Will I? Or am I? This sentence is something I am starting to hear all too often as I write and speak openly about our desire to have more children after losing Teddy. I find myself staring at those words or hearing them over and over again in my mind. Is it that people don’t realise what they are saying, or are they simply saying I’ll make a good mother to a baby who actually gets to be physically mothered by me? The truth is, I’m not sure.
I will say this though; it hurts. It hurts me that the prospect of us having more children, children who hopefully get to make the journey home with us, that those children will enable the rest of the world to see me as a mother. Does this mean that if those children are living that I am more of a mother to them than I am to Teddy? I’ll take it a step further; if I were to die now, is my Mum now only a mother to my two brothers, and not to me? Of course not. The questions that have arisen in my mind as I stare at those words, “You’ll make…” are endless.
Perhaps as a society we have just been groomed by so many hundreds of years of denying the the existence of babies who have been stillborn or died neonatally, that we still haven’t caught up with the next part. The part that comes after their death. Now we are at a stage when we can talk about them, say their names and acknowledge their existence; but what about the mother? What does she become? A mother, or someone still waiting in the wings of “proper” or “real” parenting, waiting to get her moment, the one where she actually gets to mother a living child? If I’m honest, I am getting a little weary of banging this drum, of reminding people that I gave birth (yes, I have actually had to do that when a friend was speaking to me as if I was someone who hadn’t experienced it, or indeed the joys of the postpartum body). Why does a child fade from context as that mother’s child, as the little person that made that mother a mother, just because they aren’t here?
I know that people’s words are only ever intended with kindness, that they come from a good place; but I can’t help but feel it’s no different than if I were to say to someone whose husband had died last year “Oh, I’m sure you’ll make a wonderful wife to someone one day.” No? Have I read this all wrong? I just wish people could see how hurtful that sentence is; how it essentially attempts to erase my current motherhood from existence. I am trying my very best to parent Teddy, we both are. Our families do the same; if you ask my Mum how many grandchildren she has, she will answer “Four”, without skipping a beat. Not three, or four but one isn’t here. Just four.
Of course, if we are lucky enough to have more children, Teddy will also be their sibling. They will know about him and they will know that he was the one who made my husband and I parents for the first time; just as I know that my eldest brother is my parents’ first born. I am starting to think it’s all about education in the subject of loss. The more we talk about it, and are exposed to families who have experienced a loss of this kind, the more we are all then able to navigate the conversations that are had after that loss. The more that we can begin to recognise that although that little person isn’t here, that family dynamic is no different; they are still a family.
When I think back to those early weeks after Teddy died, that was my biggest fear. Not only when I walked down the street no longer sporting my bump with a beaming smile, but when I went into any social situation; that people wouldn’t see me as a mother. That I would be told things like “You can try again” or “One day…“. Having another child does not erase the loss of one; life doesn’t work like that. In fact, as anyone who has experienced a pregnancy after loss will tell you, it simply brings an additional layer of emotions. It reminds that parent of all of the things they are missing out on with the child who isn’t here. They have to see a new baby grow into a little person, and wonder whether the child who isn’t here would look like that, sound like that or have done those things. They become a parent in two worlds; here, where we get to see, do and hold; and elsewhere, where we are simply looking for “signs” that our little one is with us. For me those signs are light beaming through the trees, leaves falling with the breeze as the seasons change, a friendly robin who follows me on my walk as if he has something to say to me. When someone I don’t know writes to me and tells me that they’ve taken the time to read all about Teddy. That’s how I know that Teddy is here, that I am still connected to him, that I am still his mother.
I am a mother, perhaps not a wonderful one, but a mother nonetheless. Not “one day”, but today; and always.