I received 55% on my calculus exam and felt the great relief in passing and never needing to take it again yet the burden of not meeting my goal and feeling like a failure. I returned to my dorm room to talk it out on the phone with my mom. She listened and encouraged which allowed me to process. For almost every paper and exam I knew where to go to debrief – with the person who truly seemed to care about these details: my mom.
After a significant break up where I had invested so much time, energy, and emotion into something that was not going anywhere, I felt like a failure. I felt uncertain about the future and whether I would ever find love again. I wanted my mom. She wrote me cards and checked in with me over the phone. I didn't want to talk about it with her but I needed to hear the words that I was lovable and special and I was going to be okay. She knew how to listen and support me – I needed her.
I was halfway across the world when I got the phone call that my mom's breast cancer had spread to her bones. No cure. Terminal. I changed my plans and would come home a few months early. I still had one month left before the earliest affordable return flight and all I could think was I want my mom (and my husband-to-be who was waiting back home too!) We wrote letters–the handwritten kind–along with emails and phone calls. On New Years Eve in 2004, I returned to my childhood home to live with my parents.
I was engaged to be married just a few weeks later and as I planned to go dress shopping all I knew is that I wanted my mom to go with me. She was able to help me choose my wedding dress and I found a mother-of-the-bride dress for her. The wedding was a few months later and the night before my wedding I could not sleep. I went upstairs and found my mom. She listened, gave me half a sleeping pill with a hug, and off to sleep I went.
Less than a year later she lay on her bed unable to move. My left hand held hers and my right one held my pregnant belly. She was going and I needed her. I needed her for all the reasons I knew–like the support and encouragement and processing–and all the unknowns that were to come with becoming a mom myself.
In labour, just three months later, I went in thinking I would rock it and ended up feeling unprepared and overwhelmed. I called my sister in the midst of it and the doctor asked "Are you talking to your mom?" No, I wasn't. I wish I was. I wanted my mom. I needed her.
When our son was finally born via C-section the next day, relatives came to celebrate. With the birth of our child, my sister's were called "aunties" once again. My dad became Opi. Oma was in heaven. When my mother-in-law held our son I saw all that could have been. It was beautiful and it was heart-breaking. I wanted my mom there with us all to celebrate the arrival of her first grandson.
Years passed where I learned all about breastfeeding, baby's first food, crawling, walking, first words...what were these details like for my own childhood? I don't know. I wish I could have asked my mom. How had my mom done this five times in eight years? I wanted to thank her.
I watch my oldest son score a goal in hockey and I know she would have loved sitting in the stands and cheering–encouragement was her "thing." I can see her in so many of my memories just looking at us and smiling. I think she would have come to their track meets and hockey games and ballet classes. I hope so, anyway. I would have loved to have shared that with her.
Sitting side by side with my daughter on the couch, she has asked me to read to her. I told her I would in a minute. Five minutes have passed and there I am on my phone. Again. She starts reading to herself and as I look over and realize the truth before me–she wants her mom. I am here. I don't want her to remember me smiling at my phone. We read Winnie the Pooh's Picnic. Again.
A piece of my mom carries on in the foundation of my parenting and in my daughter's name. I can hear her "You go, Girl!" and I know I can do almost anything. I hear her when I support my kids with "I'm so proud of you!" and "Just try your best!" My baby girl also has the gift of encouragement which helps me every day. I want my kids to feel heard. I am here when they need me and will work every day at being present with them while I actually can be.