My mom had me when she was 30 years old. I always swore up and down that I would have kids before I was 30 because my Mom and I did not get along when I was a teenager. I always felt like she just didn’t get me and our age difference was a huge factor. Fast forward to April 2015 while I was staring a positive pregnancy test and my 30th birthday was looming in the distance. I thought to myself “Shit, well, it looks like I’m having my first child at age 30.”
A Life Changing Diagnosis
My Mom was diagnosed with an inoperable brain stem tumor when I was in 8th grade. I can still remember a series of events than ultimately led to my parents sitting us down and telling us what was going on. The week prior my Mom had burst out crying while explaining to us that our cat Fila was blind from some surgery she went through. She later regained her eyesight, but I remember that that moment when my mom was crying I thought something was wrong with HER.
It must have been foreshadowing because a week later my Mom and Dad sat me and my middle brother down and told us the news. I took it as you would expect. Tears, anger, acting out, making poor decisions because my undeveloped brain and emotions weren’t able to articulate my true feelings. I was scared and I had no control over the situation.
Losing My Mother at a Young Age
When I was 21 she fought her final fight and passed away on June 28, 2006. It feels horrible to say, but it was a relief. Not for me, but for her. She had been through so much, she fought so hard, but with the tumor being wrapped around her brain stem breathing, functioning, swallowing; everything was a struggle. The day the doctors told her she needed to put a thickening agent in her coffee to avoid aspirating it was the day, in my mind, that she gave up. She loved coffee and it was the one last thing she was able to enjoy. With that being taken from her, the fight was gone.
After she passed, in my grief, I thought of all the things she would miss out on. My marriage, my children, my life, my accomplishments, career, and successes.
She wouldn’t get to be there when a boy broke my heart, or when I ‘said yes to the dress’. All the stupid things you don’t think about until that person ceases to exist and then you’re left with sadness.
Life Moves On, So Do People, and So Does the World
I’ve been fairly good about moving through my grief. Because she suffered from such a horrendous disease, I felt better in her passing because she wasn’t suffering. Which makes it easier to move on and not dwell. I navigated not having her there when my boyfriend (now husband) were going through problems. Through my engagement, wedding, and first major marital fight. I was doing good.
Being Pregnant & Becoming a Mom – Without a Mom
Then I got pregnant. I had my daughter. And those feelings of “I’m ok without my Mom.” went out the window. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her. She is missing the best moments of my life and getting to experience her granddaughter, someone who I think (maybe because I’m biased), is pretty rad.
The first year of my daughter’s life I reached out to other moms, my mother-in-law, Google, and my sister-in-law when I had concerns or questions. But every time, in the back of mind I always thought – I should be calling my Mom.
This isn’t fair. I want to call her at 4 a.m. upset because the baby won’t sleep. Call her in the middle of the day because I just can’t take it anymore and I need her to come watch the baby so I can sleep.
I want to call her to tell her about the first time the baby laughed, the first time she said Mama. To see her face light up the first time she said “I love you maw maw!”
But I won’t get that. And it sucks. It really, really sucks.
The Only Thing Left to Do, Is Keep on Moving
So I soldier on. I call my husband, I call my mother-in-law, I call my Dad. I’ll brag to anyone who will listen and plaster her face on my social media to share her with the world. Because I can’t share her with the only person I truly want to share her with, the one person I miss the most.
The love I have in my heart for my daughter still isn’t enough to fill the void left there by the loss of my mother.
But maybe it’s not supposed to. Maybe they aren’t meant to cancel each other out. Perhaps I’m a better mother because I’m motherless myself. I’m constantly trying to prove that I can do this without her. You never stop trying to make your parent proud, even when they aren’t around.
And you know what? I’m doing a really good job. Despite the struggles, the ups and the downs, and the loss. Despite waking up and going to bed with a hole in my heart and a sadness in my chest. I know that 100% she would be proud of me, the person I became, the mother I am. Because I’m doing a really fucking good job and I have her to thank for that.
In Memory of Debra Mae Dellinger 1955 – 2006
In-post images provided by the author. Used with permission.