Hi Mom,

It’s been a while since I’ve written on the blog. As opposed to the previous times that I have delayed posting because I was crying too much – or didn’t want to cry – this time a tiny, 3.320 kilo person has delayed my post (Best. Excuse. Ever.)

I’d like to introduce you to my brand new daughter, Sophie Rachel Perez. Yes – her middle name is yours.

She was born on February 28, a couple of weeks early. A week before she was born, The Boy made me go to the doctor because I had some pain the night before. Turns out it was actual contractions and I was 1/3 of the way through, so I was sent to the hospital.

The Boy joined me at the hospital, and while Baby’s heartbeat was being monitored, I suddenly started shaking. I was freaked out, both at the concept of having a baby (whom I am expected to keep alive) and the fact that you wouldn’t be here for any of it. It’s not that I would have had you in the delivery room with me.

Or maybe I would have. Who knows? It was never an option. It would be like asking me if I would prefer boxers to briefs.

But it wasn’t meant to be that day, and as my due date approached, I couldn’t help but feel that I was going to give birth early. You see, 2 weeks before I was due was to be the three year anniversary of your death. From the moment I found out I was pregnant (and that I, most likely, conceived on your wedding anniversary), I kept having a feeling that Baby was going to come very close to that date.

A week after the previous hospital visit, after my regular doctor’s appointment, I was sent to the hospital and was induced. 12 hours after getting to the hospital, she came. Within seconds I was transformed into a parent.

It was, without a doubt, the weirdest feeling in the world. I can’t describe it. Somehow, I was able to focus completely on this absolutely awesome family that just formed, and I thought of no one except Baby and The Boy.

The next few days were a blur, as were the first days at home, where I was mainly amazed that I was expected to keep a tiny person alive with less training than I had on our washing machine. But 6 weeks later I am beginning to feel the impact of your absence.

It’s so incredible to me how things change in a moment. I was transformed into a mother with the same ease and incomprehensible speed with which I was orphaned.

I didn’t wonder how you felt when I was born – it was obvious to me that you must have felt the same insane range of emotions that I felt. But What about everything else? Did you cry? Did you feel incompetent? Did you feel abandoned by almost everyone and everything you know? Did you ever feel like a bad mother? I can’t possibly know – I couldn’t have possibly felt more loved by you.

But this is some of what I am faced with now, and I wish you were to tell me I’m doing OK. It doesn’t matter how many friends tell me I’m a good mother, I don’t believe them. How would they know? You would tell me the truth. And, since you know me better than anyone, I would believe you.

Or not. How would I know? Boxers or briefs.

Luckily for you and us, you did have a chance to be a grandmother and pass on some advice to my sister. She, in turn, passes some on to me. I think of it as by proxy parenting.

Sophie looks sooo much like you (me). She has your (my) smile and your (my) facial expressions. She has the funniest facial expression when I take the bottle out of her mouth, the same one that you had. Except on you it wasn’t funny – it was your expression when we fed you when you were dying. When she looks at me with that expression, I am overwhelmed with awe and love for her, and sadness and aching for you. I can’t separate the two from each other. I’m happy she looks like you because it gives the affirmation of your presence, but it’s so hard to be her mother sometimes, through no fault of her own other than DNA.

Furthermore, as I suspected, I indeed gave birth in very close proximity to the third anniversary of your death. I was released from the hospital on the day of your memorial. If that isn’t the circle of life, I don’t know what is.

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My friend and coworker recently approached me at work, put her hands on my now-large belly and said, “How’s Mom?”

My immediate reaction was, “Still dead.”

After 10 seconds (which seemed like 10 years), I suddenly realized that she meant me. I was going to be Mom.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not in denial that I’m pregnant or about to have a baby (in about 6.5 weeks, give or take). I’m so excited and absolutely in love with everything happening with my body – even though, as Maroon 5 said, it’s getting harder and harder to breathe. I’m excited and scared and can’t wait for Baby to come – and not ready for her at all. But I guess I didn’t think of the verbal repercussions of this life-altering event.

For most women, when they become mothers, the (capitalized) word Mom suddenly has two meanings: Them and their mothers. In my case, though – it’s just me.

I’m not sure how to make the 100% switch – as opposed to joining and sharing the title. This is probably the hardest post I’ve written, not emotionally, but expressively – I can’t quite figure out how to put into words what I am thinking. This coming from the girl who owns a t-shirt that says: “I’m talking and I can’t shut up” – and I’ve earned that shirt fair and square.

