buck stops here. My friends, who have children of a similar age, are able to arrange to leave their DCs with grandparents and I have to admit to feeling more than a bit envious of that - not just because of the freedom it would give me just to be able to go out for a couple of hours (although that would be fantastic!), but also because their DCs have a family network that my DS will probably never have.

I think what I am realising now is that losing my mother meant the loss of much more than one person. I turns out that she was the glue that held a lot of my (mostly far-flung) family together. Since her death, I have seen my Aunt (her sister and only relative in this country) a handful of times, and the only communication I receive from my grandparents (her parents - they live a long way away, and have never met DS) is a card at Christmas. I write and send photos, but for all I know they never arrive. I don't think this is because they are deliberately avoiding me, rather that they are elderly and have their own problems and concerns.

I think when I feel sad at the loss of my mother, I am also mourning the loss of my family as it would have been. I have a fairly good idea of how different things would have been if she had been alive now, and it brings me to tears to think of all the additional people she would have brought into DS's life sad

I do sometimes think of myself as a 'motherless mother', but I don't think that defines me. I'm just me, I think, whatever that means. I'm not yet near the age that my mother was when she died, so haven't given that too much thought. Nor is DS near the age that I was when I lost her. I have wondered whether the fact that I have a DS rather than a DD makes a difference though - maybe I don't worry so much about history repeating itself because it feels different (if that makes sense).

I do have a DH, so I do have support and help though. His family live in this country, but far enough away that we are only able to see them a couple of times a year. He has had his own bereavements, and is a fatherless father, but from things he has said, I am not sure that he would ever think of himself that way.

aStarInStrangeways Wed 27-Jul-11 10:17:15

My mum killed herself when I was 14. I have found being a motherless mother at once frustrating and very freeing. There is so much I would love to talk to her about, on the one hand: how her pregnancies were, how she made decisions, how she felt about becoming a mother, the kind of limitations and unexpected pleasures she experienced, how she handled being a single mum. But at the same time I am completely free to parent the way I see fit - I can feel my way and work things out for myself without anyone interfering or laying their expectations upon me, and I've surprised myself by being okay at it.

The fact that she killed herself makes it more complicated, I suppose, because my feelings towards her are very complex.

Interesting thread, thanks Leo. It's something I think about a lot and I'll come back to it when I'm not imminently expecting to go into labour (DC2 being induced tomorrow!) grin

ohgawdherewegoagain Wed 27-Jul-11 10:29:51

My sister died before having grandchldren and my neice has often been sad that in the early days of her own motherhood, all she wanted was to ask her mum's advice. It's kind of like re-enforcing the relationship by understanding how our mother's were with us when we were babies. (That's what my daughter has said to me anyway as she has watched me with her babies.) Very sad isn't it?

EvaPeron Wed 27-Jul-11 10:29:59

My mother is fortunately still alive and well, but her mother died when I was a few weeks old (I'm the eldest). I don't think I appreciated how tough it was for her until I had my first DC and she was around lots to help.

Lots of things make sense now looking back, I have always called her by her first name, never 'Mum' or similar, she's only recently admitted that she found being called mum upsetting when I was small.

eandz Wed 27-Jul-11 10:31:29

My mother left my father when I was born. My father eventually did re-marry (around the time i was 2) but my step mother (although a nice woman on a whole) did make sure to let me know she wasn't my mother and never ever wanted to be seen in that light. I lived with a relative until my father and step mother were about to have a child of their own and I was moved into their home when I was 5. While growing up I was often left at relatives houses when my father+stepmother and little brother were getting to know each other and having family time. So I can say that I am a 'motherless' mother.

To be honest though, it's never been a defining feature of my life. Not sure if I've just been in denial, but I feel like I've always had a strong female presence in my life. When I had my son though, I did feel painfully aware that I was never loved or cared for the way I love and care for my ds, and that many children in this world grow up in similar situations.

knitknack Wed 27-Jul-11 10:35:54

My mum died suddenly too young, and I miss her still so badly, but one lovely thing that I found when I did have my DC was that I suddenly 'knew' her so much more - I could identify with her life experiences and with the 'mother' side of her. Strangely my children (both unplanned!) have exactly the same age difference (2 years 9 months) as my brother and myself....

