No one wants to talk about death.
No one wants to think about death.
Especially when you are starting to create life.
When someone dies, you not only grieve the past memories, but you also grieve the future ones. They call it “Anticipatory Grief,” a specific type of sadness that only comes when you think about the absence of that person in future milestones.
My mom died on August 31, 2018 after a fifteen-year battle with Multiple Myeloma (cancer of the bone marrow). My husband and I were three months into trying to conceive or “Not, not trying,” as I put it to some people. My mom passed away during our first three months of trying. It was a massive blow to my world, which required us to hit pause on our journey to parenthood.
Taking a break when we were just getting started, was very disorienting. I was 33, and my husband was 40. We had waited so long to be in a good place and then time exploded. Losing a parent is no joke. But losing your mom when you are trying to become one, is a different battle that I never thought I would have to endure, a pain that nothing can prepare you for.
A month before she died, we spent a lot of time together. I made her smoothies in the morning, helped her to the bathroom multiple times a day, and rubbed her feet at night. We shared our favorite memories with each other and she even wrote a letter to my future child (children) during her final weeks. Here it is below. The beginning is sort of funny and awkward; feel free to laugh.
Labcorp OnDemand Women’s Fertility Package (Ovarian Reserve Test)
Cure Hydration Berry/Watermelon Hydrating Electrolyte Mix Bundle
Thursday, August 18, 2018
Not sure how many I’m writing to but obviously we’ve never met in person. But I’d like you to know that no matter what, I love you with all my heart. And to the moon and back. When I was 54 years old I developed Multiple Myeloma. It was a darn thing to beat despite 15 years of treatment. After 15 years of treatment, I went to Heaven. In that time, your Uncle Anthony got married and your Mom & Dad got married. What a fun time we all had celebrating with those who know about you. I am hopeful that you will feel my presence surrounding you and you will feel me during Christmas, Birthdays, and other Holidays. Be joyful always and remember how much I love you even though I wasn’t with you on the day you were born.
1-2-0 (A family code we use that means “I Love you. God Bless You. See you soon.”)
Fast forward to today, two years later - two IUIs later, four fertility doctors later, and one IVF cycle later - there’s not a moment that goes by where I don’t think about my mom. Right before my egg retrieval, as I was giving myself those shots, that anticipatory grief really set in. My mom was a nurse, so patient care was her bread and butter. She would have been so helpful during this fertility rollercoaster. I know she would have been there after every appointment; eagerly awaiting an update. She was always able to understand medical jargon and translate things to me which made it easier to comprehend.
The grief of not having her here never gets easier, I have just learned to carry it better. I’m now able to talk about her without crying, and I’m able to comfortably talk to her without feeling like I’m a crazy person having a conversation with the dead.
I look for her in other ways now. She still exists in me through my attitudes and my spirit. You have to be such a wildly assertive advocate for yourself when going through infertility treatments, and I know I get that from my mom.
I hope she’s proud of me.
And I know we will meet again.
Millie Brooks lives in Alameda, CA with her British husband, Rowan, and her adoptive dog, Cleo. When she isn’t performing in live theatre or doing local commercial shoots as an actor, she’s talking about infertility on her podcast “Me, Myself & Millie.” Check it out anywhere you listen to your audio shows. You can also follow her on Instagram @memyselfmillie.