Of course I think about my mom a lot now, though I have had very few breakdowns (to the point where I fear that I haven’t dealt with it enough now that Baby is so close to coming). I wish I could share with her everything going on, and my fears (to which she would say that I’m being silly and of course I’ll be a good mom).

And of course everyone says that – my family, my friends, etc. – but I don’t feel reassured. I probably wouldn’t believe her either, but for some reason hearing her say it would be different than everyone else saying it – maybe because she would probably tell me if I would suck, and no one else would.

When I found out I was pregnant, and it had actually sunk in, I suddenly began to cry one day, out of the blue. I was asked by a coworker who walked by what happened, and I said nothing, I just wish my mom were alive so I could tell her, and she said I need to find someone to replace her. She didn’t mean it in a bad way – she meant someone I could go to who I could talk to and ask questions. I do have great people in my life – including my mother in law who I trust blindly – but you can’t replace telling your own mother you are pregnant.

I couldn’t find the words to explain to her how I felt and what I meant – much like now. A friend told me about her mother  who wants to be in the delivery room with her and asked me if I would agree – I have no idea. When my mom died, I couldn’t even fathom being in a relationship, much less be married and with a child. And with her gone, I can’t even imagine what I would want. At this point, it would be like asking me if I would wear boxers or briefs – it isn’t a situation I have ever – nor will I ever – be in, so I can’t even venture a guess. It’s unbelievable to me that I am not sharing this incredible experience with my mom – but I can’t imagine what it would be like to share it with her either.

I look at pictures of her (it’s easier than it was at the beginning, though I still haven’t gotten rid of the images from the last year of her life) and I try to imagine how she felt and what she thought when she was expecting me (I am the oldest). Sometimes my sister can share stories with me that our mom told her, but it doesn’t change the fact that they aren’t coming from her.

In a few weeks’ time, I will start calling myself Mom(my) to a tiny little person (who I will be expecting to keep alive). I won’t be alone in any way – I have the most amazing husband (who thinks these 9 months are way too long) and great sisters and incredible in-laws who I know I can count on 100%, but it doesn’t change the fact that I will still be missing someone huge – the other Mom who should be there, too, sharing the capitalized word with me.

Hi Mom,

It’s been a while since I’ve written. My last post, when I just got engaged, pretty much described everything leading up to the wedding. I survived it all and even had a great time. A lot of people have been talking to me about it, asking me how it went, so here’s the list of what I thought I wouldn’t survive – and what ended up happening:

  • You won’t be there for me to tell you I am engaged. You weren’t, but I survived.
  • You won’t be there to help me with the preparations. But Grandma came with me to be fitted for the dress the first time (the seamstress offered her a job), my baby sister the second, and my good friend the third. Shanainai tied it for me and everything. I survived.
  • Your name will be listed as z”l (deceased) on my wedding invitation – or is it not supposed to be listed at all? I have no idea. A non-issue. We didn’t list any parents on the invite, we just made the invitation from us. That was easy. I survived.
  • You won’t be at the signing of the Ketubah. Neither was any other female. If anything, you were there, but I wasn’t. I didn’t even know when it happened. Survived.
  • You won’t be walking down the aisle. Grandma went with me instead. The rabbi suggested it, and I loved the idea. So did she. Definitely survived.
  • You won’t be under the chuppah with me. Grandma was. But then again, so were you. I know it was you that made that wind blow and knock everything over. Definitely survived.
  • You won’t be beaming down at me. Ever. No, but there’s nothing I can do about that. I guess I accepted it, so I survived.

The truth is, the  most stress I had about and from the wedding was that I was afraid of the attention. I was hoping no one would mention you when they saw me, and thankfully just about no one did, other than a few of the elderly. But I had that invisible “pretend you are someone else” wall up, and it worked perfectly.

In fact, everything went very smoothly, from the planning (which I hated, but I would have hated it if you were here, too, to be fair), all the way through the wedding. I had more offers of help than I knew what to do with, and The Boy and I knew what we wanted and wouldn’t let anyone bully us into something we didn’t want to do. Well, we did invite a few people I didn’t want to invite, but The Boy was right, it wasn’t worth the fight.

