Mothering Without Mom

Little Miss is almost 21 months old now and she had her Gramma Caro for only four of those months.

I’ve been a mother for 21 months now, and I’ve had my mother for only four of those months.

My husband misses his Daddy when we have unexpected car repairs, he has frustrations and concerns about his time in the Navy, or when he wants to build a project that he knows will run away from him, and in a million other situations and little ways

I ache for my Mom in a million ways as I stumble through the tasks of being a Mom myself.

Last night I lay in bed in Mother-panic mode.  Wondering if I am doing things right.  Wondering how to approach disciplinary issues.  Wondering if I’m too harsh.  Wondering if I’m too soft.  Wondering if I’m teaching Little Miss how to eat healthily enough.  Wondering if I am teaching her how to love people, to be kind. 

And all of those thoughts led back to my Mom.  Little Miss’s arrival and early life will always be intertwined with my Mom’s sickness and death…  because the two things were so superimposed on one another.

But it is in the deeps of the night, when I am lying there playing the lawyer, judge, and jury in my very own Court of Motherhood when I find my longing for my Mom becomes nearly unbearable.

I wish so desperately for her voice in my life.  For her reassurance.  For her admonishment.  For her camaraderie.

I long to hear her say that I’m doing a good job.

I ache to confide in her all my anxieties and fears about what we do, and how Little Miss behaves, and see what she would have to say.  Would she be able to relate?  What would her advice be?  Would she tell me to relax?  Would she tell me to do better?  Would she tell me I worry too much?

And I would give anything for the chance to hear her remember her journey as a mother as I grew through the stages that Little Miss faces.  Did she feel this loneliness?  Did the nearly simultaneous dullness and delight of her days with me leave her confused too?  How did she deal with her doubts in herself as a mother?

And now I’m pregnant, and faced with the thought that Mom will never know this child, or any others that we may bring into the world….  She will never hold them, or call them by name.  I will never see the light of joy that being around them would bring to her eyes.  And this thought is so staggeringly hard, and the void so darkly immense, that I can’t even begin to process it, and so I shelve it most of the time.

I have read that women who lose their mother’s before the birth of their children often feel a renewed kinship with them as they realize the mother-child relationship as a mother themselves.

Because I lost my Mom when I was becoming a mother, more than feeling that kinship, I simply feel the pain of losing her just as my journey as a mother was beginning.  And the pain that brings as I walk through my own mothering can be immense.

I know how lucky I am to have been able to put my daughter into my mother’s arms….  I know that many women never get that experience.  But I ache that she couldn’t have held her longer.  I ache over the secrets they will never share, and the memories they will never make.

And I ache for the chance to know her in this way.  To shop for baby clothes together.  To hear her unasked for opinions and unsolicited advice.  To be nurtured in my nurturing.  To be comforted in her reassurance.  To be given the ability to laugh at myself when I’m taking myself too seriously.  I ache for her presence in my life as a Mother, and in my life in general

I guess…  I just…  ache.


The Thankfuller Thanksgiving Post

Also known as:  Today’s Happy List

1)  Little Miss

2)  Husband (even with piles of Shingles)

3)  Being together for a holiday–Read No Deployments this Holiday Season!  (knock wood) Hooyah!

4)  Pink Stuff

5)  Sweet Potato Casserole

6)  Friends coming for Dinner

7)  Seeing my Dad tonight (Shari too!)

8)  Little Miss sleeping to a reasonable time

9)  Little Miss chasing Chester

10)  All of Little Miss’s words…  even the one’s we didn’t mean to teach her. 

11)  Using traditional family recipes

12)  Starting our own traditions

13)  Pretending to be Martha Stewart–even though I’m so not

14)  Frozen Pie Crusts

15)  Mom’s Apple Pie

16)  Shari’s Peanut Butter Pie

17)  Being able to FINALLY get out the Nativity Set and begin telling the story of Jesus’s birth to Little Miss each night.

18)  Christmas tree goes up in 2 days!!!!

19)  Might there be a Christmas Parade to go to somewhere?

20)  The Washingtonian Wood-Stove smell

21)  Experiencing Holidays throughLittle Miss’s eyes

22)  Baby Bean’s first feelable movements (Hallo, Baby!)

23)  Getting our 2nd Vehicle back on Friday all fixed from the deer strike incident (and he had to get Shingles, too?!)

24)  Husband having 2 days off of work

25)  Getting out the Nat King Cole Christmas C.D.

26)  Leftovers

27)  Sending Leftovers home with other people

28)  Putting Leftovers into our awesome fridge

29)  My house will be clean (eventually)

30)  A warm house with a roof over our head…  oh, and also shingles on it.

31)  Cooking with Mom’s recipes, even if they do make me cry

32)  Knowing that crying is good sometimes.

33)  The wood-stove

34)  Being able to start a fire in said wood-stove (I am woman hear me roar.  I can make fire too!)

