Saturday, March 26, 2005

I am a Mother

What is it like to be a mother when your child is gone — when all physical evidence points to a recent birth (pain, scars, fatigue) but your child has died? I am a mother, but my arms are empty. I gave birth to our son on March 9th. Thomas died just 20 hours later on March 10th. He was our first child.

So I am in fact a mother — but instead of changing diapers, nursing and staying up all night rocking my son, I’m wandering aimlessly about a deafeningly quiet house trying to find something to do with all the endless free time I didn’t think I’d have after giving birth. Instead of planning for his future, we’re planning our own. Will we try again? Will we adopt? Will we resign ourselves to a childless life? When will we take down the nursery we had so lovingly prepared for our sweet little boy? We don’t know yet. All we know is that we had a perfect and beautiful son and that we are parents. The problem is, we don’t look like parents.

So how do I go about being a mother in the absence of my child? I think I’ve earned the title, but what does society say? Are you only a mother if you have a child in tow? Will mothers who have been in the trenches raising kids for years resent me using the title they may feel they deserve more than I do? Doesn’t the fact that my beloved and I had to make the hardest decision a parent ever has to make right out of the gate give us the right to call ourselves mother and father? We loved our son so much we let him go. We did what was right for him despite the fact that it broke our hearts.

I’ve been trying to figure out what I’m going to say the next time a well-meaning stranger asks me if I have any kids. Will they want to know that I had a son who died? Would they prefer if I just say no? I don’t know. But if they ask if I’m a mother I will say yes. There’s no question in my mind. I carried my son for 9 months — I knew him. He was a rascal. He’d kick me when I sneezed, he’d nudge me back when I’d gently poke at him and he spent the last few weeks in utero trying to figure out if he was going to be breech or not. Every other week he’d present himself in a new position until finally he decided he’d do it the right way. The rascal.

So yes, I only got to hold him once while he was alive, but he was my son and I am his mother. I don’t know quite how or where I fit in yet, but I know that I am a mother. My time in the trenches was painfully short, but it was more painful than a lifetime of mothering. Of that I’m sure.


Sin Amen D'vine said...

Hang in there chica. Moving on is hard but it will get eaier I promise. There is another end to all the pain you are feeling now. I just happened on your blog and after reading i just felt for you. I cried thinking about what you had written. No one said it to you when you asked the question a year ago but YES you can call yourself a mother. Yes you had a child and though he is gone you are still a mother. You never stop being a mother. You are in my prayers.

Freyja said...

My friend is going through this right now. I'm so sorry either of you had such terrible circumstances befall you.

Annie said...

My heart aches for you. I wish your arms weren't empty. I do have one son, but also three babies that I lost earlier in pregnancy. I struggle when people ask me if I only have on child, how to answer?

You are a mother. I know I would never resent you for using that title, you have earned it in ways so many of us have never had to face. I am so sorry that your baby didn't get to stay here with you ((hug))

Gal aka SuperMommy said...

"Doesn’t the fact that my beloved and I had to make the hardest decision a parent ever has to make right out of the gate give us the right to call ourselves mother and father? "

YES!!! For this and because you loved/love your child, you are and will always be a mother.

Love and light.

anymommy said...

Yes, a mother. A grieving mother. I am so sorry. Your words are so powerful. I will think even more carefully about the questions I ask and how I ask them.

DysFUNctional Mom said...

You most definitely deserve the title of mother. I'm so sorry for your loss.

luna said...

hi, I came over from bridges (better late than never) to thank you for this post. in 2006, I lost only child at 21 weeks and was unable to conceive again. I feel like a lot of things, but sadly mother is not among them.

I am glad to hear you are feeling a little better these days.