Mom Without a Mom
I am a mom without a mom.
I watched my mother die a painful death fighting ovarian cancer. She fought for three years. I watched her cry about the idea of leaving my brother and me.
I was 11 when she lost the fight.
I spent the rest of my childhood living through the shockwaves of instability caused by her death. My father was lost and broken and depressed. I vowed I would never have children. The very idea terrified me to the core. I wanted to be a spinster, alone with no one to hurt when I died.
When I met my husband at age 30, I had worked through a lot of my pain. His stability and calmness nurtured my injured soul, and I decided I could let one person in. I found solace in his strength. A big bonus, neither of us wanted children. We planned to travel and remain childless. It was a complete shock to discover we were pregnant a month after our honeymoon. I remember being pregnant and wondering how on earth I was going to navigate this without a mom.
When our daughter was born, we instantly fell in love with her and felt the profound change of having this tiny life that we created out of love alive in our hands. I was terrified, anxious, nervous, overprotective. I hardly recognized myself. I had no one to call in the middle of the night. I had no one to ask parenting questions to. I had no one to teach me how to change a diaper or what to expect.
I felt alone, but, at the same time, I could see my mothers eyes on my daughters face and I felt a connection with our lineage.
Then all at once I would be gripped with the terrible fear I had as a child as my own mother slipped away. I would hear her screaming in pain, see the bruises on her arms where they couldn’t get the pain medicine into her veins. I would hold onto my daughter tightly, watch her every move, push my husband away because I couldn’t stand the idea of her leaving me or me leaving her.
Sometimes I would cry myself to sleep, exhausted from sleep deprivation, haunted by memories of my childhood. I would go to mom outings and listen in silence to the other moms talk about all the things their mothers did for them and how they couldn’t imagine surviving motherhood without them. I kept silent, I had nothing to say, but it stung; sometimes I would cry on my way home. I had trouble meeting other moms because I had a hard time relating to the completeness they felt from motherhood.
I felt more broken than ever.
Thankfully, my husband is my best friend, he is honest, loving and understanding. With help from him, I survived our daughter’s infancy and when she was 2 we decided she needed a sibling. I couldn’t stand the idea of her being alone in the world.
My husband and I were in our thirties when we had her and I know we won't live forever. I have lost too many people to pretend that I am invincible.
Our son was born when our daughter was just shy of 3. I had to loosen my grip on her to make room for brother. It didn’t go well, it was a struggle. She rebelled and I knew I caused the intensity of it.
Around this time I had begun to develop a closer relationship with my mother-in-law. She was able to fulfill some of the mentoring I needed. She helped, I was able to be less protective and let go of some of my fears and be a less overbearing mom.
Some of that anxiety still slips through now, but I have learned to take a deep breath and acknowledge where the fear comes from. Sometimes I successfully let it pass out of my brain before it makes it out of my mouth. My children are 5 and 8 now, they are wonderful kids, well adjusted, successful in school, kind, honest, happy. I count my blessings every day for the loving family we have been lucky enough to build.
My kids are approaching the ages that my brother and I were when our mother was diagnosed with cancer. They recently lost their Oma, my mother-in-law, to an aneurism. I feel those old anxieties creeping up again. I know this is a life-long process and there are always reminders.
I just have to close my eyes and breathe. I just hope I don’t ruin my children in the process.