Tag Archives: motherhood

How do You Define Yourself?

How do You Define Yourself? - Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, defines herself as a bereaved mother, forever.A Bereaved Mother. Is that how you’re going to define yourself forever? A friend asked me this. And for a long while the question bothered me. Mostly because it seemed to suggest I’d lost my self as well as my daughter. But A Bereaved Mother is not all of who I am. When my daughter died I lost my old life, and in many ways I changed. Yet I am still me. And if you ask me who or what that is, you will get only an abbreviated account of where I stand at that one moment in time.

And yes, being a mother is forever. I am a proud mother of an amazing live grown son and of a beloved daughter who died. This will always be towards the beginning of the complex outline of how I define myself.

The Life Changing Event of my Son’s Birth

Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, restores an old photograph of herself showing her young son an ocean, in Photoshop.The person who changed my life, as much as and maybe more than my daughter who died, is my son. My first-born. On the day my son was born, my most life-altering event (next to my own birth) happened: I became a mother.

That I became a mother at all is a wonder. Motherhood was not on my to-do list until it was almost too late for it to happen. I was too busy trying new things, trying to find myself, be an artist, become a teacher…. I wanted to travel the world. But when I birthed my son, my world was immediately and utterly funneled into his eyes and the sweet space directly around him.

He doesn’t like when I write about him. So, mostly, I don’t. But I think I can tell you about how terrified I was, at the beginning, to bathe him or cut his nails. I still remember how scary it felt the first time I strapped my son into his car seat and drove to the supermarket. How I wrapped wool blankets around him as he slept, until the hair on his head matted down in sweat. How I kept checking to make sure he was still breathing.

My beautiful amazing boy grew to be bold and strong. Fearless. A completely different creature from his mother. When he finally left home, I stayed up late nights waiting for the familiar chirping sounds of him communicating on Instant Messenger. From faraway deserts riddled with improvised explosive devices, I messaged him back, “Watch out for the giant spiders out there” and “Eat lots of protein.”
“You’re a wimp,” he always says, eyeing the dog squirming in my arms. And I’m sure he’s really saying that to me, I’m a wimp. Yet I know being a mother is the bravest thing I’ve ever done.

It’s his birthday today. And it’s the anniversary of the day I came to know what it means to love someone more than myself.

Early on I showed my son a beach and he led me to the ocean. Ever since, he’s been traveling the world, trying new things, phoning home from distant shores and making me speechless in awe. Making me proud.


Who changed your life? What was your most life-altering event?

In Another World

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, Photoshops her daughter who died, Marika Warden, with a tessellation of puppies in the background.Right away, the old mother was drawn to the girl at the end of the table who sat clutching a stuffed animal, her mascaraed eyes staring straight ahead.

How could the mother not be reminded of her own beautiful daughter? From the million images tessellating in her head, one arose of her daughter sitting up in a hospital bed, clinging to her stuffed puppy as doctors announced, “You’re eighteen. So you’re the adult in charge.” And now, here was this unknown almost-adult girl seated across the table, hugging her stuffed animal and looking dazed. Why was this girl here?

“ …When my mom died,” the girl said, shortly after. Then something inside the mother burst. “My mom won’t be here for my graduation, or when I get married, or when I have kids,” the girl continued, and the old mother remembered for the billionth time that her own daughter would never get to graduate college, get married or have kids.

She had watched her daughter suffer and wondered why she herself hadn’t been the one to get cancer. Maybe in a different dimension of existence, in an alternate reality or some parallel universe, things were different. In another world her daughter might still be alive. But here, in this world, at the other end of the table was a daughter who lost her mother.

Suddenly the girl sat down next to the mother. The girl’s eyes were even more radiant up close, with a familiar hint of opalescent eye shadow and perfectly painted waterproof mascara. There was much the old woman would have liked to say to the girl but she couldn’t find her words, couldn’t begin, and now the girl was so close, smiling and crying at the same time. Tears ran down both their faces.

“I’m gonna get a tattoo with my mom’s name,” the girl said.
“I have a tattoo,” the mother said, peeling off her sweater to show the girl her shoulder tattooed with her daughter’s name. “Can you read it?” the mother asked. “Yes. That’s right. It’s Marika.” The girl beamed.

“And who’s this?” the mother asked, already knowing, pointing to the stuffed animal the girl clung to, thinking of the stuffed puppy she’d given her own daughter at birth and now kept on the mantle in the middle of her house (and kissed goodnight most nights). The girl held out her fuzzy stuffed dog.
“My mother gave it to me,” she said, turning it over to show the stitched-on tag that spelled LOVE ME.


Wishing Away Time

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops her young children growing like weeds.Decades ago every event or holiday was an opportunity to dress my young children in colorful costumes. Our calendar was always full. Parties and picnics. School celebrations. Parades. Pleased with their new outfits, and anticipating the festivities, my kids posed, sometimes smiling, for the camera.

“I can’t wait for them to start school,” I often said back then. “It will be so good when this day is over.” Motherhood was exhilarating but exhausting. I was always wishing time away.

Yesterday a friend dragged me out to a park to see the fireworks. I couldn’t remember when I’d last walked in the park, and was amazed at the hundreds of young families in small clusters in every direction. We sat on the base of a lamppost by a family camped out on a blanket. The little girls swatted each other and blew bubbles. Giggling, in polka dot dresses, they swirled around with glow sticks. I watched them as much as I watched the show in the sky.

“Growing like weeds,” people say about children. Yes, they grow up and away. Too quickly, it seems, looking back. And suddenly you find yourself mesmerized by the sight of other people’s laughing children, like they’re rare creatures from an old dream.


What moment in time slipped away too quickly for you? If you could spend an evening back in your past, what and where would it be?