Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Mom Without

Being a mom is more than a full-time job; it's a state of being.  It doesn't stop because you're tired, or because you've had a bad day.  Being a mom doesn't politely wait by the wayside while you recover from an illness or heal from an injury.  It doesn't stop when your house floods, your car breaks, or your husband goes out of town.  It doesn't wait for you to mourn the loss of someone you love.  Most days, you're a mom because you want to be.  Other days, you're a mom because you have to be.  Regardless, there is now someone in your life that will continue to need your comfort, love, and support for the rest of their life.

I think it's impossible to think about that lifelong bond without thinking of your own mom.  The relationship you had/have, the ways you want to be like her, the ways that you swear you wont.  A lot of the decisions you are making now are decisions your mom made, and a lot of your childhood experiences may now make sense from a whole new perspective.  Mom is a palindrome, which seems so appropriate, because everything about being a mom is so cyclical. My daughter needs me, and similarly, I need my mom. I may be grown, I may have a child of my own, but you never outgrow a mother's love.

I lost my own mother two years ago.  The first question you usually hear is: How?  And therein lies a truth that will haunt me for the rest of my life: I don't know.  It's the answer that no one wants to hear: She didn't feel good one morning and was gone by the next day.  It (should) strike the listener to the core.  Life is fleeting.  Nothing is certain. Every day is a gift. Cliché. Cliché.  Cliché.

I don't know why, but the second question is usually the qualifier: Were you two close?  Though it's hard for me to imagine a person who loses their mother and doesn't hurt immensely, I postulate that they must be rare.  This question is the temperature gauge: How bad are you hurting?  My mother and I were incredibly close.  We spoke several times a week, ran a business together, and shared each other's hobbies.  She was truly my best friend my entire life.  So, the answer is: I am hurting more than I ever thought possible.  Even now, the weight of my grief is frequently so crushing that it knocks the air out of my lungs.

After my mother passed away, I did not want to continue on.  I'm not eluding to anything here, I'm just describing a grief that is so heavy that you can't imagine carrying it your entire life.  It knocks your feet out from underneath you and you think to yourself: maybe I won't get up.  Maybe I'll just stay here on the cold, hard floor.  But eventually, we all find our reasons to stand back up.  I had to carry on because my dad needed me, because my brother needed me. Maybe it seems terrible that I didn't say my husband needed me, but as much as he was hurting, I knew he would be okay. He had to carry on because I needed him--sometimes support is like that, a three legged stool where we are all leaning on each other just to stay upright.  And slowly, very slowly, the days became surmountable.

As you know, we had our first child in December.  Frequently throughout my pregnancy I struggled with a mass of emotions surrounding having this child in a world where she would never know her grandmother, a world where I didn't realize how passionately I wanted to be a mother until I had lost my own.  I had my fair share of pregnancy panics, and I found a new way to miss my mom, a new way to feel that absence.  She was a nurse in both Labor and Delivery and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  She LOVED children.  She was born to be a mother, born to be a grandmother, and I'll never forgive myself for not giving her that opportunity.  That is a weight that I will carry for the rest of my life.

When my daughter was born, I was overcome with so much emotion and that was not without the sadness and longing of a daughter who wants to share this life changing event with her own mother.  And that feeling lurked, especially on the rough days.  When Baby wouldn't latch and no one seemed able to help, when Baby was crying and we didn't know why, when she had her first fever, when she wouldn't sleep, I wanted my mom.  When people told me to stop breastfeed, told me to move her out of our room, told me to let her cry, I wanted my mom.  I wanted to hear her voice.  I desperately wanted her advice. I felt like I couldn't hear her voice.  I felt like I had no direction as a mother, and my compass was forever gone.

My mother's birthday was a couple of weeks ago.  This is a time I always struggle with.  I want to celebrate her life, but I am still overcome with grief.  I'm still struggling to accept a world where I am a mom without. I wince to know that my daughter will never know her amazing grandmother.  There is much emotion to sort through, but one thing that I have found over time is: My mom's voice is still there.  I may not be able to make out every word she's saying, but I can hear the gentle hum of her encouragement and support.  I may not be to ask her what she thinks, but my heart knows the kind of mother she was and the kind of mother I want to be.  I may still feel lost at times, but she has given me the tools I need to find my way.

This post is two weeks late because I could not have written and believed that last paragraph when I was in the thick of it.  I'm glad I waited because this is a message I want to send out into the world, out to every new mom who has lost their own. I know it seems dark; I know the silence is deafening, but you will find your way.  She is there.  You can do this, and the days where you want to will start to out number the days where you have to.  Take it one day at a time.  Feel what you feel; Mourn unapologetically.  Breathe deep, and always listen to your heart.


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