When Motherhood Hurts

Luke 2:51: “And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.”

I didn’t expect motherhood to hurt so much. My children are now ages 15, 13, and 4. Tonight, I was putting my daughter to bed, watching the moonlight slowly wash over her body, and thinking about how blessed I am to be a mother. And yet, the memory of my own mother, bridging these bittersweet moments, made my heartache even deeper for the time we never had.

The last time I saw my mother was in mid-December of 2020. I had learned that my step-father had passed away the month before, and I received my first phone call from her in nearly 7 years. I can’t begin to describe in detail how our relationship came to be that way in this post, but it’s something I had to come to terms with all my life. She did things her way.

I thought it was hard to see my Dad on the streets, but meeting my mother for that first time, knowing that she had never met my daughter, her granddaughter, just broke me inside all over again. But that day we met wasn’t about me. It was about my role as a bridge to deliver my step-father’s ashes, her former husband and partner, back into her arms. I was afraid to do this alone.

My husband stayed back to watch our youngest, and I asked my oldest son if he would join me. He agreed. As we parked the car and walked over to Liliha Bakery, I felt unsure about bringing my son with me. What if this was to much for him? Maybe I should just have him wait at the car? As we approached the front entrance of the bakery, I told him it was alright if he wanted to stay further away.

No Mom, I want to stay with you,” he responded.

I noticed a woman sitting outside the front entrance, her back turned towards me, wearing a straw brimmed hat, short gray hair sprouting out from underneath. She looked so small.

I walked up to her, and softly called out, “Umma?”

She turned around, a mask covered her mouth and nose, and her body responded to my call. It was my Mom. She looked into my eyes and the familiarity of her face brought tears to my eyes. I fought them away, reminding myself that the reason for her call wasn’t because of me, it was because of my step-father.

I closed my heart.

“Mom, I have him here,” I said. I opened up my bag, gently pulled out my step-father’s ashes, and placed him in her hands. She pulled him into her chest, held him, and started to cry. I didn’t know what to do except say I’m sorry.

I looked down, avoiding her eyes, and quietly took in the moment by listening to her pain. I noticed my Mom’s feet. Her heels were dry, white, and cracked. Her toenails appeared to be yellowing, split, dark specks on her big toenail.

I felt my heart breaking again.

She had always been so careful with her feet. It reminded me of those days when I would sit with my Dad on the streets, noticing the pain he wore on his feet. I felt the pain for my Mom at that moment, wishing that our past and circumstances could have been different, as if I could have somehow prevented it.

I looked up and she was starting to calm down a little. She asked how my family was doing, and I looked over to our side, where my son was standing about 10 feet away. He must have known to give us space. My Mom asked who that was, and I responded, “That’s your grandson.”

I waved at him to walk over, nodded, letting him know that it was okay to come. We both watched him walk towards us, and my Mom couldn’t believe how tall he had gotten. He was a young man. The last time she saw him he was just 7 years-old. I could feel my heart pulling inside of me, seeing the two of them in the flesh at the same time.

She looked up at him. And then she looked over at me and asked, “Is it okay if I give him a hug?

I couldn’t hold back anymore. I cried out, “Yes, of course you can.”

She leaned in and wrapped her arms around him. I wished so badly that my Mom could have been more present in my life. I wished she could have been more stable, so she could experience the deep love, kindness, and nurturing devotion that comes from our family. I prayed to God for a family ever since I was a little girl, and it hurt so much that my own parents couldn’t be a part of it. It hurt that I had to leave a family, to be in a place where I could build my family.

Becoming a mother hurts. As we began to say our goodbyes, in those short minutes that we were together, I watched her as she walked away from me and my son. When I was little, I could never hang-up the phone on my mother. I always wanted more time, more love, more affection, more attention, more of her. I feel like I never got enough of her in my life.

The further she walked away from me, the more my heart began to rip open, and I felt all 35 years of my life as her daughter, come crashing down on me. She was leaving me again. I wanted to fall, but my son saw right through me. And he turned to me, caught my eyes, and held me in his arms. He said, “Mom, it’s going to be okay.”

As we stood there together, watching my Mom, his grandmother, crossing the street, she turned her head one last time and nodded. It felt like she was setting me free. I wasn’t just her daughter anymore, I was a mother of three. And that is who I am today. My greatest joy and blessing has been building a family with my husband, and being able to look back at all that pain, and remembering that God heard my prayers when I wished with all my heart for a family.

Big hugs,


Derrick – ‘Ōiwi na’u koko ha’aheo na’u koko

Derrick - Kapalama Canal

I met Derrick standing by a bench next to the Kapalama Canal. His deep tan seemed to glow against the reflection of the water.  The air felt clean and my skin was still cool from being at the news station for my morning interview. I glanced at him and made quick eye contact. He was busy talking to someone and our eyes met again — this time I waved at him. He nodded and smiled. I awkwardly introduced myself, almost interrupting their conversation, and sort of back-stepped towards a bench.

I could tell he was curious about me and my half-hearted attempt to say “hello.” I didn’t have any specific plan by being there. I had just left the news station from doing an interview on the Sunrise Show. I felt the pull to drive by the canal. Someone had mentioned that a one-mile fence would be built alongside this canal… another way to address the “homeless problem.”


