Yesterday was Mother's Day. It was my first Mother's Day, so it was kind of a big deal. When I was little, I would go to the Mother's Day stall held in the multipurpose hall at my primary school and get mum a flowery mug stuffed with cheap lollies, or some stinky soap in the shape of tiny blue shells, wrapped in an embroidered hanky. I'm pretty sure I never gave much thought to the meaning behind it. All it meant was that mum got breakfast in bed and a present, then she fed us and cleaned up and loved us just like any other day.
And yesterday? It was kind of the same. Lee made bacon and caramelised walnut pancakes, and I got a card from Archie. It was a lovely morning. Then came the flurry of snot and tears and nappies and blocks and tiny spoons and socks like every other day. And I realised that this minutiae is the real mothering stuff. Syringing baby Panadol into a sobbing mouth at 3am with one hand. Huge snotty smiles. Staying close to me in a crowd. Finding six plastic spoons and a wooden cow in my handbag. Googling 'baby stomach rash' during lunch.
I read somewhere that the original meaning of Mother's Day came about when an American suffragette founded a special day for mothers to oppose war. That woman, Anna Jarvis, gave birth to eleven children, but seven died in childhood. Imagine. How could you not be a heap on the floor, broken into a million billion pieces forever. It kills me that there are mothers walking around everyday who are grieving babies who didn't make it, mothers with chronically ill babies in the NICU, mothers who have had nine miscarriages, mothers whose bodies can't bear children, mothers who desperately want a baby but haven't met the right person. This whole womanhood gig is filled with heartache and pain and love. The collective love and pain and anxiety of every other mother who has had a human being pulled or pushed from her body. Breathed in the scent of her baby. Grieved for a baby. Soothed a sobbing child in the middle of the night.
I missed my mum yesterday. She is only in Singapore, and gets back on Wednesday, but I still missed her. And I thought of all the mums who are missing their own mothers on mother's day. Even though my mum was only a phone call away, I felt untethered and frantic and uncomfortable. I hope that Archer can always find my legs in a room to bury his face in, will call me with happy or sad or no news, will feel the sheer brute strength of my love and the collective love of all the mothers in the world. I hope that he can tether himself to me and know that he will always be able to find his way home.
Photos by The Itchy Eyes