Dear Tasneem,

I never thought very long about my mother’s life before I was born. She had a whole set of hobbies, friends, and experiences that didn’t involve being a mom. Just before we entered the picture, I imagine she was a funny, adventurous, twenty-something Syrian newlywed starting out in America. I wonder how much of her was lost in translation at first, and then how much more when Maiada became “mama”.

I’ve gathered bits and pieces from what she’s told me. Oh, the way small anecdotes from her life snuck their way into our conversations like a draft of cool air through a crack. I yearned for more still, interrogating those that grew up with her to piece together what I thought I missed out on. Here’s what I learned: She was a voracious reader (like me!), a silly sister (the antics she pulled on her siblings…), the responsible one (okay, I saw this firsthand). Not the fairest in her family (I’d beg to differ—), but definitely the wittiest. Still, I only know a fraction of who she was and how her childhood friends, siblings, aunts, and cousins know her to be. It’s not enough to know. It’s something to experience, and I wonder as I watch you now—at 8 months old—playing with your rattles and blocks: will you know the me before you?

Losing who you are to motherhood is probably a common fear in having children. Getting caught up in schedules, diaper changes, mealtimes, bedtimes, and juggling all the little details involved in raising a healthy, stable, safe, loved human is enough to put any job, hobby, or person on pause.

Tasneem, I want you to not just know me, but to experience the me before you. I don’t want to lose her before you could meet her. Is that even possible? How many women were successful in holding on to the person they were? You’re starting to fuss even as I’m composing this. It’s pulling my focus…but that’s going to be the new normal, isn’t it? A tug-of-war between my two passions, my passion for writing and my passion for you, my whole world. How much of who I am/was is already sealing itself behind a door?

In the same breath, my heart trills at the thought of experiencing this beautiful world with you. Whatever the road ahead holds, whatever is left behind, it will be worth it.

In case you don’t get to meet that person I still search for in the mirror, I hope we sit around one day and recount some stories from the time before you, and I’ll get to watch you piece me back together.