On having a baby without your parents

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Having a baby without your parents

The pregnancy books like to tell me that this is a time when my Mum and I will enjoy a new closeness as we bond over being mothers – at which point I tend to throw the book, cry or simply sigh the unending grief of living without her. 

My Mum was a midwife, a job she loved and cherished. I remember when I was little, prized days were the ones when she would  come home from work with a Bounty pack, filled with coveted mum-to-be treats that I lavished upon my dolls. I got one of those packs last week, 30 years later, collected from a stranger in Boots, and the first time I really needed one.

Mum pregnant with me
Mum pregnant with me

I want to ask Mum my first word, how long her labour lasted, did she get stretch marks, how did I sleep, what were her tricks; the questions rise every day. Family and friends give fragments, but the portrait has been lost.

Dad’s gone too. He was 44, and Mum 51, when life slipped away. Alcoholism and MS: the greatest thieves from my story.

Illness and loss cast shadows on my teens and twenties, but life when little was light and filled with memories that pregnancy likes to jog: the holidays we took, the jokes we made and the little trio the three of us formed. My parents were fun, kind and loving; the perfect recipe for grandparents.

Mum and me on my first day in the world
Mum and me on my first day in the world

Grief is something that never goes away. It ebbs and flows from the bearable to the intense. Big days are hard – weddings, Christmas, anniversaries – but then there’s the little, unexpected moments – a gesture, a smell, a word – that cut down to the feeling’s rawness. Pregnancy has both – the bigness and the everyday – I yearn for my parents’ presence.

Mum, Dad and me
Mum, Dad and me

But yearning and wishing cant bring a person back. My baby will know my parents only through stories and the legacy of what they made me to be. Their absence in body is heartbreaking, and on days the solace is bitter. But when solace is the only option, there have to be days when you discover its sweetness. Not a day goes by when I don’t miss my parents, but equally, not a moment goes by when I don’t feel lucky to have had them. I see them in me, I feel them in me, I carry them forever with me. And that’s how my baby will know them: through their imprints left on me.

Have you had a baby after your parents have passed away? I’d love to hear your stories.

17 thoughts on “On having a baby without your parents”

  1. Very touched by your story – thank you for sharing it. You look so like your mum!
    Enjoy the next stage of your pregnancy, and all good wishes for the new family you are making. You’re so right to take the good things from the past into the future with you.

    • Thanks for such lovely words. And yes, I think finding the positives within sad moments is key to getting along with things. Thanks again for commenting and sending kind words 🙂

  2. Oh Victoria, what a beautiful and sad post. I can’t possibly know what you are are feeling but I just wanted to say that I’m thinking of you. You guys are going to be such amazing parents.

  3. Thank you for sharing your personal story and thoughts on this subject. My mum passed away from cancer when I was 17, and my husband and I are trying for a baby now, so this really hits home for me. I only just realized when reading this how much I have missed reading about someone else in a similar situation.
    Even though I am not pregnant yet, I am already feeling the wealth of new questions I wish I could ask her, as well as the rawness of emotions and memories you describe popping up all the time. I am lucky enough to still have my dad and have been drawing on his memories of my mum’s pregnancy with me and on his life experience in ways I think most women don’t involve their dads in their pregnancies. I am also lucky to have a close bond with my mother in law, and I am sure I can ask her anything in the time to come. It’s not the same as having a mum by your side at (arguably) the most important time of your life, but it helps me feel less lost.
    I can’t imagine having lost both parents, or how alone you must sometimes feel. I admire your strength and your positive perspective, and I can’t wait to follow your journey into motherhood, which I am sure will continue to be an inspiration for me.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story Nina. As you say, it helps to hear from others in a similar situation. It is hard having lost both parents, but I’m also lucky that I have a really big extended family (my Mum was one of six and my Dad one of four), plus my in-laws are also very supportive. Ultimately, I just feel so lucky that I had my parents even though it was for a much shorter time than I’d have liked. Thanks again for sharing and following along 🙂

  4. I lost my mom 5 years before my elder son was born, and I am sure that his birth gave my dad the boost he needed to get back to grips with life.

    One thing my mom had done, way back before internet, of course, and when even taking photos was expensive, was to make a “baby book.” I don’t know if they even still make them, but she recorded all those little things like first tooth, first steps etc. When I came to be a mom I found that strangely comforting. My dad would never have remembered all that.

    • Thank you for sharing your story Linda. My Mum also had a baby book, but sadly she didn’t fill it all in. At least there are a few good snippets in there though! I’m going to try and make the effort to do one myself so my baby will have it in the future. Plus it’ll be a good way to jog my own memory in the future!

  5. I lost my mom, sort of, at birth. The day I was born, she had a ‘nervous breakdown’. This was in the 1950’s. I went to live with my maternal grandparents, whom I loved dearly and had a wonderful upbringing by them. My mother was committed to a mental institution and my dad deserted us and her when she went into labor with me. We visited her about once a year. My maternal grandmother died when I was 10 years old, so, no woman in the house for some years. Some years later, after college, I met my husband, a medical student, and became happily married. We adopted our first child, my son and I was in such fear that someone would take him away, as I was taken from my mother. Nothing happened, fortunately. Then I became pregnant 2 years later and we had my daughter. My mother-in-law had some severe mental issues as well and I could not rely on her for child rearing advice. So, I turned to books and parenting TV shows and I watched my other mother friends as they took care of their babies. I was always worrying about whether I was doing the right thing or not. I don’t think a day went by where I wasn’t worrying about my babies. Then I found Dr. T. Berry Brazelton’s show and books and he made motherhood appear so loving for me and helped me to see that if my baby was happy and thriving and I was happy and thriving, then I was doing a very good job of being a mother to my children. I loved that man! My husband got to meet him once at a hospital event. That was pretty thrilling. I’m sure you will be a wonderful mother too!

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story, and I’m sorry it’s been a difficult journey. But it sounds like you found a positive way through it and I find that very inspiring. I’ll be sure to have a look at the books you mention – they sound very helpful. Thanks again for sharing your story. It means a lot to me to hear other people’s experiences.

  6. I can’t imagine having lost both parents, or how alone you must sometimes feel. I admire your strength and your positive perspective, and I can’t wait to follow your journey into motherhood, which I am sure will continue to be an inspiration for me.

  7. Hi Victoria!
    I found your blog because I was precisely thinking about that today: my mum is alive but we’ve never been close and my dad and my nanny, who I was much closer to and who had a more active role in bringing me up both passed away. I’m four weeks pregnant and have realised – today actually – how sad it makes me not to have the relatives I was the closest to, and the ones who made me want to be a parent, or who would be able and keen to tell me stories, around. It also feels like being bizarrely unrooted and unprepared. I discussed it with my partner (by which I mean I sobbed over him) today and we wondered how to make this better, who can be there for me and play that role a bit, who can be a sort of loving grandparent and how to feel a connection to the relatives who are gone even though they’re gone (something you mention you’ve managed!). Anyway, thanks for writing this. It makes me realise it’s a thing and it’s important. Also your pregnant mum looks cute 🙂

    • Thanks Lera, I’m so pleased the post was useful and resonated with you. Good luck with it all. Our parents never truly leave us, so they’ll be an inevitable part of your parenting. And I agree, my Mum does look cute! 🙂

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