I just finished reading John Green’s The Fault in our Stars. It is brilliant and beautiful, and written with a younger audience in mind than my almost-30-self ( I’m not ashamed to read young adult fiction).
The story is about Hazel and Augustus, two teenagers who have battled/are battling cancer. They meet in support group and fall in love. Hazel is an only child, and her cancer is terminal. At one point in the story, Hazel is in the hospital, surrounded by her mother and father, and she’s fighting to breath and her parents are weeping and telling her that it is okay to let go but Hazel can’t, she doesn’t let herself die, her lungs keep fighting even though her brain tells her to give up. And as she’s fighting for breath and for life, her mother buries her face in her father’s chest and says:
I won’t be a mom anymore.
This weekend, the Hubs and I went to Walmart (ugh) to buy the makings of our garage gym (aw yea!) and ran into one of our neighbors, the sweet woman who lives across the street. We chatted a bit in the line and then she asked, in that way that has a second, deeper meaning, “How are you guys doing?”
It’s rare that the Hubs and I have to answer this question in tandem, and so we both trot out our go-to phrases, “there are good days and bad,” “We have a lot to look forward to,” “We just try to keep busy” and on and on. Our Neighbor’s eyes welled up with tears and she said, “Well I hope you guys get pregnant again soon. You’re going to be such good parents.” And then she thought for a second and blurted out, “That was really insensitive of me to say. You ARE parents. You are good parents.”
A lot of the condolence cards and notes on Facebook reiterate this:
You will always be Hudson’s mommy.
And I appreciate the sentiment, I really do, and there is a part of me that really believes it, too. But I’m not a mom, really. Not in daily practice.
I don’t have a baby to mother. I am just as useless around babies as I was before I had my own. I never got to develop that 6th sense with my daughter about what her cries meant. I never set a routine with her, determined her bed time, created a “take-turns on diaper change rotation” with the Hubs, figured out her feeding. I’ll never get to watch Hudson take her first steps or clap my hands with her first words or drop her off for school or take her to piano lessons or hate her first ex-boyfriend or ground her for staying out too late or hold my breath as she backs the car out of the driveway for the first time by herself.
But I am a mommy in my heart. As Hudson died in our arms, one thing I remember saying over and over was “Thank you for making me a mommy.” Being a parent isn’t just about the practical application, the daily tasks or interactions associated with having offspring. Being a parent, being a mommy, is also about what happens to the royal You when you have a child.
Your hopes and dreams shift from You to Them. Your sense of self is enlarged, because you just created this amazing little being so you know you’re pretty incredible but that all pales in comparison to what you’ve created. You would do anything for them… cliche though it may be, it is the truth. Your personal needs, they take a back seat. Your sole purpose goes from existing to providing. All you care about is making the world you need to make for your child. When you realize that You are not important anymore, and when you realize that you and You don’t really care… you’re a mommy.
That doesn’t change just because your child dies. I would still do anything for Hudson. I’m humbled. My priorities are different, larger. All I care about is creating a world for my children (well, along with creating more children, of course). When your child dies, you don’t go back to You.
It’s good for You to take a backseat at a certain point in life.
Always an ambitious woman, I was surprised at how motherhood struck me. When Hudson was born, I realized that there is no career I have a higher calling for than Mommydome. I don’t know if I will ever have it in me to be a stay-at-home mom, but that doesn’t mean I am not a full-time mom.
I’m always going to be Momma Dub. I’m always going to be Hudson’s Mommy. Whenever Baby Dub Dos arrives on the scene, I will be thrown into that wonderful missed-out-on world of Daily Motherhood Practice…
…the diaper changes
…the feeding and sleeping schedules
…the sixth sense about cries
…the millions of experiences I’m missing without our girl.
And those experiences will be new for me, but the whole being a mom thing?
I can’t even remember what it was like before I was a mom.