I’ve felt quite disconnected from my second (current) pregnancy. This feeling has surprised me because I loved being pregnant with my first child. But when I break down the whys, a lot of it makes sense.
To start, my entire pregnancy has been during the pandemic, meaning I’ve missed out on the usual ‘pregnancy in public’ experience. My husband and I have been extra cautious due to the pregnancy and for our toddler. It’s been isolating, and not to mention extremely stressful learning how to work from home without childcare for a good portion of the past year. My husband has also (unwillingly) missed all of our appointments and scans, making the experience much more lonely this time around.
Next, right before I found out I was pregnant, I reherniated a disc I had surgery on four years prior. There were days I could barely move, and I couldn’t even sit in a chair until well into my second trimester. The exhaustion from constant pain, lack of sleep, and guilt from not being able to pick up my daughter while my husband had to do everything for months was overwhelming.
And the reason that I think has most impacted my disconnection is that my baby’s due date is on the ninth anniversary of my mother’s sudden death. I’ve had a lot of trouble wrapping my head around this ‘coincidence.’ I found that whenever someone asked me when the baby is due, I’d respond with ‘mid-May.’ I could rarely bring myself to actually say: May 19th.
There are so many emotions that already come with becoming a mother yourself, and even more when you don’t have a mother to witness it happening. I’ve always heard that as time goes by dealing with death and loss gets easier. Maybe for a while I even felt this way too. But when I was pregnant with my first daughter, I began to miss my mother more and more. I’d find myself bursting into tears while driving to work (the only time I was alone each day), realizing again she wasn’t around for any of the experience. Pregnancy hormones didn’t help these emotions one bit either.
I don’t think I necessarily ever expected my mother to be there for guidance but I always thought she’d be around to at least meet and adore my children. I definitely get jealous when my friends’ mothers come to visit and swoon over their grandchildren. When I was little, I used to tell my mom that one thing I really wanted for my future children was for them to have grandparents because I never did. My mother’s father died a couple of years before I was born, her mother died when I was a baby, and my father’s parents were what I call ‘non-practicing grandparents.’ I had a few friends’ grandparents adopt me as a grandchild, but I always felt like I was missing out on the real experience. My children are lucky they have my husband’s parents close by, and it’s really special to witness the bond my daughter is creating with them.
My mother would absolutely love my daughter, who is creative, funny, caring and loves flowers just like my mother. Her middle name is even Rose, because my mother used to randomly paint all sorts of things around our house with rosemaling, a traditional decorative folk art of Norway, where she was from. And well, because she loved Bette Midler. My husband has also taught our daughter some Norwegian words, and I know my mother would get a kick out of that. My daughter says them to her other grandparents but sadly they don’t understand them.
While tidying up some accessories as part of nesting with this second baby, I wondered if I should purge things I rarely use anymore. I ended up keeping them all. Some of my best memories with my mother were going through her jewelry and bag collections, talking about where these items came from, and even getting to take some home each visit as I got older. I can’t guarantee my daughters will enjoy the same things, but I’m holding on to these items just in case as future presents from their Mormor (grandmother in Norwegian).
I’ll never forget the many experiences my mother gave to me that I want to recreate for my daughters. She threw amazing birthday parties that revolved around making all sorts of crafts - probably why I still love crafting. Each year, my mother would take me out of school for a special bonding day that also included learning. We’d start off by going to a historical site or museum, and end the day with a tiny shopping spree. She was bold too and wouldn’t lie to my school. She’d tell them exactly why I wasn’t coming in that day because she felt these days were just as important as attending class. And over summer breaks, she took me to Norway to spend time with our family, who despite living halfway across the world has managed to stay incredibly close.
Oslo became my favorite place to be, and I’ve kept up the tradition of going almost every year to this day. I even took my daughter there when she was three months old because I wanted her to be near my mother’s energy and meet her family. For the first time since my mother’s death, I visited her grave to introduce my husband and daughter to her. I just couldn’t go before, and having my daughter encouraged me to get over that barrier.
I don’t talk about my mother a lot, and I know that’s because I still haven’t processed so much about our relationship or her death. My husband has asked about her a few times, but he never presses people, even me, to speak. Usually I find this trait of his annoying, yet completely appreciate it when it comes to me. I worry about when I’ll need to start telling my daughters about their Mormor. It’ll bring up a lot of bottled up and unresolved emotions, though it’ll likely be very therapeutic too.
There are so many questions I have about me as a baby and child, and how my mother felt as a new mom and just mom in general, that will never be answered. It might be why I take such detailed notes about my daughter’s firsts and make sure to date any and all milestones.
Becoming a mom has taught me so much, led me to appreciate my mother in ways I never have, and develop more empathy for her and the challenging times we had together. I wish I could express all of this to her now. For instance, anyone who knows me knows I’m not a huge hugger. Even though it wasn’t personal, it still upset my mother when I didn’t want to hug her all of the time. Lately, my daughter has started to say 'no' when I ask her for hugs, and even though I try not to take it personally, sometimes I can’t help it. I finally get why my mother felt hurt. If I could go back and hug her everytime she asked, I would.
Getting closer to the date, there are lots of messages coming in about the baby and nothing about my mother. It’s a really weird feeling when others have decided this date means something else to you and keep talking about it like it’s an exciting day. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely excited to welcome our new daughter into this world, I just want her to have her own special date that’s not overshadowed by her own mother’s grief.
Having children without a mother is a very bittersweet experience. No matter how much support you have, there’s still a void that just can’t be filled. I’m sad that they’ll never know each other, and I can only hope that I honor my mother while raising my daughters.