Grief in itself is a personal journey, and I’ve come to find its just as challenging when you’re a mother.
Almost a year ago I lost my last living parent, again to cancer, whilst at the same time I was 7 months pregnant with my second child.
Caring for mum became physically challenging the further along my pregnancy I got, which resulted in me having to hand over the reins to the hospital.
I never used to talk about Charlie too much with Mum, we both knew that she wouldn’t be around for his life. The nurses would try to be thoughtful bringing a Doppler in for Mum to hear Charlie’s heartbeat, but I remember turning them away. I felt that it would encourage mum to keep holding on when every part of her mind and body was ready to let go. She had fought a long fight.
I was so blessed that my in-laws were there to care for Cooper so I could have these months with Mum, I will forever be grateful. But in the back of my mind every day I just had guilt. Guilt that I wasn’t there for Cooper to care for him and hours away from my other half to be a partner. Silly, I know, when everyone was perfectly fine to hold down the fort in my absence.
Birthing Charlie was very different to Cooper. Cooper was a long 35 hour labour and I was physically exhausted. Charlie however was induced due to distress and was a mere 4 hour labour, but was emotionally exhausting. I had just had enough of “hard”. I had reached my limits.
Thankfully I was blessed with a healthy beautiful boy, who among the previous couple of years of constant challenges, was a breath of fresh air.
But everything was constantly changing. And that’s life. We’ve become a family of four not long after experiencing something so confronting. Before I knew it my partner was back at work and I was home alone……with two boys who constantly needed my undivided attention.
I thought that raising boys would be a great distraction from what had unfolded, but it turns out that all I could give my family was a shell of myself. Grief is a lonely road when you’re the only one walking it. And it’s just as frustrating for others who feel helpless.
As time went on cracks began to appear. I came to struggle with the idea of having my heart so full welcoming another beautiful boy to our family, but at the same time feeling so broken.
When you’re a Mum you don’t get to grieve like others, you don’t get to sit and be left alone with your thoughts or retract yourself from social norms. I became irritable and explosive to my then 2-year-old. It wasn’t like he was a bad kid or probably even doing his worst, but it was the load on top of the role of being a Mum that was breaking me.
I quickly found ways to cope through those days. I would put both kids in the car and just drive. We’d drive to the local dump (Cooper loves the digger there) with a coffee in one hand and playing the most depressing music you could think of to allow myself a good cry. Just to get it out of my system until I felt I could be a Mum who had her shit together again.
The nightmares would creep in, of always saying goodbye to Mum. I’d sit on the lounge trying to reflect on that dream but would constantly get interrupted for a drink, toast, to be picked up, next episode of Paw Patrol, breast feed etc. I just wanted to sit there and hold onto that moment with Mum a little more but was impossible with two little ones in tow.
My partner got used to the house looking like a brothel when he’d finish his 12-hour day of work, I could tell it wasn’t the most inviting image to come home to. I was in survival mode. Those closest knew that I’m the sort of person that unless I bring it up, I don’t want to talk about it. And then there were others that made me feel ungrateful for the blessings I do have. Just because I have bad days, does NOT mean I feel like I have a bad life.
But I was supported. I AM supported. The rest is up to me and just the organic process of learning to accept this new way of life.
It took me a while to stop treating grief like a pile of laundry or the stack of dishes, you can’t just put it to the side and deal with it later. My boys needed their mum back, and I needed to try harder. The reality is that we are all mortal, we all have an expiry date.
To be able to write about this now means that I’ve been able to lose focus on those last moments of Mum’s passing and I can now reflect on happier times. I do, and will, still have good and bad days, but that’s just the process of grieving. My family are slowly getting their Mum and partner back, one step at a time.