A Childless Mother

It was the day after Mabel died.  I was so deeply entrenched in the enormity of what happened, I just assumed everyone knew.  My work family- the nurses at the hospital, my office staff, my colleagues- they all knew because there were enough witnesses to spread the word.  My immediate family knew because we told them.  The day after Mabel died, I was home and received a text from an unknowing friend who thought I was still in the hospital.  I realized that though many people knew, so many other had no idea that my world had just stopped.  It was hard enough comprehending that my baby had died, I didn’t know how to tell anyone else that.  We were so busy with family and funeral arrangements, it felt almost superficial to make some announcement.  But I wanted to.  I needed to.  I needed to let the world know in my own words that I birthed a daughter, that she had a name and that she lived and died.  I didn’t write a long email- too many people, I would likely forget some of them.  And some people needed less info than others.  I didn’t make a printed birth/death announcement for mailing- it would take too long.  I wanted to put something up on facebook so my family and friends could know.  I had envisioned this day since my positive pregnancy test.  I re-envisioned it when we learned Mabel had Down Syndrome.  I stopped envisioning it when we learned she had low fluid.  How do I tell the world of my most joyful moment and my most sorrowful moment all in one breath?

That day, I wanted everyone to know.  I still want everyone to know.  New moms are often eager to talk of their new babes.  If only there were a way for me to do so easily.  I carry her photo as the screen saver on my phone.  I want someone to see it and ask.  But I also don’t.  Then I have to explain that I am not simply a mother.  I am a childless mother.  I’ve seen it written that when a child loses her parents, there is a name for her- orphan.  When a woman loses her husband, there is a name for her- widow.  But there is no name for the woman who loses her child.  Because it shouldn’t happen.  But in public I don’t get to even be a childless mother.  In a society where we don’t even have the vocab to describe her, how can I expect people to react in the way I want- the fawning and cooing mixed with sincere empathy?

There are no easy answers any more.  Even if I could say easily, “I had a baby and she died,” I’d want to say more.  I’d want to say, I knew she had Down Syndrome and I welcomed her.  Every day since then I worried that I would lose her.  And just when things were looking ok, I learned that she was sick and would probably die.  But I still welcomed her.  I made difficult decisions for her and for me.  I put myself in the hospital for weeks in hopes that she would live.  Knowing I may never take her home in my arms, I faced people everyday as they gave me joyful congratulations and well wishes.  And I did it with a smile.

That is how much I loved my baby.

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