Sunday, May 12, 2013


Mother's Day.

This is my fourth birthday/Mother's Day without my mom, who passed away in 2008 after a lifelong struggle with mental illness and eating disorders.

So, mostly on Mother's Day, I focus more on wishing well to the other mothers in my life - my sister, my sister-in-law, my mother-in-law, and the awesome local community of moms that I interact with on a daily basis.

Colden turned five this year, and I still sometimes look at him in complete disbelief. Where did this little person come from? What will his life be like? Why the hell is he so quiet and what is he up to?

Joking aside, I remember thinking and feeling all these things those first few days after his birth. It really was the most miraculous thing I've ever witnessed. I couldn't help but be completely amazed that I had grown this little creature inside of me for all those months, and here he was, now, mewling and nursing and snuggling down into my shoulder after his belly was full. It was a humbling experience, and even on the days when I felt like I was exhausted to the breaking point, I would settle down under the warm blankets on the bed, tuck my little baby in on my shoulder (where he liked to sleep), and enjoy the sensation of being completely in love with my baby.

Watching him grow the last few years, I very often find myself looking at him with that same awe and wonder. Where did he come from? How has he grown so fast?

I watched him practicing doing the buttons on his shirt yesterday morning as we ate breakfast. I took a long, slow look at his beautiful little face, the concentration in his jaw, and his soft, gentle eyelashes.

What a beautiful child.

His laugh stirs something in me, especially when it comes tumbling out of him without restraint. He's had the same laugh since he was an infant, the only difference being that these days, it's louder and longer than before.

I feel like I would do anything for this little boy, anything at all to protect him, to nurture him, to help him grow and be happy.

I tell him that I love him on a daily basis. Several times a day, there are hugs and kisses on the nose exchanged. (Yes, even on the days when I am at my wit's end, the crying and whining seems nonstop, and I question my motives for wanting a child at all.)

Sometimes, I wonder: did my mother feel the same way about me?

Thinking back about it, I can't remember a lot of times with my parents like the times we have with Colden.

We make a lot of effort to do things as a family, taking time for hikes and walks and visits to museums, watching movies together, playing outside, meals and parties with family and friends, and sometimes, just lounging about the house doing nothing in particular.

My mother didn't do much with us as a family, mostly because she hardly ever left the house. And if I'm completely honest, I can't remember her being very physically affectionate, either. It would have been hard to give her a hug, even if I had wanted to, because she was so very bony - when she passed away, I believe she weighed around 75 pounds, to give you an idea.

One night, during her last few weeks in the hospital, she had overheard some nurses talking about a patient - I'm unclear whether it was actually her or not - and the nurses were implying that this patient wasn't going to survive.

My mother assumed that they meant her, and somehow conveyed that to all of us. That she wasn't expecting to live through the night.

I remember sitting in her hospital room with her, watching Shrek on t.v. It was the week before July 4, and the program was riddled with advertisements for the fireworks programs coming up that weekend.

My sister and I left at the end of the evening, presuming that we weren't going to be able to see or talk to her again.

As I left that evening, I said to my mother, for the first time in probably many, many years, "I love you, Mom." To which she replied, "Ditto."

And that was it. That was the last I ever got out of her.

Now, my mother did not pass away that evening. We were told that the nurses were talking about another patient on the same floor, and not her. When I finally left to come back to New York at the end of that week, we were discussing plans to move her to a facility in Oklahoma (the closest one to Texas) that specialized in rehabilitating patients with severe eating disorders.

On my way back from Texas, I missed a connecting flight between Newark and Albany and found myself stranded at Newark airport with a five-month-old and no diapers.

Thankfully, I had some friends nearby who came to my rescue, picked me up at the airport, took me out for dinner, and gave me a place to sleep for the night with Colden.

The next morning, as I was getting ready to leave for the airport, the phone rang. My sister was on the phone, telling me that my mother's blood pressure had crashed overnight, and they couldn't get it back up. Her organs were failing. They didn't see much hope for survival over the next few days.

I finally got the call in the wee hours of a Monday morning, after spending the night unable to sleep.

I know it was probably very hard for my mother to show affection. She spent her life hearing from her own mother how she was a mistake, and how she wasn't wanted. Her eating disorder and her struggles with mental health were probably her way of trying to be special or of getting some kind - any kind - of attention.

So, on this Mother's Day, instead of thinking about the tragedy of my mother's life and death, I'm going to try instead to think about how I can show my son just how much he is loved and wanted by his mother.


SaraBeth said...

Thank you for sharing this

You are an amazing person and mother. Colden is one helluva lucky kid to have you as his mom.

Happiest of Mother's Day, to you, my fabulous friend, and shine one.

SaraBeth said...

OOPS! For some reason my comment posted twice, so I deleted the second one.

Melanie Cappiello said...

Jen, I think you are so brave. You are an amazing mom and person. Mental illness is such a difficult thing to overcome...for everyone involved. We have so much more in common than we realize. xoxo

Becky Pancake said...

Jen this post truly shows what a wonderful person you are. Please give Colden a hug.