“Do you want to know what we’re having?" I asked my mom. "No, I’ll wait and see,” she said with a smile. There was no guarantee that she would get to meet this grandchild, my firstborn. Actually, it was highly unlikely. She had been given two weeks to two months left to live and I still had over three months left in my pregnancy.
I guess she was being hopeful but I was feeling realistic and desperate to tell her. “Mom, in case anything happens, I really want to tell you.” She nodded her head in agreement while tears poured down her face, not wanting to accept this reality. I could barely get the words out: “It’s a boy.” We were both crying bittersweet tears. I am the oldest of five girls. The first and only grandchild so far was also a girl. This would be the first boy in our family and totally unknown territory for me.
A few weeks later, while she was lying in her bed and mostly unresponsive, I whispered in her ear, “His name will be Kai.” I let her know that his middle name would be my maiden name. Her eyes still closed, she smiled. There was nothing else I could tell her about the grandson she would never meet. I would not be able to tell her that he would be 9lbs 11oz, have dark brown hair, and display the sweetest dimples. I wouldn’t be able to share my story with her of his emergency C-section birth. I would not be able to see her smile while watching him now as a nine year old; a beautiful, freckly, hockey- and math-loving sweetheart.
My mom passed away when I was six months pregnant. The grief was unlike any feeling I ever had and I truly felt joy leave my body. I felt as though I was expected to be thankful that I had a new life coming, as though he would replace the life that was lost. One life cannot replace another. A baby cannot take the place of a mother in your life.
My mom was my greatest supporter and encourager. Her gift was listening with unconditional love. Who would help me through the newborn stage? Who would encourage me? Who would care about the day-to-day things that happened to me?
The first six months of Kai’s life were very tough. His birth was traumatic for me and he cried all the time. I didn’t feel the love at first sight that I thought I was supposed to. How did all these mothers before me do this? I felt confused as to why everyone had just said “Congratulations!” when they heard we were having a baby. Why didn’t anyone tell me how hard it was? How crazy labour could be? How terrible sleep deprivation was? How I would be so frustrated with my husband for not understanding what I was going through? Also, because my mother had passed away, I began to think maybe my husband or child would, too. How could I keep them safe? What would I do if that happened?
Over time, love for my Kai Bear grew as did my patience for my husband. I think the fact that we all started sleeping through the night when he was six months old was definitely a factor. I started emailing with another woman who had lost her mom just before I did (she actually happened to be my husband’s ex-girlfriend). She was a “wounded healer"; she had been there and could help validate and navigate my feelings. She gave me hope. I’m also fortunate to have four sisters in my support network. Daily emails have continued over the past nine years which have allowed us all to feel heard, known, and loved. Slowly came the understanding that we don’t have control over a lot of what happens in life and it really helps to find something to appreciate in each day that we have been given. I can try to keep my child safe, but really, there is only so much that I can do. Worrying about it won’t change anything.
Over the past eight years, we have added two more children to our family. When I found out that our third child would be a girl, we decided that her middle name would be my mother’s; we named her Nya Greta. There is something so special about having a mother-daughter relationship again and I am extremely grateful for it.
It is hard being a Motherless Mom. Those times when people say “Oh, I bet your mom loves being a grandma!” or “Can your mom help you out?” are constant reminders of what and who I am missing. I try to help my kids connect to their grandma by telling stories about her and cooking meals that she used to make for us. Time, support from others, faith in God, and the solid foundation of love-filled mothering I received as a child, have allowed me to embrace this role. I can hear my mother’s voice saying “Way to go, girl!” each and every day. I know she would be proud of me and her beautiful grandchildren. I can say now that joy has returned to my life.
"Joy seems to me a step beyond happiness – happiness is a sort of atmosphere you can live in sometimes, when you're lucky. Joy is a light that fills you with hope and faith and love." –Adela Rogers St. Johns
Previously published at Talk Nerdy to Me.