Monday, October 20, 2014

Life Without A Mom

I've been feeling an immense amount of sadness recently, and it's mostly due to the unfairness that I feel my daughter, Melody, is experiencing as the child of a single parent.  Divorce is hard enough on kids, but at least, in most cases, they are still able to have a relationship with both parents.  Because my wife, Teresa, Melody's mom, passed away unexpectedly in April 2004, only five months after Melody was born, she has never known what it feels like to have a mother.  And that's a shame.

I'm a firm believer in a two-parent family.  There is so much importance and value to having both a male and a female role model in a child's life.  While I can be a father to my daughter, I can never, no matter what I do or say, be a mother to her.  It's physically impossible, and I can't even pretend to provide the same emotional support that only a mother can provide.  And it bothers me so much that my daughter will never have that kind of relationship.  I am very fortunate, however, to have several women in her life:  both of her grandmothers are able to love her and give her advice and support, and her aunt is present in her life on an almost daily basis.  That's really great, and takes some of the pressure off of me, but it's still not the same as having a mom.

When Teresa and I were married, we talked about one day being parents.  We thought it would be ideal to have two kids, a boy and a girl, if it was possible for us to pick and decide.  Even though we were married a little later than some of our peers (I was 30), we still knew we wanted to experience married life for several years before bringing children into our lives.  So we waited.  We traveled a lot, including one of my favorite trips of my life, our big cross-country loop around the country.  We took two big trips to San Francisco, a city that we both loved a lot, and which included a combined trip down the West Coast, Seattle to San Francisco, and then SF to Los Angeles.  We toured New England, and took a several trips to Florida.  We took a cruise (while Teresa was expecting!) to the Bahamas.  And we took several trips to Las Vegas.

In early 2003, we decided the time was right.  For Valentine's Day, we went away for a very romantic trip to Ocean City, only two days before a major blizzard hit the Mid-Atlantic region and dumped over a foot of snow on us.  Not too long after this, we found out we were expecting.  Success right out of the gate!  We had a lot of fun surprising her parents, then my parents.  In fact, we reminded my father that he had promised us a trip to Hawaii if we gave him a grandchild.  He was excited to be a grandfather, but not enough to want us to experience an authentic luau.  Teresa's pregnancy was normal and without incident.  She was sick all the time during the first trimester.  We attempted the aforementioned trip to San Francisco and down the coast to LA, but she was really sick the whole time.  The second trimester was less problematic, and we were able to go on a mid-Summer cruise.  Teresa taught 9th-grade English and public speaking at Reservoir High School, in Fulton, MD, and she returned to teaching that Fall.  The baby was due in November, so she knew she would have to stop teaching at that time, likely for the rest of the school year.

About two weeks before the due date, Teresa told each of her students one quality each had that she hoped her child would have.  It had such an impact on the students, and they really felt like they were a part of our family.  Teresa had a check up with the doctor several days before the due date, a Thursday, and the doctor said that she thought the baby would come over the weekend.  If not, we should plan to have her be induced on Monday, and we made the appointment.  On Friday morning, Teresa woke me up just ahead of my alarm and said she thought this was it.  I planned to go into work for a few hours, wrap things up (so I could be off from work for the next two weeks), and then return home and see how Teresa felt.  Everything was still status quo, and we spent the next couple of days waiting....and waiting...

That Monday in November was the big day.  We arrived at Howard County General Hospital at 9 a.m. and we prepared to hunker down for the day.  My parents were there, and her parents were there.  We decided to share with them the names we had picked out.  We still didn't know whether we were going to have a son or a daughter, so we picked a boys and a girls name.  We really thought we were having a boy.  I don't know why.  So we spent a great deal of time working on a boys name.  The girls name came easy, but it was an afterthought since we didn't think we needed it.  Early that afternoon, we thought Teresa was going into labor.  It was a false alarm, but we had the only scary moment of the day when Teresa's blood pressure rose into the danger level, and the doctor sent everyone except for me out of the delivery room.  It frightened me, and Teresa ended up napping for a few hours after the scare, completely drained.  The whole family, including my brother and sister, who joined us at the hospital, decided to go out to get a bite to eat, and I stayed with Teresa, promising to call them if anything changed.  Sure enough, Teresa went into labor in the early evening, and everyone rushed back to the hospital.  Only our moms were invited into the delivery room with Teresa and me, and, let me tell you, the birthing process is the most intense thing I've ever experienced.  I don't know how my wonderful wife got through it!  I was exhausted!  At one point, I came very close to getting sick.  It was Monday Night Football, and my Pittsburgh Steelers were playing the San Francisco 49ers.  The Steelers were getting killed, as my father kept sending me scoring updates.  At around 10 p.m., Melody Grace was born, much to our surprise.  We were so convinced we were having a boy that Melody was a grand surprise.  Teresa was fine.  The baby was perfect.  I was wiped out.

We had a wonderful five months a parenthood as a couple, though Teresa had severe fatigue throughout.  Friends who had kids told her that it was completely natural to be exhausted following giving birth, and Teresa, despite feeling awful, and my encouragement, decided against going to the doctor to get checked out.  This continued until that fateful evening in April 2004, while we were on a walk with Melody and Faithful Pup Scout, at Reservoir High School, Teresa collapsed, dead before she hit the ground.  She had a massive heart attack.  Cause of death was determined to be an enlarged heart due to mitral valve prolapse with regurgitation.  It was unclear whether the pregnancy had created the strain on her heart, or even whether her doctor would've diagnosed the problem, but that was it.  Our lives were changed in dramatic fashion forever.

I want to note that Teresa and I, as Christ-followers, have/had a deep personal relationship with God.  We placed Christ at the center of our marriage, and we prayed to Him daily.  I know that Teresa now rests in Heaven, and the only reason I haven't completely broken down, then or now, is due to my faith.  I've had my moments, and continue to struggle, but I know God is still in charge.  That said, though, it doesn't change the fact that I no longer have my wife as my partner, and Melody doesn't have a mom in her life.  And that makes me sad.

So, full circle.  Today was one of those days.  Melody had a bad morning.  She's suffering from intense allergies and felt crummy, and she didn't want to get up for school.  My sister struggled to get her up and going, and they were almost late for school.  My sister was frustrated.  Melody was upset and unhappy.  And, since I had to work, there was nothing I could do.  It was just a lousy Monday.  And while I know there's no way to know what our lives would be like if Teresa had lived, how could it have not been better?  All we can do is trust that God is with us.

Hoping for a better day tomorrow.  Have a great evening, everyone.


  1. Really a touching post and I'm sorry you've had to endure so much pain. Really a testament of your strength as a parent and as a human being. Well done.