Finding Strength in Story
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified of becoming a mom. With our due date only weeks away, it’s prime time for me to start seconding guessing my capability as a mother. Will I make the right choices? How do I even know what the ‘right’ choices are? You feel me.
But the truth is. No one knows what they’re doing. And yes. I’m speaking for every mother out there, without their permission. Keeping a tiny human alive while maintaining your own identity, sanity and marriage sounds like a fools errand. But aren’t women freaking powerful? They do it. Then they do it again the next day. And the next day. All without expectation for reward or recognition, but simply because they have to.
When I started diving into my family history in anticipation of creating and launching F&L I came across so many stories of resilient, hard-working moms that make a 40-hour work week sound like a mini-vacation.
First the stories of strength.
Like the story my dad would tell of my great-grandma Erna, the inspiration for “Erna’s Sugar Cookies” in our Farmers Wife collection. She gave birth to one of my great-aunts unassisted on the kitchen table. THE KITCHEN TABLE.
Or the story of my husband’s great-grandma Veronica – the inspiration for “Veronica’s Rhubarb” in our Farmers Wife collection. She was a practicing midwife and gave birth to all of her babies at home in the same rocking chair. She’d have the baby’s bath water drawn before they were even born and after she’d get herself and her baby all cleaned up, she’d go out and finish chores on their dairy farm. FINISH CHORES?!
Then came the stories of resilience.
There’s the gut-wrenching story of my great-great-great grandmother Bertha (full name Bertha Hannah Karoline Charlotte – one of the most beautiful names I’ve heard). She had nine children and only one of them lived past 4yrs and 6mos old – my great-great grandpa Friedrich. He was born 8th out of the 9 children and by the time he was born, all 7 of his siblings before him had died. I can’t even begin to formulate the slightest idea of how strong and heavy the grief was that she carried with her.
Or the resilience of my grandma Myrtle Louise and her mother, Merle. My grandma was 11 months old when she contracted Polio and a kidney ailment soon after. My great-grandma (her mother) Merle took numerous bus trips back and forth to Calgary, seeking out the best medical care she could find for my grandma, most often over 100 miles away. My grandma quoted in her autobiography the gratitude she felt for her mom on the day she graduated from nursing school: “It was finally a dream come true. I had my heart set on the goal ever since I was a small child. The sad part was that my mother had not lived to see me attain that goal. I think she was the only one other than myself that had faith that I could do it. Everyone said my health would not stand up to it, especially with a slightly crippled leg. I’m she sure knew though, that we had won.”
I could go on and on with stories about the brave mothers that came before me – but I’ll save those for another post.
The best part about all of these stories is not only the life lessons and strength that they’ve given me as I approach earning the title of ‘mom’ but the mere fact that they EXIST. Throughout the entire journey of creating my candles based on stories from my history – I’m always reminded of just that. “Based on.” Meaning I’m creating another version of something – of something that already exists.
A lot of the women that are cheering me on as a new mom aren’t physically here with me. But their stories are, which makes me feel like they are. That’s the beauty of story. It speaks people, places, things and experiences into existence – almost as if they’ve never left to begin with. But I wouldn’t have these stories giving me strength if it weren’t for my ancestors who took the time to write down their stories, their heartaches and their struggles.
I know I say it all the time, but start writing your own autobiography. It can be unorganized, and out of order and messy. Whether you’re writing typing, recording or collecting your life’s story through some other type of medium, the information we freeze in time will mean the world to generations that will follow you. I know (and hope) that recording my story of becoming a first-time mom under quarantine will give hope to my great-granddaughter someday as she prepares to become a new mom. But that story doesn’t exist if I don’t write it down.
Stories are the foundation that makes up Frances and Louise Candle Co. It literally wouldn’t exist without them and I’ll preach until I’m blue in the face that writing down our own life story and experiences is the greatest gift we can not only give ourselves, but our own families and generations to come.
Stories of the fearless, powerful and relentless women who preceded me have already given me so much strength and reassurance as an expectant mother.
No story lives unless someone wants to listen.
So what are YOU waiting for?