While sleep deprived and spending another day in postpartum quarantine, I read a profound quote in the middle of my mindless instagram scroll. It said, “Love is a creative act. When you love someone you create a new world for them...” Trevor Noah wrote that about his mom and the world she made for him and how he reciprocated that love by showing her a new way of life, a new world. What’s funny is without knowing the context of that quote I thought of my own mother. As a new mom the world opens up and closes and shifts in a way you could never experience before seeing those two pink lines. Suddenly, your whole being is purposed with creating a life and supporting a life. When you become a mom, you think about how you were mothered and you realize for the first time your mom had been as you are now, tired-eyed and scared, trying to figure out how to keep a tiny human alive.
Becoming a mother doesn’t feel very creative: it feels like not being able to walk after labor, crying about nothing and everything, feeling lost, scared and detached from this little baby that you had been so eagerly awaiting, and feeling like you need another nine months of growing and researching and also some solid sleep. But, the moment my daughter was placed on my chest and we met for the first time, I began to create.
I didn’t realize it at the time but the world I began dreaming of for her, a world in which she would be able to act in kindness, seek justice, be brave and voice her truths, was an act of creativity. I began creating scenarios in my head of all the things I wanted for her and all the ways I want her to be free, to be seen and to be strong. This world wouldn’t be sunshine and rainbows, because I know what the real world holds and I need her to be prepared, but I also want her to know that being a woman is not her core definition.
And yet even in this strange postpartum timeline in which nothing feels much achieved or inspired, the creating continues. It starts with a knock on the door followed by my mom quietly and excitedly peeking her head in, to make sure she doesn’t wake Lily. Then she takes off her shoes and darts to the kitchen sink so she can hurry up and wash her hands and hold her grandbaby or me. And then in those moments after that knock, when the sky is blushing in the morning or hazy with sleep, the magic happens. From an outside perspective it may just look like a mother helping her daughter who is helping her daughter. But in this open room a vivid story unfolds. It’s written in diaper changes, breast milk stains and plenty of tears, bound by the invisible string of a mother’s love: a string so tough and strong holding everything together.
The story unfolding in that room is braided and woven into the stories my mother brings with her. Her first moments with her first daughter spill out like a fountain, mist fills the room, and suddenly my shoulders relax and my breathing slows. I sit there transfixed, hanging on every word.
Her kaleidoscope of memories shifts and pulls between mothering each of her five children and the hardships she faced as a new mom, and then a seasoned mom, plus all the struggles, challenges, pain and pockets of joy in between. Her experience as a new mom was drastically different from mine, and yet hearing her recall those memories gives me a reassurance and comfort that I could never find in a baby book or google search. Her voice dances twirling into painful recollections, then tip toes with a lightness at her own naiveté, and then spins full circle to her reflections on how she would have done things now. In the midst of our journey together we are crafting a story that one day we will tell Lily, and who knows maybe some parts of that story will only be revealed like my mom’s was, through late night tears, a baby who won’t latch, and clogged milk ducts.
Recently I took my daughter Lily to a doctor appointment at the same pediatrician office I visited as a child. It was as if I was stepping back in time, but this time I was in my mom’s role. This time Lily was on the patient’s table and this time I was the one who watched her as she was checked out. I think of all the memories I have of my mom taking me there, but Lily won’t remember this visit and who knows how long we will go to this office. Even still, I will carry this memory and many others for her. My memory will be tied to hers as my mom’s memory is tied to mine.
We were created within each other stacked like Russian Nesting dolls and our stories of mothering carry a powerful, yet hidden piece of the creative process. This connection of our generations and our memories run deep just as our stories are tangled up together in a yarn that will never be undone.