One piece of advice I would readily pass on to a bereaved parent, is do what feels right for you. Forget convention, forget ‘supposed to’s’. Do grieving that moves you from one place to another, whatever that doing may be.
Last Sunday was international bereaved mothers day. One of the reasons I chose to celebrate my actions of mothering on that day was so that I wouldn’t feel any pressure to fit in with expectations of usual mothers and mother’s day celebrations.
I wanted to get a card to mark the day, to have something tangible, but the mothers day cards were all so wrong. The card that stopped me in my tracks was a ‘congratulations on the birth of your son’ card. I started crying in the news agent, so I knew that was the card I needed. On relfection, I think it symbolizes my grief in not being able to celebrate being a new mum at the time of birth. My husband and I have countless sympathy cards, yet there is always a part of us both that was and is just so proud of the birth of our truly beautiful son. It’s the epitome of bitter-sweet.
I felt like this card was kind of the first step for me in recognising that I am a mum, and I have done mothering. Sometimes I still get a chance to do mothering, even 10 weeks out. I might tend the garden where our first baby has been buried, or write a note to one of my babies… It’s not what I thought my mothering would be, but it’s what I can do.
My husband and I held a picnic on bereaved mothers day. I wanted to release balloons. First I wrote all the things we could think of that we had done to mother and father both of my babies (one balloon for each of our babies). It was really hard to go through all the memories. Painful. But worth it. It felt so good to see two balloons completely covered in actions of love. I was truly surprised how difficult it was to release those balloons. With my hubby there to support me, I burst into tears at the thought of the final thing I wanted to say to each baby, as he helped me to let each balloon go. We lay on the grass, and just watched them go.
One thing I felt I had to come to terms with, was feeling guilty for feeling embarrassed about my love for my first lost baby. I’ve been calling this baby Earth Baby, as our loss was too early for us to know if they were our son or daughter, or was at least too early for the doctors to think to offer to tell us. Losing Mars has made me ponder the differences in the loss of our babies because of the amazing acknowledgement our loved ones have given us for losing Mars. Obviously the length of time has differed, we were able to see how much Mars took after both of us, and it was even more unexpected… But still, I feel there was the resounding similarity, that they were both our babies. They both held the same potential for life, for our love. I birthed them both, they were both cared for in life and death. They were both meant to be our children.
It doesn’t matter if my first baby was a fetus, an embryo, or a baby. It doesn’t matter that a first trimester loss is more common than a loss after birth. It doesn’t matter how many weeks I knew I was pregnant with each of my babies, or even how much I loved them whilst they were in my womb. They were both mine. They were both lost. They are both loved. They both made me their mother.