Becoming a mother is really a terrifying experience. You worry about everything, and even create worries because there is such a pressure to do it all just right. Most humbling is that it makes you recognize with shattering clarity all that your parents have sacrificed for you.
With my first baby, I had a difficult labor with an unexpected complication immediately after the delivery. No one really prepares you for the pain – and I really wasn’t prepared for an emergency procedure moments after giving birth. My husband was in tears. He was torn between staying with his wife or staying with his newborn daughter.
After the chaos of the procedure, I thought the worst was over, but when the nurses had me stand up for the first time, I hit the floor in a very inelegant faint!
At this point, I was sobbing for my mom. In those early moments of motherhood, I just wanted to be comforted and reassured that everything would be okay. I was a mom, but I needed my mom.
During the first two days, my husband and mom changed every diaper and onesie. My husband stepped into the role of fatherhood seamlessly — me, not so much. He mastered the swaddle and was a natural with our daughter. My heart was exploding with love when he held Peyton, but I was frustrated —I wanted to care for our daughter. But I could barely walk, let alone, get in and out of the hospital bed — I can only imagine the pain c-section moms feel.
This was not how I envisioned my first hours of motherhood.
I had daydreams of putting on my new cute maternity pajamas and throwing on some makeup. Friends and family would come visit, and I would be holding my new bundle of joy gushing about how wonderful everything was. I was going for that, “I just had a baby, but I still look good” look. Yeah, that didn’t happen.
I think I watched too many Hallmark made for TV movies.
Instead, I looked and felt like death. I couldn’t move from my hospital bed without help, without tears, and without intense pain. I questioned how anyone had more than one baby. I was a mess of emotions, struggling with nursing, and completely exhausted from labor. I relied heavily on my mom and wanted her with me constantly those first few days of motherhood.
Our first night home, I was even worse— I was crying and immediately called my mom.
No way was I ever going to sleep again. I was determined to stay awake and watch Peyton’s tiny stomach move up and down – I remember asking my husband if we could take turns sleeping. He agreed, he was just as nervous. We were responsible for keeping this tiny little human alive. It was no longer just us. What were we thinking?
Is this how our parents felt?
In those early days, beyond the normal fears and worries of being a new parent, I adored my daughter and loved being a mother. I also had a newfound respect and appreciation for all that my mother had sacrificed for me and my siblings.
Three weeks later, I was blindsided by unexpected news.
My sister-in-law Nikki called me and broke the news that my mother accepted a job in Milan, Italy and was leaving in a matter of days.
Wait…did she just say “days”??? My mother? Leaving? The country?
I tried to justify my feelings. Did I have a right to feel what I was feeling? Or was I just experiencing postpartum blues and emotions, which are completely normal? Granted, many significant events occurred in just a few short years: I got married, became an aunt, tragically lost my brother, and became a mom. Big life changes!
Selfishly, I felt like my mom was abandoning me. I was a brand new mom trying to navigate motherhood… yet in my heart, I knew why my mom needed to go.
As much as I was trying to figure out motherhood, this extraordinary woman was trying to figure out how to live life without her son. She was grieving the loss of her only son, her first born… my older brother Steven. She was living with constant reminders of Steven and she was in pain, despite the happiness and joy of her granddaughters.
I tried to be rational. There were people that didn’t have their mom or a parent to call on the phone or on Skype — I desperately tried to put my new feelings into perspective – but it was still easier said than done.
Before my mom left for Europe, we had Peyton baptized – It was bittersweet — Peyton wore my dress, which my mom had made for me. My sister-in-law Nikki was Peyton’s godmother, but I was sad my brother wasn’t alive to be her godfather — and even more so, my mom was leaving in a few short days for another country.
My life was a complete haze of sleepless nights, tears, and confusion. As if this wasn’t difficult enough, people had the audacity to ask me…
“How could your mother do this to you?”
“Are your parents getting divorced?”
“Is your mom running away?”
The situation was emotional and difficult enough, yet I had to deal with the cold unfounded opinions and unnecessary gossip of others.
