Nighttime – two years ago looked like this: I’d wake up to nurse a crying, hungry newborn. I’d scoop her up, unwrap her swaddle and bend to change her, my post-partum back and hips aching. I’d finish swaddling her, prop up the pillows on my side of the bed and gingerly lean back to nurse her. Then, as my baby girl suckled, the only thing that ached was my heart, as I would look over at the empty spot in the bed, talk internally to my husband who had just died and say, “You’re supposed to be here.”

The quiet moment would soon be over because then, across the hall, my two-year-old twins would start hollering and crying for me. I’d wait for her finish nursing, knowing my boys were safe in their cribs, knowing they were together. I’d rush to put her back to bed and go to my boys. They would have night-terrors and there was no waking them from it, so I’d just sit there with them, their bodies writhing against my arms that tried to hold them close. As they kicked and punched me, and screamed off into space, I couldn’t do anything but just sit there until they slid back into a comfortable sleep. I’d scoop them off the floor and put them back in their cribs. Sometimes I wouldn’t have enough energy to walk back to my room, so I’d crawl through the hallway and scoot myself back into bed until the process would start all over again in a couple hours. During the quiet in between the chaos, I’d hold back tears, wanting to scream, “You’re supposed to be here!”

In the midst of all the exhausting, joyful, hair-pulling moments that are motherhood with three kids under 5, I’ve heard comments like, “It would be hard even if your husband was alive because he’d be at work all day long.” But it’s not the same. Yes, I still clean the house, do the laundry, the grocery shopping and the child rearing. I still find my days spent going through the endless cycle of picking up toys, but now I also have to figure out how to do all the things my husband did like that small detail of making a living, add to that the energy it takes to grieve him and all that was lost with him. I constantly think in the back of my mind, “My life would look different if he were alive.” But he’s not. He doesn’t come home to complete this partnership that I signed up for when we got married.

Now, two years later, I’m living with my parents for that extra set of hands needed for late-night ear infections and nightmares. But parenting alone still makes my heart ache. Not in the tough moments, but the beautiful ones. When I watch my daughter twirl around, this beautiful little girl holding her hand out to be danced with, I think, “You’re supposed to be here.” Or when either of my sons say something so funny, I turn and realize I have no one to share it with. Or when I put them to bed and one of them asks the questions Daddy would know the answers to, I think, “You’re supposed to be here.”

It’s in these moments that I have to add, “But I’m here.” This fuels me to keep going when my kids exhaust me and empower me at the same time. I remind myself, “I am doing this and I’m doing a damn good job…considering.” I think he’d agree.

Nicole Hastings

Nicole is a is a widowed mom to three children. With a background in journalism and a sudden need to “figure out what to do,” she turned to writing about her experience with a husband with cancer, caregiving and widowed parenting and overcoming the aloneness of all of the above. She believes the art of storytelling brings people out of the dark into the light together to share in joy, humor, suffering and pain in life. She hopes that by sharing her story with transparency and heart will bring others hope and empower them to share their own stories.
Facebook: @JustAMomNicoleHastings