Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Steaming up the window

I read an article last night about women in my situation. They called us "unfinished mothers". We are the unfortunate few who became mothers and then had our children tragically taken from us. Empty arms, empty cradles and broken hearts are all we need to garner both this wonderfully confusing label and membership into the world's most horrible club.

What confuses me most is that I'm not sure at what point I'll be finished, or if I'm even supposed to be. Aren't you always a mother once you give birth, no matter how long your child lives? Once a tiny soul has flickered to life within you, aren't you a mother - aren't you a mother right at that very moment and forever more?

I guess I should read the article again. Maybe it offers more clues on the second reading.

I've been thinking a lot about my experience as a mother lately. I remember feeling so lost and confused when I first had Thomas because I knew I was a mother, but I didn't know how to go about being one without my child. I kind of hoped that would get easier - if not easier to understand, at least easier to bear.

But it hasn't really. I feel like I'm going to forever be on the outside looking in, steaming up the windows of mothers who have their children with them. Those women know how to be mothers. I know I love Thomas every bit as much as any mother loves her living child, but that's all I have in common with my stroller pushing sisters. I've never changed a diaper, I've never been woken up to the sound of hungry cries in the night, I've never soothed away a bad dream or felt my child instinctively sink into me seeking comfort and the protection of my embrace. Thomas and I never had that - we didn't have any time to be mother and son.

So the question remains: what kind of a mother am I? Is love alone enough? I just still can't help feeling like a bit of a fraud - claiming the title without any of the responsibilities.

My God, I know we had our fill of responsibilities after Thomas was born, and I know in his 20 hours we had to make the hardest decision parents can make - a decision most parents never have to make - but it was all a blur of doctors, nurses, pain and tears. Believe me, I'm not minimizing it - it will take a lifetime for me to deal with just how large it all was - I'm just saying that despite it all I don't feel like I had a chance to really be his mother. I didn't have the chance to be a mother.

I was robbed.

And I hate the feeling of being a mother in name only. I really hate it. I feel so left out and so inept. I want to mother - I want to be able to do all the things I should be doing - all the things I was waiting to do for those beautiful 9 months. I want to feel like I'm part of the stroller pushers club. I don't want to be different anymore.

I wonder if this is what it feels like to be an amputee or a paraplegic - and I mean no disrespect what I say that. What I mean is that they're people just like everyone else, but deep down they know they're different. They know what they're missing and they know that in some ways they'll always be on the outside looking in. They know there's nothing they can do to change that and they know people will always look at them just a little differently.

I know differences are what make people beautiful, but there's nothing beautiful in feeling different because your baby is dead.


cjzben said...

Honey you are a mother, the title is earned in many different ways and one of those is most definitely carrying a baby lovingly into this world and standing by him with all the love you have in your heart as he passes into the next. You have said before that you would do it all again in a heartbeat to have that short time with him despite the pain you feel now. THAT is what it means to be a mother to endure whatever needs to be endured just to treasure the moments you have with them.

Sending you some love today. Wish I wasn't so far away.

kate said...

Hi...just wanted to send (((((((((hugs)))))))) I just recently started reading your blog and i am very sorry for the loss of your sweet Thomas.

Yes, you are a mother, and i know you know that...and it doesn't really diminish the feeling of being 'outside' and marked, after your baby dies. This never goes away, but it does diminish with time. And also you get more used to the role of grieving mother, and you see that you DO take care of your boy, even though he is not here with you. It took me about a year after my son Nicolas died to realize that all the 'grief work' i was doing -- whether it was posting to or talking with other parents, or doing crafts or just sitting crying -- was about the same amount of work i would be doing if he was here and i was feeding and rocking and changing diapers. Not the kind of work you want to do, but it *does* count. I wish you were blithely pushing him in a stroller too.

Sherry said...

((((HUGS)))) Yes, I do understand what you're saying, since it's how I feel so, so often, too. We ARE mothers; we just aren't in the way that we long for the most.

Hang in there, sweetie.

Catherine said...

I pushed a stroller with my first baby. Having had that experience doesn't ease the pain of losing the second baby. You love all your children, living and dead. THAT'S what makes you a mother. is enough. For in the end, that's all we

smileyeily323 said...

Kristen, yes you are a mother! You loving carried Thomas for 9 precious months and through much pain and agony made the hardest decision a mother could make. A mother loves her baby with all of her heart. Love is the best gift a mother can give her child. You did that! You are by far one of the bravest and most loving mothers I know. ((((Hugs)))

mscooter said...

There is a saying (which I will no doubt misquote) but it goes something like this - to be a mother is to forever wear your heart on the outside. You are indeed a mother.

Jill said...

OK, this is my second try at this...I want to say the right thing so I deleted my earlier attempt!

But to keep it simple, it seems to me you concentrated every heartbreaking decision and experience a mother could have into a few short hours.

This still isn't right...but you are a mother every bit as much as the women who take their babies home. Most of them will never have to do for their children what you did and do for Thomas.

(((Hugs))) I hope you will get to be 'finished' soon. Not being finished though, doesn't mean you aren't 'started'.