Photo courtesy of Shannon Abbott Photography
I didn’t realize how truly wonderful my mom was until I became a mom myself. Granted, I knew she was wonderful even as a young child, but didn’t know the depth of her strength and sacrifices until I too was the mother to another human being.
I grew up as an Embassy brat, meaning we moved to a new country every two years. I was born in Amman, Jordan, where I lived for the first year of my life. Until I read the letters my mom wrote to her grandmother of her experience as a first time mom, I had no idea how remarkable the whole experience really was. Picture this: A first time mom in a foreign land, speaking a completely different language, a place where, at the time, the water had to boiled to prevent illness, her husband worked 12 hour shifts, would come home, sleep a bit and do it all over again. She was alone in a strange land. That description in itself would make any new mother cringe. And forget the usual support network that rallies around a new mom here in the States. My mom’s support networks were the few young wives of the other Expats but there were no “Mommy groups” at the local library or grandparents eager to babysit.
I read these letters when our first child, Emily, was about 2 years old. At this stage, we had survived the first yet. But I had a mom network that stemmed from high school friends to Facebook to coworkers to reach out to. I didn’t have to boil water every time I wanted to clean a bottle. My husband worked a normal 8 am -4 pm job and I knew he’d be home and available in the evening and late at night should our daughter wake up. There were no language barriers. I could take a walk up the street and be in shorts and a tank top without offending anyone. And when my husband announced to his co-workers that he was having a daughter, they were happy for him and not saddened that the family name would not continue due to the birth of his first born.
My mom endured it all with grace. She adored me and wanted to give me the best of everything. Fast forward a few assignments later, when we were stationed in Abjigan, Ivory Coast. I was 4 years old when we moved to the West African country. Now that I am older, I realize how volatile this part of the world can be. As a 4 year old, I had no clue that there were people who could harm me and my family at any moment. I never lived in fear and thought it was normal to have a man sit out front of our house all hours of the day and night and guard our house. He was nice to me and my family, so in my naive mind, I didn’t mind him being there. I didn’t think it was weird that every night before we went to bed, we locked a metal door between the bottom and top floors. It was something I knew my Dad did every night and it was just something that occurred. Now I realize it was there to keep us safe should our house get broken into during the night. Again, I never lived in fear by the things that would be so obvious to any adult observing them. My lack of fear was because my parents, and most importantly my mom, never gave me a reason to be fearful. I can only imagine the prayers she would say daily and maybe even hourly as we went a long our day in these foreign lands where, at the time, Americans were not well liked.
In one of the letters she writes my grandmother in California, my mom tells her of the dilemma of what possession to pack in Air Freight vs. Sea Freight. The items packed in Air Freight would arrive sooner than the Sea Freight, which could take months. My mom would have to determine which toys of my sister Susie (who is 5 years younger than me) would tie us over until the others arrived. Which season of clothes needed to be in Air Freight and would be sufficient until the other season of clothes arrived? I have been a mother for 4 ½ years now and never once had to stress over such a decision. She had to make this decision 4 times as we travelled the world and got older. My mom made it happen.
I didn’t realize until I had babies of my own, that my mom had both my sister and myself via natural child birth. It wasn’t a question that you really ask until you are pregnant yourself. I knew full well, after hearing other women’s stories, that when it came time to birth my first child, I wanted an epidural. I’m a wuss with pain and I have to be honest, my mom isn’t the best with pain either. Somehow she allowed nature to do what it should do and successfully birthed two daughters without pain medicine – she’s a hero in my book for that alone!
Now that I am a mother of a 4 ½ year old daughter and 1 ½ year old twin boys, I need my mother more than ever. Yes, I needed her to teach me how to use the potty, to tie my shoe, to be there when a boyfriend broke up with me. But now I need her for the support she brings me on a daily basis just to deal with life as a wife and mom. I know she is praying for me and my husband daily, that our marriage would continue to be strengthened and not burned out by the stress of having small children. I am 31 years old and I call my mother once, twice and sometimes even three times a day to hear her voice of reasoning in times of confusion or simply to cry my heart out to her. I know she doesn’t have all the answers but I know she cares and will do whatever is in her power to help me in my time of need, whether that be to pray with me or leave her house at midnight, drive the 8 miles to my house in her pajamas and rock a baby to sleep, so I could finally get some sleep myself. She’ll randomly leave dinner on my front stoop so my husband and I don’t have to think about a meal that night.
I know there are times that my actions have disappointed her. But I also know she still loves me unconditionally. I pray that I can be the same wonderful mother to my three kids as she has been to me.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom!
Annie is the proud mom of three kids including fraternal twin boys and has happily been married to Kevin for 6 years. Annie works for a homeschool technology company full time along with managing a household and the contents in it (people and stuff). Due to her father’s job, she travelled the world as a young child living in Europe and the Middle East. She vows never to live more than 10 miles from her parents. She is a member of the Loudoun Fairfax Mothers of Multiples and desires to assist other women suffering from Post Partum depression.
Annie’s mom Lin is Reel Tributes’ Head Interviewer, and lives a few miles down the road from Annie and her grandchildren in Herndon, Virginia.