Are you a parent?
Do you remember during your pregnancy reading all the books, signing up for the forums, attending the classes and asking people a thousand questions. To make sure that you were prepared for that day your baby arrived. So you knew what was ahead of you.
And then you waited and waited and waited … and finally the day arrived!
Your baby was born.
If you hadn’t already realised it somewhere during the labour, then shortly after the beautiful baby was placed in your arms, it probably dawned on you. You had NO IDEA and were completely unprepared.
Reading all the things, asking all the questions, did not prepare you for very much about having a baby, or being a parent, at all.
Then, did you have a moment like this?
Someone in your circle (a sibling, a friend, a cousin or a colleague) was having their first baby. Did you suddenly wish that there was something you could do to help prepare them. Was there a way that you could slip your “parenting” pass into their hand, so that they truly understood what was ahead. After all, you wouldn’t want them to be lost and scared like you were.
But you know there is nothing you can say that will help.
It seems that, quite simply, there are some things in life that you just can’t prepare for.
And once you have been there, you have your special pass. The special pass to the club of others who have been there before you. The club is one that could never be properly explained before you were admitted, and perhaps it was one that you had no interest in joining. At all.
I knew, in theory, that Mum wasn’t well. I had known for some time that it was likely that Mum’s life was going to end earlier than some others.
But I was unprepared. Completely and utterly.
As I watched her lying in the hospital bed, making the transition from life to death, I had no idea what to do.
Once she had gone, I looked at her, through oh so many tears (seriously, I had no idea that one body would create that many tears) and I rubbed her beautifully smooth cheek over and over. I talked to her and I kissed her. But I kept worrying whether there was something else I was meant to do.
Then, once we left the hospital, I had even less idea what to do.
Who do we contact? When do we do it? In what order?
We shopped for clothes to wear to the funeral. Was that OK to do?
I asked Dad if we could get a photo together before we left Mum & Dad’s for the funeral. Was that weird?
Then when we were standing together, Dad cracked a joke. That we were now the grey haired pair in the family. And I laughed. And suddenly we had a photo of us laughing together, before Mum’s funeral.
Was that ok?
Two weeks on, I am knee deep in a stage of my life that I am completely unprepared for. Seeing my Dad on his own. Not seeing my Mum at all.
Just like those early baby days, I go to bed each night, hoping for a good night’s sleep. I wake up each day, put on a smile, eat breakfast, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I hope that, like it has been in my time as a parent, that while I may get tired of my reality at times, that the good times will truly outweigh the bad. And that each day will get easier and easier to do the everyday things. Until one day I don’t even remember that I’m trying to get through the day.
Just as Mum would want life to be for us all.
I would love to save you from the shock and the confusion that I felt. But somehow I suspect that I cannot really explain what it is like.
There is really only my own experience of loss, of my Mum. And although I am surrounded by love and support, I will be making this path forward on my own. Completely unprepared.