Or the one piece of advice I wish my mother had given me.

Dear Ivy*,

I’m sure I love you unconditionally. I’m sure I would drop everything for you in a heartbeat, even though right now I can’t imagine anything more terrifying than your existence.

I’m sure I’m no longer selfish. I’m sure I haven’t even noticed that I’m no longer the star of my own life. I’m sure I’ve accepted that I’m only happy when you’re happy, sad when you’re sad, angry when you’re hurt, and scared pretty much all of the time.

But I want you to know that mothers are people too, with thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams all of our own. And what better way to show you the person behind your mother by writing to you when you’re only a concept in a very distant future. I’ve always wanted you, but right now I’m fearful of actually having you.

My boyfriend and I have talked about you, but we were both filled with such an overwhelming panic that the conversation ended with a noncommittal “maybe one day.” I’m hoping if I do end up having you, it’s with him. By birth or by adoption doesn’t really matter; my love for you will still be the same. In any case, it’s a decision that seems a lifetime away still. I’m not ready to stop being selfish, to stop spending my money on me, to put another person’s needs entirely before my own. I’m not ready to stop being the main character.

When I worked out that my own mother — your grandmother — was a person with flaws, it was a difficult realisation that left me with a lot of conflicting emotions. When I discovered that she never reached the same revelation about her own mother, I couldn’t believe how blind she was to the truth, which only opened my eyes even more.

We’re not perfect. We make mistakes. Sure, we’re trying our best. But sometimes our best is not enough. And you shouldn’t have to accept poor parenting simply because it’s all we have to offer.

“She’s my mother, Cassidy,” I’d always hear from your grandmother, as though this immediately forgave all of her cruelty, and the inadequacies she made my mother feel.

Know the following: Your happiness comes first.

I will always endeavour to remember that. I will never try to guilt-trip you. I will never treat you like my counsellor. I will never ask for more of you than I should.

I want you to trust me, and feel comfortable enough to talk to me about anything, but I won’t need you to. I will always be your confidant, but I won’t ever burden you with my own insecurities.

This piece of advice isn’t just about my future relationship with you, though. It’s the best piece of life advice I could ever imagine to give.

You come first. Don’t give more of yourself to others than you want to give. Don’t feel guilty for wanting to be selfish. Don’t hide or belittle your accomplishments. You will never please everyone — don’t put their well-being before your own.

Don’t put mine before your own.

I hope by the time you’re a reality I’ve taken my own advice.

Our happiness comes first — not your mother, but the girl writing this in bed on her laptop, and you — a future idea I’m terrified of disappointing.

With love and apologies,

Cass.

*I’ve always thought I would name my first daughter Ivy, ironically after a long lineage of guilt-tripping mothers (it was my great-grandmother’s name). So maybe I won’t do that, in retrospect.

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