When my grandma had her first child, she was 21 years old. The year was 1942, and my grandpa was serving as a pilot in the war. He was not allowed to disclose where in the world he was flying or for how long he would be gone. At the time, she lived in New York, far from her parents and the life she knew in Minnesota. She relied heavily on reading from Dr. Spock’s child care books. When she was unsure about something, she placed her baby girl inside the basket on her bicycle and rode to the pediatrician’s. All alone and miles from home, she wrote daily letters to her parents, updating them on her young daughter’s latest accomplishments.
My grandma went on to have 6 kids, 16 grandkids, and too many great-grandchildren to count. A true matriarch in every sense of the word, she lived her life from a place of love and compassion for everyone around her. It’s hard to imagine my grandma as inexperienced at anything, but her resilience and perseverance helped pull her through her first years as a mother.
This is the first Mother’s Day I have celebrated since my grandma passed away, and also the first where I myself am a mother. I think of my grandma often—every time I change a diaper and look up at the needlepoint that she made for my children or pass by the collection of seashells that used to hang in her apartment. I imagine her meeting my baby and saying something so classically Grandma Bean, like “Oh, how wonderful!” before embracing me in her signature hug.
While I wish my Grandma were still with us, I feel overwhelmingly blessed by the women that I currently have in my life. Over the course of my pregnancy and these first two months with Theo, I have leaned on the wisdom, advice, and support of so many. Prenatal yoga instructors, acupuncturists, doulas, midwives and lactation consultants provided me with such wonderful care throughout my pregnancy, birth, and hospital stay. Women whom I have never met generously donated their milk and helped us through a tough few days of low milk production. My mom stayed with us for the first month after Theo was born, quietly managing every aspect of the household just as my grandmother had done for her. My three older sisters are always a phone call, text, or email away, ready with a piece of advice and a witty remark about life with a newborn. Friends have come by with meals and gifts, sustaining us when we were too tired to provide for ourselves.
This Mother’s Day, I feel proud and privileged to be a mom to my sweet Theo, and also so grateful to all of the women who have supported me along the way. I know that my grandma would be proud to see the community of women around me—lifting me up in difficult times and sharing my joy in the happier ones.
I hope that this Mother’s Day, whether the holiday brings up feelings of loss or of celebration, you can take a moment to feel grateful for all of the women in your life—past and present—and the many ways in which they have enriched it.