We Are & Always Will Be Mothers
This post was written for all my fellow grieving and bereaved momas. But, in a special way, I wanted to speak specifically to – AND FOR – all of the momas celebrating their first Mothers Day with empty arms. You and your baby are noticed and loved. I dedicate this post to you……
Grieving Mothers Day is recognized on the Sunday before ‘regular’ Mother’s Day; this year it falls on May 5th. Its not hard to understand why no one really wants to be recognized or even included on Grieving Mother’s Day. Personally, as a grieving mother, I think it absolutely stinks that there is even a distinction made. As though we were somehow ‘less than’ or undeserving of being called mother because our children are no longer alive. Its not like we don’t already feel like as set apart as the one odd yellow flower in field of reds.
I don’t claim to have ‘expert level’ knowledge of anything on this earth, but the one thing I can claim a substantial amount of knowledge on is, unfortunately, child loss. Between 2002 and 2016, my husband and I lost 5 of our 15 children. We lost MaryJoe and Henry to separate miscarriages in 2002 and 2007. In 2009, we lost Eric and Adam, identical twin boys, to stillbirth at 33 weeks. Our youngest child Ella died in 2016 at the age of 8 months and 6 days from complications with Trisomy 18 (Edwards Syndrome). In a span of 14 years, we’ve had 5 losses: two miscarriages, twin stillbirths and one infant loss. We’ve managed to make it through, by the grace of God, without going completely insane.
If you’ve ever lost ANYONE in your life that was important to you, you know that people will say pretty much the same things over and over again in an effort to comfort you. “Its a blessing that is over.” “At least they didn’t suffer.” “They lived a good life.” You know. The same well rehearsed lines that are considered the ‘proper’ things to say when they’re greeting you in the receiving line at the funeral or when they see you at the grocery store or at work. And I suppose in some cases those are the proper things to say. In my experience, though, some of the absolute STUPIDEST words I’ve ever heard spoken by any human on this planet – and I’ve heard lots of them after losing five babies – have got to be the words that were offered up to me as comfort after my first miscarriage: “Well, at least the baby died before you got attached to it.” Naturally, there were variations: at least the baby died before you felt it kick, before you held it, named it. Before you got to know them.
Really?! Wow. So…. To help me feel ‘better’ about my child dying, you’re actually trying to tell me that it’s better that I never got to feel them, see them, meet them, hold them, name them or know them.
Explain to me exactly how that is supposed to do anything but make me feel crazy. When I’m grieving the loss of that tiny, little person so intensely that I can barely breathe, how will it help me for you to deny that my baby was ever even alive? As though pretending the baby was never here, or that I was never a mother, could somehow make it easier for me to deal with the fact that I do not have a baby to mother anymore. Like telling me, “Just don’t think about it and you’ll be ok,” is supposed to make me forget how hollowed out and defective I feel.
Well, like I said earlier, unfortunately, I have extensive experience with this particular matter and I can say, with complete and total confidence in my personal knowledge, that all that school of thought right there… is some straight up BULL****.
For all of you reading this who have lost a child, either to miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death, read these next words clearly.
Being mother to a child lost to miscarriage does not make you any less of a mother than a woman whose child died as a 29 year old adult with a family of their own. Being mother to a child lost to stillbirth doesn’t make you any less of a mother than a woman whose 9 year old died from cancer. Being a mother to a baby who died before their first or even second birthday doesn’t make you any less of a mother than a woman whose teenager died in a car accident. The bottom line is this: your child’s death does not negate your motherhood. You are still a mother. You are the STRONGEST kind of mother: a mother who has to parent with one foot on earth and one foot in Heaven and that, my friend, is THE HARDEST kind of parenting.
Now, for those of you reading this who have ever used any of those ‘words of comfort’, this part here, these next words, are especially for you. The comparisons I made are harsh, and while my intention was not to upset or shock anyone, that is just a small taste of the harsh reality that we bereaved mothers have to LIVE WITH, every day for the rest of our lives. The harsh reality that I think a lot of people need to wake up and realize is that those particular efforts at providing ‘comfort’ are only a comfort to the person saying them, in that you were clever enough to come up with something to say to avoid an awkward silence. What you really did when you shared those ‘consoling thoughts’ with us was to effectively deny our babies’ lives and dismiss our motherhood. And when you try to ‘make it better’ by not talking about our children at all, by ignoring the fact that we were in fact pregnant or by acting as if their death is ‘no big deal’, you really need to know: IT. DOESN’T. HELP.
You see, from the moment we knew that the pregnancy test was ‘positive’, we were already mothers. When we carried them inside our bodies before our babies were born, we were already mothers. When our babies were finally birthed out of our bodies, whether healthy & alive, whether they lived for only a few precious hours or were born silently & straight into Heaven, we were already mothers. And even after our babies were buried, we are stillmothers. We always will be their mothers. Losing our babies was hard enough. Don’t dishonor them by dismissing our motherhood.
The mother-child bond is strong enough to withstand the separation of death. It is strong enough to sustain the hope held in a grieving mother’s broken heart that she will, one day, get to see, feel, hold and know her child again. Do not presume to make the mistake of taking that away from us by denying it simply because YOU can no longer see or feel the presence of that child or our bond with them.
If you think a grieving mother protecting the memory of her dead child is fierce…. Just watch a tribe of bereaved mothers defending the honor of another newly grieving mother. You, my friend, will see a whole new level of FIERCE. No one wants to be in this club, but those of us who are forced to belong will welcome, protect and fiercely defend the dignity and honor of our members’ motherhood in honor of their precious children.
So, my fellow grieving and bereaved mothers, whether you’re just learning to navigate this ‘new normal’ or, like me, you’ve been navigating it for a while now, as this Grieving Mothers Day passes and ‘regular’ Mother’s Day approaches, please take these words to heart. Do not allow anyone – NOT EVEN YOU – to cause you to feel ‘less than’ or undeserving of the honors being shown to any other mother. I encourage you to include yourself when other mothers are recognized, in whatever way feels comfortable for you. Even though you may not ‘feel’ like a moma because your baby is no longer with you on this side of Heaven or maybe you’re just not up to celebrating this year because your heart is heavy from a hurt that is still so fresh, that’s ok, but please DO NOT EXCLUDE YOURSELF from the day itself, my sweet moma-friend. Find some way, no matter how small, to honor your baby by honoring your own motherhood.
After all, we are still mothers. We will always be their mothers. The yellow flower may be different, but it is still beautiful.