I think I remember reading that book back when ds1 was born (he's ten now) - does it have a white cover with a photograph and some writing on it? (he didn't sleep - only vague memories of the whole period!). I remember it being very important to me.

I have married recently and have a wonderful MIL for the first time and now I have someone who adores my children and is a 'granny' figure for the first time and it's wonderful, but also tinged with a sort of sadness/longing that I know will never be 'fixed'... gosh I love my MIL!

caesar04 Wed 27-Jul-11 10:47:03

Very interesting thread Leo. And would like to discuss more with others, its quite isolating even now at 34 I don't know many people who are motherless, some fatherless but not many.

I will def be having a look at the book.

I am motherless mother, Mum died when I was 17, DB 22 and DSis 15. We had no contact with our father so were effectively a parentless family unit for at least 18 months till I went to uni, follwed by my sister a year later. We then sold the house and have lived independently of each other since then although we still have very close realtionship.

It is very interesting what the book says about fear of dying early, I have this to a certain extent. I was very happy to have DS and wanted another boy, was fearful of having daughters. Felt unsure of the relationship (despite a wonderful realtionship with my mother) and was scared of dying early and leaving her as I was left. But never felt like that about DS?

DD born in Dec 10 and actually I have been totally fine, love her dearly and not really thought about it too much, she is just my child IYSWIM?

Although perhaphs the sheer exhaustion of 2 under 3yo has prevented any self reflection, feel lucky to make it to the end of each day at the moment!! smile

And brown eyes emphathising with the child care issue. We have my sister and some close friends but that's it, DH's family live about 30 miles away. My MIL also died about 5 years ago so she never met the DC's either. A distinct lack of Grandma's in our house!

Have DH's Dad who is lovely but not very Grandaddy, bit clueless and could never leave kids with him, he wouldn't know where to start. DH's sisiter are fab though , DC's have brillaint Aunties and Uncles which I think really helps.

oldwomaninashoe Wed 27-Jul-11 10:47:40

My Mother died when Ds1 was 3 months old. She was very ill throughout my pregnancy, and I found it difficult to cope without her prescence in my life. I went on to have 3 more chidren , the two youngest are identical twins and I know my Mother would have adored them, as she lost twins when my older sister was about 2 years old.

Although my children missed out on a doting Granny, (MIL whilst fond of them, was an odd sort!) they all were close to their two Grandads, and as DH and I were both from big families there were lots of Aunts and Uncles around.

I think having no Mother around can have a huge impact if you have no close siblings or other family that you can turn to. I missed my Mum dreadfully but after her death I became much closer to my older sister.

lillybloom Wed 27-Jul-11 10:49:14

I haven't read the book but I have known about it for a while. I'm not sure I want to read it as I don't want to dwell on things IFKWIM.
My mum died when I was a child. I found having my dc to be liberating. I realised that my mum had loved me as much as I loved my dc. It gave me strength to stop putting up with the shit that my mums family, and some friends, lobbed at me through the years. I realised if my mum was here, she wouldn't let them treat me badly so neither should I.
Brownblueeyes I think I did sort of mourn the loss of a "family" albeit one that was very disfunctional.
One thing I do worry about is dying and leaving my dc behind. I am insured up to the limit. I recieve a yearly health MOT and I try to stay fit and healthy.

LeoTheLateBloomer Wed 27-Jul-11 13:19:29

This is the book for those of you unfamiliar with it.

It's really interesting to read the different feelings that people experienced. I agree that the feelings are probably quite different for those who had sons rather than daughters. I was convinced I would be having a boy and was really stumped when DD popped out. However, now I feel like I had her for a reason and I was able to give her my mother's name as one of her middle names.

I have many moments (nappy changes, singing, rocking, tantrums) when I think "My mother would have done this with me/sung these songs" and I have her old nursing chair which has helped me feel closer to her.

It's watching friends go through early motherhood with their mothers nearby that has been really hard. My father has no knowledge or memory of my mother's pregnancies/births/breastfeeding experiences.

He re-married when I was 9 but my step-mother was unable to have children. This has resulted in all sorts of strange and awkward emotions. She's incredibly sensitive and is desperate for DD and my niece and nephew to see her as 'Granny'. My sister and I have agreed that our children should know about our mother and understand that they have another grandmother who they'll never meet.

knitknack my niece and DD also have an almost identical age difference as me and my sister (to whom I'm incredibly close). DN was born 6 days before DSis's 31st birthday and DD came 9 days before mine (2 years and 3 months apart). We're both already dreading the year the girls turn 7 and 5.

