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  • Rachel Conrad Carlson

When We Need Our Mamas (And They're Not There)


I’ve been thinking about how becoming a mother intensifies our own need to be mothered. My husband and I joke that we both earned advanced degrees to qualify for our jobs, but as a parent, they let you leave the hospital with a whole human baby after only a bleary-eyed debriefing with the discharge nurse. And away you go, holding this precious new life–nowhere near physically healed, reeling mentally and emotionally–into your sleep-deprived new existence as a mother. Of course, we want our mamas! Of course we long for someone we can ask all the dumbest questions and rant all the wildest emotions to. So then, for those of us who can’t turn to our own moms (for a myriad of reasons), where does that leave us?


My mom passed away on Jan 8th, 2014, and I became a mother on July 16th, 2019. For five and a half years, I grieved the loss of my mom as a childless woman before I stepped into her shoes as a mother myself.


In some ways I feel closer to her than ever before now that I have two daughters of my own. Like when we named our Carolyn Agnes Grace after her. Or when I cradled both of their tiny, sweaty bodies against mine and imagined being held like this by her and all that she must have felt. When I found out we were having a second daughter and I couldn’t quite imagine how I’d have space for her in my mind and heart, and then I remembered I was my mom’s second daughter and how we used to finish each other’s sentences all the way through college. Or whenever I see the freckle on my daughter’s arm that somehow looks just like one of hers. Or whenever I feel her peaceful spirit enveloping my own and I’m somehow a much calmer mom than I ever imagined I could be (most of the time!).


But in so many other ways the grief has deepened. Like when postpartum life was NOTHING like I had prepared for, and I couldn’t talk to Mom about it. When my baby girl screamed in pain at my breast because of terrible reflux and I fought down anxiety attacks every time I fed her, and I couldn’t talk to Mom about it. Or every time Charlie dances with joyful abandon around the living room, and Josephina Clare grins her huge 3-tooth grin right at me whenever I walk into the room… and I can’t tell my Mom all about it. Whenever I can’t ask her advice. Or whenever I realize I don’t know my own baby milestones and wonder if my kids are earlier or later than I was because I never thought to ask before she was gone. Ok, so basically every time I can’t talk to my mom about all the worry and wonder and grace that make up my days, the grief intensifies.


And of course, I’m not alone. If you have a severed connection with your mother, for whatever reason, and whether or not you’re a mom yourself at this point…. I invite you to take space to acknowledge your own grief. To think through the blessings and curses of this particular season of your loss. And as you do, I have no simple solutions. But I can offer you some words I’ve clung to in my own grief, and I pray that God will whisper solace to you now in the way that you need it most. If you have any scriptures or quotes that have brought you peace, feel free to share them in the comments below. I would love to read them.


“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.” – Psalm 27:12-14


“[The Sovereign Lord] tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms

and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” – Isaiah 40:11


“You were singing in the dark/ Whispering Your promise / Even when I could not hear

I was held in Your arms / Carried for a thousand miles to show

Not for a moment did You forsake me

In my hurt at my worst / When my world falls down / Not for a moment will You forsake me

Even in the dark / Even when it's hard / You will never leave me

After all You are constant / After all You are only good / After all You are sovereign

Not for a moment will You forsake me /

And every step every breath you are there / Every tear, every cry, every prayer”

- Not for a Moment (After All) – song by Meredith Andrews


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