*The views expressed in this post are of my opinion.
Firsts. This word is usually associated with exciting moments in life that fill us with joy and delight, that have us elated for what the future holds.
First love. First steps. First job.
Not many people think to their first loss or first major let down in life. Or if they do, no one really talks about it. We bury those hard feelings deep and we hope they heal with time or maybe even fade away completely. Well I’m going to talk about a hard first here. It may be uncomfortable, it may make you cry, but it’s real and there’s a part of me that feels a pull to share this with you.
My sister gave birth to a beautiful baby girl less than a week ago. Her first baby. It was a grueling labor, but the most beautiful, precious, little girl came into this world. Baby Gia. This also would be the first baby born into our family without her Nona (our mother) in this world. The day before my sister was scheduled to be induced I cried all day. I cried so many tears knowing my mom wouldn’t be there to see her through labor, to cheer her on or wait anxiously by her phone to hear of this baby’s arrival. I cried knowing my sister would have no pictures of our mom holding her newborn and looking at her the way she looked at all my children after they were born, with such love and eagerness for their little lives to officially begin.
My sister is the first in our tiny little family to have a baby without her mom here. I don’t know what it feels like and I honestly am not really sure how to console her in what I believe is a monumental amount of grief, to not be able to introduce your baby to your mother. I wish with all my heart that my mom could see my sister in her new role of motherhood. She is already taking to it like a pro and I know my mom would be grinning from ear to ear and telling every person in the grocery store and neighborhood all about it.
When my mom was diagnosed with ALS we knew there wasn’t much time and we watched her deteriorate fast, but for a while we held out hope she would make it to this day. I still have a voicemail on my phone with my mom’s muffled speech saying how excited she was to have just been told by my sister and her husband that they were expecting. As months passed and my sister’s belly grew, it became all too clear she would not likely be here to meet this grandchild. She wouldn’t even come to know if the baby was a boy or girl since it was a surprise gender. She supported the surprise and even in the face of her own death never seemed to pressure my sister to find out.
So, the day before I got all my tears out because I knew in the face of labor I had to be strong for my sister and be there to help her get through the pain and exhaustive work of bringing a child into this world – and yet this first haunted me. After Gia arrived and I was able to drive home the tears flowed again. I couldn’t call my mom to share any of the news. It had all become so real. A real baby was here, my baby sister was now a mother, and our beloved mother and Gia's Nona was gone.
This first has struck like a dagger, and to feel such happiness and excitement and grief all at the same time has been something that is truly indescribable. Juggling sadness and happiness is no easy feat and finding the right time to cry and feel the pain has been a balancing act. I have to say in all honesty that I in part selfishly write this just to get these emotions out and have some catharsis for it all.
I also write this for the simple act of sharing and acknowledging that there are painful firsts in all of our lives that deserve recognition instead of concealment. We all handle these moments as best suited and it may not include shouting it out loud for all to hear, but burying our grief for others’ comfort or because we are afraid it may overshadow any happiness isn’t a fair trade. If there is anything I have learned so far in my 34 years of life, it is that you have to take the good with the bad and vice versa. Hopefully they do not always go hand in hand, but there are times when the other shoe does drop - and while many of us can relish in our first loves, watching our babies take their first steps, getting our first promotions, or having our first big travel experiences, and so on - we all have some hard firsts we’ve come by (and some still to come).
Please don’t forget these firsts have their value, even in the pain of it these hard firsts, I believe, are just more ways that teach us what this life is all about and how to truly hold so tight to the ones we love.
Gia will not get to hear my mom's infectious laugh or see her famous rendition of the lollipop kids from The Wizard of Oz, but I know she will learn of her love and dedication to her family, her passion for education, her strength and fortitude - and Gia will know her through my sister, our family, and all the memories of her life and her love that we carry on.
Written especially for all the moms becoming moms without moms & in memory of our own dear mom who is very much missed.
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