In just over six weeks’ time, I’m going to achieve the only real goal I had as a child: to become a published author. 365 Days Wild will hit the shelves on the 16th May 2019 (you can read all about it here). The book is about nature, of course, but hidden away in there and written largely subconsciously, I’ve discovered on rereading it that it’s about people, about self, about relationships. For me, there’s one person who I keep coming back to as I read it, who nudges my thoughts and makes my heart ache a little, and that’s my mum.
On the very first page of 365 Days Wild, I dedicate the book to the two most important ladies in my life: my mum, Alison, and my daughter, Georgiana. I say, ‘I wish you had met’. Georgie was born back in September 2018, and so is just six months old. My mum died when I was sixteen from breast cancer. I know many amazing women who have fought it and won, and your courage and strength buoy me up every day. My mum had that same bravery and she fought so hard for three years.
So for twelve Mothering Sundays I viewed the festivities with at best stubborn denial, and at worst silent hostility. I passively aggressively and resolutely ignored it, feeling bitter that this was no longer a day for me and that, therefore, it was a waste of time. My mum died in February and I felt numb as the first Mother’s Day without her passed by: it was too fresh and raw to feel anything at all.
Until this year. About two weeks ago I realised – I had been given this day back again. It was for me. It was a gift. I didn’t have to carry the bitterness anymore or feel spiteful and resentful. This was my day. My little girl had given me the best gift without even knowing it. Obviously Georgie is still a bub and has no idea about any of this. She’s safe in her little world, protected and loved by so many people. Fiercely so. I’m never going to be the person that expects cards and chocolates and flowers: just being able to share in this day again – that’s more than enough.
I’ve become very conscious throughout Georgie’s little life that I’ve been trying to recreate the relationship I had with my own mum. It’s amazing what you remember from your childhood as you in turn raise a child: the rituals, the stories, the little quirks that define your relationships with your own parents. I’ve realised that I’m striving constantly to rebuild this treasured thing that was taken away and trying to teach Georgie the things my own mother valued. I find myself talking to her about ‘Nana’ – that was what we called my maternal grandmother and what we would have called my mum, too. And my book is now playing a role in that. The adventures I went on with both my parents are recreated, written down, broken down into steps so that others can enjoy those moments, too, and make their own memories.
The three years that my mum was ill are very hazy. Very close to the end of her life, though, I have a clear memory of sitting in a GCSE English lesson and everything hitting me like a train. I suddenly thought, out of nowhere, ‘my mum will never know her grandchildren’. I sat completely frozen and pale and still. I didn’t cry, and I didn’t run out of class. But everything became real at that moment.
Fast forward to 2018 and the birth of Georgiana. I suppose I was expecting to struggle without my mum to turn to, to ask questions of, to cry to down the phone, to share photos with, to go shopping with, to laugh with, to keep me sane. I was worried on some level that the emotional experience of childbirth would reignite the grieving process. Luckily that hasn’t happened and I have felt more stable and solid than I have in years. Having something to unconditionally pour my love into has steadied my emotions and made me a better, happier, stronger person. I feel more confident in myself, more sure, more (for want of a better word) kickass.
I have been blessed though, in being surrounded by such amazing people who have shared their love, wisdom and support. Friends and family have given Rob and I so much. But five women in particular have stepped up, without me realising it until now, and have taken on that role of mother to me. My step-mum, Steph, my mother-in-law, Joan, and my friends Shirley Carter, Mel Oldershaw and Lindsay Sandford. You amazing, powerful women have guided me, empowered me and loved Georgie beyond the call of duty. I cannot thank my surrogate mothers enough, especially on Mothering Sunday.
I haven’t cried for my mum since Georgie was born, until today writing this down. The tears have trickled out in the last hour. But that’s okay – they’re natural and normal and filled with love, not loss. I’ve been a terrible mother, too. Georgie has slept on me the whole time (minus ten mummy-points for letting her nap in the evening, and minus another ten for not putting her down in her crib). But I don’t care. I needed her little heartbeat next to mine. I’ll pay for it tonight when she’s wide awake, but we’ll survive.
So to you all, Happy Mother’s Day. Who knew it meant so much?