Being a Mom Without A Mom
Updated: Aug 4, 2019
One of the hardest life-events I have experienced has been my grappling with the constant nagging reality of how the heck could I even think about being a mom when I didn't have one?
My mom, Joan, died of breast cancer at age 55 in 1995. I was 24 and newly married to my high school "sweet heart". (Yep, that still really does happen.) Her illness and death was the most tragic event that had happened to me. I mean I went through some other "stuff" like when I was 3 my Grandmother had a massive heart attack and died face first in her salad at a restaurant during a birthday celebration. The stories about it were more grandiose than my small memory bank actually ever held. And the restaurant did kindly comp the meal.
The other event that came close to the tragic experience of loosing my mom to cancer happened when I was 5 and our family house burnt down. Well, not all the way to the ground - just the kitchen sort of blew-up and the rest of the house had smoke damage. We lived with Grandpa Joe, who was now widowed due to Grandma dying, for 10 months while our house was rebuilt. The cause of the fire was determined as accidental due to an open tub of pool chlorine being exposed to water from a dripping (aka sweating) copper pipe in the basement.
When my mom died I lost my dad too. It's taken me a long time to realize that.
It's not like I ever stopped seeing or loving my dad, he just changed. Have you ever really noticed that? That when a tragic event happens that rocks your world to the core, a whole bunch of other shit shifts too? Sometimes its subtle, other times not so much. Loosing my dad was subtle because I was very much (and still am) "me-focused". I often would cry in the shower as that was a place no one bothered me. I would lament on the fact of How Could This Happen to Me? Anger at myself, at my mom, at my family, at the world was easy to conjure during those first 7 years after she died. But the subtlety of my dad, slipping into a different pattern of distance, was underlying there yet never in full focus for me to clearly see it.
"Wanna make a baby?"
Seven years after the wedding vows and a decade plus of being on the pill, enters the dreaded conversation - should we have kids? I honestly wasn't ever very good with kids. (remember above? and the Me-Focus?). Yeah, I sort of thought of kids as "runny." Runny noses, runny feet, runny butts...just sort of icky. I knew little about kids - I was never a great kid-sitter as a teenager, and I wasn't exposed to the responsibly of taking care of siblings or small kids as our family didn't have small kids that I could "practice" on and then hand back.
Nonetheless, my age was creeping up and friends and family would get pusher with the "tick-tock" jokes. And still... I hesitated. I struggled. I waited. I often thought, how on Earth can I be a mom with out a mom? It was a deep seeded belief. A paradigm that was a massive mountain molded deep into the core of the Earth. I wasn't willing to start digging. I wasn't willing to change. I missed my mom so much it physically hurt. Who would help me if I had a baby? What kind of mother would I be without having my mom here to guide me?
Then one day, basically out of the blue, I said to Scot, "So, what do you think? Are you ready to have a baby? To have kids?" In that four seconds it took me to utter those words my whole world changed.
He excitably exclaimed "Why, Yes!" with young boy enthusiastic charm. "I've been waiting for you." Whhattt??? (I stutter that exactly.) Fighting ensues and pregnancy almost immediately happens. Then it was facing the reality of the situation.
Me with my first son (yep, I still have the pillowcase); Me and mom; me and my 2nd son.
Two things helped me the most to overcome my underlying fear of not being a good mom without a mom.
I picked up that fateful bible "What to Expect when Your Expecting" and was pleasantly surprised by the content. Ok, I said to myself. I got this! What helped me get through was a strange mindset of competition, and for those who know me well, I am NOT a competitive person at all. I'd much rather all of us get along, toast to our successes and all of us be "winners". But, I would often think to myself - Gosh if SHE can do it, I can too!
Then came my studying and understanding of the power of women. Through a women's group at the local Unitarian church I began my journey of unfolding the ancient wisdom that women are the life-giving force of the human race. Since the dawning of time, women have been giving birth. It's just one of the amazing things we do. Only we can do it. I slowly began feeling at peace with the knowledge that all these women from years past have my back in this. Through this group of mismatched women- whom I don't even remember most of their names today- we shared deep and touching stories of our mothers. We explored their strengths and identified their weakness. Yes, it was here, I realized my mom had weaknesses. And I realized, it was okay. I was going to be okay.
Being a mom without a mom has had me treat my kids differently than if my mom where here still.
For example, I would share with my friends - to their horror - that at night when my boys were small, I would tuck them in bed and say things like "We all die. Mom is going to die first, then you will someday, too." And this was my way of protecting and preparing my boys for death. As I've often felt we just don't talk about it. We don't share about it, we don't feel it until suddenly the person is sick and then dies. BAM!
I still miss my mom and still wonder how she would be with my boys. My youngest (now 13 years old) just recently said he was looking forward to seeing our wedding video because he's never heard Grammy Joans voice. That touched me. I never thought of that. Now I got to figure out how to fix the dam VCR box...
My wish for my boys is no different than what I want to believe my moms wish was for me: It's to live life to its fullest joy. Be frisky with the journey. Be creative with the life you want. It's to be kind and yet, to also be selfish - it's okay to take care of yourself, for its in the taking care of yourself first that you learn who you really are and what your true potential truly can be.
Val is the co-host of the "Truth Serum with Maria & Val" a YouTube Channel dedicated to sharing the fun and wisdom of our age with the world because hell, #werenotdeadyet.
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