This essay started getting written two weeks ago after grabbing some really good dim sum with my cousin, Erika. She’s pregnant with her second child—a daughter!—and is expected to give birth sometime in June.
Er and I spent the entirety of our childhood and teenage years together. We lived next door to one another for half our lives. As a consequence, I grew up under the misguided notion that all cousins were genetically destined to be close. It’s only now, upon thorough exposure to a wider variety of families, that I realize that what we have is quite uncommon. We have seen each other through everything: boys, family drama, quarter-life crises, the difficult death of our grandmother, her wedding, my first book, her first child – it is, without a doubt, one of the richest friendships I have in this life.
The first time Er told me she was pregnant, she was about a month into her marriage with Martin. It was a strange thing to watch my childhood playmate morph into a mother. This was a scenario we had once only imagined for ourselves while sipping lemon tea in our grandmother’s kitchen. Yet now, like miracle upon miracles, she was living it. We were both 28-years-old when Calix, my godson, came into the world.
And motherhood changed Er. She had been nurturing before but raising a son suddenly opened her up and made her even more tender. She has gained a lightness, a larger appreciation for life, and this special sort of wisdom that I am secretly envious of. She is my cousin, the one I had grown up with, but she is also now a beautiful goddess of a woman traversing down a path in life that I simply am not privy to.
As Er and I consumed multiple plates of Chinese goodness, I realized that I absolutely love talking to mothers.
One part is the mystery – I love discovering more about a life I do not have. But the other part is my fascination with love. The way a woman makes physical and emotional space for a child to exist in the world really just blows my mind. You don’t think you can love any deeper but then you hold this tiny creature in your arms and your heart stretches a billion times beyond what you even thought was possible.
Mothers are just the most fantastic of women. My mother gave birth to me without anesthesia, which, 29 years ago, was prohibited in in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where I was born. She’s been teaching me ever since that to be truly powerful is to be brave in love – even if it costs you pain. It has been the best education yet.
I learn so much from the stories that mothers tell. In their company are recipes and antidotes, the sweet stirrings of affection, and a willingness to rise up to moments of valor.
I remember being 16 and dreaming of motherhood. My mom had done it so well that it felt like such a beautiful path to follow. I fell in love with that dream, believing it was inevitable. But then I got diagnosed with PCOS and had to come to terms with the very real possibility of letting that dream go for good. I realize now that whether I have biological kids or not is irrelevant. What is meant to be is meant to be and destiny seems to be saying that I am going to be a mom one way or another. By virtue of being a teacher, I have walked into motherhood or, at the very least, something close to it.
When I first started teaching I was 24 and quite close in age to my students. By now the gap has widened significantly and most of them are more than a decade behind me. Of course, the generational differences are becoming more obvious, from language to clothing to pop culture. I often joke about my slow evolution into tita-hood but every year I find that it’s becoming more and more true. I haven’t accepted the facts just yet. But sometimes I sit with a student and hear about their lives and tell them the same stuff I had been taught before: to be brave in love. And somewhere along the way they slip up and end up calling me ‘mom’.
We’ll laugh it off. Despite what that might subtly be saying about my age-slash-body type (holla to my child rearing hips), I think of the company of women who hold that title with incredible joy and doubt I’ll ever feel anything less than honored.
Featured image by Madel Crudo
When she isn’t writing, Isa Garcia is a teacher in a private college in BGC. She is also the author of Found: Letters on Love, Life, & God, published by OMF Literature. You can read more of Isa’s thoughts and her writing at her blog, Isa Writes.