| Words Unspoken |

Dear Mommy

What can I say, what can I do, with this realization? Thank you? How woefully inadequate

Dear Mommy,

These are words unspoken but really, I’d love to say them out loud to you over and over, every day and every hour and every time we speak — I just don’t know how. Maybe when I put pen to paper, I’ll be able to express my thoughts more clearly.

Motherhood is one of those experiences that you can never quite imagine or prepare for beforehand. I thought about it, of course, during those endless nine months of waiting, and honestly, long before that, too. I tried to picture exactly what my life would look like, what would change, how I would change. But when motherhood barreled into my life full force, I was left breathless and shaking.

At first, I was too exhausted and overwhelmed to process much at all. But slowly, I started thinking coherently. And now every time I gently lift my baby to feed her, each time I change her diaper and wipe her spit-up, when I bathe her and dress her and sing to her and rock her slowly to sleep, I can’t help but be awed — you did all this for me, Mommy.

It started all the way at the beginning, when you battled nausea and exhaustion in the first trimester; when you visited me in seminary you pointed out where you’d stagger off the bus to throw up, before getting back on to make your unsteady way to work. But back then I just nodded, without really comprehending. You plowed through the middle few months before reaching the uncomfortable third trimester, replete with the accompanying exhaustion and discomfort of the extra pounds I gifted you with. When you sympathized with me while I was expecting, I forgot that you’d gone through all that, too — for me! Had I ever thought about that before? Thanked you for it? Does anyone?

You labored for three days, followed by a traumatic delivery. And you battled all that, for me. You endured a slow, painful recovery that lasted weeks and weeks, all while feeding and burping and rocking and diapering and bathing around the clock — for me. And as I grew, you cleaned me, changed me, played with me, sang to me, walked with me, fed me — all that, for me. You rose each night to feed me and then rock me back to sleep, no matter how long it took, no matter how many times I woke up, and then you battled the resulting exhaustion each day, for me. You nursed me through ear infections, fevers, and congestion, handled eczema and asthma and mysterious rashes, took me to doctors’ appointments galore — all for me.

And all that is in addition to everything I already remember you doing: buying me clothes and food and toys and games, paying for school and camp and trips and flute lessons and dance lessons. I can’t really wrap my mind around it, honestly. You cared for me every single day of my life, every single day, in so many more ways than I will ever know.

What can I say, what can I do, with this realization? Thank you? How woefully inadequate. You gave me your life, your heart and soul, sweat and tears and so much more, for every single day and week and month and year of my life. I sit in awe, basking in the glow of your love.

Maybe all I can do is to pass on that love, that tender care, to this adorable baby who made me a mother and enlightened me to a mother’s sacrifices. Maybe this is the cycle of selfless giving that holds up the world, generation to generation.

But if my experiences don’t prompt me to look back, to realize that my mother did for me everything that I do for my baby, am I missing an integral piece of the puzzle? Does that sever the giving chain?

Mommy, thank you so much for giving me life and for caring for me every day since. Please help me now, and teach me how to give over that love to the next generation.


Your eldest child
(recently turned mother)


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 869)

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