I had the sleeves from your dress removed, and the back opened up with a corset-type thing to tie it with, and the dress ended up being great. I would have preferred to be a few pounds lighter, but who wouldn’t… Dad’s best friend growing up actually asked me at the wedding if it was your dress – he somehow remembered your dress from 36 years before!

I’m so happy I got to wear it. There were a few times where I felt I  missed out on the choosing-a-dress part of the wedding, but the truth is it doesn’t matter – who wouldn’t rather wear their mother’s dress if it was as gorgeous as it is? There were times where I would suddenly think, I can’t believe my mom danced in this and ate in this and got married in this. I thought it would make me cry, but I loved it. By the way, I hope you didn’t take it personally that I changed clothes when we were dancing. I was just jealous of The Boy and wanted to be part of the t-shirt fun, too.

The wedding itself went by in a second and a half, like everyone said it would. I survived the family picture taking (mostly because people were already coming, so I just wanted it to be over), the reception was great, and the hike to the chuppah was a lot of fun. After a brief 10 minutes when we couldn’t find Grandma, she appeared, and the ceremony started.

It was the fastest 10 minutes of my life. I felt like an actress playing a part, just I was surrounded by people I love instead of random actors and stand-ins. At one point, the rabbi said that Jewish tradition says that 3 generations back come to visit at the chuppah, and that we have to mention your absence. I swear, he could have been talking about sauerkraut if you were to judge by my reaction. I can’t believe how calm I was. The only time a few tears fell down my face was when I heard Grandma sniffling beside me. Of course, The Boy is amazing and took  me hand the second he heard it, just to beam some extra strength into me (which worked, of course).

And then she asked when do we kiss already, so that was over.

The rabbi picked up one of the glasses of wine, started the first prayer, and then an insane gust of wind blew in and knocked everything over – the other glass, the ring, etc.

My reaction: Yey, The Boy broke the glass succesfully

The reaction of the 175 other people at the wedding: That was Talia’s mom.

Thankfully, I made no connection. I didn’t think about it at the chuppah, I didn’t realize it during the wedding, and only later when I got home, people started talking to me about it.

And as it turns out, everyone thought it.

So I’ve accepted it. Even though I am not mystical in any way, I kind of like the idea that you made a statement and said, “Ahem! I am here! I am in the dress and the wind and the glass of wine that just shattered on the floor.”

So the wedding went by smoothly, and honestly, it couldn’t have been more perfect, that is other than you actually being there. Everyone laughed and danced and ate and had a great time.

I waited a while to write about the wedding because I was waiting for a nervous breakdown. A week passed, another week passed, and another, and I was OK. I don’t know how. And then suddenly it was just over; Reports of the impending emotional storm were greatly exaggerated.

A few weeks after the wedding, I started feeling really weird. Not sick or anything, but just weird. After a few more weeks of weirdness, I decided to take a small test.

It had 2 definite lines on it. I am pregnant.

A few weeks later, the doctor was able to tell me exactly what day we conceived.

It was 5 days after the wedding.

On your wedding anniversary.

Dear Mom,

The Boy proposed on Saturday morning and we are now engaged. You would have loved him. If you are looking, then you already know how great he is. I just hope you aren’t watching at inappropriate times.

For the longest time, I wasn’t ready to get married, not because I wasn’t sure (let’s face it, I pretty much knew by week 3), but because of all of the logistics involved:

You won’t be there for me to tell you I am engaged.

You won’t be there to help me with the preparations.

Your name will be listed as z”l (deceased) on my wedding invitation – or is it not supposed to be listed at all? I have no idea.

You won’t be at the signing of the Ketubah.

You won’t be walking down the aisle.

You won’t be under the chuppah with me.

You won’t be beaming down at me. Ever.

It took me over a year to even bare the thought of figuring out what happens with the invitations, and that’s probably the least important of everything – I mean, we can just email everyone and get it over with. For the last year or so, everyone and their dog has been bugging me about when I’m going to get married, and I brushed it off with a swift, “when we decide.” It even got to the point where people were getting angry with The Boy, through no fault of his own.

They just didn’t know. And why should they? It’s not like I told them. Luckily for them, they haven’t been in this situation and can’t even fathom a wedding without their mother.

It got to the point where I wanted to elope. Forgo all of it, after all, it’s the act that matters, not the execution. But The Boy was right, our families would be hurt.