Despite my inner turmoil, I defended my mom and her decision to leave. I cried to my husband and my sister-in-law. I missed her terribly, texted her constantly, and questioned every choice I made as a mom. This just wasn’t how I pictured motherhood. I always pictured motherhood with my mom by my side every step of the way and not through a computer screen.
Life changed, but as with most things in life, after some time, we adjusted. My mom comes home as often as possible. Holidays, long weekends, special occasions, and summers. We Skype, email, and Facetime. She is always there for me, it is just in a different way than I imagined.
After I gave birth to my second daughter in 2012, the experience was much easier. Thankfully, I did not experience complications during labor (Other than Parker coming three weeks early). At this point we were well-adjusted to Mom Mom living in Italy and my husband and I were somewhat more relaxed as parents.
With each daughter and as I transitioned further into motherhood — I truly understood why my mom needed to go — I look at my children, three daughters now, and can’t imagine the pain, the heartache, and the grief my mom feels. I would lose my mind if I lost one of my children — yet amazingly, my mother held it all together.
She knew she needed change and had the strength and determination to do so. In Italy, there aren’t constant reminders of Steven, instead, beautiful signs that she’s right where she should be. I thought to myself, in this new environment, maybe she can begin to heal?
I realized, my mom had her own inner turmoil. It wasn’t easy for her to leave me, my sister, her granddaughters, or her mom, but she knew she needed to go — so that she could continue to be a mother.
In many ways, she has taught me more in her absence. I’ve learned to cherish my time with loved ones, I relish every moment on Skype or Facetime. The quick weekends home for birthdays and communions are always special and filled with family and love.
Surprisingly, I don’t cry anymore when she leaves after an extended visit, but I do remember sobbing buckets the first few times she left, particularly after the birth of each grandchild.
We talk every single day — Sometimes two, three, four times a day. I track her flights when she and my dad travel — I worry about my parents being in another country — and I miss her (and my dad) every day — Yet, in many ways, my relationship with my mother is closer than ever — despite the distance.
Seven, almost eight years later, my mom moving to Italy has changed me…and her…for the best. Over the years, I’ve become stronger…I’ve become more independent and confident. I am not so bothered by the questions, some genuine, some not — and I don’t care what people think so much anymore.
More so, my appreciation for my mother has grown.
Would I have appreciated her this much if she didn’t move to Italy?
As for my mother…This opportunity came at the perfect time — and it was no coincidence — for that I am sure — If she had passed up on this opportunity, she would have struggled to be a mother and a Mom Mom. She would have drifted into depression and sadness — but she didn’t. She was smarter than all of us, and knew that she needed to do this.
There are new challenges and emotions since having my third daughter and now that the girls are getting older. They are involved in dance recitals, swim meets, and school plays. I know my mom longs to be here, but at the same time she has built a life in Italy. My parents have amazing friends, a love for the beautiful city of Milan, and my mom has a rock-star career. She has shown me that women/moms can truly do it all.
Of course, there are days I wish my mom was just around the corner to drop the kids off so I can grocery shop in peace with a Starbucks in hand. Or times I wish I could call her to vent over a frustrating day at work, only to remember the six-hour time difference.
But…In so many ways, my mom moving to Italy was a blessing.
She never stopped being my mom.
She never stopped being an extraordinary Mom Mom to my daughters and Abigail.
She never stopped being a wife, daughter, and sister.
Her career has given her and our family many opportunities. My niece, Abby, spent three weeks in Milan this past December. What ten-year old can say that they gallivanted around Europe with their own personal tour guides?
My relationship with my husband’s family grew stronger over the years, particularly my relationship with my mother-in-law and my sister-in-laws.
My daughters know and appreciate the special time they have with their grandparents and my two-year-old knows how to Skype!
My mom did something scary…really scary. She moved to another country and took on an extremely challenging career. She held her head high despite the critique and unnecessary comments from people who have never walked in her shoes. She found a way to heal (although one can never completely heal from a loss as significant as that of a child) but she has lived, more than she ever could have here.
We long for the day she comes “home” for good – But we cherish all the special and quality time that we have together.
Thank you Mom for showing me that you can persevere after tragedy, maintain a career, and still be a simply incredible mom. You are an extraordinary role model to me and to your Granddaughters who adore you.