How can you spot a mom if she doesn’t have her children with her? She might be carrying a diaper bag instead of a purse, or you might catch a glimpse of an adorable baby on her phone. Or she might be wearing yoga capris and a t-shirt, unwashed hair in a bun, chugging a coffee and rushing through Target like a mad woman to grab a few things while she is temporarily kid-free (is it obvious that I have done that a time or two?)
Another tell-tale sign is that a woman who is a mother will often rock themselves side to side, gently, usually while standing and having a conversation or completing a task. In fact, you can see many women who do not have children doing this as well. It is one of the most primal feminine instincts….the urge to rock and soothe a baby that we are holding, and it often translates to other settings when our babies are not with us.
I became pregnant with my son in January 2014. My husband and I were surprised that it happened quickly and we felt slightly unprepared, even though we had been “ready.” It was a moment of pure excitement mixed with surprise, and I called my sister right away to share the news. But also in that amazing moment was a pang of sadness and longing, because if my mom had been here, she probably would have been my first phone call. She passed away suddenly when I was nine years old. Of course, it was extremely difficult growing up with my mom and experiencing life and important milestones without her. When I graduated high school and college, my sister’s wedding and the births of her children, my brother’s wedding, my wedding…so many moments we all wished she was here. But in that moment, I had never missed her more. I realized fully, for the first time, that I was going to have to do this without her. This brought many tears (thank you, hormones!) throughout my pregnancy, despite being so excited meet our son.
After I gave birth to Brady in September 2014, my husband and I were like any new parents. Excited, in love with our baby, but also tired and scared about messing it up. The absence of my mom became even more prominent. I couldn’t have imagined how hard it is to be a mom without your mom. I couldn’t ask her what I was like as a baby, or for her advice on starting solid foods, or how she made it through the difficult early days of breastfeeding. I couldn’t ask her for a hug when I was falling apart. Luckily, those moments were few and far between because we lucked out with an “easy” baby. He was laid-back, sweet, and barely cried. We joked around that we weren’t sure he knew how to cry or be a “real” baby!
Still, I spent many nights in the rocking chair, rocking Brady as he would drift off to sleep fairly easily. In those moments, when it’s late and dark and you are exhausted and alone, it’s easy to feel discouraged. But in those moments, resting my head on my baby’s head as we rocked and rocked, I thought of my mom and felt connected with her. I thought of her rocking her children to sleep because I remembered watching her with my younger siblings. I thought of how she must have felt as much love for us as I felt for my baby. I thought of how she would have loved to meet her grandchildren. I thought of how I should soak up every minute of our lives together because you can’t be sure that things will be the same tomorrow. Even the tear-stained, exhausted, milk-soaked moments that make you feel like you might break. I felt that primal motherly instinct to rock and soothe my child and knew my mom must have felt the same way.
As my son has grown, he still responds when I rock him, and I still rock back and forth when he’s not with me. I noticed myself doing it while standing at the copy machine at work this week. And it made me smile to think of someone watching me rock from side to side for seemingly no reason….unless they are a mom, then they would just know.