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Being a mother doesn’t mean you stop needing your mother

My son was only a few days old when I called my mother after a sleepless night of feeding and swaddling and threatening to kill the next person telling me to “just sleep when the baby sleeps.”

My mom and I have always been close, and I had always appreciated her, or so I thought. But that morning, standing in my kitchen looking at a pile of dishes with barely enough energy to open the dishwasher, I picked up the phone.

I can’t remember everything I said. I’m guessing there were tears and hormonally charged disbelief that motherhood, particularly in the newborn days, really was this hard. I do remember the lump in my throat as I struggled to tell her the truth after 27 years of believing I was a fairly decent daughter.

“You don’t really appreciate your mom until you become a mom, do you?”

For years, I watched my mother transition from a demanding day job as a small-business owner to her night/weekend job as a mother of two and manager of our household – a routine that exhausted her, though you’d never know it.

When money was tight and I needed anything, whether it was a new dress or a backpack or camp tuition, she and my dad found a way to make it happen. It took a long time to realize “making it happen” usually meant going without so we didn’t have to.

She made sure my sister and I were taken care of before she was, something embarrassingly easy to take for granted when you’re a child and assume personal sacrifice is just another way to describe a parent’s love.

There are a handful of milestones that can make someone feel as if they’ve successfully completed the transition from child to adult. I was convinced motherhood would come with a magical, ceremonious transformation where I suddenly had the wisdom and strength to make it through life on my own.

And yet, I’ve never needed my mom more than when I became a mom. She saved me during those first tricky months of adapting to the demands of new parenting, often making the drive from Memphis to Jackson just to help me manage, even though her obligation to take care of me was technically over. I was grown and had a child of my own, but I needed her. Really needed her. She never once told me to figure it out on my own or that she was too busy with her own life to worry about mine.

She just remained an unflappable force of support and acted like that was her job, as if giving birth to me came with the rule that she had to be my superhero for the rest of her life.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to repay her or become even one-tenth of the woman she is. But she’s proof of one of the most powerful things I’ve ever heard about motherhood, something impossible to see as a child and impossible to forget as an adult:

My mother didn’t just give me my life. She gave me hers, too.

Alex Mcdaniel is Editor of the Oxford EAGLE. She can be reached at alex.mcdaniel@oxfordeagle.com.