This will be my first Christmas as a motherless mother.
I had never heard of this term until a few months ago. I was heavily pregnant and suffering, and my friend suggested this local group of women (Motherless Mothers) who support other women who have lost their mothers.
My father passed away 10 years ago, and as an only child, my mother and I were particularly close.
This will now be my second Christmas without her. Unimaginably, I lost her to leukaemia in July 2015, six weeks before I got married, 12 weeks before I found out I was expecting my first child, and a lifetime before I was ready.
When I heard of this group I was heavily pregnant and I was desperately missing my mum. Getting married and having a baby without either of your parents around is seriously tough.
Marriage, expecting the first grandchild – these are times in our lives that we share with our parents.
My friends’ fathers are walking them down the aisle and giving heartwarming speeches at their weddings.
Their mothers come to stay when partners or husbands return to work after paternity leave. They don’t mind being called up in the middle of the night in the early days of parenthood, when it all seems so overwhelming.
New grandparents come to visit their newly born grandchildren bursting with love, and not only for the new additions to their family, but also for their own children. Look at what you have achieved! It’s going to be ok.
In the early days of my baby being born I often found myself wondering how my own mother had felt about becoming a mum. How did she manage, what parts of being a mother did she enjoy? Did she dislike the same things I do? I desperately wanted to know. But more than anything else I wanted my parents to tell me they were proud of me. I wanted them to tell me I was doing well, that I was a good mum, and to keep going.
My baby, George, is now four months old and I finally feel as if I have turned a corner. Maybe I am just experiencing a ‘calm’ amongst the waves of grief but, whatever it is, I’m taking it!
I now try to think of all the things I AM lucky to have, rather than dwell on what I have lost.
Enlisting in the help of a birth doula really helped me. Part of a doula’s job is to ‘mother the mother’ which was exactly what I craved.
I spoke to a few before I chose Zara. I immediately knew she was the right one for me because after our first conversation I felt energized and inspired.
Zara visited us a few times before the birth and talked to my husband and me about how we were feeling. She was really helpful – lending us books, giving me massages etc.
When it came to the birth itself, I felt calm and spent most of it at home.
Thanks to the support of my husband and Zara, I didn’t once wish I had my mother with me during labour. It just didn’t cross my mind. It may sound unusual, but I just felt so safe and secure with them.
The other thing that really helped was meeting up with the aforementioned motherless mothers group. Women who, like me, had lost their mums and were now mothers themselves.
I came away from our first meeting reassured that there are other people out there who understood all the things I feel and worry about. It was a surprisingly empowering experience.
I found myself able to help others in their own grief by sharing some of my own experiences.
And talking to others in the same position enabled me to share my grief. I was able to recommend a book called called ‘Motherless Mothers’ written by Hope Edelman, who has also has written a book called ‘Motherless Daughters’ which I found shortly after losing my own mother.
But perhaps most importantly I just let myself grieve. I cried whenever I felt I needed to.
Surely this is a time in my life when it doesn’t matter if I cry?! I don’t have a team of people working for me that need a brave face, I don’t have to cry in front of strangers on my commute to work.
Who knows whether it was any of these things that specifically ended up helping me. Maybe it was everything! Or it could just be that facing my grief head on helped me to overcome that sense of fear and loss. Maybe it’s simply that time really does heal.
Christmas is a time of year that one reflects on family; I look at the cards in the shops addressed to ‘Mum and Dad at Christmas’ and find myself having to walk away.
Memories of picking out little things for my mum’s stocking come flooding back and I sometimes catch myself seeing something that I think she would like. I then remember she isn’t here.
I have, however, been able to buy a card ‘For my son at Christmas’ this year, and it feels so lovely to have a two generation family again.
I feel lucky that I was only missing this for one year.