Keeping Mum
Dita De Boni looks at the trials and tribulations of being a parent.

Being a mum without having a mum


Tuesday October 14 marks exactly a year since I lost my own mother to pancreatic cancer.

This time last year our family was drawing to the end of a pretty much unspeakable two months of pain and misery, watching the lynchpin of our family die a painful death. Of course, the pain and misery continue.

It's also been a year in which my daughter was born, and so - as is often the case in life - good has come alongside bad.

But having a child without your mother's steady guidance beside you is not the same experience.

The contrast between my two pregnancies could not be greater from the perspective of my mother's involvement.

She burst into tears when I told her I was 9 weeks pregnant the first time (on Christmas Day 2005 - probably one of the best Christmas presents she ever got).

She was there for every twist and turn in what was to be a terrible ordeal of losing one of the twins, emergency surgery, bed rest, premature birth and finally home with a tiny little dot of a child.

I remember through long weeks on bed rest I used to be annoyed when my mother would call me every day to see how I was doing.

"I have nothing to report!" I would say, exasperated.

Of course, what I wouldn't give for the same phone call now.

She was there when we brought our son home. She brought him gifts, helped me get geared up for him, watched me try and try to breastfeed him. She held him, snuggled up and whispered to him, and looked forward to watching him grow up.

Fast forward to 2007 and, pregnant with my second child, the situation had already turned bad.

I was planning to tell my mother and father at a lunch we were having before a trip overseas. Instead I told my mother as she sat in hospital with deep vein thrombosis.

She was happy for me, but understandably preoccupied with her health. As well she might have been, because it was soon after that she got the news that it was the late stages of terminal cancer.

My poor valiant mother continued to ask about the pregnancy and wish me well, give me advice, and try to help.

But all the while she knew she would not see the baby born. She couldn't carry my toddler for me because she was too sick. I begged her to try and hold on but life had other plans and my daughter was just 20 weeks in utero when Mum died.

When you love and admire your mother so much, as I did - and still do, it is hard to even contemplate mothering without her there.

She deserves it, doesn't she? Especially given everything she did for her own children, for the hardships she endured and the love and support she always gave.

Luckily for me I have a mother in law who is fantastic, who once told me I was a good mother and I cried for days because that's the kind of thing my mother would say to me all the time to buoy me up, to keep me going.

To those who have lost their mothers: I think you honour her memory in trying to be the best mother you can be yourself.

To those who are lucky enough to have them: cherish them.

They are absolutely irreplaceable.

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