I thought it was probably important for me to share my story, not only for myself as I find putting things down into words therapeutic. I also felt it may help others. Although I am sure not many will share the exact same experience as my own, I am aware that I am not the only person to find myself processing death and new life at the same time.
I remember the phrase ‘as one life ends, another begins’ being said to me on numerous occasions, completely uncomforting and unhelpful in the early stages of grief, but nevertheless the statement is true.
Before I start my story I want to share what an unbelievably strong and determined woman my mother was, I spent most of my childhood in awe of her, I always aspired to be the type of Mum she was – kind, encouraging, thoughtful but also wasn’t there to take any crap! I know for a fact that if she had the strength to pull through, then she would have been sat right by my side now, I don’t have any doubt in my mind that she didn’t fight to be here until her very last breath.
So here is where my journey into motherhood took a drastic change for the worse…
It was 12 days before my due date with my first child. Mum had been unwell in hospital for a week or so. Although poorly she seemed to be on the mend, the Doctors were positive that a full recovery would be made within in time. When speaking with the nurses on the ward they had said to me that there was a chance that Mum could be home for babies arrival, but failing that I could bring him in and Mum could have a cuddle!
I really was unaware how things could change so drastically in such a short amount of time. We went from thinking Mum was on the road to being well enough to come home, to sat watching Mum on a ventilator in an Intensive Care Unit.
I remember the moment it went from fairly calm and normal, to utter panic and my world feeling like it had been turned upside down.
It was a Wednesday morning, I was 38 weeks pregnant and finally on Maternity leave, I had been to visit my Mum the night before so thought I would try and crack on with some baby bits before going up to the hospital again that night. I was stood on a chair hanging some bunting in Carters nursery, when the front door slammed open and my husband ran up the stairs in a panic, he started shouting at me for not answering my phone – it was in the other room on silent.. with about 60 missed calls and numerous texts. I was in shock and confused. The first sentence that came out of my mouth was ‘Has she died?’ I just had that horrible feeling in my stomach that something was really wrong.
That morning the hospital had placed Mum into the ICU, she had drastically declined over night and was struggling to breathe. At first Dad was told not to worry but that soon changed and he had to call all of us to come to the hospital.
I remember this day feeling like the longest of my life, Mum was still awake but on Oxygen, she was desperately trying to talk to us but it was exhausting her, I kept telling her to stop and try to rest. I remember the look of worry in her eyes, as she rubbed my pregnant belly and tried to focus on her breath. That look of fear on her face is an image that will never leave my mind.
I still truly believed that this was only going to be a temporary situation and she would be back on a normal ward in a day or two, and at this point I still believed she would be home for my due date.
This was until that evening. We was all called into a room, the doctors sat us down as they wanted to discuss Mums current state. In this moment everything changed. The doctor very directly told us that Mum was very very unwell, that they were making the decision to put her onto a ventilator and place her into a medically induced coma, and that we should know there was a chance she may die.
I will never forget that moment, the world froze as those words came out of his mouth and I felt my heart physically break.
The following days from that evening are a blur, each one seems to roll into another. This was not something that was ever expected, my Mum had always been so strong and rarely ever poorly, I just didn’t believe she could be as ill as the doctors had said. She had so much ahead of her? there was no way she could miss it all? She was so excited to become a Nanny, we had so many plans and a whole new chapter to start.
In total we were sat in the Intensive Care Unit for 12 days with Mum, the entire family were there most days. I don’t think she could ever know just how much she was loved by her family. I was there every single day, 9 months pregnant in the heat of August, but there wasn’t anywhere else I would have been than right next to her.
I can only describe those days that she was in the coma as feeling like I was on the worst roller coaster with no control. The doctors were updating us each day with some improvements, but they were also informing us that in other areas she was not responding to treatments. I never knew what to expect each time a doctor approached us, I just had a constant feeling of fear in my stomach but was also so full of hope.
