Without My Mum

When I had my first baby, I had my mum on speed-dial. Sometimes it seemed as if I was calling her a hundred times a day with all sorts of questions from “I can’t get him to sleep, what should I do?” to “He’s been asleep for so long – should I wake him for a feed?”

As many new parents understand, it’s not that you necessarily need a response to your millions of baby-related questions, concerns and joys but it’s about having someone to listen, to provide support, to give practical advice and tell you you’re doing a good job. So what happens when a new mother doesn’t have that support?

Leigh Van Der Horst discovered that it was tough. In Leigh’s debut book, Without My Mum, she shares her own story of losing her beloved mother to cancer in 2008, as well as stories from other motherless mothers, and contributions of parenting wisdom from a collection of encouraging mothers worldwide.

Leigh’s story is refreshingly honest and in many parts, the grief incredibly raw. She unashamedly admits to selfish feelings of ‘how could this happen to me?’ while at the same time, balancing them against knowing that the cancer was actually ‘happening’ to her mother. Leigh’s journal begins, “It’s not my plan to lose her early.”

While providing support for her mother through her battle with cancer, Leigh also had three very young sons to look after, and was keenly aware of the help, both practical and emotional, that her mum had provided her up until that point.

Without My Mum chronicles the battle with cancer, her mother’s death, and Leigh’s grieving. And yet, while the topic is emotionally devastating, the second half of the book is quite different. Leigh addresses the remainder of the book to her ‘sisterhood of motherless mothers’. I read contributions from other motherless mothers on loss, on coping and on wishes for what might have been, with both tears in eyes and also smiles – the stories are rich, honest and heartfelt.

The book closes with words of wisdom from women around the world and some inspiring popular personalities such as Jools Oliver, Lisa Wilkinson, Megan Gale and Natalie Bassingthwaighte.

There’s comfort in shared experience and plenty of reminders for those who still have their mums, to treasure them.

Find Without My Mum in selected book stores or online at Vivid Publishing.


Katrina Whelen

Katrina studied planning and design, did the hard yards working in a big office building and then traded it all in for a relaxing (!) life at home with four children. She now fills her time with writing, completing a degree in genetics and taxiing her children around Melbourne to their various sporting commitments (not necessarily in that order).

Subscribe to Babyology

Our email newsletters keep you up to date with what’s happening on Babyology.

We also have special newsletter-only offers and competitions that are exclusive to Babyology subscribers.

Sign up below:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Send this to a friend