35)  Teaching Little Miss “Jingle Bells”

36)  Compiling Holiday Memories

37)  New Holiday memories

38)  Hope

39)  Light in the darkness

40)  Hopefully more light this year

41)  Bean letting me have an appetite

42)  Knowing that next Thanksgiving we will have our baby on the outside  😉

43)  Using my beautiful, red, KitchenAide mixer

44)  Being able to take care of/spoil Andy for a change

45)  Feasting

46)  Mint M-n-Ms

47)  Fudge Season

48)  Good-smelling, warm-holiday candles

49)  Reasons to cook Yummy Breakfasts

50)  A reminder to make Happy Lists

The UnThankful Thanksgiving Post

I suppose I should make this my jolly-good cheer and Happy Thanksgiving Post.

But…  I’m not feeling it.

In fact, I still have to buy the turkey for tomorrow.  I hope by the time I get there, they have more than Tofurkey.  I don’t do Tofurkey (sorry Aunt Ellen).

I also have to pretty much clean the house.  I’ve been meaning to start that particular task for days now.  Just never happened.  Here’s to hoping that now that we’re down to the last minute, I’ll find some motivation.  I’m not holding my breath.

I am very excited about Sweet Potato Casserole and Pink Stuff.  Although, I fear that I won’t be able to use the Pink Stuff recipe without crying.  It’s in Mom’s handwriting.  Usually, I can forge through those recipes ok, but today….  Today they make me teary.

Second Round of Holidays without my Mom.  I’ve been so pumped up and excited about the season, hoping so very much that maybe we can just have a simple–time with family–health crises not even on the horizon–happy time this year.  And I’m still hoping that.  But I think I’ve been deluding myself thinking that the ache wouldn’t still be there.

It still is. 

Also you can add on a heaping pile of Shingles to our celebration this Thanksgiving (don’t ask….).

We have much to be Thankful for.   And hopefully that will be my next post. 

But for now, I needed to carve out a space for the ache and the blah and the missing.

D-Day #2

Two years ago I found out my Mom had Lung Cancer.

I’ve been teary all day today for no good reason…  and then I looked at the date and made the connection.  I’ve read a bit about emotional memory when dates come up–how part of you knows before your brain does that it’s a significant day.  Maybe that’s the reason for the tears.

Maybe it’s just hormones.

But what I know for sure is this day two years ago was the day that knocked my whole world on it’s head.  I will never be the same again, and I don’t want to be, but my world will never feel as right again. 

I miss my Mom.

Myth # 2: Lung Cancer is a Death Sentence

When my Mom was diagnosed it was a sock in the stomach, but the blows only got worse as I learned more about her diagnosis.

Before she was even officially staged I ran through the statistics I found on the web.  This, I soon learned, was a very bad idea….

Because the statistics were terrible!!!  I clearly remember reading, “Five Year Survival Rate for Stage IV Lung Cancer:  2%”  and freaking out.  I kept thinking–2% is a kind of milk you buy.  It should not be a number representing the chance of being with your Mom in five years.

I was despondent and dismal and terrified and resolved not to tell Mom what I found. 

Then I found the Lung Cancer Support Community.  I read a few pages.  I read a few profiles.  Then I read a few more.  I gravitated to the words “Stage IV.”  And guess what?  I found survivorsI found folks with Lung Cancer who were living “new normal” lives.  I found people who didn’t give up.  I found resources and information and the right questions to ask one’s doctor.  And then, then I had hope.  And I grabbed onto it and didn’t let go.  I learned that my Mom was not a statistic and we could only wait and see what would happen in her battle.

Guess what.  Even though my Mom gave her life battling Lung Cancer, I still haven’t lost that hope.

Because I learned that Lung Cancer isn’t always a death sentence.  I’ve made friends at that board who are Stage III and Stage IV survivors for 1, 2, even 3 years.  Some have been able to undergo surgery (this is most often not possible with late stages).  Some have just kept trying treatments until they found the ones that worked, and when those treatments stopped working, theyfound another.  Some have danced with our favorite guy NED (No Evidence of Disease) for quite some time.  Some have continued to have cancer in their bodies, but it has remained stable and the chemo’s and therapies they’ve tried have kept things at bay.

Furthermore, I learned that if the cancer is caught at an early stage and surgery is an option survival rates climb dramatically!  When the cancer can be surgically removed at an early stage the chances are better that a person can be around a long, long while.  I think of my Dad’s very special friend, Shari, who has been a Lung Cancer survivor for over 12 years now! 

(Incidentally, that is why it is so very important that a reliable method for screening for Lung Cancer be found, whether it’s Spiral CT scans, or a simple blood test–both possibilities in the works–or something that hasn’t even been thought of.  The chance to detect the cancer before it is in the late stages is the best chance that we have to see the tide turn in this war.)

