Big Questions & Hard Conversations

My daughter Donavyn, has been asking a lot of questions about my mom. We planted roses for her birthday last year but Donavyn was still too young to really understand why mommy was crying. ⁣⁣
Today, she asked if the house we were passing was Nona’s house. It was surrounded by roses and they have been a theme in talking about my mom. (There’s a small tchotchke my dad gave my mom when they were first married that has a rose in it and the kids refer to it as “Nona’s rose” and play with it often). I told her no, but that every time she sees a rose, it is Nona telling her she loves her. She responded, “Roses don’t talk mommy”, so I explained it was Nona sending her secret messages. My hope is that she will feel a connection to my mom even though they never met...and feel a hidden strength and support that she can always carry with her.⁣⁣
Then she asked where Nona was and I reminded her that she died, but that she is in my heart and in hers and is all around us, always. I’m not religious and it’s important to me that I don’t lie to make talking about it easier and this felt honest and ok. ⁣⁣
She started crying really hard and I had to carry her home. She didn’t stop crying for a long time. It was a good, cathartic cry; the most adult show of emotion I’ve ever seen from her. I felt it too. ⁣⁣

I held her and we looked at my mom’s picture on the mantle for awhile and talked about how beautiful she was. Donavyn said she wished Nona had never gotten sick and died. I agreed; then we sat down and shared some Mac and cheese before having a snuggle and then she fell asleep.

Poem for Motherless Mothers

Sometimes when I lie in my bed and close my eyes to take a quick recharging nap

my children quietly (finally) themselves, napping

I can see my mom’s face

her freckled olive skin

as if it were inches from mine...


and I remember what she looked like when she was alive,

and I remember what she looked like when she was dying, that in between alive and not alive look that your skin gets,

and I remember what she looked like dead.

She was beautiful (although she probably wouldn’t have thought so), in every stage from here to gone,

from present to illusory,

from breath, to mist, to cold, to ash.


I can feel the soft skin of her neck as I nuzzle in to breathe deeply her smell.

I can remember her smell,

as if she were lying next to me

right this very minute.

My beautiful mama, who I hugged and snuggled not nearly enough;

Who I appreciated so much less than I should have,

and who loved me no matter how ungrateful and naively unaware I was

of her gift

of motherhood

and unconditional love.


Matrescence is a term anthropologists use to describe the process of becoming a mother, the transition into motherhood. It is a complete identity shift, punctuated by chemical changes in a woman's brain, sleep deprivation, and a (temporary) loss of control over how her body looks and feels, not to mention her freedom, time and other relationships being subjected to the whims of a tiny, needy little human. Here I share some of my experiences with this shift, some good, some bad, but all honest and real.


I drank too much, I talked too much (and listened too little) I danced all the time.                            I was selfish and unaware.

Then I became a mother,

and my baby got sick                                                 and I lost my mother (my only family) all in a year.

My entrance into motherhood was maybe more angst-filled than most, and came with the kind of growing pains that stung,                                                      that ached,                                                                                               that built slowly, and ebbed and flowed like labor.