Mourning what could be

My therapist and I were discussing my family situation, and I told her that pretty much no fail at every conversation that talked about the baby’s birth and coming home, everyone has asked about whether my mom will be there to help support us. And my general response is, no, I think that would cause more problems than it would actually help or comfort me. And while all of that is true, in an ideal world, my parents would be there to support me bringing new life into the world. My mom had the support of my grandma, her mother-in-law, when she brought Ed and me home from the hospital. Even though my grandma was a bit of a psycho witch to her in her initial years after coming from Vietnam, she did take care of my mom and us. She cooked my mom food and helped out with the baby as much as she could. In Chinese culture, as with many other non-Western cultures throughout the world, there’s this concept of postpartum confinement or nourishment, when after a woman gives birth, she is cared for and nurtured by her mother, aunts, sisters, other members of her family to recover as quickly as possible from child birth, which is very obviously physically and mentally taxing on the birthing person. In Chinese, it’s known as “zuo yuezi,” or “sitting the month” (after child birth). The birthing mother’s sole job for about 30-40 days postpartum is to a) recover, heal, and be replenished from childbirth through eating nourishing foods and resting, so no going outside and lying down / sitting as much as possible; and absolutely no housework, and b) breastfeeding her baby. All other tasks are for the baby’s father and the rest of the family to take care of. We have endless photos of my grandma holding and carrying us when we were babies, so we know for a fact she played an active role in our upbringing. My mom recounts often the times postpartum when my grandma fed her nourishing, delicious postpartum Chinese dishes and helped with diaper changes and baby needs, and to this day, she is grateful for her help and support (especially since my dad was pretty useless, but that’s another story for another day). My mom hasn’t offered to come to support us, and well, even if she did, I probably wouldn’t want her to come because I know she’d cause a lot more angst and stress than needed. That doesn’t even include the fact that she’s not really physically or mentally all there; she’s constantly unstable and cannot even hold a coffee mug, resulting in endless coffee stains all over the carpet at home. She causes more problems in her head than actually exist in real life with everyone, whether it’s my aunt or my cousins or who she claims to be her “best friend.” I need to deal with reality, not the reality that she has chosen to make up in her head and run with.

So my therapist suggested this to me: it’s okay to feel sad or frustrated that the experience you wanted isn’t going to happen. It’s okay to mourn what you wished could happen but cannot for the given circumstances. I’m not sure if I would call it “mourning,” or wistful thinking about what could have been. But I just know it won’t happen the way it would in an ideal world with the ideal family that I do not have.

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