I could go on and on all day about this but really must cut the grass while DD is asleep!

Really glad people have joined the thread. There's always going to be lots more to say on the subject I think. I know I've got plenty to say about extended family...!

nailak Wed 27-Jul-11 13:36:17

my perspective is slightly different, my mums mum died when she was 6, and despite my mum having studied paedology (sp) and doing her best for us, making sure we were educated, looked after etc, there was and is something missing, some situations she is unsure how she is suppossed to be subconciously. what might seem natural to others does not come as naturally to her. our mother daughter relationship has previously been strained. its just like when i was growing up she didnt know how to relate to and empathise with me allthough she said all the right things and did all the right things , there was something inherently missing.

Baggypussy Wed 27-Jul-11 13:38:29

Another one here...I lost my mum when I was 19.

Now, at the age of 35 and with one DD, I find myself feeling sad & envious more than I'd like to admit to.

I agree with the poster who said about Mum's keeping families together.

Since mum's death, my older sister has become a troubled alcoholic, and unfortunately, due to the way she was treating me & my family (and her own), I no longer have contact with her. I often wonder if mum had been alive, whether she may have been able to get through to her before things had got so bad.

I also had a troubled relationship with my mum, as she had MH difficulties which impacted on the whole family, so when she died grieving wasn't a straight forward process.

I have definitely felt the preoccupation with the possibility of dying young and leaving DD motherless too.

Firsttimer7259 Wed 27-Jul-11 13:54:01

Have suddenly found myself in tears. I think my feelings are still buried deep. I lost my mum at 28. It was expected since my teens tho she was well for long periods between initial diagnosis and dying. Had my daughter at 35
Currently cant connect to myself at all.
My mother was the glue that held our family togther and without her we rather spectacularly imploded a few years later. On top of that my network of relations on my mums side suffered lot of deaths so they are all gone. I feel there's part of me missing.

anothermum92 Wed 27-Jul-11 14:07:53

Message withdrawn

anothermum92 Wed 27-Jul-11 14:09:32

Message withdrawn

insanityscatching Wed 27-Jul-11 14:17:54

My mother died when I was 17 leaving my siblings 15, 13, and 11 and a Dad who was working all the time. I became my siblings stand in mother tbh and continue to be so all these years later.
When I had my own children I found it really sad, I missed her more then than I had as a teenager. She loved babies and knitting and I was so sad she never got to be a granny to them.
My children range from 23 to 8 now and I was quite neurotic I think, definitely hyper vigilant and over protective but I think that's because when you lose the person that is central to your life when young it makes you insecure.
I worried that once they got to past 17 I wouldn't know how to be a mother to them then but I seem to have found my own way and we are all incredibly close.
According to dh I still over mother them and I possibly do but both I and they don't seem to mind and I keep a lid on my over protectiveness so their lives have never been limited in any way.
I'm looking forward to being a granny one day to do all the things my mum missed out on but I won't be knitting wink

Baggypussy Wed 27-Jul-11 14:28:22

anothermum- yeah, it is very isolating.

From a selfish perspective, I also find it embarassing, and as a consequence tend to play it down IRL.

I also had the unenviable task of reporting sister to SS last year for the (IMO neglectful) treatment of her son.

As there was no mum around, I felt as though I was shouldering the responsibility for her, and often wonder if mum would have done the same or not.

Spanglemum Wed 27-Jul-11 14:30:25

This is a great thread. My adoptive mum died when I was 7 and my sister was 6. Although as an adult i have been reunited with my birthmother and we are very close I still miss my mum. I lost a baby and missed her then but the thing that I notice is that as my daughter approaches the age I was when she died I feel like we are moving into unchartered terroroitory. My sister has a lot of MH problems and has been estranged from our father for 20 odd years now. It's very sadm, but Ithink she would have always had a troubled life. I wish I could ask my mum what becoming a mum (to me) was like!

boohoohoo Wed 27-Jul-11 14:55:05

Another motherless mum here, what a great thread. I lost my parents in my early twenties, I already had my dd but was on my own with her and had recently moved to be with them to a new area.

