First Post – here I go

January 21, 2015 Written by Helen

It's three years since my mum was diagnosed with metastatic cancer of unknown origin. It was already in her bones and lungs and it was all too late. She died six months later, on a July day in 2012, with all the people she loved beside her. She was 63. I was 32 and 5 weeks pregnant with my first baby.

I had no idea then how I would do this. The idea of becoming a mother without her to show me how was inconceivable. At the same time it was the thought of the little person I was carrying that gave me the will to go on. Everything had to be ok. This tiny baby that I didn't know sort of saved me. I was never alone; I clung to it, as it did to me. Is it cheating, being pregnant when terrible things happen? You can only sink so low.

I will always be sorry that Eve will never know her amazing granny. I won't spend a long time telling you how wonderful she was; you'd think my spectacles were rose-coloured, but you'd be wrong. She was just the best and most brilliant person any of us ever knew.

And now that I am embarking on this journey again, with a second child, many of those feelings I had the first time round have come flooding back. I can't seem to get past the thought that my children's lives just won't be as good without my mum in them. I feel a weight of responsibility, raising them without her in the world: I have to show them the goodness that she would have done. And I am scared of those dark early weeks where nobody sleeps and tears come too easily. I did a lot of crying the first time round. I wanted her so badly. Her and only her. To tell me that I was doing fine; that she had been hopeless too, once upon a time. I am scared that I won't be able to breastfeed. I was the world's worst breastfeeder with Eve but I got an A for effort. Which did nobody any favours, least of all me and the baby. (I'll return to this another time.) I'd have listened to her. 

The injustice of my mum's death staggers me, still. She had worked her whole life (she was a G.P.) looking after us, and everyone else. She and my dad had just embarked on their retirement and they should have been having fun. That she should have been robbed of these precious years is so desperately unfair. These babies would have brought her such joy. I am sad for her, for all she will miss out on, as well as for us.

While I have been writing this and Ben was putting her to bed, Eve has just done a giant vomit all over the carpet and sofa. It's the little things: I never asked my mum how best to clean up sick. I have essentially slung Fairy Liquid and Vanish all over it in equal measure and used up what was left of the kitchen roll. Any suggestions gratefully received...

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16 thoughts on “First Post – here I go”

  1. Helen says:

    Ah it’s hard to parent when you don’t have extended family. And when you’ve had a close bond with someone, I can well imagine wanting their advice and support. I don’t have this with my Mum, and she lives too far away to be of practical help, but it’s massively telling that in the early days after giving birth I had a strong sense of wanting my mum. I think it’s an extreme vulnerablility that makes us need someone to nurture the child in us, while all our energy is focused on nurturing our own babies. I’m so sorry that your mum and you lost so much x

    1. Helen says:

      Thanks for reading. And understanding. x

  2. Sharon says:

    I’m so very sad for you, I know how hard it is to be a mum without a mum. Mine died when my daughter (now approaching 8) was five, and although she was there in the early days she was no practical help as she was ill. Still, she was there, and still, every world book day costume (today’s sadness), every sports team selection, every dance show, hell every THING, that happens, I miss her all over again. I will never get used to her absence from my life.
    My husband and I had our first night away from our daughter last year – a very kind mother of my daughter’s friend (who incidentally has childcare on tap from both willing grandmas) had my child overnight so we could go away. It had been a very long time coming.
    I know what you mean about guilt free childcare, but do give yourself a break. You are doing an amazing job and you will be a better mother for giving to yourself a little!

    1. Helen says:

      Thank you for telling your story. I hope your little girl has treasured memories of her granny. I am glad you got away, and I will try to do the same!

  3. Sonya Doragh says:

    Beautifully written. I am so sad that I didn’t meet your mum but grateful to hear about her from K & now you. Also to see the evidence of what an exceptional woman she was in the lives of her girls. X

    1. Helen says:

      Thank you, Sonya. That’s lovely of you.

  4. georgie says:

    Helen this blog is thr best I have come across. So glad Karherine shared on fb. I will continue to follow! I am just starting out my journey as a mum..without a mum to guide me xxxx

    1. georgie says:

      Also let me just add that your mum was not only a fantastic mother to you girls, but also a beautiful person that I am thankful to have had in mine and in Alexs life xxxx

    2. Helen says:

      Georgie! It’s so great to hear you after all this time. I was so excited to hear you were having a baby – you will be a wonderful mum! x

  5. Nichola birmingham says:

    What a pleasure to be reading your blog, not least because it relates to a subject very close to my heart. Your baby sitting post made me cry. I now have panda eyes!

    In those early days after baby arrives, you take solace from learning that all those other mums at baby group are having the same sleepless nights; sore boobs; and confidence issues. However very few complain that they are doing it all without their Mum in the background. This means for me its hard to find anyone who can totally relate to just how alone I can feel. I think that’s why I’ve cried whilst reading – because you understand.

