“You might change your mind,” my mom would tell me, when my younger self thought I didn’t want to have kids. She was so right, as mothers tend to be. She passed away almost seven years ago, when I was 21 years old. It was pretty sudden and absolutely knocked me off my feet. I remember the phone call from my dad and the heartache of that day and the weeks to come. Like many mother-daughter relationships, we had our ups and downs, but were very close at the time of her passing.
When you lose someone that close, it obviously has its unique effects on the various parts of your life. Now, at 28 years old, I’ve been married nearly three years and have a daughter of my own who’s almost two. Before, I really hadn’t given much thought to how my mom’s passing would affect my experience as a mother. I have to say her absence sparked a new sense of grief during this life-changing journey. During my pregnancy and throughout the first months after giving birth, a whole host of feelings hit me.
To start, there was a newfound appreciation for her and everything she endured to become a mother to me – all the ups and downs of pregnancy and delivery, the exhaustion that comes with caring for a newborn, and so on. I think a lot of new moms feel this way. I’d love to tell her, I get it now, Mom, and am so appreciative of you. This motherhood thing is a LOT. I’d also explain to her how I now understand the bitter sweetness of motherhood – how you can be completely amazed by this baby who’s growing and learning, yet want them to stay this small and innocent forever. We would relate so much over the joys of having a little girl – including all the clothes and shoes! As a toddler, you could find me in a dress my mother had smocked with a pretty bow in my hair.
My mom watched me grow into a child. I can remember her sitting in with my second grade class, for just a bit, because I didn’t want her to leave after having lunch with me. She was co-leader of my Brownies troop – it may have been my only year in Girl Scouts, but I imagine we sold plenty of cookies! She watched me grow into a teenager, and saw me go through the highs and lows of those often tricky years. As I got a bit older and moved away, she would send me cards and sweet letters in the mail – just because. These are only a few examples of how selfless and giving she was.
When my daughter was first born, I couldn’t help but wonder what advice my mom would give me for those hazy newborn days. I wanted to ask her questions to better understand my own baby: Do you remember if I was a good sleeper? Did I cry as LOUDLY as your granddaughter does?! There also was, and still is, a longing to share the “little things” with her, as we all know the smaller moments can end up being the ones we cherish most. Lately, I imagine her reaction when I tell her the latest word my daughter has picked up, or how she is starting to show some sassiness (like many almost-two-year-olds!). Or, how just the other day, I caught a glimpse of her in Adeline’s face.
Adeline may not experience firsthand how funny and downright kooky her grandmother was, but I will surely tell her. As she gets older, I’ll share stories about her and maybe even start some traditions with my mother in mind. Adeline may never get used to the sight of her grandmother’s face in person, but I will show her photos. I will do my best to make her grandmother as “present” a figure in her life as possible. Fortunately, I have great support from some other wonderful women – a loving mother-in-law, funny aunt, some of my mom’s dearest friends, and so on. Adeline, in turn, also has these women. For that, I am so grateful.
You can only write so much about a person in a single blog post. I could likely write pages and pages about my mom and her effect on me as a mother. Losing yours at a young age, or any age, has to be one of the most difficult things anyone can experience. However, I’d like to think mothers still see it all – they see all the moments, big and small, good and bad. They know we’re doing our very best to raise grandchildren they’d be insanely proud of. My mom would likely tell me I’m doing wonderfully raising my daughter, and to not dare be so hard on myself.
If there are any other moms out there who have dealt with the loss of a parent, feel free to reach out or share your thoughts. If you and your family have created any special traditions to honor grandparents, feel free to share them. For now, I believe I’m honoring my mom in just the way she’d want – by being the best mother I can be to my own daughter.