Im 40 now and recently married, with a small son, very happy. However the loneliness and sense of isolation has never left (and if I'm really honest a real bitterness because of their early deaths).

My dd is now a young woman and a fantastic friend, just like my mother and I was which is lovely but also leaves me feeling really sad, if that makes sense. I worry so much that I am going to die early and leave my children especially my dd (silly but feel my very young ds would be more ok?!), it terrifies me that she would have to go through what I did.

Wow, thats the first time I've been able to get that off my chest to people who might understand, thanks x

TeachMySelfBalance Wed 27-Jul-11 14:58:51

Yes, I am a motherless mother and have read the book you mention. It was ages ago though.

I don't have time now; I'll come back to read the thread...but thanks for starting it; it has affected me too.

lillybloom Wed 27-Jul-11 15:20:36

insanity your post really struck a chord with me. I am over protective os my dc and am very aware of it. I have to force myself to allow them to do things. My lovely friend said she understood my feelings as I have lost the innocence of bad things happen to other people. I have been left with an insecurity that will never really be fixed.
I am older now than my mum was when she died. I found being the age she died quite difficult but once I was past the age I took on a more grateful approach to life.

Snuppeline Wed 27-Jul-11 15:26:03

Thanks for starting this thread LeoTheLateBloomer. I lost my mom when I was 18 after she had been ill for some time. My dad has MH issues and is alcoholic and violent - I've never had a good relationship with him. If my mom hadn't been ill we would have moved away from where I grew up and I think my life would have been quite different (i.e. not so many bad experiences with dad) but when she was ill she couldn't take us away. I've never resented her for that at all. However, when I became (unplanned) pregnant with dd I had a very adverse reaction to the pregnancy. I didn't think I would be good mother and I was afraid of loving the baby. I considered suicide and I considered abortion. I had some emergency councelling in hospital and my psychoterapist said I was angry with my mother for leaving me. That statement I felt was very wrong - I have never been angry with my mother for being ill or dying. I know she would have stayed if she could have and I know she loved me dearly (as she knew I loved her). I think now, looking back and considering this thread's topic, that my irrational and extreme reactions to being pregnant can have been something to do with being motherless myself and the extreme pain of loosing her have made me a bit emotionally dysfunctional with regards to others (I don't really want to love people or get too attached in case I loose them). That said I am very close to my own dd (now nearly 3 years old) and I think I love her with all my heart.

I missed my mother something awful when my dd was born too and I recognise all the envy, grief and sadness for loss of family for me and my dd as others have mentioned here. I too am insured to the hilt and when I fantasise about my future I fantasise about being a grandmother to my dd's children and of all the family things I will ensure takes place then.

I'd like to end my story by telling you that my dd was born on the same day that my mother would have celebrated her 60th birthday. In addition to sharing my mothers birthday she also shares her name. To me that was the clearest way anyone could let me know that I did teh right thing, in keeping my dd, and that I will be an okay mother after all. Which I try to be smile

insanityscatching Wed 27-Jul-11 15:54:19

lily as they got to an age where they were able to be independent of me I used to tell them to let me think about it if they asked to do something or go somewhere without me because my first instinct was terror and to say no. By not having to answer immediately I could rationalise and get a grip on myself and tell them yes.
Now the older three go away with friends and girlfriends and boyfriends and I no longer cry as they leave blush but they know that to prevent me becoming a nervous wreck and pestering them a text when they arrive and the odd one through the week is all they need do. I only ever reply to texts because it's a rule I have imposed on myself so I don't get OTT.
I also hide my worries from them so they have grown up pretty oblivious to any difficulties I may have had because I remember the abject horror I felt knowing my mum was going to die.
I still find it a novelty that I have adults that adore me because I never got to that stage with my mum. I think I always thought the relationship would cool as I became an adult and expected my children to sort of cut me loose when they became independent so I'm thrilled they haven't.
My dh is now older than my mum was when she died and I realise now how young she was. I'm getting towards her age and I must admit I'm more anxious about my health now than I have ever been.
A few of my friends I have had since seventeen have lost a parent in the last year or two and it feels like now is about the right time so I consider that I have been cheated of the last thirty years of having a mother really.

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