When I was 6, I told my parents I wanted to have 6 children and live on a farm. I loved my dolls; dressing them, pushing them in carts and cuddling them to sleep. I was made for motherhood, I absolutely knew it. Somewhere in my raucaus 20s I joined a circus, where I met my true love. After gallavanting together for a few years, we stopped-not-trying for a baby. The pale blue line showed up on my return home from a theatre project, and I lay on the bed as the sunset poured over me like amber cider. I felt intensely grateful for the little flame flickering inside. My journey into motherhood was shocking. I was mistreated and unheard. My pregnancy was complicated and I was co-erced and persuaded by maternity staff onto a path that was out of my control and without my express consent. My daughter was unwell and we were separated days after birth. She recovered, but I was left unsupported. Much later I was diagnosed with PTSD.

I scrabbled through, while my partner worked away, and I felt lonelier than I had ever done before. Believing I was depressed, I turned to a charity for help. My confidence had been knocked and I questioned everything. Maybe the farmhouse with 6 kids wasn’t for me. Maybe I shouldn’t be cuddling her to sleep? Maybe I wasn’t made for motherhood after all…

It was 4 years before I felt ready to try for another baby.

Your Mother

My Mum moved to the UK from Germany aged 17. Although the War had ended 3 decades earlier, she was subject to xenophobic prejudice. She worked hard to mute her accent, and spoke only English to us growing up. Her use of the English language was original and beautiful. Like a magpie amongst a glut of gems, she chose her words with verve and vigour. In fact, she chose to live her life that way. She was intensely present. She was a tiger mother. I always felt her on my side. She sang all the time – trumpeting and warbling around the house. She worked tirelessly at a school that she cared about deeply. She performed and ran community choirs and as the years turned, so did her voice and she embraced her earthy baritone. She was unapologetically herself. She was quick to anger and quick to laugh. The lion’s share of tears I saw stream down her face were those of wheezing hilarity. She was witty and sardonic and dry, and loved wordplay and scrabble and spoonerisms. She was flesh and form and fire and light.

I was 28 when she died.

Her cancer was cruel and too rapid to catch. She knew this so clearly. She made strong, informed choices. She declined chemotherapy. She died at home with only close family around her. She chose how she died and she did it with the same intense presence with which she lived.

Your Mother, You, Your Children

When my mother died I lit a candle ; bright, steady, a solace. When my daughter was born I burst into flames. A gaping chasm where my Mum had been felt impossible to overcome, and as weeks turned to months, it grew wider and wider. I felt jealous that other people still had their mothers to push the pram or carry the scooter or comfort the baby. I was enraged by the unfairness of it. But as time pulls me further and further away from Mum’s death, motherhood is no longer perpetually cloaked in sadness and anger. Sometimes I find comfort in memories of Mum, of walking beside her in dappled German forests, stopping at a Gasthaus for Spezle and cola, or the sound of her laughter – that hearty chuckle I have adopted of late. I remember her regaling me with tales of her life before me (a concept which mystified me, until I became a mother myself!)

My second daughter’s birth brought rivers of healing and peace. Now I feel joy in my role as protector, and the responsibility, though heavy, holds a new feeling of privilege. I am honoured to be these girl’s mother.

I am sometimes bowled over by the impossible fact – she is dead. My Mum is dead.

Then I look at my kids, I see them skip, and smell their hair, and hear them sing her songs, and I know she is here with us.

Her love lives on in us.