Lung Cancer is devastating and the statistics surrounding it are far lower than they should be, but it does not have to be a death sentence!

It is imperative that people begin to believe that Lung Cancer is a disease that can be fought!  Why do I say this?  I say it because over and over and over and over and over again we get new-comers to the boards who are late stage whose doctors have given up on them before they were even given the chance to fight.  They are given words like ‘palliative treatment only’ and ‘incurable.’  Sometimes those words are the reality.  Late stage Lung Cancer is considered to be incurable.  But there is still a fight worth waging.  There are still good days to be had, and moments to be made, and time to stretch out for as long as possible (always balancing quality of life, of course).

If so many doctors believe there is no hope….  then there are a lot of people out there who might not be treated as aggressively as they should be (Important lesson here:  Always seek a second opinion!!!!).  It is a sad reality that we often really have only ourselves to advocate for us.  With Lung Cancer, too many times doctors are ready to throw in the towel at diagnosis even when there are promising treatments to be tried. 

I am a strong believer that even with a Stage IV diagnosis there is hope for a cure, if only because with life-extending treatments–and enough of them that work–there is always the hope that one can buy enough time for them to find the kick-ass treatment that will keep the disease at bay–or even extinguish it.

Two stories to highlight:

My friend Kasey was told over two years ago that she should not expect to see the flowers bloom in the following spring.  She was diagnosed with a Non-small Cell Pancoast Tumor, Stage 3A.  She was told it was inoperable and incurable.

She came to LCSC and found a couple of women who had diagnoses similar to hers.  They told her emphatically to seek a second opinion and even helped her get to the right docs to see.  She was able to have a very successful surgery.

Kasey is over 2 years out from diagnosis with No Evidence of Disease! 

Rich–one of the main coordinators of the Boston Lung Cancer Walk/Fun Run this weekend, was diagnosed in 2002 with Stage IV BAC.  He was given a prognosis of 24 months.  He has been through treatment after treatment after treatment….  BUT–Here in November of 2006 he put together one of the most successful fund-raising events for Lung Cancer research in history, and walked himself on top of it all!

Lung Cancer is not a death sentence.  It is not an easy battle to fight, but it is one that can be fought with success.  There is reason to hope.  And the more hope that we can grab onto–the more people who believe that this is a disease worth fighting–the more progress we’re going to make in the quest to eradicate it once and for all.

Grab onto the hope and run with it!

We Did It!!!!

s tree 

Today was the day of the walk.  We were a little late getting started, and we let the Bostonians get a 3 or so hour head start anyway  just because I didn’t want to be out walking at 7 a.m. on a Saturday, but off we went.

We walked in our very favorite State Park on some of our very favorite trails.  It was a magically beautiful day.  As I mentioned earlier, we’ve had record flooding here this week and rain that just wouldn’t stop, but today was just gorgeous.  The path we took snakes along a bluff over the water, and then turns inward.  When we were in the more forested areas, we had the slightest bit of fog so that we had this amazing Sherwood-forest, sun streaming through the trees effect and sunlight dappling the ground.

Even Little Miss used her little walking legs some.

We probably covered about 3 miles of trail before we called it a day.  We got Little Miss in the van to warm up her cold little nose, and headed to Applebees to celebrate Mom style–with Appetizers and rich dessert!

More importantly, we made our goal!  As I said before we aimed high–so high that we thought we were setting ourselves up for failure.  I was a little disappointed to go to bed last night $30 shy of our goal, but when I came home after the walk and checked we’d raised that final $30, and then $25 more!  Plus some of our snail-mail donations are still on their way!

Even more incredible–the entire Boston Area Lung Cancer Walk/Fun Run with all of the satellites raised over $97,000 for Lung Cancer research.  That is a number I can’t even get my head around.  That is a number that can make a difference.  And to think, it’s because a few people got together and decided that maybe they could make a drop in the bucket on the way to a cure. 

I expected to be emotional during the walk.  I wasn’t really.  I cried a little in the car on the way to the parl thinking of the members of LCSC, some of whom I was walking with, others who are gone already.  I thought of Fay A, in particular, because before she died, she charged me with the mission to make noise about Lung Cancer and to do all I could to make a difference.  I hope Fay was proud today.

Of course I thought about Mom.  But I didn’t really dwell on those thoughts until I got home to read a beautiful email from one of her favorite people from Maytag.  The email re-emphasized what a special person Mom was and chuckled over what she would think about having a daughter going to seminary.  And…  then it was all about Mom.  I hope she was proud today too.

So…  We did it!!!!  And I thank those of you who read here who donated so generously.  I thank everyone who thought of us and supported us in this walk.

I am just so happy.  And so astounded at what a few ordinary people can do when they think big and aim high.  I hope that this offering will go a long way and will help to pave the way for a Lung Cancer breakthrough.