Pregnant with her first baby, writer Victoria Watts Kennedy reflects on life without her mother
“It’s thirty-three years since this photo of my mother was taken; and I’m now pregnant with my first. The books like to tell me this is a time when Mum and I will enjoy a new closeness as we bond over being mothers – words that make me throw the book, cry or simply sigh the unending grief of living without her.
“My Mum was a midwife, a job she loved and cherished. I remember when I was little, prized days were the ones when she would come home from work with a Bounty pack, filled with coveted mum-to-be treats that I lavished upon my dolls. I got one of those packs last week, 30 years later, collected from a stranger in Boots, and the first time I really needed one.
“I want to ask Mum my first word, how long her labour lasted, did she get stretch marks, how did I sleep, what were her tricks? The questions rise every day. Family and friends give fragments, but the portrait has been lost. My Dad, the man behind the camera, has also left this life. He was 44, and Mum 51, when life slipped away. Alcoholism and MS: the greatest thieves from my story.
“Illness and loss cast shadows on my teens and twenties, but life when little was light and filled with memories that pregnancy likes to jog: the holidays we took, the jokes we made and the little trio the three of us formed. My parents were fun, kind and loving; the perfect recipe for grandparents.
“Grief is something that never goes away. It ebbs and flows from the bearable to the intense. Big days are hard – weddings, Christmas, anniversaries – but then there’s the little, unexpected moments – a gesture, a smell, a word – that cut down to the feeling’s rawness. Pregnancy has both – the bigness and the everyday – I yearn for my parents’ presence.
“But yearning and wishing can’t bring a person back. My baby will know my parents only through stories and the legacy of what they made me to be. Their absence in body is heartbreaking, and on days the solace is bitter. But when solace is the only option, there have to be days when you discover its sweetness. Not a day goes by when I don’t miss my parents, but equally, not a moment goes by when I don’t feel lucky to have had them. I see them in me, I feel them in me, I carry them forever with me. I have that same smile on my face as my Mum in the photo. And that’s how my baby will know his grandparents: through their imprints left on me.”