What I wish someone had told me as I approached motherhood without my own mother.

This post isn’t meant to make anyone feel sorry for me, to feel bad or even to think of me differently. I’m writing this in the hope that firstly it will help someone else and secondly because writing has always been a form of therapy for me and tonight I find myself in a low mood.

Welcoming a new baby into the world is an amazing adventure, one you want to share with everyone you love. But not all of us get that luxury.

For me becoming a mother without a mother was brutal. I wanted her with me every step of the way but that wasn’t possible, just before my 12 week scan she was gone. What followed was an anxiety riddled 6 months waiting for my son to arrive. I wanted to get excited over baby clothes, get my mums opinion on baby names, only for her to hate our choice and spend months trying to persuade us to change it. For her to see our scans, the nursery. Everything. If this is you now or soon (hopefully) then don’t bottle those feelings up. Talk to those closest to you, cry, talk to your mum, of course she can’t respond but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk/scream/blurt out things like “why did you leave me” whilst sobbing. Don’t suffer alone.

But moving on from pregnancy. I found myself with a new baby and desperate for interaction with my own mother. I was lucky that I had experience with children and babies but it’s a completely different story with your own baby. This little soul is relying on you 24/7 and a lot of the time you don’t know what the hell you are doing. It’s 2018 folks why don’t babies come with an instruction manual! You want to be able to pick up the phone and call your mum. In moments of pure desperation you go to do just that and then you choke back tears as you remember you can’t. The nights I went to dial my mum and then sobbed uncontrollably. It was like the day she died all over again. But I was feeling it again and again and again. Sleep deprivation plus the need for her meant it just kept happening. It was like Groundhog Day, I was reliving the realisation that she is no longer here on a loop, each time somewhat more painful.

No one told me how bitter I would feel, people would give me advice and in my head I would think to myself “my mum wouldn’t say that.” I would resent people for suggesting ludicrous things. In fact I would resent people for suggesting anything. You aren’t my mum, who are you to tell me how to parent.

No one prepared me for the jealousy. This is horrible to admit but I was (and occasionally still am) jealous of other people having their mums. Oh your mum came and stayed with you for the first month, well lucky you, here I am navigating this journey on my own. Oh your mum cooked dinner for you and got the baby to stop crying. Well aren’t you lucky. The jealousy you feel will be a viscous circle of the green eyed monster followed by guilt and despair. It’s not their fault they still have their mum and yet you can’t help be envious.

No one prepares you for the awkward chit chat at baby groups. If like me you don’t know many mums in your area you may find solace in baby groups. People chatting about their mums, the question pops up about yours. Do you tell them your mums dead? Do I blurt out that I watched my mum become a shell of the person she was, before finally watching her take her last breath. Then become “that woman”. The motherless mother.

The assumption by people that this new amazing little life should have healed you. I love my little man, in fact I cannot even describe the love I have for him. But it doesn’t “fix me”, it doesn’t make the void my mum left behind any smaller. She will never get to meet him, to touch him, to love him. He is amazing and I want my mum around to share him.

I considered not writing this part but this is an honest post so here goes. You may find yourself resenting your mother in law. I am one of the lucky ones, I love my mother in law, we get on incredibly well. But in the early days when I was sleep deprived and desperate for my own mum, her prescience, which was a lot, was just a big fat reminder that I didn’t have a mother anymore. Mine was gone. I honestly felt myself resenting her being at our house so much, I never told her this because even I know it sounds fucking cruel and absurd but here it is in black and white. If you are reading this Sue know that Arlo and I (and your boys but that goes without saying) are bloody lucky to have you. I found myself sometimes being hostile and I would never wish to be rude to anyone and yet at times I probably was.

You will spend a lot of time torturing yourself over questions that cannot be answered. “Would my mum approve? Would she think I was a good mum? Would she be proud?” Of course I like to think my mum would be proud of me but I will never truly know her opinion, I will never hear her telling me again.

If like me you lost your mum in a cruel way and far too soon you may find yourself overcome with anxiety. My mum had motor neurone disease she was in her early fifties and her life was robbed of her. I spent so many nights in the beginning (and often still now) watching Arlo sleep. Checking he was breathing, checking he wasn’t cold or too hot. Checking for rashes and that his breathing sounded normal. My mum had been cruelly taken away from me too soon, so it seemed only rational to me that my son could be to.

Post natal depression. There is no shame in post natal depression and if you find yourself needing help then be brave and get help. I have spoken to many mums who suffered with PND and the only thing they regretted was not speaking out sooner. If like me you don’t have PND but you’re still navigating through the shitstorm that is your grief be prepared for people to tell you that you need help, to assume you’re depressed. I am not depressed. I am grieving. They are different. Trust me I have experienced both.

The brutal truth is that people move on. It doesn’t matter when your mother died having a baby will bring that grief to the forefront again. If there is any time a daughter needs her mother it’s when she’s becoming/become a mother herself. People forget. People assume that time has passed so the pain must have settled down. It doesn’t. The pain doesn’t go away you just become accustomed to living with it.

I wish I could tell you that it gets easier. For me it hasn’t. I wanted to share every part of my pregnancy with my mother and now I want to share every part of my son with her. The first smiles, the first words, the first wobbly steps. Every time your baby hits a new milestone you want to ring your mum and tell her. Find solace in others. I am lucky that I have an older sister, all the advice my mum gave to her when she had her children she now passes on to me. I wish my mum could tell me herself but at least I have something, in that sense I am one of the lucky ones.

If I could offer any advice it would be to take each day as it comes, breathe, cry, smile, laugh, do whatever you need to in the moment. And talk. I didn’t always talk. I spoke to my sister but I didn’t speak to many others. It just meant they were left in the sidelines whilst I stumbled along hitting every road block and bump in the road on my own.

Being a mother is the hardest and most rewarding job. If at times you think “I can’t do it” and you’re finding it impossible. Remember that your mum probably felt exactly the same. But she did it. She raised you and you turned out alright.

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One thought on “What I wish someone had told me as I approached motherhood without my own mother.

  1. Beautifully written & something I will be sharing. Someone I love very much but I know suffers with this dread may very well benefit from your honesty…

    I am lucky enough to have my Mum in our lives but we have had a difficult relationship, further perpetuated by me becoming a mother, so it really can bring on all sorts of unexpected emotions & shifts of perspective. I think it is just worth always being reminded: “You are enough.”

    Well done, Sarah! And massive hugs to lucly little Arlo. X

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