The Motherhood Letters #7: Dear Nina

This is #7 in The Motherhood Letters, a new monthly feature by author Jessica Rios. Rooted in universal themes of motherhood, Jess shares the essence of her unique art of mothering through letter writing. You can learn more about Jess and her work in the author box below.

Dear Nina,


It’s only been two days since we said goodbye. Our little family of three is jet lagged as expected. Sweden to San Francisco, for us, meant a 26 hour trip. And after every plane I’m in that lands, my heart is wide open. I know I could have died. Life is more lucid than it was the day before.

I’m writing to you because my heart is filled with a bewildered sort of thanks.


It's the kind of thanks that questions why we can’t all be as good at showing up for others, as you are. It is the kind of bewilderment that wonders how I got so blessed to live a life with people like you in it.


Moving to a different continent and culture 5,200 miles away from my California home took a lot of courage. Even though I knew it was the thing to do, the experience presented a lot of challenges. Multiple stretches way outside my comfort zone.



For our entire year there, you lived close by. So close that you saw my first bout with anxiety, when physical circumstances stood my hairs on end because I feared for my daughter Helena’s life. So close that, as her grandfather’s long time wife, you spoke up about it. You felt it, too. You voiced your Mama Bear concern, assuring me that I had a right to be scared. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that. You were that mama for me.

Through your empathy I stood stronger in my own mothering skin.


From the moment we landed, you were abundant in the attention you shared with me and Helena. You gave generously with your curious, attentive spirit, becoming her gardening partner and playful companion. I knew I could trust you to be honest with me, and that made me feel more at home even though I was so far from it.


When I accepted that I didn't feel a genuine desire to learn to speak Swedish while there, simply because my "plate" felt too full already as a mother and writer living abroad, you accepted me. I didn't feel judged by you.

That kind of love is really, really helpful to a mother of a young child, who is navigating life in a whole new land.


At dinnertime during one of my horrible multi-day migraines, you asked if I wanted the overhead lamp turned off. I could barely answer; I could barely think. You didn’t wait for me to reply. You stood up and turned the light off. And that wasn’t the first time you noticed something on my behalf, or Helena’s, and took action because…


Village. We had a village together for that one precious year.


In a world so far away from what I knew, your outrageously radiant smile shone through your eyes at me, reminding me that mamas always have each other’s backs.



And I also saw you honor your own limits. When you were tired, you told me you were tired and you told Helena, too. You didn’t force yourself to be something you were not. Through this you showed me and my daughter how women can take care of ourselves. It helped me to give myself full permission to be my true self, too. When I was grumpy about the long winter or my marriage, you were fine with me where I was. Not taking sides, not feeding my complaints, just letting me be me.


When I birthed this child and married her father I had no idea you were coming along with the deal. I had no idea I would gain in my life, a woman who I’d lean on intensively, and who would show up with a spirit of sheer generosity as I lived out one of my life’s greatest adventures.


Mamas need each other. Women need each other. Life depends on other life. You aren’t my mother, and you sure showed me and Helena love that felt as deep as a mother’s love, while we were there.

We miss you with every jet lagged, bewildered tear our eyes shed. OK, she’s not shedding tears. I am. I really love you.


Endlessly, endlessly, thanks.


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