    It’s hard not to feel pangs of jealousy when new mums talk about their Mum baby sitting or when they talk of “meeting Granny for lunch”. Just the other day I was changing our baby boy in the Mothercare changing facilities, and as I was finishing up, two other new mums were waiting their turn. Both had their Mum as side kick. I left with a heavy heart, almost wishing I were one of them and that it was me on a shopping trip with my Mum and my baby.

    I lost my Mum when I was 11 and now I’m 34. Time has been a great healer for me after losing Mum to cancer. However having my baby has brought back feelings of sadness due to her absence. This is for many reasons including the fact that we wont share things like all of our beautiful boy’s firsts; or all the ‘gorey’ details of my birth!

    Lucky for you Helen that you knew your dear Mum in adult life, and your baby girl will have heard her voice when she was growing inside you. You are blessed.

    Despite the emotions which have stirred up inside me after reading your blog, I feel the need to mention that like you, I have the most amazing, loving and supportive partner who is my best friend. He makes me feel so very lucky and happy every day and I know we’ll get through it together.

    The loss and absence of our Mums too soon demonstrates just how short and precious life is and how we must cherish every moment.

    I will look forward to reading the rest of your posts!


    1. Helen says:

      Thank you for taking the time to share your story. You lost your mum so very young. I can’t even imagine how hard that must have been. Yes, I was so lucky to have grown up with my mum around. I am grateful for that every day.
      Congratulations on your baby boy. Keep in touch! Helen x

  6. Nardia says:

    So glad to have found your blog (via Mummascribbles #FF)!

    I’m sure you’ve discovered since you started this blog this year that you’re not alone. You’re understood. There are those of us out there who get it, I promise! I lost my mum nearly 17 years ago. I was 19, she was 42. I’m now 36, only a few years older than she was when she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.

    I never thought about what motherhood would be like without my mum… until I became one and OMG what an emotional roller coaster it’s been. I have two daughters and since the birth of my first I’ve learnt more about my mother than I ever really thought I could know. I understand decisions she made, things she did. I see her life through a whole new lens.

    I miss her like you wouldn’t believe. Some days, even though so much time has past, the grief is unfathomable. And I am what I call emotionally challenged – I don’t cry or show emotions readily. Oh how the mighty have fallen in that regard.

    I started my blog this year too. For two reasons. One is because I am a writer, or I aspire to be and I needed to make time to exercise the muscle, if you will. The other is to capture our life so that if something should ever happen to me, my girls won’t have the same experience that I’m having now. They will be able to get a sense of who I am and what I stood for in life. Because that is what I am missing the most. I’m grieving the fact that I will never really get to understand my mother’s dreams, aspirations, opinions or beliefs. The thought of my girls not knowing that about me is terrifying. I know it sounds extreme to think in those terms, but I really didn’t understand how much I had lost until I became a mum without my mum by my side.

    So I’m looking forward to following your blog and watching you shape the words you write that will ultimately paint a picture of you for your daughter. I’m planning to print every post and turn into a photo book so that there’s printed record ‘just in case’. For the record, I’m not planning on going anywhere soon!!!

  7. Emma-Louise Gregory says:

    I’ve just come across your blog.
    My mum died when I was 14 in a car accident, I am now 28 and gave birth to my beautiful baby boy 10 weeks ago.
    The hardest part of my pregnancy was not being able to talk to my mum and ask her questions regarding child birth etc… And more importantly the thought of her not meeting her grandson.
    I have my moments when I’m tired or stressed and I just need my mum here to talk to or to help me out now and again. I think it will make me a much stronger mummy in the long run as I feel so much love for this little boy and if I can be anything close to as good a mum as my mum was I will be happy.
    I’m sorry for the rambling message but it feels good to write my feelings down.
    Thank you for your blog x

    1. Helen says:

      And thank you for reading. How very sad to lose your mum so young and in such a tragic way. I am sure she is incredibly proud of you. x

  8. Theresa says:

    Just found your blog and lots of it rings true with me- I became a first time mum to my son Wilf at 42, three weeks after my mum died of cancer of unknown origin at the age of 66. As a mother of 11 (yes, 11) and a primary school teacher, she truly was at ease around babies and young children. Like you, I found Wilf a saviour during her dying days ( she was diagnosed as terminal when I was about 12 weeks pregnant) and it wasn’t until after a pretty traumatic birth ( emergency c section followed by 2 weeks in neonatal intensive care, just one week after her funeral) and when we were settled at home that I realised what a gap she’d left. I found myself wanting to ask her advice. Wilf is now 8 months and I talk about grandma all the time. I think I’m dong a good job but on sleep deprived days I need my mum to affirm this. Thanks for sharing your story x

    1. Helen says:

      I can only imagine how hard it must have been for you. It must all have been so raw when your baby was born. I am so glad he gave you comfort.
      Thanks for reading. x

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