By Anne Maslanka
Christmas has always been special to me and my siblings, mainly because my mom, Mary, loved Christmas. She prepared all year long to make Christmas the very best for us. Each year as Christmas came to an end, she would ask, “Did you have a good Christmas, honey?”
Christmas 2011 was almost no different except it was then that I found out I was pregnant with my first child. Of course, many mothers are overjoyed to learn they are pregnant, but I was particularly grateful because I felt like I was racing against time – the time my mother, who had lung cancer that spread to her brain, had left to meet my baby.
A week before Christmas, my husband and I found out we were going to have a baby, so we decided to tell our families at our Christmas gathering. What a perfect gift during a trying time! On Christmas Eve morning, we revealed our exciting news by giving them each a present: my dad received a bun and my mom a toy oven. My mom figured it out immediately.
Shortly after Christmas, we went in for our first ultrasound where we learned the baby did not have a heartbeat. I had a D&C, and my mom – as moms do, sick or not – took care of me. As I rested in bed the night of the procedure, my mom played with my hair and promised me she would meet my children. Losing the baby was heartbreaking, but the thought of my mom not knowing my children was even more devastating. My mom understood this even though I never said it aloud.
My mother passed away on March 12, 2012 without having the opportunity to meet my babies. Despite the heartache, my husband and I continued to try to get pregnant. On May 21, one day after my mom’s birthday, we found out we were pregnant and due at the end of January. The news was bittersweet; I was thrilled to be pregnant but sad my mom was not there. My three sisters and brother are all older than I am and already have children, so they did everything they could to make my pregnancy special even though my mom was not there to accompany me on such a precious journey.
When Christmas came around that year, we dreaded spending the time without the person who had made it so special for us for our whole lives. On Christmas Eve morning, after talking and crying with my dad and siblings, my husband encouraged me to get out of bed, pull myself together, and meet his parents for lunch. While at lunch, I felt a little funny, so I got up to head to the bathroom. As I stood up, my water broke, and I mean BROKE, soaking my clothes. There was no question we were going to have our baby on Christmas Eve…five weeks early. Mom.
Shortly after we arrived to the hospital, my entire family joined us, excited and in much better spirits than when I left that morning. Mom. Every nurse I had that day and night had also lost someone, they all knew how hard Christmas is without a loved one, and they all recognized this was something special. Mom. We did not know what we were having, but we did have names selected.
Our little girl was born via C-section Christmas Eve evening. She was taken to the NICU because she was having difficulty breathing. The whole time I knew she was going to be okay; after all, she had a special angel watching over her. Mom. Finally, after I had recovered from surgery, I was wheeled in to see my Mary. As she was placed in my arms for the first time, I glanced up at the clock to see it was 12:00am. Mom. As always, my mom made sure our Christmas was special. “Yes, Mom. I had a Mary Christmas.”
And as promised, Mom has “met” my daughter. This is evident by Mary’s uncanny behavior in relation to her Gaga: she talks to her, points to her pictures, and says “Gaga.” Recently, I lost another baby. The day we found out, my husband was in the kitchen as Mary played on the floor. I expressed to him how sad I was to experience another miscarriage but this time without my mom to take care of me. Minutes later, Mary (who is 21 months old now) smiled, pointed and looked upward, and said “Gaga.” Mom.
I wanted to add a special thanks to my dear friend Brianna Vinup, who helped me write my story.