Becoming a mum after losing my own: “I grieve for the memories I’ll never make”

Mum with toddler son

Growing up, when I envisaged my future, I dreamt of kids playing in the backyard, afternoon coffee dates with my mum, Friday night dinners with my family and Saturday mornings free (at least until sport season) while the children cuddled up with their grandparents after sleeping the night.

Never did I imagine that my mum wouldn’t be here

I lost my mum to pancreatic cancer when I was 27. She was only 57 years old. I was recently married and there was a moment during her illness when I suddenly realised she wouldn’t be here to meet my children. I remember sobbing on the couch as my aunt (who lost both of her parents before she had her own kids) consoled me. I cried the cliché – that it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that my sister had time with her son and our mum. It wasn’t fair that my nephew will have memories and pictures with his nana but my children never would. It wasn’t fair.

I’ll admit it, the moment my husband and I walked down the aisle I wanted to pop out a child. I think part of me wanted it so badly because I was so hopeful that if I fell pregnant, my mum would live to see at least one of my children. My husband, wise that he is, convinced me that we were rushing things. That I needed to wait. That I needed to be with my mum; she needed to be my sole focus. Bringing another life into the world was not going to extend hers.

Fast forward 18 months…

My hands shook as I stared at the pregnancy test. Then took another. And another. And then the tears came. Until this day, I’m still not sure whether I was crying from happiness or grief. Maybe it was a combination of the two.

It wasn’t unexpected. We were trying. But it still came as a shock. Whether it was shock that we were actually pregnant (albeit very early stages) or whether it was shock that I could actually go through with having a baby without my mum by my side, I’m not actually sure. But either way, I sat in silence for a while following.

Because you see, at that moment, as life grew inside me, I was grieving for the life my child wouldn’t have. When you lose a loved one, you spend the rest of your life grieving. No, you’re not sad all the time. But you will grieve for the moments you’ve lost and you’ll grieve for the moments you’ll never have. You grieve for the questions that will go unanswered. You grieve for the memories you can’t make.

I’ll forever be grieving for the fact that my children will never have nana cuddles, nana kisses, nana presents, nana time. And for the whole 38 weeks of my pregnancy, this played on my mind.

Pregnant woman with ultrasound photo

Throughout my pregnancy, I relied on my sister to answer my questions

Was the pain normal? Should I be feeling movement? She was coincidentally pregnant at the same time and because it wasn’t her first rodeo, she could alleviate almost all of my fears. At 19 weeks when I felt abdominal pain and was moments away from calling the hospital, she reassured me that it was completely normal, that she had felt it too. But while my sister was a minefield of information, she’s still not my mum. There will always be questions that only mum could answer. They’ll hang there, silently, waiting for me to figure it all out.

As I raise my son (with my very large village around me)

I will forever be asking whether she would be doing things the way I am. I will forever be wondering how she would put him to sleep, how she would feed him, what she would feed him, what she would do if he woke with a fever in the night and what she would tell me to do to help alleviate his pain.

As I raise my son, my dad is raising his grandchildren without his partner. He’s figuring things out too. He’s taking on the carer role that my sister and I so desperately need. There have been worried phone calls late into the night as our children have fought gastro and flus, as we’ve rushed them to the emergency room. There have been frantic calls in the morning for help as work has come up.

His three grandsons adore their Papa. At times, they only have eyes for him. And I’ll forever be grateful that this is the case. Because he showers them with love and affection. And as hard as it is, he’s doing it for two.

When I found out I was pregnant, despite being 18 months after losing her, I grieved for my mum all over again. I grieved for the first steps that she’ll miss, the first words. The first hospital stays. The family holidays filled with love and laughter. I grieved for the memories and the moments that will never happen.

And I think I’ll be doing that for the rest of my life as I try my hardest to fill the void that she has left.

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