Two years ago was my first Mother’s Day without my son, Cain. Until the actual day rolled around, I foolishly thought I had my emotions in check. Yes, I missed my son. Yes, I was still grieving him even more than those around me knew, but I still had so much to be thankful for. My oldest son, Cooper, had just turned 3, and I had only recently found out that we were expecting our rainbow baby. Life was once again starting to assume some semblance of normalcy, or so I thought. Looking back now, I know that it was naive of me to think that grief wouldn’t find me, especially that day, and force me to question my newly established security.
I remember driving alone that afternoon on my way back from shopping when my phone rang from a number I didn’t recognize. I decided not to answer it, and instead, waited for the caller to leave a message. When I played the voice mail, it was the Perinatal Loss Office at the hospital where I gave birth to Cain, the hospital where I spent 3 ½ weeks in the High Risk Perinatal Unit trying to get him to us, safe and sound. They wanted to check on me, to tell me that they cared, to see if I needed to talk, especially today, Mother’s Day. As the voice mail echoed through the speakers of my van, I began to sob uncontrollably. Suddenly, I was back in the NICU, holding my son in arms, hearing them tell me hello meant goodbye. No happy ending, only our son, dying in the arms that had planned to comfort him and protect him, the arms that wanted to mother him. Now they were failing him. I had failed him, as a mother, as his protector. How did I ever deserve that title? I had let him down in the worst possible way. In mere seconds, the guilt that I reasoned with for months had resurfaced stronger than ever.
Subsequently, my guilt shifted to anger. I looked in my rear view mirror at my son’s car seat. Why was the other one missing? Why was my eldest son deprived of ever knowing his brother? Where did it all go so wrong? How could God allow this to happen to us? I think I continued on through every imaginable emotion on that ride home. The drive that only took about 20 minutes seemed to drag on endlessly. I only wanted to get home to my 3 year old, to hold him in my arms, to tell him I loved him. I only wanted to do all of the things with him that I could never do with his brother. I knew having him near me was the only thing that could soothe the pain stabbing at my heart.
This year, I no longer fool myself. I am realistic. I approach the day with both anticipation and dread. I know that this Mother’s Day may hold much of the same. Even despite being further along in my grief, it’s these days, the holidays that get me. They may do the same for you. It’s because holidays are meant to be spent with family, with those we love closely at our side. And this holiday, the one created especially for us and our children, all of our children, shouldn’t have to be bittersweet. Yet here we are, missing the vital piece, the physical proof, our child, the one who made us a mother.
Whether you held your child only in your womb for a brief period, or you, like me, held them only for a few moments in your arms, you will always be their mother. Always. No one can take that from you, not society, not those who don’t recognize your child as part of your family, not anyone. So try to be gentle with yourself today. It’s okay to be happy. It’s okay to be sad. You have been through in your short years more than what most will endure in a lifetime. And despite it all, you are still standing. It doesn’t mean your whole or that you ever will be again, but you are still standing, and now it’s with that sacred title – Mother.