So, there I was. I wanted quiet. Some “me” time. It is always emotionally draining to expose myself… to be vulnerable to a public audience, even if I’m just sitting under bright lights with a really warm reporter/human-being next to me. It was nice to be outside… a good break from where I had just been. I sat there alone, on the picnic table, and watched people come out of their tents. One lady was preparing her breakfast — it smelled like she was frying up some eggs and sausage. My stomach started to growl. I hadn’t had breakfast yet.

My attention came back to Derrick. His friend was gone and he was standing right next to me. Smiling, he asked what I was doing here.

“Here we go,” I thought.

I was honest. I told him where I had just come from, my journey, and my nervousness about sharing personal details of my life. He listened attentively. Layer by layer, I shared my hopes, my pain and fear. I mentioned how I felt so alone at times. And how I appreciate the quiet and solitude because it is a reminder that I, alone, will have to face my fears and manifest my hopes and dreams into reality. It’s that moment of pause we have in life that gives us the freedom to choose our next step.

Kapalama Canal

A one-mile fence will be built along Kapalama Canal to prevent homeless camps.

I went on to share my thoughts about the money that would be spent on building the fence. I explained my belief that helping isn’t always about spending money. As children, we are oftentimes asked if we want anything… if there’s anything we can buy to make them happy or feel better. And it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to buy a gift or a token of our appreciation. But it is the thought and intent behind it that truly touches the person… touches the child… It’s about love. People want to feel loved, to have someone listen to them and their feelings, and be held when they’re not feeling good. I’m not so sure that building a fence will help the situation.

He shared his own life story — how he had lived a life of incredible financial freedom at a young age. Derrick had money, lots of it, and he blew it all away on the “wrong things” in his early years. He remembers a time when he would drive by homeless people, scoffing at their circumstances and turning away from them — seeing them as failures in life.

My stomach started to growl.

I asked if he was hungry and his response made me laugh. “Girl, I am one Hawaiian braddah, I can always eat.” Thank goodness. I was starving. We walked over to the nearest Zippy’s restaurant and ordered rice, eggs, and portuguese sausage. He liked his rice the same way I did — colored with shoyu and tabasco. Perfect.

We sat by a big window and he shared more about his life and the new perspective and life path he was on. He enjoys helping people. Derrick reflected on a time when he had “everything,” yet he was incredibly unhappy with life. And now at the cusp of being 50 years-old, he has very little in the material sense, but has never felt more content. He is happy. He is learning to be at peace with himself, and being on the streets is part of that journey in helping him to get there.

The journey for Derrick is more spiritual than anything else. He shared the struggles of his father, his family, those who came before him… and at one point he lifted his shirt, revealing a tattoo across his chest that read:

‘Ōiwi na’u koko ha’aheo na’u koko

(Hawaiian by blood, proud by choice)

I grew up in Hawai`i, but cannot claim to fully understand the incredibly deep, interconnected, and enriching history and language of Hawai`i. However, I do have a deep respect for Native Hawaiians, like Derrick, who are part of an ongoing economic, social,  cultural struggle that threatens the cultural practices and way of life of Indigenous Peoples. For those who are interested in learning more, I highly recommend reading “Who Owns the Crown Lands of Hawai`i?”.

He explained that many people living near Kapalama Canal express frustration in wanting a subsistence way of life, but not having the option to. At the same time, there are many who are depressed and need a friend. I realized that Derrick and I were a lot alike in this way… Wanting to be a friend, feeling connected to ourselves by connecting with others, but also appreciating our moments of solitude to recharge and reflect.

I wondered if he was depressed.

I openly shared how, in retrospect, I was depressed while my father was homeless. And how I learned to deal with being alone, compartmentalizing the pain, in order to keep things together in other areas of my life. It was so hard, and I know I’m a different person because of it. I have grown, no doubt, but I have also learned how to approach challenging experiences as an opportunity for growth. And I don’t mind having to push myself… I’m accepting what it means to be uncomfortable.

“Kūlia i ka nu‘u,” he said.

(Strive to the summit)

Derrick acknowledged what I was sharing. I was revealing myself to him — a period of personal turmoil that I really hadn’t broken down yet. It was hard, but I got over it. And that’s really all that mattered. But he didn’t mind listening to the details, watching the layers unfold that morning, as I was fresh from just sharing my story live on-air.

A photograph taken by Derrick of me sitting by Kapalama Canal.

A photograph taken by Derrick of me sitting by Kapalama Canal.

I think he noticed the change in my mood because he abruptly changed my train of thought by mentioning his mother. His mother shared something with him at an early age, and he wanted to share it with me. He asked me to spell out the word “depression.” I said each letter out loud, slowly… Then he asked me to cross out the first “d”, the “e”, and the “i.”


press on

When you take the word “depression,” and you cross out those letters, you’re left with the words “press on.” If you don’t “press on” in life, then the three letters you took out spell “die,” and you will surely “die” because of your depression.

“So, Diana… press on, kūlia i ka nu‘u, strive to the summit” he said.

Yes, Derrick. I will. It has taken me over a week to write this post… I’ve held onto the strength and thoughtfulness of his words… of the life that is woven into his words… It means a lot to me, and now I’m sharing them with you. As I drove away that morning, I felt happier… understood, validated… I smiled knowing that he had helped me, and I had helped him. We saw each other and our hearts nodded quietly as I waved goodbye. It’s never truly goodbye, though. Deep down inside, I know I will see him again.

Wishing you all the best in the journey… until next time…