Stumbling Into Womanhood

Written by on May 8, 2016

Mother’s Day can be tricky, if you are a child whose mother passed away early in life. The sorrow over the loss is real and consistent, and you learn to manage the sting of not having her around for holidays and milestones the best way you know how. The older you get, the weirder it is to define the emotions, because eventually you come to the point where the years you’ve lived without her far eclipse the time you spent with her. You begin to distrust your memories, as the details get fuzzier and more distant. Little things, like a particular smell or very specific remembrance, are what you latch onto, while the larger picture fades further into history. It is inevitable. It is reality. And your reactions can run the gamut as you accept that this is how it will be, with every passing year.

2016 has given me a whole new set of emotional variables to navigate. Though I have been piecing together my genealogical information for years now, it has always been under the assumption that the big surprises would come from my paternal line and my maternal lineage was more of a given. That all changed about six months ago, when I was unable to find certified copies of birth certificates for either my mother or my maternal grandmother. This, coupled with several unexplained DNA connections discovered through testing with Ancestry.com, has led me to the high possibility that my mother was adopted at birth. The facts and circumstances around this are yet to be uncovered and verified, but it definitely puts a whole new spin on the emotional swirl of Mother’s Day.

When I look back over my life, there are plenty of examples of the difficulties that come from not having your mother at your side to provide guidance and direction. My adolescence may not have been pretty, but it was efficient. I adapted. I became self-sufficient. I learned how to extend my concept of family to include the love of close friends and well-meaning romantic partners. And I have been mothered by several amazing women with whom I share no DNA. So, to now find out that the village that raised me may not have been connected to me by blood is perhaps less devastating than it might have been if my mother and I learned about her lineage together. Now, I can ask my questions without fear of hurting her or other elders. Now, I can add facts to my family tree that are unencumbered by embarrassing details or difficult realities that some may feel are better left unsaid. Now, I get to verify my truth, and not worry about my mother or anyone else feeling displaced by my inquiries. This is a selfish quest, muddled by time, but unassailable because genes aren’t capable of hiding their honesty.

Mother’s Day stirs up mixed emotions, but by this time next year, I plan to be able to honor many more of the mothers whose wombs brought about my existence. To match these dates, locations and scientific terms with real flesh-and-blood women who connect me to all of creation. I may have stumbled into womanhood, but I plan to approach the coming year with a far more sturdy and sure gait. Firmly planted on the shoulders of those responsible for my being.


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