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9 May

Liduduma Lidlule.. maybe not: Losing a mother!

Yesterday, the world celebrated Mother’s Day and as you can imagine, social media was buzzing with the most beautiful tributes and images of mothers from all over the world. It was beautiful and also very triggering for most of us that do not have mothers. I would not say we are post-pandemic yet but we have just lived through a very traumatic time where numerous families world-wide lost their family members, mothers died, leaving their children behind.

My mother died at age 20, my twin brother and I were not even an hour old. She suffered major birth complications. We were born prematurely and lived in incubators for a number of weeks. Yesterday, would also be my mother’s 52nd birthday. Almost 32 years since her passing. Growing up without a mother is incredibly traumatic, painful and all the horrendous descriptive synonyms you can possibly use. You survive, you make it by grace if you are a believer but also by the love of whoever is around and kind enough to raise you. I also was drawn to friends that didn’t have mothers, I referred to us as the “Gang of the motherless” and we would laugh about it. The difference between Chuma, Nangamso and myself was that they were super close to their fathers, something I did not have – another story for another day.

I never thought I would outlive her, I was always certain (read fearful) I would also die young. Losing her at birth made me very scared of having children. I have always been super ambitious, driven and as one of my boyfriends would describe me “possessing a deep sense of purpose”, I had an idea of the big yet small, quiet life I would create for myself and that little big world never included children. I would make an incredible mother – but what if I don’t make it? Who will look after my children? I would want better for my children and that means maybe, not having them.

I once fell in love with someone whom I somehow saw myself wanting to have children with, but that’s a story for another day (again). I have been seeing my therapist for a few years now and of all the things she can convince me of, in terms of behavorial change, the choice to be childless is one she never tried to influence and yes we work tirelessly in removing the trauma around childrearing. I long for my mother on the most random of times, I could have just gotten something I had long wanted and instead of being thrilled about it, I wish she was around to celebrate it with me. On my toughest days, I wish I could have her arms around me, reassuring me that things would be okay.

Losing a mother whilst very young (I can’t imagine what it must be like for those that lose them after bonds have been built, longer loving relationships) is confusing. You always have to wonder what they may have been like. It is maybe even worse in my case, I have never seen a single photo of my mother. I as a result have no idea what she looks like. Her parents also passed away before I turned 7 and at the time I was still too young to ask questions. You grow up with this unquenchable thirst that becomes a big lump in your throat and if you thought it gets better as you grow, it doesn’t.

I read some of the most beautiful quotes on motherhood and how glorious the moms are. I wondered how Neli and I would be, had she lived longer. How her son would have been, had he also lived longer. How my life would be, had they both held on a bit longer. I will never have those answers but I am grateful to have them as my spiritual homies.

Navigating life and relationships having suffered such loss is also not easy. Feelings of abandonment arise, unhealthy attachments to significant others also arise. The sense of rejection at times, and you comfort yourself with the familiar smell of rejection, having tasted it back at birth. Walls get higher because the reasoning is that, I have been through so much pain and loss, over things I could not control now I cannot afford to have anyone hurt me. This is where therapy comes in and I can gladly share that, the walls become adjustable.

One of my good friends Athi will never fail to mention “awunaye nomama Bonnie…oh yhini…” whenever something bad happens to me and it doesn’t matter how sad I was, it’s in how she says it, we just laugh about it. Athi found a permanently lit up place in my heart and settled there, she has the ability to see me and make everything better. In my motherlessness and her constantly reminding me, I always feel loved.

My wonderful ex lover lost his mother almost a year ago and I remember finding out about his loss on our first “date”. There was a deep sadness in eyes, one I could relate to. I knew his pain, I had felt it. I only ever told him about my life story after a few days of loving him and he could not believe it. I bring him up because in my active pursuit to heal and cope, I desperately wished he could do the same. My love is beautiful and healing but not enough.

I am sending love to all the people that lost their mothers, have complicated relationships with their mothers, long to be mothers but cannot be, those who have lost children and those who are finding themselves mothering children because their circumstances dictate they do. Liduduma lidlule…but maybe, not.

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