Motherhood Without Mom

Just before my babies were born, my mom was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease.
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The transition into motherhood is a doozy.

I babysat a lot growing up, so I thought maybe I’d be more prepared than others. I was a stupid dumb-dumb idiot for thinking that.

Motherhood is a mindfuck. Having twins is like a GIANT mindfuck.

It’s around the clock. It’s emotionally and physically exhausting. The lack of sleep makes you a crazy person. It does a real number on your confidence, body, friendships, marriage. Nobody tells you about that part.

To me, the other jagged edge of motherhood is that, at the end of the day, sometimes I just want my mom. It’s only when you become a parent when you realize how hard the job really is. And while it’s nice to have the support of other moms and family and friends, they will never be your mother.

I suppose I’m lucky in that my mom is physically here. I still see her at least once a week. Sometimes she surprises me and I catch a glimpse of who she was before all of this.

Just before my babies were born, my mom was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. Huntington’s Disease, also called HD, is a progressive, hereditary brain disorder. There is no cure or proven treatments. The disease often starts as subtle mood swings and progresses to the complete loss of an individual’s ability to walk, think, reason and talk. It steals everything from you. It makes you a shell of what you once were. And while I still see joy in my mom’s eyes when she watches my kids play, she’ll never get to experience being a grandma the way she deserves.

Throughout my pregnancy, my once soft-spoken, sweet mother had refused medication and was in denial (or maybe unawareness) that HD had progressed. She had fits of rage and would disappear for days on end.

My mother who, once upon a time, rarely even got a parking ticket, swore at police officers and was placed on psychiatric holds. She was found walking on the side of the freeway. She was evicted from her apartment for erratic, disruptive behavior. This is the same woman who taught me how to read and how to tie my shoes. She moved me into my college dorm room.

That’s the thing. We were normal. And my vision of becoming a mom had always included my mom, too. At every ultrasound, all I wanted to do is call her to tell her my babies’ stats. I wanted to gush over the pictures of their tiny little hands and feet with her. I wanted to ask her a million questions. I wanted the reassurance that she would be there through every step. But that wasn’t true anymore.

I remember checking out at the grocery store with my big pregnant belly. An older grandmotherly woman behind the register began chit-chatting about my pregnancy and said something to the effect of “I bet your mom is so excited. She’ll be a big help.” I smiled and lied through my teeth. And then went to my car and broke down. It’s amazing how the words of a total stranger can dig so deep.

Now that I’m a mom, it hurts in different ways. Motherhood is sometimes lonely and isolating. You fill your days with playdates and baby classes to feel less alone. It works sometimes. Other times, I fight back tears when I go to the playground and see grandmothers playing with their grandbabies.

My mom is medicated now and in a facility that manages her HD. We aren’t living in the chaos that was just a couple years ago. She comes over my house at least once a week. It makes me happy when she has good days.

I have two kids in preschool, a husband, a mortgage. All signs point to “grown-up.” But sometimes all I want is my mom to rub my back and reassure me that I’m doing a good job.