Motherhood is a wild ride, isn’t it? From that moment when you decide you’d like to become one, to the day you find out you’re going to be one till the moment you hold your child in your arms, it’s an adventure like no other.
I have two amazing children who add more light, laughter, love and truthfully, more extreme frustration, to my life than I ever thought possible. But between my two children sleeps one who never had the chance to breathe and who perhaps changed me more than any other motherhood experience ever will again.
Sexless, lifeless, unknown but most definitely not unloved: our lost one.
Being a mother to a baby who has died is a uniquely painful and simultaneously numbing experience. We become mothers when we conceive of having a child to care for, and no matter how (or even if) we reach that end, our journeys as mothers begin before we ever have children.
Having gotten pregnant easily and having carried my daughter to full term without issues, it never crossed my mind there could be problems with our second pregnancy. Imagine our utter desolation when at 19 weeks, without warning, we sat in an ultrasound clinic and listened to someone tell us, “There is no heartbeat.” Instead of telling our almost two-year-old daughter she was having a brother or sister, we told her the baby had instead died. She learned that day about life and death and the uncertainty of it all.
In one day, I pulled my family tight and lost a piece of our future. I laboured and pushed and said goodbye to a baby we hadn’t had nearly enough time with. We were given choices at the time, but really had no idea how to properly make them. Would we like to see our baby? Hold it? Find out the sex? Fingerprint them? Bury? Cremate? No. No. No. No. No. NO.
I entered the maternity ward, was tucked into a quiet corner where I could hear the muffled celebrations of families welcoming new babies. I kept my husband and daughter close to me while I was induced and started the ten-hour process of birthing a baby I would never bring home. My daughter held my heart together for me while my husband held my hand.
As with everything, I relied on my dry sense of humour to get me through the devastation: I was reading the Dexter series at the time, and remember joking with the OB on duty that it was funny I’d gotten blood on the pages.
When I finally delivered the baby, my husband and daughter were out of the room. I cried, “Thank you” and quietly mourned. A few hours later, a decision was made to give me a D&C in the labour room because of a stubborn bit of tissue my body wouldn’t expel. I had it without anesthetic and remember thinking I was happy the experience was happening to me, and not someone else, because it was at least something I knew I’d one day get over.
We went home the next day: empty both literally and figuratively. Instead of “getting over” my experience, I choose to retell my story and give support to the many others who have lost babies through miscarriage or stillbirth. Our lost children need to be honoured as only we mothers can do.
This motherhood experience isn’t the one anyone should have to endure, but it’s a far too common reality and one that deserves a voice. My experience has given me a new perspective on the fragility and wonderment of life, and has given me the chance to support others who need my support.
We are mothers, whether our children live or not.