Ian Smoke is the co-founder of Mommy & Me Warrior Supply Packs, a nonprofit that provides care packages to pregnant women and new moms battling cancer. It was created by his late spouse, Lauren, known to most as “Miss Lauren” from Bubbles Academy.
As a favorite place, he and son, Nico, 3, love going to Denning Park in La Grange, where a tree was recently planted in Lauren’s memory.
What went through your head when you found out you were going to be a dad?
Mostly excitement and joy with a healthy dose of nervousness. Lauren was diagnosed with breast cancer about a month after finding out she was pregnant, so my emotions quickly turned to worrying for both her and Nico. That worrying was constant until the day she died. While I still experience a lot of sadness and anger from losing Lauren, I mostly feel blessed day to day with the beautiful, amazing gift she left behind in Nico.
Talk to us about how Mommy & Me Warrior Supply Pack came to be.
It was Lauren’s idea—the name, the concept…everything. She came up with it when she was in remission. After Lauren passed away [in 2017], some of her good friends and I got together and decided it was important to move this forward even though she was gone. She really laid the groundwork for us.
Does it surprise you that just after Lauren finished up treatment, her first instinct was to help others?
Not at all—that is who Lauren was. It never really surprised me, I was more in awe of it. And it wasn’t just this organization—it was beyond that. She developed a social media presence and took the time to reach out to women who were going through a cancer diagnosis. She’d seek them out and offer her support. I was always amazed by that.
What do you want people to remember about Lauren?
She was something different to everyone. Whether it was through the Bubbles community, family, friends or other women dealing with cancer, you can’t pinpoint just one thing. I don’t want her to be remembered for anything cancer related. There was so much more to her than that.
How is Nico like his mom?
Physically, his eyes. Every time I look at them, I see her. Nico also loves music. He runs around the house singing songs. When he wakes up, I hear him singing through the baby monitor. Like her, he loves to start his day with music.
What does your new normal as an only parent look like?
I’ve tried to keep a routine as much as possible, but I work full time. Sometimes I put in early mornings or late nights, so it’s a struggle to maintain that routine. I’ve come to accept the help from family and friends. Sleepovers on weeknights may not be normal for other 3-year-olds, but it’s normal for us. Each day is a little easier. I’m so grateful for the village of people who have helped us.
How you can help
The Mommy & Me Warrior Supply Pack effort needs donations. Donate at warriorbox.org
This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.