When Saturday happened – and believe me, I couldn’t have been more surprised (we have been talking about it, but I wasn’t expecting it Saturday) – I was pleasantly surprised. While half a year ago, the thought of not being able to call you made me cry, when Saturday happened, all I wanted to do was talk to my sisters. It’s not that I didn’t want to talk to you; I think it’s just that my brain knew I couldn’t, so it just sent me on the right course.

So I got the girls together and told them, and of course they screamed (and the kids asked why they’re screaming). And then I called Dad. And then I told your parents, Saba and Savta. And then I called my friends. And I did really well. I didn’t cry once, I didn’t get depressed once, and I seriously don’t think I would have been this way half a year ago.

I was doing so well, and then I wasn’t.

I went to look at rings with my friend, The Swiss, and the sales lady at last store we went into used to work at the mall where Dad had his restaurants. And naturally she asked about you.

Since it’s been two years since you left, I haven’t had to tell people you’ve died in a while; at least not people who knew you personally. I was able to get through the story fairly easily, omitting the most painful parts, like the last 4 months, and by doing what I always do when I talk about you now: Disconnect completely from the words coming out of my mouth.

But no, this encounter was made to make me cry. And I haven’t in a long time. I did a bit at night when your two-year anniversary came by when we were in Japan, but other than that, it’s been forever.

It started with her being shocked. And then telling me what an amazing woman you were, which I know. And then she had tears in her eyes, saying that the righteous die early, and I couldn’t hold it in anymore and I started to cry. And once I got my breath back, all I could say was, “She could have died in 20 years, and that still would have been too early.”

But that ship has sailed. You are gone. I am embarking on a major life event without you.

But you will be with me. You know how I always wanted to wear your wedding dress when I got married? I tried it on, and it fits me almost perfectly. So welcome to my wedding. You would only be able to be more present if you there in person.

My father sold my parents’ apartment and moved out 2 weeks ago. This key is/was the key to my parents’s home. And it officially symbolized the last real connection to the past that includes my mom.

You see, I keep thinking her death hasn’t really hit me yet because I haven’t had those major life events yet – I haven’t gotten married yet, and I haven’t had children yet.

But you know? Major life events don’t really matter – those are usually events that last a day or two and then you settle into your new life.

For all intents and purposes, this is a new life. I am living with a man that my mother never met, in an apartment she’s never seen, in a city she never thought I’d live in (ditto, by the way), working at a company she never heard of, and driving a car she’s never been in.

And now – visiting my father will be in a new place, completely void of memories related to my mom.

There are few things in my life now that are consistent with what my life was like the last time my mom was aware of my existence. In essence, just my family. And this is what it’s going to be from now on.

Because I will continue living with a man she’ll never meet, in apartments she’ll never see, in cities she won’t visit, working at companies she will not hear of, and driving cars she’ll never be in.

Except I’ll also be marrying  a man she’ll never meet, having kids she’ll never see, who will miss out on the amazing mother and grandmother that she was.

So really, later is now.

Again, I’m writing a post at 3:30 am, but this time I’m not crying. Since this blog exists so I can purge what’s on my mind, I’ve decided to write in hopes that it will allow me to sleep (however much time I still have left).

I’ve come to feel, over the past month or so, that we lost much more than just our mother. We lost our family as we know it, and the dynamics have completely changed. This was to be expected, I guess, to a certain degree, though I honestly didn’t think about it when she was dying.

But we’ve lost so much more. The family and friends of the family who we would see on a regular basis (at least a few times a year), who we have seen once or twice, for example (excluding my mother’s memorial, since that doesn’t count as fun). I promise that I am not angry – I know that my immediately family doesn’t not own exclusive rights to mourning my mother.

With all the good intentions possible, and as much as some people keep in touch (and others really don’t, and I don’t care, for the most part), once the initial mourning period passed, everyone had to go on with their lives. This includes us, of course, and my mom’s friends and other family members.

The thing is, that along with the dreams of having my mom at my wedding and babysitting my kids, a few other dreams have died. People who would have us over – basically since birth – at least a few times a year for little celebrations, holidays, or just because, suddenly overlooked us during these events this year.

It’s OK – no one owes us anything. We aren’t their children or their responsibility. However, my dreams used to include many of these people, and I’ve come to realize that these dreams have passed with my mother. This isn’t out of cruelty – having spoken to one of the people today, I fully understand her pain the hard year she’s had in losing her best friend. On our side, however, it feels like we have been gently pushed away because dealing with my mom being gone is hard.

