You Have Been my Best Surprise

This amazing little girl came into my life quite unplanned 3 years ago… when I hadn’t even expected to find love again, much less a child. Now I’m waking up on mother’s day morning, and I am the one being celebrated. This is still so surreal to me.

Of all of the hard or scary things in my life, this is one that I chose. I didn’t choose to lose Drew, or my parents. Or a lot of other hard or scary things in my life… But I did choose to be in this little girl’s life after she lost her own mother - and after her dad lost his beautiful fierce wife. And I now know that this choice was going to require all of me and then some… in a way I couldn’t have understood before diving in. This choice was going to change everything.

It has changed the way I view all of the mothers in my life… my mother who raised me until she died when I was 9, and all the surrogate moms that I have had since then who have stepped in to guide and love me. It’s changed my appreciation for each of those mothers in my world, and deepened my understanding of their choice to be in my life. It’s deepened my relationship to my sister, as a mother of three strapping boys, and just how incredible of a job she has done in raising them.

I think before this little surprise came into my world, I had a certain amount of resentment for everything related to motherhood - because my own mom was no longer here. I avoided Mother’s Day. I had a difficult time really being around moms and their children. I disliked kids mostly. I didn’t even want kids. I felt cheated out of my own childhood and wanting nothing to do with other children. I still do have some resentment to some degree really, and probably always will a little bit.

This little person has helped me with that resentment in ways she cannot fathom right now. Being able to give her my love in the absence of her mom also gives something back to the little girl in me.

I could have never imagined that my fiance’s death would lead me here… or that his leaving my life would bring healing to parts of my heart that I thought could never be healed. It turns out, they could be, but not by him. And not by my new partner… only by this little surprise, now 11, and growing taller by the day as she buries herself in the fantastical worlds of books and runs fabulous 5K’s.

Still though, it’s not easy...

It’s not easy when life takes you on a journey you didn’t have planned. And I still battle this complex desire to live out both this life and the one that got cut short. I still feel fearful of this new role of being a mother. I still feel afraid all of this will just fall apart at any moment, and the river will jerk me in another direction yet again. I still feel incredibly sad my own mother will never know my daughter. And that all of the other mothers who raised me live halfway across the country and are missing out on getting to know her too. I think that's one of the hardest parts in fact, not having my other mother figures closeby to help support me becoming a mom. Truly there's so much that is hard about it all. And scary.

Because of that fear, I still struggle with this new role, and with giving my whole heart to this new person. Sometimes I let the fear of more loss get in the way, and I avoid closer connection with her. And though I am still present enough that she doesn’t notice, I do notice. And I am constantly trying to push through that fear for her. It is one of the hardest fears I’ve ever had to confront, but one I’m grateful she helps me work on.


Just what are we to do when the river suddenly makes a sharp turn the opposite way and carries us with it? I still feel like I’m being tossed around by the current most of the time. But every now and then, there are glimpses of getting my footing. Days like yesterday, when I took Shelby out for a Mother’s Day Weekend girls day. We got pedicures and went to a movie and to buy nice smelling soaps and lotions at the mall. It’s the kind of day that is rare for us, because I  still prefer to have Mike there as a buffer of sorts - so that I can avoid that fear of closeness some more and stay comfortable. But this weekend, I wanted to make sure she knew without any uncertainty how loved she is.

So yesterday was a day I didn’t act on that fear. It was a day I made the choice to be fully present with her. To make her feel special. To make sure she knew that I value having time just with her and no one else. To give her new, happy memories of Mother’s Day weekend - which I know is just what her mom would want. In effect, to honor her mom, and to honor my own too.

Every time I step more fully into love and do not act on fear, it feels wonderful and healing and so rewarding. It also feels terrifying. I guess it always will some? Because now I am always aware of how fast anyone can leave our lives… no matter how big or little or weak or strong they are.

This has been easily the scariest and most challenging choice I’ve ever made - to become a mom almost overnight to an 8 year old girl who's own mom was tucking her in at night less than a year before. And to leave everything I knew behind in order to be here for her, not having any clue what I was doing or any of my own maternal supports nearby. Hard, for sure... But it has easily been the greatest gift also. There is no doubt in my mind that this little one has been my very best surprise on this journey of widowhood.

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  • Sarah Treanor
    commented 2018-05-20 05:54:00 -0700
    Thank you April, that really means so much to me! Vulnerability is SO hard as a widow, no matter what our circumstance, but seems always worth trying for!
  • April
    commented 2018-05-13 10:10:57 -0700
    This is beautiful! Your insights into your vulnerabilities have so much depth, and so many beautiful layers. They help all of us on this new widowhood journey to understand our own vulnerabilities and give us strength knowing that pushing through them has many amazing rewards. Thank you!
  • Mike Welker
    commented 2018-05-13 08:14:29 -0700
    Happy mother’s day, Sarah. Shelby and I love you!