As you may have noticed, I titled this entry with a double negative, “Never Not a Mother,” and I will explain why.
If you are reading this as a colleague, friend, relative, or supporter of someone who has faced pregnancy or infant loss, I understand that it is a challenge for you too. You try to comfort your loved ones in ways that may feel natural to you, and hope you said or did the right thing. Who knows what the “right thing” is, anyway? This isn’t a subject many people want to address…so, how do you tackle the taboo?
If you are reading this as a bereaved parent, you have likely heard from many of these colleagues, friends, relatives, and supporters. We try to understand that no comment or advice would be given with ill-intention, but this doesn’t mean that some of them don’t unintentionally upset us. From my own experience, and after speaking with other bereaved mothers in a support group, these are some of the commonalities I have found:
- You’ll be a mother one day, when the time is right.
- You’re still so young or there is still plenty of time to have babies.
- At least you already have living children.
- God will bless you with another baby.
- Your child would have been born sick anyway.
Why do these comments tend to hurt so much? Unless you have walked in our shoes, it is impossible to understand the overwhelming emotions that come with the territory. These comments hurt so much because it feels like an injustice to our babies who are no longer here.
These are facts: I am young, and there is a really good chance I will successfully conceive in the future.
This is also a fact: The fact that I am young, and will likely conceive successfully in the future, will not bring Adalie back.
You see, it is an injustice to our babies because the mentality seems to be that the solution is to have another baby. I would be thrilled to have another baby in the future, and Ryan would too. But the fact is that another baby can’t replace Adalie. She may not be here physically, but she is her own individual and deserves to be memorialized as such.
These are also facts: I am a mother. I have a daughter. My daughter isn’t physically in this world that we live in.
When we learned of Adalie’s poor prognosis, I made the decision to have faith and hope. But more importantly, I made the unconscious decision to love her unconditionally, despite her prognosis.
I was induced and gave birth. I held her, snuggled her, kissed her. I had to say goodbye.
My body is enduring what any other woman’s body would postpartum: afterpains, bleeding, lactation, etc. However, my body is healing at a significantly faster rate than my heart.
In math, a double negative equals a positive. Although I have no living children, I will always be Adalie’s mother. She is real, the emotions are real, and the pain is real. Everybody grieves differently. For me, the best support I can get is acknowledgement of our baby as an individual. It may make me sad, but it is ok to talk about her, and please, use her name when you do. I will never get tired of hearing it.
If you are stumped on how to show your support to a bereaved family, don’t be afraid to ask. If you are a bereaved family, and find yourself receiving advice that is hurtful to you, don’t be afraid to speak up.