The Promise My Mom Made When I Grieved for My Child's Future


Every Wednesday night my daughter Julia spends the night at my parents’ house.

It’s true — every single week — on Wednesday night my mom hosts Julia for a sleepover.

I think she does this because she and my dad like having Jules around. She also does it to give us a little break in the middle of the week. And back when Julia wasn’t sleeping much it was a way to ensure we got at least one really good night of sleep every seven days. These are the reasons she might give if you asked her why…

I’m not sure though if she remembers that every time she does this, every single week when Julia spends the night at her house, she is also keeping a promise she made to me eight years ago after Julia was born.

***

Most of my pregnancy and the early months of Julia’s life were entirely focused on the questions of survival and diagnosis. Will she live? What are we dealing with here? 

Life beyond that wasn’t in my realm of consideration; I could no longer picture what would happen next.

The first time I remember grieving for the future I once envisioned caught me completely by surprise — I guess that’s how grief works.

A Pottery Barn Kids catalog arrived in the mail one day when Julia was still a baby. We had no money at the time, but I remember wishfully flipping through the pages thinking about all of the beautiful things I wanted to buy for Julia one day, when my eyes landed on a white trundle bed with two smiling little girls sitting on it.

And I crumbled.

Will Julia ever need a bed like this?

What does it mean if she never needs a bed like this?

Will she ever have a slumber party?

What if she never has a slumber party?

What if she never has a slumber party because she doesn’t have friends?

What does that mean if she doesn’t have friends?

What does any of this mean?

How does this work?

She survived, but now how do we live? How do we do this life?

Somehow I packed us up and we made our way to my mom’s house where I fell into her arms and cried and cried and cried and cried and told her about the trundle bed and my fears.

She just held me.

She did not try to answer my impossible questions.

She thankfully did not try to reassure me that my fears were wrong, nor did she try to convince me everything would be all right. She just held me and let me cry and gave me time to feel what I needed to feel.

And then she said to me the one thing she could say with certainty: “I will have slumber parties with Julia.”

And I knew she would. I knew my amazing, devoted, selfless mom, who always puts her words into action, would have slumber parties with my girl. No matter what came next, no matter how the rest of life worked out, I knew without any doubt my mom would make good on her promise.

***

So every Wednesday morning as we pack Julia’s bag and I say to her, “You are going to Mimi’s house today, and you get to spend the night!” what I’m really saying to both of us is, “Mimi loves us and she keeps her promise.”

julia and her mimi and a labradoodle

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