I’m the last person who can be angry about this – I have pushed away many people this year. At least, in the few months before she died and the first few after. Again, I am not complaining about anyone’s actions – I doubt anyone had the intention of purposefully shunning us from their lives. However, not being invited to birthday parties, brits, and other family events has definitely contributed to the sense of loss.

If my mother’s death can be seen as a pebble thrown in a pond, each ripple around it is one more aspect of our life that has completely changed as a result of her loss. Her physical absence, with all that comes with it, followed by changing family dynamics, family who has moved on without us, friends who don’t know how to talk to us, and there are probably more ripples that I have yet to discover.

I’m very lucky, however. With all that I’ve lost, I know there is so much I’ve gained. I have a great family who, despite everything, is still very close. We may not see our father as often as we’d like to (his new wife lives far from us, so they split their time until her 17 year old finishes high school), but when it comes down to it, there’s no doubt in my mind that he will be there when we really need him.Plus now we have 2 brothers. We always wanted brothers. 🙂

People who used to provide emotional support have been replaced with others. I have wonderful friends who, luckily for me, did not give up on me when I stopped talking to the world. And lastly, but totally not least, The Boy and his family, who couldn’t possibly treat me as more of a family member, including the teasing, calling when I’m sick to see how I am, and buying me random gifts because “she saw it in the store and thought of me.” That’s a really big gain.

And no, I’m not trying to be Polish here (it comes naturally).

It is 2:20 am and I am, once again, unable to sleep. If my sleep deprivation can be divided into two categories, one being insomnia, the worst is the one I am now: Sadness.

When you don’t sleep because you just can’t, it’s annoying. But when you can’t sleep because of so many (depressing) thoughts running through your head, your exhaustion just exasperates your sadness, and it becomes an on-going cycle that only ends if you’re lucky enough to just crash into sleep.

Tonight, I am unlucky. Each thought perpetuates another. If I actually reach the point where I replace a thought, the replacement grows to be worse than the original; I find myself wishing for the first. And each brings more tears.

It’s not that I lay down and decided it’s time to think about my mom. Just the opposite. What got me through the 1 year anniversary of my mom’s death was the knowledge that exactly one month later I would be celebrating my 1 year anniversary with The Boy.

We’re planning on taking a trip up north and doing some hiking. So here’s the thought process:

1) Find a cool place up north

2) Have a wonderful weekend

3) Think how incredibly unbelievable it is that I have been with someone for a year (not to mention such a great one)

4) Think back to how lucky I am that he has such a great family

5) Think back to the first time I met them

6) Think back to me crying in front of him for the first time because he wouldn’t get to meet my mom

7) Think it’s not fair

8) Cry

9) Sniff

10) Sit up because I am choking on my years when I am lying down

11) Pick up the picture of my parents from about 10 years ago that is, probably, the best picture of my mom, other than from her wedding

12) Cry

13) Sniff

14) Think it’s not fair

15) Stare at the picture of my mom, trying to animate it, unsuccessfully

16) Miss my mom’s smell

17) Think it’s not fair

18) Blow my nose and hoping I’m quiet enough that I won’t wake The Boy

19) Look at the clock, realize it’s 2:45 am, and know I’m headed for another day of exhaustion

20) And I haven’t even been close to sleeping yet.

I don’t know how to get rid of these thoughts. All I can think of is how unfair this all is. It’s unfair that she died so young and is no longer part of our lives. It’s unfair that she won’t be around, and won’t hug us anymore.

Its unfair that she won’t be able to dispense invaluable advice, such as what type of washing machine not to buy and what detergent for sure gives me hives.

And, man, how I miss her smell. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed your moms have a smell (everyone does, duh). But it’s just different. I don’t know what it is about her smell that makes me miss it so much, maybe the comfort that comes along with it.

Before she died, when she was basically gone and no longer knew what was going on around her, I hugged her when I was leaving the hospital, and I accidentally “sniffed” her and realized that her smell was unique. I don’t think it was something I had noticed before. But from that day on, I always “sniffed” her before I left, fully knowing it could be the last time.

Something about the combination of the feeling of her skin with her smell, which was clearly not related to perfume or soap at this point, was still a comfort of sorts, even with the knowledge that it would soon be gone.

I know it sounds weird, but it’s just there. Next time you hug your mom, sniff her, you’ll know what I’m talking about.