The Circle of Life

If you’re reading this at work, be warned, it made me cry. The following is a simply beautiful story about all the stages of motherhood, contributed by Robyn O’Connell.


I looked down at your perfect face and the words of my mother went tumbling through my head. “You will never understand the breadth, depth or power of a mother’s love until you become one yourself.” A realisation came to me of how wise my mother was.

I looked at you again and fear enveloped me, you depended on me for your life, I had no idea how I could possibly raise you to be what I wanted you to be, the prime minister of Australia. They did not teach me those things at school. My only parenting skills, were those that I had witnessed from my parents, and while these were great, I couldn’t remember what my mother did with me at 2am in the morning when I would not stop screaming.

Then it came, that first smile, the first recognition from you that I was someone special. My heart wanted to burst the first time you said my name …  Mumumumum… so this was what motherhood was like.

I remember our first outing to a restaurant, I was so proud of you sitting there quietly while I read you the menu and asked what you would like to eat. And you sitting there at the age of three, pretending to be very grown up and it was great while it lasted, even though it only lasted five minutes before you wanted to be running around. I sat there and wondered, how many times would we sit and chat like this during our lives.

I seemed to blink and you were at kindergarten, ohhhh that Mother’s Day with a very ‘interesting’ gift that you had made and how I discreetly asked what you thought I should do with it and how you replied “ohhh Mummy, it’s to put all your diamonds in” It looked rather more to me like a milk carton with contact on it, but I smiled at you and said “of course, I just wanted you to tell me which diamonds to put in there”. Looking down at my ring knowing that was, and probably ever will be, the only diamond I would ever own!

We used to go shopping, and you were forever telling me your legs were tired, you wanted a drink or you needed to go to the toilet. I would curse because shopping would always take much longer than it should have, I tried to remind myself that I should enjoy it while I still had you home, but there always seemed so much that had to be done.

My heart broke when I had to leave you at school that first day, the house seemed so empty, but again I no sooner blinked than I was saying goodbye as you headed out the door to go to high school.

Then it happened, you fell in love, I think you thought that you were the first person in the world to experience love, I reminded you that l loved you and you laughed at me saying “yeah right Mum, get with the times, I mean ‘real’ love”. I smiled and thought, long may it last. But it didn’t and suddenly I found myself in a great deal of pain, you were hurting and there was nothing I could to soothe that hurt.

The only words that came to me were the ones my mother said that I swore I would never say, so I tried to comfort you the best I could while my own heart was breaking at your pain. But I really shouldn’t have worried, because the following week you were in love again, fortunately this time it was someone else.

Eventually you met the love of your life and I watched you, my beautiful daughter as you were dressing and when the veil was placed over your face, I felt tears of joy and pride overwhelm me.

Then the day came, I remember where we were, sitting in my favourite coffee shop having lunch. You told me you were going to be a mother and I wasn’t to tell anyone because it was only early and just in case! Not tell anyone? How could I not tell anyone when I wanted to put it on the front page of the newspaper? “Ok you said, you can tell Dad.” Bursting, I raced into the house…. “Guess what? We are going to grandparents ….” “Great”, he said – great? This was the best news I had ever received and he said “great?” Then I pulled out the little outfit I had stopped to buy on the way home from that shop where the woman did not realise at the time, that I would eventually be her best customer. He rolled his eyes and just said “here we go”.

I kept my word, well sort of, ok I only told about twenty of my closest friends and of course the woman in the baby shop! If I thought my pregnancy was interesting, I was fascinated by yours, but I found myself walking a fine line, wanting to tell you that eating healthy was essential but I guess if I hadn’t shown you that by now it was futile telling you at this point.

Then SHE arrived. Oh my goodness, such an experience I had never had. Trying hard not to take over, I remembered the grace my mother had to let me learn by my own mistakes and to be there to encourage and support. Boy that was hard!

If I thought hearing Mumumum was great it had nothing on hearing Nananan, how fantastic being a grandparent was. I remembered reading something that said, ‘if I had known grandchildren were so much fun I would have had them first’. Yep, that was me, you were now giving me the best years of my life and once again, I got to take HER shopping and I didn’t mind at all stopping to have a drink or rest her tired legs or go to the toilet, it gave me a chance to catch my breath!

I don’t know when it is when you realise you are old, maybe it’s when you look in the mirror and see grey where there was colour in your hair, or when you realise you need your glasses before you can read the big print on the Mother’s Day card to Gran. I think it’s when you see your grandchildren grow up so much faster than your own children seemed to. Suddenly I was at her graduation from primary school. They never had those in my day, but this is a new age, things are different now.

With a wry smile as we sat and ate lunch, I listened to you pour your heart out about how hard it is to be the mother of a teenager. How things were so much easier when you were young – ‘were they?’ I asked you. Love still came and went. And then those words I had waited so long to hear, “How did you do it Mum? How did you get us to be the people we are?” I smiled at her and touched her hand and said “just follow your heart and your instincts”.

Many years passed and suddenly your daughter was married and going to have HER child and I remember the excitement in your voice when you rang and said “Mum, let’s go out for lunch tomorrow.”

Knowing something was in the wind, I knew before we even left for the shopping centre. But I didn’t want to spoil your moment so I waited patiently until over lunch, after you had read me the menu and asked me what I wanted to eat, you said “Mum, I’m going to be a grandmother and I can’t wait and I found this wonderful baby shop!

I couldn’t help but think, as we walked around the centre later and I asked you to wait while I went to the toilet and then suggested perhaps we could have another coffee so I could rest my tired legs. I had come the full circle.

I watched with great pain as you watched me in my final moments of life, once again, wishing there was something I could do to make it better for you. To tell you that I was going to a better place, that I had no fear, and that eventually I would be sweet memories, but I couldn’t speak any more, but the love that came from my heart was unending.

I still watch you, you know, my spirit soars as I see you with your grandchild doing the things I remember doing with mine. So when you feel a hand on your shoulder and you turn and no one is there, it’s me giving you a hug and reminding you that I will never leave you, you are my child nothing can separate us. Not time, not distance…not even death!


Robyn O’Connell is a celebrant and writer who has performed many Mother’s Day Memorial Services. The above story about motherhood was published on her website and garnered many wonderful comments. I think you can see why!

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