Big feelings, big love
As I drove home after learning about my cancer diagnosis a couple weeks ago, I thought about my bedtime conversation with my daughter the night before. She wanted to know, How long did daddy and you know each other before you got married?
I told her we knew each other for five years before we got married.
How did you meet?
We met through your Auntie C and Uncle J, actually. Auntie C had a party and I went and that’s where I met your dad. Then we started dating, then we moved in together, then we bought this farm and then we decided to get married.
And you didn’t know true love until I came along, right mom?
Right. My heart was this full of love (holding my hands in front of my heart, making a melon-sized ball) when I met daddy, and then when you came, my heart was as full as the universe.
I wonder who I will marry, she pondered.
Then, I hope you’ll be alive when I’m a grown-up, mom.
Me too, kiddo.
Then snuggles and kisses, and sleep.
And something -- my intuition, the universe -- telling me: Listen to her. Hear her. Pause here and savour her sweet innocence as she sleeps, tonight. Be here. With her.
And the next day, I learned about needing surgery.
My biggest fear is that I don’t get to see her grow up. No, to clarify, that I'm not here to support her growing up. Be involved in it. Be a part of her life, physically, emotionally. The potential reality of that situation landed in my gut.
I may not be here.
I’ve played out the possibilities in my mind countless times since her birth six years ago. That’s the gift post-partum depression and anxiety gave to me -- my mind created every imaginable version of catastrophic worst-case scenario horrific and tragic death scenes. How I could die a million ways. How her dad could die a million ways. How we could both die a million ways and leave her an orphan. How she could die a million ways. In complete graphic, gory detail. From realistic to absurd. My wonderful creative anxiety-riddled mind has created the home movies and full-on emotional responses over the course of her lifetime. So I kinda feel like I'm prepped for anything.
We experienced very real death early in her life. Her grandma, my husband's mom, died shortly after her birth. Her first road trip at just over a week old was to visit her grandma in the hospital. Her second was to attend the funeral.
The realness of mortality has always been very present in our home. We don’t shy away from talking about death or loved ones who have died. In her lifetime, we've said good-bye to her great-aunt, great-uncle, two great-great-grandmas, a great-great-aunt, and several other people we've loved. We cry and feel loss openly, and remember these people out loud.
Of course I know that I'm not indispensable. While I may not be replaceable as her mama, we have good and kind and generous people in our lives that will step up and in to support Marc in her upbringing and future. This I know. But still.
I don't want to miss out.
Maybe more so, I don't want her to feel a gaping emptiness at not having a mama to talk to, lean on, yell at, cry with. She's got so many firsts ahead of her...first love, first heartbreak, first job, first home...I want to be there for her to celebrate and comfort. And there are so many days in between all the firsts and seconds and thirds, where life happens. Small victories. New learning. Discoveries. Adventures. Quiet hugs. Shared laughter. Disappointment. Tears. All the messy goodness of life.
I had never wanted kids. I had never wanted to become a mom.
Foreign correspondent, yes.
World-famous author, yes.
Oscar-winning actor, yes.
Discoverer of a cure for diabetes, yes.
Someone with a baby, nooooo.
Then, I met a boy. He wanted kids and eventually I wanted to give him that gift.
And then, Chloe came. Pure magic every time I look at her.
My body carries the beautiful scars of her growth inside me, and her emergence into this world. My body carries the cellular memory of her being within me and of me. My heart overflows with love and pride and fear and gratitude for the experience of being a mom, of her.
So that's what I worry about, and where my emotions overwhelm me. Picturing her aching, feeling abandoned and alone. Maybe lost. Making poor choices. Heading down a destructive path. See, my brain can come up with all the worst-case options!
And so, I try to remain in the present, channeling all I’ve learned in my life, through my coach training, meditation teacher training, the experiences of others who’ve been in the same or similar situations. Trying not to dwell and ruminate on the what ifs. Yet. Holding them at bay. For now.
Revelling in my daughter's joyful wonder about the world, and hoping I won't be the one to dampen it.
Much love and light,