Friday, May 11, 2018

Mother's Day After a Loss

Greetings faithful blog readers,

I started to write a normal update post, but I couldn't do it. That's not what I have on my mind; this is the post I need to write whether I want to or not. Please be forewarned that this post deals with the topic of pregnancy loss. Read on if you're okay with that:

Here we are again. It's almost Mother's Day, a holiday I've had the good fortune of always being happy to celebrate. But last year was different. Last year, Mother's day fell exactly one week before our would be due date. And despite my doctor's reassurances that I'd be "pregnant again by May," despite the fact that we'd tried various interventions and had various tests done, which all came back normal, I still wasn't pregnant. And I was hurting.

I made a plan to spend the day with my mom and aunt and cousin in San Angelo. It was a nice weekend. We got our nails done and went to brunch and visited my grandmother's grave, but driving home, I couldn't help but cry. I was in a weird in-between state. I didn't look like a mother to other people, but I sure felt like one.

A week later, Brendan and I did something personal to honor our loss. I won't detail it here because it was such a private, intimate moment. I'll only say that we were both extremely sad and that it was our first formal mourning of our loss. We'd gone back to work the day after finding out, and we'd gone back to work the day after my D&C. We'd powered through the second half of that fall semester, the holidays, and the spring semester. Finally, we had a chance to pause and reflect, and when we did, the grief was like a wave. It still is sometimes.

People said we'd "move on" once we had a baby. I knew they were wrong. Of course, having a baby has made us very happy. I'm holding her right now as I type. She's sleeping, and she's warm, and she's perfect. I still feel grief about the children I won't ever hold, but I'm okay with grief. Grief is a vital sign. Grief is proof that we are alive. I wish we were more comfortable talking about things that grieve us. We make people feel isolated in their sorrow, and it doesn't serve anyone, but I know why it's hard to share news of a pregnancy loss. There were many people I did not open up to. I did not want people to feel sorry for me, and I didn't want them to feel awkward about their own happy news. I still wanted to see pictures of their kids and be invited to their baby showers and get their birth announcements in the mail. But not opening up meant sometimes I'd have to field awkward questions like "When are you having kids?" as if we could order one on Amazon prime.

The truth was, I already felt like a mom, but there was no name for what I was. I'd been pregnant with children I'd never meet. I'd gone to the hospital but gone home without a baby. What is the label for that? Certainly, no one was sending me a Mother's Day card.

When we found out we were pregnant again, we were filled with gratitude. But that first trimester was difficult. I kept the news a closely guarded secret, and I tried to keep my heart even more guarded.

It didn't work.

I loved her right away, before I even knew she was a her. I loved her the second I looked at that faint second line. I loved her so much that I was a wreck: I knew exactly what there was to lose.

One day, Brendan came home and found me sobbing in our bathroom. "What if it happens again?" I asked. "Then it will break us again," Brendan said honestly. He sat next to me. There was nothing more to do. It felt like April was forever away. The only thing to do was to keep loving her even though I couldn't control how it would all turn out.

And that's what I did.

At some point in your pregnancy, everyone starts calling you "mama." Like as in, "Hey Mama, how're you feeling?" It's weird. I don't know how we make that distinction as a society (when a woman is obviously showing?), but I felt like I was finally seen as the mother I already felt like I was. And now that she is here, I am clearly a mother, and Mother's Day cards are arriving in the mail from sweet family members. But if this is my first Mother's Day, what was I last year?

During the first week of Willa's life, I was struggling to make breastfeeding work. Brendan said to me that "being a mother is not about the trials you go through for your kids, it's about how much you love them." That resonated with me so much: I'll never be able to do anything for the babies we lost, including bringing them into this world, but I sure did love them.

I loved them from the first time I saw that faint second line (September 13th, 2016), I loved them before I even knew there was more than one baby. They don't have names I can refer to them by, but there is a pregnancy journal I kept and put the sympathy cards into as well. Sometimes I go back and write in it.

A love like that resides with you always.

It was a privilege to love them, even though I lost them.

So I guess last Mother's Day, I was a mother after all.

Here's a Mother's Day wish to every Mother, to those that hold their children close but especially to those that cannot: let this love make you stronger.

The love you feel for those you lost is just as real as any love, whether it gets celebrated or not. This Mother's Day, I wish you love, I wish you peace, and I wish you hope; but mostly, I wish that you will be seen as what you are: a mother.


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