When I was younger, I had all kinds of ideas about what kind of mother I wanted to, and was going to be. Largely, this was modeled after my own mother’s way of mothering me, but it was also a commitment I had to showing up for little life (or lives) I created in all the ways I felt important.
I knew I wanted to read to my child, I knew I wanted to play with them and give them lots of hugs, kisses, and snuggles. My commitment was to ensuring my child(ren) always felt loved, wanted, listened to, important, valued, seen, and connected. The thought never entered my mind that a) I would have trouble getting pregnant when I wanted to be pregnant, and b) that my biological children would die.
I thought about what my first year celebrating Mother’s Day would be like. I thought about potentially being pregnant for Mother’s Day, celebrating the day with my post-natal child(ren) and my mom in a multi-generational day of appreciation… I thought about the days when my kids and spouse would collaborate on making Mommy cards, and I would smile and put them on the fridge in gratitude and awe. I imagined all this joy and pride and gratitude and excitement around the experience and role of motherhood, but I never once considered it could look different than I anticipated.
Fast-forward to Mother’s Day 2017 when I received my first ever Mother’s Day cards and texts. I was so grateful. I had not one, but TWO babies growing in my belly. We’d hold our hands against my belly at night to see if we could feel anyone moving around in there. Confused about whether it was gas, digestion, or movement, we entertained the latter and would smile about all the things to come. We didn’t yet know what sex our babies were but it didn’t really matter. We were just excited to meet them in November (but expected October because: twins). Side note: I was trying to mentally prepare myself for raising two Scorpio’s and being married to one! A few weeks later, our world came crashing down when I gave birth to beauties Aviva Monroe & Jora Nirali on June 7, 2017. My hopes and dreams of motherhood were dashed as unrelenting waves of grief washed over me.
Welcome to Bereaved Motherhood… This weird space where you know you had babies, some people know too, but very few talk about it. This space where you have all this love and your body has gone through all the things, but an emptiness is present where your children should be. This space where you feel like (and others make you feel like) you don’t belong in the esteemed category of “Mother” because you’re not raising a child or children.
So, you don’t feel like you BELONG anywhere except in your house or with other bereaved mothers. And sometimes, depending on when you entered this club no one wants to join, you don’t even feel like you belong here (shouts out to all the mothers who miscarried early in their pregnancy. I see you & I recognize you!). Maybe you try again… hustling to get pregnant. Maybe you adopt or foster. Maybe you conceive again and are successful… maybe not. Regardless, maybe you’re now in this space of grief AND excitement AND fear AND forgotten-ness AND anger AND envy AND love AND remembrance AND appreciation (and many other feelings I could list). People may see you smiling, see you living life, so they forget that pain still lives here. They forget that almost any experience can be complicated by the both/and… the joy AND the pain, which makes the feeling something different entirely.
Bereaved Motherhood looks like…
- Undying love
- Honor and Remembrance
- Unrelenting emotional pain
- Holding space for the living AND the deceased
- Smiling with living children
- Tears late at night
- Angelversaries & rituals on due dates
- Hanging with friends & family
- And the list goes on…
Did you know that there is an International Bereaved Mother’s Day? It was May 5th this year (check out when it’s occurring for years to come HERE). It’s both crazy, sad, and beautiful that a separate day was created to honor those mothers who have lost children. Many people don’t know about that holiday… I didn’t even know about it until a few weeks ago. It’s a reminder that if certain things are not your experience, you can be ignorant to their significance.
Mother’s Day is this weekend. I encourage you to acknowledge your motherhood if it feels emotionally safe to you. Whether your child(ren) is living or not, you are still their mother in my opinion. For folx who are not angel parents, I would bet you money that you know someone who is. I encourage you to acknowledge their motherhood also in some way. Say their child’s name, light a candle, list them among other living children because THEY EXISTED TOO even if only for a short time, give an extra hug, think well/pray for them, or even just spread some knowledge about angel parents, bereaved mothers, or perinatal loss.
Here’s a pic of what my bereaved motherhood has looked like…
Wishing you all well and sending love your way.