Rebecca Van de Wiele - Full-time mother of 2 monsters, 200% motivated, gasping for a cloud of air
When did you become a mother and how many children do you have?
In 2011, I became mum to Egon. I became a mum thanks to an anonymous donor and a fertility process at UZ Ghent. In 2018, I became mum to Edith, thanks to the same donor, and a process at UZ. I knew when the eldest was born that my family was not ‘complete’, but I kept it to myself to some extent because that was a really big wish, being allowed to have two children on my own.
What do you find the biggest challenge in being a mother? And how do you deal with that? What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
Single parenthood: the struggle is real, and so it took me a few years to work up the courage for a second fertility process and a second child. I knew it would not be easy with two children, that there would be difficult periods interspersed with sunnier weather. That’s how it is. But I am also incredibly glad I followed my gut feeling, otherwise I would have had enormous regret about this later.
They are two little treasures. I thought it was important for them to have the same genetic background, for them to be from the same donor ... That same door was and remains closed to brother and sister, we take a very no-nonsense approach to that. I ended up having two very different children: my son is decidedly introverted with dark curly hair, my daughter an open book with blonde hair and blue eyes.
The biggest challenge in my motherhood: keeping a thousand balls in the air at once, with two hands, and not losing myself in the meantime, which is very difficult. I am no Super Mum.
What advice would you give to other mothers?
Sometimes I feel embarrassed about how open I am about my emotional vulnerability. Then, after an honest outburst among family, friends or colleagues, I think “Shiiiit, Becca, what have you gone and said now?” But we’re all in this together. That swaying little boat called Motherhood: your family structure makes little difference, in this harsh society it’s not easy to stay above water. They say that sometimes, don’t they: mums are expected to work as if they don’t have children and mother as if they don’t have a job. That is so wrong in our world, and it’s only by being honest, sharing experiences and occasionally lending one another a hand that you can keep your own little dingy afloat.
We are not having an easy time of it at the moment:
In September 2022, we received a registered letter from our previous landlord: we had to leave the property in the next three months. That was a bombshell!
Together, with stubborn and courageous perseverance, we solved it. In three months we moved, changed schools, and openly shared and processed all the emotions that come with it ... We are pretty exhausted now, licking our wounds, but I AM SO PROUD OF MY CREW! Switching schools right in the middle of the school year and in sixth grade: with a brave look in his eyes, my son did just that. And it’s working out because he was able to be honest at home about his feelings of uncertainty. So perhaps being honest about emotional vulnerability is not so bad after all ;)
This Odyssey is also relative, I often tell myself. Our move has taken quite a toll on many areas but I have work that makes it possible to recover financially, and friends and family who restore my spirit now and then. We’ll process this, just give us some time (and rest).
Who do you look up to and why?
My great-grandmother Emma lived through much harder times 100 years ago. My great-grandparents lived in the Dutch East Indies, in Java: that was the home port of my great-grandfather who was a merchant officer on a ship of the Dutch shipping company KPM. Gerrit van der Wiele senior fell seriously ill in 1918, during one of his long circumnavigations, and he died after an operation in miserable conditions at sea. His ship returned to its home port with the flag at half mast after that sea voyage... My great-grandmother was pregnant with a second child, a son Gerrit junior, born in Java in October 2018. Immediately after World War I, Mrs van der Wiele travelled back to the Netherlands by sea with her two toddlers: a perilous adventure as seas and oceans were still full of mines and other explosive hazards. They arrived in the Netherlands and a little later built a new life in Leuven. She had to say goodbye to the grave of Gerrit van der Wiele forever.
I am a frequent reader and I would like to be able to write a book about this story, of which I know far too few details.
I hope to take my two children on a trip to Indonesia one day. That would be nice. My great-grandfather’s grave was destroyed during Japanese bombing raids on Indonesia during WWII. There’s not much for us to find. But my son’s full name is Egon Gerrit van der Wiele, and he is a boatman: he rows.
The story about the little boat, called My Motherhood, bobbing over unpredictable seas is quite compelling now that I reread it.