Tears at the Kitchen Table: Thoughts on Motherhood, Hard Goodbyes and Needing My Mom

I didn’t cry at Elena’s birth. The pure joy and sweat dripping from my forehead replaced any potential tears, but last Monday morning I sat at my kitchen table with big tears rolling down my face. It’s been 6 weeks since Elena’s birth and my body has mostly healed, my milk has come in and our days (and nights) have a new rhythm. But motherhood stretches your heart and makes your tender and fragile in ways you didn’t know possible.

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My parents were just here for a week. It was such a good visit. They got to meet Elena and I got to watch them become grandparents. They rocked, changed and loved our little girl. They took turns holding her so I could shower. My dad sang songs to her with made-up lyrics. My mom made us dinner with enough leftovers to freeze and we even took a mini-family road trip to one of my favorite places in Guatemala, Lago Atitlan. My parents treated us to dinners in Antigua and helped around the house. It was so good to have them here, but we had the worst kind of goodbye.

Gerber had gone to work in the morning and was running late. Meanwhile our contractor asked to stop by for just “cinco minutos.” My parents suitcases were packed and sitting near the door. Somehow the “5 minutes” turned into a much longer conversion about counter tops and paint colors and left Gerber and I arguing about the difference of 15cm. We went back and forth in English, then asked the contractor a question in Spanish.  My parents stood waiting, listening to the half of the conversation that they understood.

I was still trying to convert centimeters to inches in my head, Gerber was concerned about hitting traffic on the way to the airport and Elena was starting to get fussy. I gave my dad and mom a quick hug good-bye, some i love yous and thankyous were exchanged in between me ssshhh-ing the baby girl.  I watched as the grey pickup pulled away.

Then just like that they were gone.

And just like that, the tears came.

Looking down at my own daughter, I have never wanted my mom more than in that minute. I wanted her to come back, to take care of me, to tell me I’m doing an ok job and to help me take care of this tiny little human who somehow made me a mother.

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My mom is wonderful. She has an empathetic heart, a deep love for each of her 4 kids and actually means it when she says, “I’ll pray for you.” She can tweet, text and order the book you mentioned from amazon all at the same time. Since getting married and moving to Guatemala my need for my mom has changed. Or maybe just looks different. And part of that is probably a healthy aspect of growing up. However, there is something about becoming a mom that has made me want my mom in a new way. I now completely understand why its nice to live close to family when you have kids. We live about 20 minutes away from Gerber’s family and I am grateful. They love and adore Elena and help us greatly, but it’s not the same as having my mom here.

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I sat at our kitchen table, my eyes still wet with tears. I picked up my cell phone. “Gerber, can I talk to my mom?”

Mom? We said goodbye too fast. I don’t want you to leave….We didn’t make banana muffins, or finish the headbands. Elena still isn’t napping.

She listened. Said, it wasn’t a good goodbye. She reminded me to be gracious to myself. And told me I’m doing a great job.

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Rocking my daughter in my arms, I looked down at her sweet little face. My first born. Motherhood fills you up and then deflates you. This rhythm of breathing in a deep joy and satisfaction one moment and then a nagging self-doubt that I must be doing something wrong.  As I sniffled though the tears, I felt incredibly thankful for my mom. And I imagined that she had probably rocked me in her arms like this and had maybe felt something similar.




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12 thoughts on “Tears at the Kitchen Table: Thoughts on Motherhood, Hard Goodbyes and Needing My Mom

  1. Thanks for this post, Michelle. I felt the same way when my mom left after Caleb was born. It’s hard living far away (and I’m only one state over!) from family. For what it’s worth, I started feeling like we could do it on our own after all after 6 or 8 weeks. Caleb developed a better routine (including napping better), and I started adding things back to my life one at a time. You’re doing great, Michelle!

  2. 4 daughters… 4 births providing 4 occassions for my mother to volunteer a week to move in and help me recover… 4 births, 4 separate weeks, and 4 tearful let downs after she drove home… 12 miles away.

    It happened to me, too… and not because my mother lived miles away. This broke my heart… my hormones took me to the same place. I hope it won’t last long. Love you.

  3. Such a good post. I can relate in so many ways. My mom came for a week and we had a very similar rushed goodbye while they baby cried (minus the spanish). And I cried a good cry too. Thanks for sharing. Just know you’re not alone…and we can do this! xo

  4. Sweetheart, I love reading your life and your words are well written and ring so true. I admire you and can tell you that the moments of instantaneous tears do not stop even when your children reach “near adulthood”. Keep the faith and keep writing!

  5. I keep meaning to pop back in to say that I loved this post. I have never loved my mom more than the day she left our house after I had Anna. We both cried. Hard. And we’re not usually criers when it comes to goodbyes! So, yes, I relate and I love your words.

  6. Ah, the emotions of motherhood. Get used to it because crying takes on a life of its own 🙂

    I am so glad you had the time with your parents, but the goodbyes will be difficult every time. You all just need to visit more, if that’s possible!

    A few weeks after Sophia was born I was hit with the overwhelming realization that my parents feel about me the way I feel about her. I hadn’t had the slightest idea of how deep their love for me was until that moment.

  7. Helen, I agree-on the visiting more often and how motherhood does make you realize how deep your own parents love for you is.

  8. Saying good-bye to my mom this week (she spent nearly all of Isaac’s first month by my side), I unexpectedly burst into tears. I was so much more grateful this go ’round for her help and support and I think so much of that was knowing how much I love Ella and hope to be there for her in the future! Thanks for writing. 🙂

  9. Michelle- I hate bad goodbyes! What you’re feeling is so normal and never really goes away. Having a child changes everything…. You are now given the gift of this precious child to love ad teach and it’s the most beautiful gift imaginable- and so hard. I still cry some nights as I rock Samuel to sleep wondering if I’m a good enough mom, thinking bad days will last forever, not giving myself enough grace. It brings out the very best in you and the greatest fears… Makes you self evaluate daily! You can no longer walk through life without thinking how things will effect your child… I am fiercely protective and greatly in love…
    I cry and smile as I read your posts and feel my baby boy moving inside me and watch my other precious joy sleep on the monitor…..
    Love you! Hope you get to see your mom again soon- make banana bread and thunder cake…

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