Eventually after 10 days with no real solid update to what Mums situation was, we was taken as a family into a room, none of us really knowing what the outcome would be. Again the doctor told us very directly. He informed us that there was no longer any improvements being made and she wasn’t responding to the treatments. That they had tried everything they could but they were going to have to make the medical decision to turn the ventilator off, and that this would mean she would die.
They were to give it two more days before taking that action. I still don’t know to this day if that was because there was a slim chance of hope?
Those two extra days would take us the the 11th September, my due date.
That night we drove home from the hospital, not a tear was shed, my body and mind were in complete shock. I couldn’t take the information in. I was emotionless and completely drained.
I went to bed that evening in a complete blur, I then woke a few hours later, to my waters breaking.
I went into the hospital knowing I was about to give birth to my first child, that my Mum wasn’t going to be there to hold my hand, she wasn’t going to be able to steal the first cuddle, and deep down I knew she wouldn’t be alive to ever know him.
It was a horrendous reality to have to face.
I remember getting into the water pool and trying to stay calm, when one of the Midwifes asked if it was our first, I replied ‘yes’ to which she said ‘your Mum must be so excited, will she be coming later?’. I will never forget that feeling of just being gutted. I thought how the hell am I meant to do all this without my Mum here? I knew from that moment on this was something I was going to face for the rest of my life.
I had a straight forward water birth, some will say I was lucky. I struggle to see the luck in any of this but I am grateful that there wasn’t complications and me and baby was able to go home that day.
The following day after Carter was born, I made my last trip to the ICU, this was my due date. A day I had counted down to and dreamed of how amazing it would be for myself, my husband and my parents for who it was their very first grandchild. I had planned in my head how I’d call my parents and tell them to come meet him, the photo’s I would take and I visioned the overwhelming sense of pride my parents would feel – this turned out to merely be a dream in my head.
I remember walking into the ICU so full of Oxytocin and hope, I placed Carter on my Mum praying that he would be the miracle to fix her. I had hoped so much that her hand would move, her eyes would open or her heart rate would increase. I just wanted her to know her grandson had arrived, and that we needed her.
Sadly there was no miracle, I could feel myself for the first time admit defeat and give up. My mind and body no longer had anything left and I knew I was going to have to leave. If not for my own sanity, for my newborn child sake. I kissed her goodbye and walked out of that room a Motherless Mother. I was so alone, so heartbroken and so scared – every part of me wanted to run away.
Following that very moment my entire life was turned upside down. Nothing I had ever pictured would look the same. I had encountered the very worst at just 23 years old, no new Mum should have to face their own Mum dying. I have felt anger, hopelessness and at times felt I couldn’t cope.
However in amongst all the darkness, I have also felt immense happiness and gratitude for life. I have learnt to appreciate the little things, be grateful for the people around me and take as many moments as I can in. Because I know all too well that in a blink of an eye, within 12 days your life can go from looking pretty perfect, to a tragedy.
My Mum was the very BEST, and I wish more than anything that she was here to experience my new life with me. However the harsh facts are that she isn’t, and what happened to us was cruel.
I could have chosen two ways of leading my life that day I left the hospital… I could let it break me and ruin the happy years ahead with my children. Or I could make my Mum proud by being brave and giving my children all the love and happiness she gave me.
My journey into motherhood has been anything but normal, however over the past 2 years I have learnt I am not alone in this. There are many of us in the ‘Motherless Mothers’ boat, and none of us asked to be put here. I find massive comfort in knowing i’m not alone in my experiences. Every time I find myself angry because I feel like I have been abandoned in Motherhood, I take a step back and remember there are so many of us that find ourselves feeling alone and different. The world isnt against me, it’s just really tested me… and I choose to get back up and smile each time.
This is the main reason I decided to start blogging and sharing.
There is no such thing as normal in motherhood, just because your story is different to the next doesn’t mean you don’t share the same struggles and emotions. There is also no normal way to grieve. I hope to put a positive on things that can be hard, my Mum was queen of positive so I like to try and look at life the way she did.
Thank you for reading, I hope in some way I can be of help.