mama’s last valentine’s day

mama's last valentines day

I still have regrets about that day. Flashes of it come and go in my brain, sometimes I am bombarded with these moments and I feel so, so badly for how I acted or things I said. We never got to make up from these last fights because she was soon not fully herself as the tumors took over her brain.

Logically I know that she isn’t still mad at me. As a mother myself now, I know that no matter how angry I ever feel towards my kids, I will always love them in a way that transcends it. I am their mom. I am the person they can feel comfortable enough around to yell at and feel all their feelings without judgement. I also know that 27-year-old Anna didn’t know how to express all the jumbled up complicated feelings and thoughts that clogged up her heart and mind as she watched her mother die.


But it still churns up my guts to think about this day when I was kind of a bitch about the valentines. I am pulled to a dark place and all I see is Mama’s hurt, disappointed, angry face.

mother’s day and a one-year-old

May 6 to May 14, it’s been a full week.

First, Giles turned one whole year old. I cannot really believe that it’s been a year since that long 30 hour experience of giving birth. It felt so endless that it seems impossible that I am not still in the hospital room, pushing and pushing and pushing. I can no longer remember the exact feeling of the pain, but I remember my reactions to it. My body has changed many times. Presently: my breasts are empty which is a strange feeling, my tummy is soft with less wrinkles and a bit of strength underneath, my arms are strong from lifting a growing baby, my linea negra is still faintly there and stretch marks too. I am smaller, stronger, more able and better feeling. I do not “have my body back” because that is not a real thing. I have my new mom body, which still changes every couple weeks, but has finally become something I understand (I think).

Giles has changed too. He is standing, crawling, walking while holding onto something. He laughs, chatters in baby talk, says “mama” and “dada” and something that almost sounds like “ball.” He has personality, likes and dislikes, a sense of humor. He loves to dance. He eats almost everything we give him, though he has preferences depending on the day. He has friends. He is more than three times the size he was at birth.

And now, at one week past his birthday, it is Mother’s Day. Last year we spent the holiday in the hospital with 2 day old Giles, still so new, learning how to breastfeed. Now I am done breastfeeding. Now I am a mother on my second Mother’s Day and the fifth Mother’s Day without my own mom.

It’s a complicated day. “Complicated AF” as my friend Ashley says. So true. I am so happy, so full of joy to celebrate being Giles’ mom. And then there is this hole, this cold feeling, tears behind my eyes and knots in my stomach. I miss my mom. I want to make her a card, talk to her, dance with her, help her in the garden or do whatever other chores she wants me to do. I want to have brunch with her and Giles, make waffles in her kitchen, watch her hold him and play with him and talk to him in Spanish.

There’s a lot of things I want but can’t even say.

There’s an envelope in my jewelry box (my mom’s jewelry box which is now mine). It’s a letter from Mama, for me to read when I had a child (or didn’t). I read that letter as soon as I found out I was pregnant, and a few more times since then. I haven’t read it today yet.

Greg and Giles brought me breakfast in bed and the sweetest card. They gave me a truly great Mother’s Day. I also have to make room for the sadness. Joy and grief live together now and always will.


love every minute



It’s not that I don’t love being a mom, I do. I love it indescribably. But people keep asking, “Don’t you just love every minute?” I never know what to say to those people.

There are minutes that are very, very hard. There are minutes that drive me crazy, or exhaust me, or bring me to tears. No one can be expected to “love every minute” of anything, no matter how wonderful.

Or, maybe I do love every minute, but I can love them and be sad/mad/tired/frustrated/unsure at the same time.

Yeah. Maybe that’s it.

Regardless, let’s stop expecting moms to be happy all the time. We are just human beings. Like the rest of you.

my mom

Giles is crying again. That scream-crying of yesterday, a sound we haven’t heard too much yet, in these four months of his life outside the womb.

So I walk him around the house and stroller him and nurse him and talk to him and sing and try and try to figure out what is wrong. Finally I sit down at the computer and I put on this video and we listen to my mom’s voice.

Giles falls asleep. I hold him, trying not to move.

My mom talks about the breast cancer playing cards she made. She talks about how there has to be something positive to come from the fact that one in eight women has breast cancer.

And then we watch this video.

What do you have and what do you need? 

Seeing me and my mom together both heals and breaks my heart. This video takes place at a really lovely time in our relationship. December 2012. A time I am so very grateful for and need to be reminded of.

I wish she could see the life I’m making now. Maybe she does, in her own ghost way. But I have to do it without her, with only the memory of her to guide me. Memories of my childhood. The photo albums, notes and emails from her, conversations that are only recorded in my mind and have faded and changed as I take them out again and again to examine and mine for her presence. There is so much longing.




mama and me in our hats in Chicago March 2012Morning Coffee 3 “Morning Coffee” comic from 2011

I’m twenty-seven years old and my mom is dead.

How strange that is to say and even to think. If I live to be at least 60 (and universe-willing it will be longer than that), then she will have been dead for most of my life. How does one understand something like this? The biggest person in my life is gone, and the whole world is different.

She’d been dying for a while, and I knew it was coming. By the end she seemed so far away that I didn’t think it’d be much different when she actually passed. But it’s like there’s a line that’s been crossed, between my life with Mama and now life without.

I’m trying to write this post as a way to organize my thoughts and feelings and be open about them so they don’t get bottled up or pressed down, which is easy for me to do. Like I’ve said before, I’m trying to keep my heart open. But honestly I don’t know what to say.

She was my mom. My biggest champion, supporter, understanding friend, the one who loved me the most no matter how big of a buttface I was being. She made everything fun. She made me, I came out of her. She was my mom. What else can I say?

This hole is really big, and no one else will ever fill it, but maybe it can be hole like this one. Maybe it will allow me to see things I couldn’t without it.

I’m sure I will write more about this. And I’ve been sketching comics throughout the last few months of her cancer, and as I make final versions I might post them here. But for today this is all I’ve got.

foggy memories

Hey guys, I want to share a really cool/sweet/childhood illustrated story that my friend Sara Lautman had published on The Hairpin, called Foggy Memories.

Lots of good stuff here about memory and how we remember things and our perspectives as children. Plus I ❤ her drawing style. Might be makin’ some childhood memory comics inspired by this. Thanks Sara!