This guest post is part of our Month of Mothering. We’re featuring the words of women (and a few men!) from a variety of walks of life. In recognition that all mothers want what’s best for their baby, and knowing we all have different ways of achieving that, we welcome commentaries and experiences from mothers of all different philosophies and practices. Please note that the opinions expressed and baby care techniques used are reflective of the individual posters only, and do not imply endorsement or recommendation of the Other Baby Book.
by Jessica Lang Kosa, IBCLC
I vaguely remember a Mothers’ Day when I was small, spent in Florida with my mother, and her mother, and her mother. Four generations. I remember someone toasting “To all the mothers present. To the mothers absent. To the mothers no longer with us. To the future mothers.” That last part being me, circa age 5.
In 1912, my great-grandmother, then age 17, left home and sailed alone for New York. She brought with her a letter from her parish priest in Clara, Ireland, which described her as “good and trustworthy,” and recommended her for household employment. She must have saved the letter, and passed it down to her daughter, since my mother found it with her mother’s belongings.
I knew my great-grandmother only as a little old lady – to imagine her as a teenager with the nerve to make a life for herself in a new country is mind-bending. But also, I imagine her mother. Standing at an Irish port, watching a ship launch, carrying her only daughter to a huge city in a foreign country. Not knowing when she might hear from her. If all went well, she might get a letter in a few months or a year. Not knowing if she would return.
My mom and I think of that day in 1912 and laugh, remembering that when I was that age, it was a big deal for her to leave me at a college campus only two hours’ drive from home, knowing I would call within days to complain about the food, and be home for October break. Boring by comparison, but still a big deal.
My oldest will start middle school next fall. Before that, he’ll go backpacking with his dad in the wilderness of a country I’ve never been to. I puzzle over whether he’s ready for each new step towards independence – sleep-away camp, biking alone to school, getting a Facebook account. (Seriously. I made him friend me.) So far, I get to decide. Not much longer.
Thankfully, we get these little moments as practice for the big deal later.
Once at a women’s Passover seder we were asked to introduce ourselves by our matrilineage. I am Jessica, daughter of Jane, daughter of Theresa, daughter of Lucy (who sailed for New York), daughter of Jane (who watched her go). Each generation launching the next. Some more dramatic, some more ordinary, all with some mix of excitement and worry.
Again, I’d like to raise a glass to all the mothers – past, present and future.
Jessica Lang Kosa is a board-certified lactation consultant in private practice in the Boston area. You can visit her site at Motherfeeding.com, find her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter @motherfeeding.