As I’ve been immersed in caring for this baby, I can’t help but think of how my own mother invested this very kind of unconditional energy and love into me. It’s a primal, intense, all-consuming connection. The physical and emotional commitment it takes to carry and birth and then nurture a child is overwhelming in its depth, scope, and demand. And it tears me apart to process a world with the absence of the person who knew and loved me in this way. Who committed to me in the ways that I have committed to my own children. Experiencing and giving that love to my children has made me all the more aware of the gravity of what I lost five weeks ago.
As life returns to its new normal, I find myself allowing the sadness and grief to wash over me. With the final weeks of the pregnancy, and the birth, and the transition home, and the mastitis, I’d been so caught up in surviving the task at hand that I’d had to push my mother and our loss further back in my mind. Grief is exhausting, and I only have so much energy to give in a day. I think I subconsciously protected myself and could only allow so much processing in order to do that.
But the fever is gone. Sander and I are settling into a rhythm with breastfeeding. My dad has returned home to the Cape. James is transitioning back to work. And the past two mornings have found us sending the kids off to school in their usual routine, and tucking them in at night as a family of five, with baths, and stories, and lullabies.
Life moves forward. We laugh. We bicker. We talk about our days. We play. We eat. There are times where everything feels so painfully normal. Okay. The same.
And yet nothing is the same. Nor will it ever be.
Last night, I listened to the last voicemail I have saved from my mother. My heart soared at the sound of her voice, so alive, so happy, repeating over and over the phrase “I love you,” as she babbled about her day teaching, and a cashmere baby romper she’d found that she wanted to purchase for us (that is exactly as impractical as it sounds, yet so typical of my mother to want to spoil her grandchild in this way). She laughed at herself as she stumbled to find the right word. “Onesie? No, those don’t have legs. Footie? No. Well, you know what I mean! I’ll call it a footsie. I just want that baby warm!” Ever a constant sentiment from her. Warm, and cozy, and snug. Safe. The way she always made us feel.
I cried big, ugly, gulping tears after listening to her voice. And for the first time, it wasn’t the pregnancy, or the postpartum hormones, or the baby, or the fever muddled in with my emotion. In that moment, it was simply the overwhelming sadness that I would never get to hear that voice again. That laughter. That outpouring of love. In real time. All I have are memories, and they’ll never be enough. And it feels so deeply, cuttingly unfair.
Thinking about my mother, and allowing myself to miss her and feel sad about her absence is normal. And important. It felt good to cry, just for her. And how much I miss her and always will.
Life moves forward. But it’s okay for me to pause. And remember. And listen to a voice that will always provide deep comfort and love, despite the yearning it inspires.
As I move into this next stage of life, this new normal, I’m trying to be gentle on myself. I’m setting simple goals for each day. Enjoy the sweetness of this newborn squish. Stick my face in the sun. Breath. Take everything one day at a time. For now, that’s all I can do.
^^We survived our first day flying solo (duo?) without too many tears from either of us. Fist in air!^^