Losing your mother during your pregnancy: ‘I missed her so much’

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Anita fell off her pink cloud during her pregnancy when her mother turned out to be terminally ill. She died six days before Anita gave birth.

Anita (36), married and mother of Leah (2):

“Of course I knew that my mother was not doing well, but I had not taken into account that it would go so quickly. Suddenly we saw a swelling on the side of her head and my mother turned out to have metastases in her brain in addition to lung cancer. She became confused and was no longer clear afterwards. She died suddenly a week later. I went into survival mode and flattened my emotions, because as soon as I was upset I started having hard stomachs.

I was over 37 weeks pregnant, so we planned my mother’s funeral three days after she died to increase the chances of me being there. I am so glad that I was able to talk about my mother during the service, with a big belly, because three days later my waters broke.


Mom had been having complaints for a long time. She was short of breath and coughed a lot. The doctor suspected pneumonia and prescribed a course of antibiotics, but it did not work. After a new x-ray, the crushing diagnosis followed that it was lung cancer, with metastases in her hip and back. It was immediately clear that a cure was not possible, the doctors could only give her life-prolonging chemotherapy.

We were all devastated by this news. For me it was a huge switch. Just two weeks before, I was overjoyed when I held a positive pregnancy test in my hands, something my wife and I hadn’t told anyone yet. Now I thundered off that pink cloud hard. It was so contradictory: I was very happy with my pregnancy, but at the same time sad and afraid of losing my mother.

“It was so contradictory: I was very happy with my pregnancy, but sad and scared at the same time”

A week later I told her she was going to be a grandmother. She was surprised and very emotional. “I hope I can still experience it,” she said. She fought like a lion. The chemotherapy, and with it the chance to be with us and her grandchild even longer, my mother grabbed it with both hands. I also held on to this treatment. I tried my best to stay positive and hoped that she would still hold my child and experience me as a mother. And that I could see her as a grandmother, however briefly.

Bright spot

Despite all the worries about my mother, I was able to enjoy my pregnancy. I was thankful for the little one growing inside me and my pregnancy was a bright spot in a dark time. But with a black border. My happiness bubble was already burst when I heard that I was going to lose my mother.

The contrast couldn’t be greater. While new life was growing in me and my stomach was getting bigger and bigger, my mother became very ill from the chemotherapy. So we couldn’t do much together. Once we went shopping together because I needed maternity clothes.

“She wanted so much to be involved with her grandchild, which she often talked about”

My mother did this purely on willpower, because walking was actually no longer possible. But she wanted so much to be involved with her grandchild, which she also often talked about. Then she wondered aloud if it was going to be a boy or a girl. In the village she bought a cuddly cloth with a bear for the baby.

She did not speak out about the fact that she might not see her grandchild at all, and neither did I. This was the biggest fear of both of us and I think we wanted to protect each other from that pain.

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At first, the chemotherapy seemed to go well. It’ll be okay, I told myself. We knew we were going to lose her, but we hoped for a few more years together. We couldn’t see each other because of corona, because I didn’t want to put my mother in unnecessary danger. As an alternative, I kept sending her pictures of my growing belly.

Finally my leave came. I planned to quarantine for two weeks so that I could safely visit my mother afterwards. Unfortunately, a new scan showed that the cancer had hit back hard. The doctors couldn’t do anything for her. She had only two months left to live, which would make it ticklish whether she would meet her grandchild. I could barely contain it. Despite everything, I didn’t see this coming.

At the last minute we had a sex determination ultrasound done, so my mother knew what it would be. I revealed this by showing her the birth announcement with the name on it. She watched this carefully, also spoke the name Leah for the first time. She loved it and had a silver rattle engraved with Leah’s name so she could leave her granddaughter something precious.

losing your mother during your pregnancy


After that it went fast. A week later she turned out to have metastases in the brain and she was no longer able to speak properly. Another week later she suddenly passed away and my dear mother passed away in front of my father.

There was hardly time to stop, because six days after she died, the contractions started and I gave birth to Leah. She lay on my chest and looked at me with a clear look. It was magical but at the same time so mercilessly hard that my mother had missed her for six days, although she was no longer clear at the end. I wish so much she could have held Leah and I could see that proud look in her eyes. I really missed that in my maternity period.

“I wish she could have held Leah so much”

Just like her support, because I wanted to ask my mother so much at that time: how did she handle it when I used to have cramps? And how did she recognize me as a baby in Leah? My mother had always been there for me, but my helpline was no longer there. I was intensely happy with my child, but also deeply sad about my mother. This double feeling was clearly visible at home: the congratulatory cards arrived at the same time as the mourning cards.


The period after her death I was very lonely. When I saw proud grandmothers walking down the street with their daughter and grandchild behind the pram, I felt alone in the world. Like I was the only one without a mother. Grieving was hard because I tried to push the sadness away. I had a beautiful family, I had to focus on that myself.

“Grieving was difficult because I tried to push away the sadness”

But pain can’t be pushed away, it comes back hard. For a long time I managed to hold back the sadness, but at a certain point I couldn’t anymore. I couldn’t look at her picture that was in our closet and there were sudden crying spells at other times as well.


To better deal with my emotions, I went into grief counseling. So much had happened in a short time and it was nice to talk about it uninhibited. I was also given tools to allow my grief. I noticed that I enjoy writing to my mother, so I now have a notebook with letters to her. In it I write about what has been, but also about the here and now and what I would have loved to share with her.

It is now two and a half years later. I often tell Leah about her grandmother. Then I light a candle with her picture and tell her that grandma was so sweet and would have loved to do fun things with her. And that Leah was grandma’s great pride from the very first moment.”

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