Featured in That’s Life Magazine.
Picking up the phone to dial my mum, I was shaking like a leaf. Butterflies buzzed around my tummy as I spoke. “Mum, I’m pregnant again,” I said excitedly. “Can you believe it?!” “Oh, darling, I’m so happy for you,” my mum, Wendy, 48, said, her voice cracking. “Congratulations.”It was an emotional moment for any mother and daughter but for us even more so.
I’d met my partner, Kevin, in 2007 after six long years of trying unsuccessfully for a baby with previous boyfriends. I had a daughter from a failed relationship when I was a teenager but 13 painful miscarriages had left me resigned to never having that new-mum feeling again. Then after only a couple months being with Kevin I’d miraculously fallen pregnant with twins.
Our two perfect little girls were born nine weeks early in 2008. Mum had been my rock through it all. She was the one who was there for me when I gave birth to my eldest daughter when I was just a teenager. She’d helped me through when I was a single mum and picked up the pieces after each of my horrendous miscarriages. She’d been on hand to help take the pressure off being a mum of two tiny twins. And now I wanted her to be the first to know that Kevin and I were expecting another maybe.
“I can’t believe it either,” I told her. “We’ll have to celebrate when we see you…” But just a few weeks later when I was 16 weeks gone, our world came crashing down. I got a phone call from my step dad. This time I was the one to get some news. “We’ve been to the hospital,” he said. “Your mum doesn’t want to upset you but there’s something you need to know. “The cough that she’s had for a while wouldn’t go away so she was referred for some tests. They’ve come back saying she has lung cancer.” I clasped my hands to my bump as I collapsed into a chair to digest the information. “Cancer?” I asked. “But she’s too young…”
But it got worse. The cancer was an aggressive form and one which was developing very quickly. It was already in the later stages and Mum urgently needed chemo therapy. Later that day I sat crying with Kevin, thinking about all the things she would miss if she died now. “She might not even get to see the baby,” I sobbed. “And what about our wedding?” Kevin and I had been engaged for over a year but we’d put off planning a wedding because it was so expensive and we always seemed to have another mouth to feed. “We could get married now,” he said, trying to help. But deep down we both knew we didn’t have enough money in the bank for even a simple wedding.
Then the next day I was talking to my friend Aimi about the horrible situation we found ourselves in. “I’m sure your mum will make a recovery,” she said. “But in case she doesn’t, I have £3,000 of savings. I want you to take it and get married. Do it now while your mum can be there.” At first I refused – how could I just take someone else’s money like that? But then when I saw mum in hospital and saw the horrific effects of the chemo, I would have done anything to cheer her up. “We’re bringing the wedding forward,” I told her. “I want you to be there, so you’d better get well soon!”
Back home I accepted Aimi’s offer and we started planning a simple family wedding. We booked the venue and I bought the dress. I even booked into a nice hotel for the night before so the groom wouldn’t see me before the big day. I went to see mum the week before the big day in hospital. She looked weak but she was over the moon when I asked her to come from the oncology ward up to maternity to sit with me for my 20 week scan. “It’s a girl,” said the midwife. “Congratulations!” Mum looked at the screen and then at me. “She looks like a little angel,” she said, a tear welling in her eye.
When the eve of the wedding arrived, just as I bundled my things into a taxi to take me to the hotel, my mobile started ringing. It was Mum’s best friend. “Hi Gemma, where are you?” she said, sounding serious. “On my way to the hotel,” I said. “Is everything okay?” “I’m so sorry,” she replied. “I’m at the hospital. Your mum… she’s passed away.” The words were like a bullet. I was stunned into silence. “She can’t be,” I said after a pause. “No…” But it was true. The day before our wedding she had taken a sudden turn for the worse and become very weak. Then just hours before the service she had let go. “Do you want to call it off?” Kevin asked when I called to tell him the news. “I understand if you do.” The thought of walking down the aisle without mum there to see me was painful, but I wanted to get married and I knew it was what she would have wanted. “No, I want to do it,” I said.
So the next morning, I got into my dress and said my vows just as I’d planned. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as people celebrated for us but grieved for mum. The pub reception was more like a wake than a wedding but I didn’t mind – it was in my mum’s honour. Then as I mourned, my baby bump grew and three months on, when my due date arrived, I prayed yet again that mum had lasted just a little longer to meet her grand daughter. But when I gave birth, I named our little bundle Angel in her honour and I’m certain she was looking down.
I miss mum like crazy but when Angel grows up I will always make sure she knows about the granny who named her.