Sunday, November 27, 2011


Somehow, we made it through Thanksgiving.  Luckily, no one at my table insisted that we share the things we're thankful for, as I am having trouble piecing together feelings of gratitude.  Surely I must be thankful for all of the many blessings in my life right now; there are so so many and I don't want to appear ungrateful.  But I can't honestly sit down and say "I am grateful for..."

When Mom first passed away, I felt a sense of relief.  I didn't have to worry about her feeling worse and worse, about her pain, about letting her down again and again.  I didn't have to sleep with the phone next to my pillow or check flight prices or availability every day.  In the last couple of weeks, all of that relief has dissipated.  My body has accepted the end of the frenetic pace, the end of crisis mode management and I am left with only the overwhelming absence of Mom.

Now the feelings of injustice and anger surface more readily, the reality that she won't get to know her grandchildren, that she won't see Ross graduate, that she is missing out on many years that she had planned to enjoy.  I am angry that she won't be here to help me when the Pea arrives, that any questions I have now remain unanswered, that any bumps in our relationship that were waiting to be healed will never be healed.  I get furious when well meaning people say there is no greater joy than being a grandparent; that I didn't manage to pull my life together in time and I robbed her of that.  

Living across the country, it's sometimes easy to pretend that life is still normal.  I didn't talk to Mom every day when she was healthy. The day that Gary and I got engaged, I had already spoken with her during the day before he proposed and when I called again, she was confused that I would call twice in one day.  But when there were things I wanted to share, I would call.  If events were happening, I would call.  If I needed clothes advice (which is frequent), I would call.  And now, it's been so long since I've been able to call and share something or ask for advice.  Day to day it's okay, but the compound effect is hard. There's so much lately that I want to share with her.  There are so many questions I want to ask, so much advice I still need, so much I don't know.  And the road ahead is just so much more of that.

Monday, November 14, 2011


The infrequency of my posts since Mom's passing is a good lesson in discipline.  I am so glad that I made the intention to write every day during her illness; we now have an invaluable, accurate record.  But without her to talk to, and without a defined purpose of these updates anymore, I find that I slack.

In the past week, I have received a wedding gift, several baby gifts and a few notices of donations made in Mom's name.  Surely this is bizarre.  To have such major life changing events all together like this, to be using the same thank you stationary to thank people for onsies as memorials.

Or maybe not.  There's no dependable timeline, nothing that we can count on to say that this is the natural order of life and you don't lose your mom as you prepare to become a mom.

A dear friend wrote to me sharing the fears of new motherhood and showed me how she coped with those last weeks of her own pregnancy and uncertainty.  She made lists.  She took control over what she could.  A year ago, I would have done exactly the same thing; I was always trying to control every situation. I had a Plan B, C and D for every scenario.   Now I don't.  I can't be comforted by the lists anymore, by playing out what I imagine to be the possible scenarios.  I know that no matter what I think could happen, life can have other plans and surprise you.  And not only in the unfair, senseless randomness of Mom's illness. In amazing, beautiful ways, too.  And despite that old truism "those who fail to plan plan to fail," I don't plan things anymore.  At least not the way I did.  In childbirth class, we talk about birth plans-people write out how they want their births to go and what their intentions are.  I can't even fathom this without laughing.

We spent countless hours setting intentions for Mom's healing, praying, massaging love and tenderness into her ankles and shoulders.  We cycled through disbelief, anger, sadness, and hope so many times it was dizzying. We celebrated small victories and mourned small defeats and learned again and again that we are not in control.  We learned to let go of the disbelief.  We let go of the hope.  I'm trying to let go of the anger. Of the sadness.  But I suspect it is too ingrained in me now to ever lose.  So instead I'm trying to work with it, to let it teach me why it has taken up permanent residence in my heart.  I think so that in moments of uncertainty, I can let go of control.  I can see things as they are, not as how they should be or how I can fix them.  I can look at situations from a place of wonder and simply be present on the journey.  

Monday, November 7, 2011


In terms of my grief, the past week or so has been better.  Fewer crying jags and more sleep.  Gary and I have zoomed into baby planning mode-we are T minus 7 weeks (or so, really it could be anywhere from 5 to 10 weeks out) and I am feeling completely unprepared.  I have also have a resurgence of morning sickness in the last trimester that our midwife thinks is grief-related.  It's not such a rare thing for late pregnancy and it doesn't worry her, but it can be difficult at times to eat, despite being hungry. It's something I would love to talk to Mom about-she passed away right at the cusp of my third trimester and I didn't even think to ask her what symptoms she had late in pregnancy.

Today I started exploring newborn rituals and thinking about how we want to welcome the Pea into our community.  I wasn't prepared for how emotional that would make me.  So many prayers for mothers to say for their children, so many hopes and dreams and so much family continuation. Some of the rituals include passing the baby from grandparents to parents, or the grandparents offering blessings, and my heart just hardened.  I have a hard time separating what I want for my child and what Mom wanted for me.  I don't yet feel comfortable with the mother title, so when the websites reference "mother" I think of Mom and not myself.  Surely this will be an evolution.  Surely no one feels like a mother until they have mothered for some time.  Just as I still fumble over referring to Gary as my husband (just the other day, I slipped and said "my boyfriend" which technically hasn't been correct for over a year), I will fumble with "my child."

But there's also an element of the surreal to the past year.  I still don't quite believed it all happened.  Mom's illness, her death, my marriage, the Pea, that we are all irreversibly changed.   I think that may be a reason I fumble with calling Gary my husband.  I think that as soon as I heard Mom's diagnosis, I detached from something and began operating on a perfunctory level.  I knew the facts, responded to the facts, dealt with the facts. We all did what we needed to do.  People would make comments about my family: how amazing we all are, how much we rallied and supported Mom and each other.  It wasn't a choice.  It was a need.  We all reacted in the only way we knew how.  But somewhere along the way, I needed to lock up my heart to keep it from breaking.  And now, embarking on this parenting journey, I need to access it again.  Though I wholeheartedly believe that we are choosing the safest and healthiest birth option for both me and the Pea by having her at home, part of that choice is the appeal of forcing myself to be present.  I don't have the option to tune out, to medicate, to detach.  I've been doing that all year.  I've been saying Mom wasn't going to get better without really feeling the impact of that truth.  Maybe that's a necessary side effect of knowing a disease is incurable.  Maybe that's a flaw in me. 

In any case, I suspect that other members of my family are coming to the truth that she's gone in fits and starts also.  That some days the reality is so heavy and true that functioning on any level requires great concentration and force of will.  And some days are okay.  I don't know, I am not there, which is another difficult thing.  I miss the frequent trips, I miss seeing all of my Seattle family.  And worst of all, Dad's birthday is coming up and I can't fly to spend it with him.  Though all the travel was difficult and costly and though my trips were never relaxing, it was always fulfilling and comforting to be there.