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“We will share the good news with my Mom when she gets home from the hospital,” I said to my husband as we were driving home from the ultrasound appointment to confirm my pregnancy.

For all of the nine years that my mother fought her battle with stage 4 colon cancer, she always came home from the hospital—always stronger than before. Despite the changes we all saw in my mother, and how much she was suffering, I was determined that she was going to come home again like all of the other times. Maybe not as strong as all of the other times, but she was going to come home. This time she was going to have the motivation of being Nonna to fight even harder.

However, God had a different plan.

The doctors pulled my family aside and told us that my mother could no longer breathe on the oxygen machine. At this point, hospice was the only positive option for my mom.

The traumatizing memories still seem foggy to me. All I can remember is the noise of the doctors and nurses talking to my family. I couldn’t hear actual words, just the noise of their voices fading in and out as I zoned out. I was in an actual nightmare, and I was in no condition to comprehend what was happening.

I felt like the walls were caving in and all I could think was we have to tell her. I gathered my emotions and with my trembling voice, I was able to share with my mother that I was pregnant. As painful as it already was, all I could see were the tears running down the side of her face.

The very next day after we saw the tiny little image of the beautiful life we were given, another life was taken. My mother passed away only hours after being transferred to hospice.

How was I going to be strong enough to carry a baby and grieve the loss of my mother?

There are still so many unanswered questions that I will ponder forever. But most importantly, how was I going to be a mother without my own mother?

Who is going to look at me when I’m feeling defeated about motherhood and simply tell me that I’m doing a great job?

When you become a mother for the first time, you realize that you need your own mother in a different way you never imagined before.

Grieving the loss of my mother during my first experience of motherhood has forced me to look at life differently. When I’m feeling down about not being able to see my mother simply hold my baby, I look a little deeper. I think of certain things that I could imagine her doing, and I do it.

My mom LOVED music and dancing—that’s how she was defined. So each time I am overwhelmed by those painful emotions, I pick up my little baby boy and dance around the living room with him in my arms listening to Mom’s favorite songs.

When I had to take my baby to his very first pediatrician appointment alone, my mom knows me well enough to know that I was flooded with anxiousness. She often would call me the “worry wart!” Only I would lose sleep over the thought of handling the car seat and driving around with a newborn. My mom found humor in these situations with me. She would giggle, as I would work myself up over every small detail. She laughed because she had all the confidence in me that I could do anything I put my mind to.

I wanted to pick up the phone that morning before I left for the appointment and just say, “Please come with me, Mom! I can’t do this alone without you!” I imagine that she would have giggled and said, “Oh come on Kris, you are FINE! You can do this!”

After I was driving home from my son’s successful pediatrician appointment, I wanted to speed dial my mom and laugh with her and say, “You were right Mom, I did it!”

I loved making her proud.

This was no surprise to her that I was able to gather the confidence to go out with my newborn for the first time. (New moms, I know you understand me—this is scary!) She was with me every step of the way because as soon as I got in the car, her favorite jam came on the radio. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to giggle or cry tears of joy the entire way home.

It’s in these simple moments, I slow down and look a little deeper—and I feel my mom’s presence.

It may not be the exact way I want it to be, but it is my way of accepting that she is still with me during motherhood—in an unfamiliar, different way.

This is what I like to call my new normal. I know I am not alone in these feelings. For those of you grieving this same loss, I can’t promise you that it will ever get easier. But I can promise that you will find a new normal. A new way of feeling your loved one’s presence.

They are with you every step of the way.

So, I circle back to that same question: how will I be strong enough to carry a baby and grieve the loss of my mother?

I can assure you I received my answer to this the day my son was born.

I was strong enough to endure this journey because my mom had undeniable strength that led me to carry on and honor her.

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Kristina Marie Palomba

I joined motherhood for the first time about six weeks ago. So far, my motherhood journey has been beautiful and bittersweet, all at the same time. It has not been easy to experience this without my mother, who I just recently lost a few months ago. My hope is to inspire others through my journey and writing. 

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