This post is dedicated to Nonna and Nina and all of the wise women who have gracefully helped guide those of us just starting out in this amazing journey of motherhood.
My mentor in motherhood is my own mom, who is now my little guy’s Nonna. She is an amazing woman. Smart, kind, and compassionate, fair and thoughtful- she is a true role model. The kind of mom that one hopes to become. And, she has been there since day one. She listened to all of my fears and questions and shared the excitement of pregnancy. She was there for our son’s birth and supported us through his first weeks of life in innumerable ways.
It was my mom who had the magic solutions to colic in those early months. She is who I called when my son took his first steps and when he said his first words. Nonna and the little guy have bonded over songs, books, and walks together. He tells her stories. She covers him in hugs and kisses and unconditional love. And, I know, she will always be there for us, whether near or far. Sadly, it is currently far. Despite treasured visits, and many phone calls and skype chats, she can’t be here with us every day. And so, I needed a comadre. I didn’t know I needed one, but I did.
The word comadre does not really exist in English. It would literally mean “co-mother”, and refers to the relationship between parents and the godmother (madrina, or nina in Spanish) of their child. A comadre can sometimes mean a dear friend and confidant. To me, it has come to mean all of these things and more.
We met my comadre, my son’s Nina, by chance. My husband and I were looking for a babysitter. She came via a recommendation from a colleague, a stroke of luck for which I’ll always be grateful. Our little guy was two months old and it was almost time for me to return to work. We were still on the wait list for the daycare centers to which we’d applied. At the time it was a frustration, and now I know it was meant to be.
We met at our home, for that first interview. Both nervous, I think. Me, with my list of questions a mile long. The pediatrician/first time mom who could not yet imagine leaving our young son with anyone except his dad or grandparents. She sat quietly, with a kind smile, hands folded. She had a lot of experience, glowing recommendations. There were a few good candidates, but she stuck in our minds. We followed our gut. Little did I know then that she would become my comadre.
We became comadres as, with a gentle spirit, she helped us teach the little guy to fall asleep on his own, something I had thought might never happen. As, with sure hands, she prepared his first home-made vegie purees and soups. As, with boundless energy, she took him to all of the local story times and parks she could find. As we gradually fell into a lovely and comfortable routine. As she treated our son like she would her own child. As she loved him.
There is more than a little bit of guilt for a mom that works as much as I now do. I love my work and am dedicated to it, but I love my child with a depth that cannot be described in words. This is just how things are for now. Will he understand? Will he forget me? And yes, there is a certain pang when he asks, “Is Nina coming? Is Nina coming?” But, there is also immense joy in knowing that we helped bring this woman into his life. A woman who is showering him with so much love and care that he has cause to miss her. And, she reminds me, he misses his mommy too. “Mami es mami”, she says, with profound grace.
We are a good team. When the little guy doesn’t follow the textbook regarding this issue or that, she says to my husband and I “su niño es único” (your son is unique). As all children are. We find the solution that makes most sense for him. In this way, she has made me a better, more empathetic pediatrician. And, she has brought along with her a kind husband who has become a true friend and an eight-year-old daughter who is like a big sister to our son.
Then, the coolest thing happened. Nina and Nonna became friends. They share anecdotes about the little guy. They plant flowers in our patio together. They send each other little gifts. They laugh. They bring joy to our lives.
My wish for all moms this Mother’s Day is that you find women like these. She might be a grandmother, a tia, or wise friend. Or perhaps a sister, a school teacher, or nanny. I hope that there is someone out there who empowers you as a parent. Someone who’s been there before. Someone to whom you can tell your fears and share your successes. Someone who helps you to worry less. Someone who loves your child almost as much as you do. Because being a mother is no easy task, and all of us could use a Nonna or Nina now and then.