Monday, June 13, 2011

Motherlss Mother

Our NorthMetroDC (Mommies Network) fundraising campaign, May is for Mothers,  had me thinking about my mom. She passed away when she was only 36, a month shy of my 11th birthday. She had cancer of the liver and pancreas. She was given 6 months to live, but only made it through three, so her death was pretty sudden to us.

When I was a junior in high school, I wrote a paper for psychology class based on the book, "On Death and Dying" by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. It discusses the 5 stages a person goes through when they are dying. I witnessed them first-hand, and wrote my paper based on my observations and feelings at the time. My teacher was so moved that he gave me extra credit on the paper. Ironically, I was quite surprised because I had actually rushed through writing the paper at the last minute and didn't expect more than a C+ (my average for the class...I wasn't a very studious student).  It was then I realized how much my mother's death had affected me.

When I graduated from high school I felt her absence. When I got married in 1998, I chose to wear her wedding dress (fit me perfectly; no alterations and only the lace needed a little mending) and we were married on what would've been my parents' 29th wedding anniversary. Coincidentally, I met my husband exactly 3 years earlier, to the day. That day, I felt her presence as we said our vows.

When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, the roller coaster of emotions started and they didn't stop until my daughter was around three years old. I wanted so desperately to share this intimate part of my life with the only woman I felt would completely understand and care enough to listen. I wanted to know what pregnancy was like for her. I wanted to know what thoughts were going through her head. I wanted to share minute details of my every day. When my daughter cried for 12 hours straight, then slept 12-14 hours straight, I wanted her there with me. When she got her first teeth or took her first steps, I wanted my mom to celebrate it with me. I had questions. I had tears. I had doubts; I had fears. But I had no mother to comfort me and assure me that I was doing fine.

What I did have was my old baby book. How much did I weigh when I was born? 6#, 2 1/2 ounces. How old was I when I got my first tooth? 6 mos. How old was I when I took my first steps? They were on my first birthday. Did I cry a lot? YES--very colicky. What were my first words? daddy/doggy. My mother kept meticulous records, complete with lots of pictures and, to my great comfort, short letters to me as I grew. I must've read them hundreds of times. They never cease to cheer me up and put a smile on my face.  

This is why I've kept meticulous records of and for my daughter. I wrote in a journal from before she was even conceived until she was about 2 months old. I want her to be able to read my thoughts, hopes, dreams. everything I was thinking and feeling while she was growing inside me. I make digital scrapbooks chronicling her every special moment, and even the mundane.  I've written her letters (as has her daddy) that come from the heart.  As a teenager, she may roll her eyes at me and my over-the-top record-keeping, but I'm hoping she'll come to appreciate having all this information when it comes time for her to have a child. Even if I'm around, my memory might not be so good.

To all the Motherless Mothers out there, I highly recommend the book, "Motherless Mothers" (and the prequel, "Motherless Daughters") by Hope Edelman. It was a source of comfort and strength for me and I hope it can be for you, too.

This picture is me with my mom, the last Christmas before she got sick, circa 1982. She had these matching dresses made for us, but hated hers because she thought she looked big in it. I thought she was beautiful.


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