‘Oh gosh, I’m turning into my mother!’ – it’s a phrase so many of us have uttered jokingly when we hear a familiar phrase tumble out of our mouths. Often we don’t quite realise what an impact our own mothers make on us, until we step into the role of motherhood ourselves. Until we feel their presence in our actions, find ourselves singing the same songs to babies fighting sleep, or hearing their voices as we read the same stories they once read to us…
For blogger, photographer, and single mother Lisa Humphries, her motherhood journey has been shaped by the traumatic experience of slowly losing her mother over a number of years in her adolescence. When Lisa was 16, her mother suffered a terrible brain injury after crashing her car on a slippery road just around the corner from her home. Lisa and her 13 year old brother became carers for her. Their mother was just 37, and no longer the same person, although she battled through her injury. Then, at just 40 years old, she was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. She managed to defy odds and outlive her diagnosis for 11 years, but sadly passed away from the disease.
Lisa lost her mother over an excruciating length of time, in stages, at an age when she needed her. It’s a loss she feels deeply and daily, and perhaps has made her more conscious than most about her relationship with her own son. “Reflecting on a decade of you being earthside reminds me that my own birth as a mother has been and always will be one of pure blessing, mixed with the constant grief of watching you slip away from my breast, my arms, my side, my embrace”, she writes in this letter to him. Having lived through loss herself, it’s only natural that she would want to protect him. But she’s philosophical about that. “At times there is a natural pull to guide you in a certain direction or to pull you away from the things that will hurt you”, she explains. “There is also a quiet inner voice reminding me that you are complete as you are, you simply need my presence and my strength.”
And they are two qualities that she possesses in spades. In this touching letter to her son, Lisa proves it beyond doubt.
It is the year 2020.
A new decade arrived as we celebrated you reaching double digits. It was a chance to reflect on a decade of us, a decade of motherhood for me, and a decade of growth, learning, joy, grief, pain, and everything in between. Reflecting on a decade of you being earthside reminds me that my own birth as a mother has been and always will be one of pure blessing, mixed with the constant grief of watching you slip away from my breast, my arms, my side, my embrace.
Thankfully at the age of 10, you are still wholly in your need for my touch, for the closeness that I know may fade, and the embrace that as a single mamma is so very special to both of us. I am sure that you are well aware of my mental ill-health, although I work with relentless drive and optimism each and every day, the cracks are there for all to see. Of course, you are the closest to the cracks, and to the light that allows me to rise each day and find the joy. If only you knew the role that you have played in me finding that light. The loss and pain of my past were lessened 10 years ago when you became the reason that I needed to, and so passionately wanted to, rise from my darkest nights and dare to hope.
They say that having children can be the catalyst for major life change, for me it was simply the catalyst to fight even harder. As one of the most tenacious, loyal, questioning souls I have ever known, you reflect back to me the parts of myself that I know need nurturing. You never stop asking the questions that will allow you to grow and make sense of the world. You are my greatest teacher and my greatest challenge, as well as the source of my greatest joy. All of these things just seem to weave together in a way that makes perfect sense, in its own chaotic way.
It has always been my inner knowing that the role of mother is not to impose any of my own beliefs or to somehow mould the absolute perfection of a new life. Of course, at times there is a natural pull to guide you in a certain direction or to pull you away from the things that will hurt you. There is also a quiet inner voice reminding me that you are complete as you are, you simply need my presence and my strength. You need the safety of a home that allows you to grow into your own perfect self. Our home will always be exactly that, it will be safe and accepting and my heart and arms will always be open for you.
It will come as no surprise to you to know that it is in our home in our quietest moments that I find the most comfort from the world. You have always asked me why I take so many photos of us at home, and I know that one day in the not too distant future you will truly appreciate the magic in these captured moments. I want you to know that your softness is actually a strength in our world, and to never feel that you need to hide this. The world will try to convince you that boys and men need to be a certain way in order to survive and thrive. If there is one thing that I hope you will know and embrace, it is that there is absolute strength, courage and power in your softness, your kindness, your empathy and your tears. Boys do cry, and so they should too. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.
I know that you are going to move with tenderness and power through these tween years and into your teens. At times I can see you standing taller and hear the change in your voice as you stand on the precipice between being my baby and stepping bravely into yourself. I will always be by your side, whether that be physically or metaphorically. My own mother raised my brother and I on her own as you know, and then she was taken from us through the greatest tragedy and her loss left me broken, changed and eventually transformed. I know that you have missed not having a nana, although hopefully, you know her through me. She was just as feisty, tender and loving as you are and there would have been magic in your relationship with her.
Please also hold onto your determination, your stubborn need to question everything, and your wonder. Sometimes school or other influences may try to soften the edges of your tenacity, but as much as it causes me many grey hairs, it is actually one of your greatest powers. I know that you and I are going to continue to grow together, and then we will grow apart at times too as you venture out into the world. My heart hurts with the most unimaginable grief at this thought, although it also lights up with the joy of watching you become yourself.
Thank you for being my light, and for being my reason.
Love always, mamma xx