identity struggle

I had two stints in the hospital, pregnant with Mabel.  The first was a long weekend to determine why I had no fluid (her kidneys weren’t working) and meeting with specialists to determine her prognosis (poor). The second was the final two weeks of my pregnancy for monitoring- it was supposed to be longer, but she had her own ideas and labor started weeks before my planned induction.

Both times I had my nurses, doctors and midwives visit me on a daily basis, mostly just for talking because there wasn’t much more they could do.  I essentially monitored myself, ensuring my baby was on the monitor when she was supposed to be, and the rest was just watching.  I had many conversations about the direness of my situation, often crying about how unfair it was that this was happening to my first child, my only child.  (not that losing a second or third or forth child is any easier!). I think I was lamenting not only the future loss of my baby, but the loss of the identity I was supposed to be taking- would I be a mother?  I thought if only I had a child,I would at least (there are those darn words I dislike so much!) know that I would be a mother.

I’m not sure who it was trying to reassure me, but I heard a few times, perhaps from a few different people- “Just think, if you had a kid at home, you’d be struggling with caring for that child and this one.”  At the time, I said, “you’re right,” trying to focus on things to be grateful for- that my only responsibility was me and this child.

This memory came back to me recently and it angers me.  Of course whoever the speakers were, their intentions were nothing but good- trying to find a silver living, to help me find some gratitude.  I am grateful that my decisions for Mabel were uncolored by any other life circumstances- they were made soley for her and us as a little family of three.  But I think I respectfully disagree.  I do wish I had another child.  It wouldn’t make the pain of losing Mabel and less, but it would let me feel like the mother I so badly wish I could be.

(Disclaimer: I know having living children through loss comes with its own set of struggles. I in no way mean to say that having living children makes it easier- I’m sure in some ways it makes it harder. My only intention is to highlight how I still feel like I don’t quite belong in either world- the mothers and the not mothers. )

Do you have flashbacks to little details?  Do you struggle with your identity as a mother?


16 thoughts on “identity struggle

    • right? the invisible child, only in our hearts- not in other’s eyes. and it’s not the same simply saying “I’ma mom too,” or someone else saying “you’re a mom too.” I just want it to be understood, to be obvious.

      • Yes, invisible is what I thought of reading this. When you have children already you have already been recognised as a mother for x number of years. When your first/only child has died, your entire mother status can be seen by some as invisible too. An extra special cruelty. I’m sorry, Mabel’s mom.

      • it’s a tough one for sure- the un-mother, the invisible mother, the parenting a dead only child mother. it sucks. thank you for your kind words!

  1. Absolutely I struggle with this. Yes, I was a mother, but I don’t know if I AM a mother. I don’t think of myself as one, nor do I think of Zach and I as parents. We did one of the hardest, strongest things parents can ever do, but we aren’t up all night soothing our son or trying to make the best decisions for him anymore. It’s odd.

    Zach has often said that he thinks our view of parenthood is pretty skewed by this experience since we’ll never be innocent again. I agree.

    • its a weird world to be a “mom” who doesnt get to mother. I dont know where it leaves us. and yes, i think zach is right. I’ll never look at parenthood the same way either.

  2. Oh, absolutely. Before Ramona’s memorial service, I had to visit the cemetery by myself. There were papers to sign and one line, underneath, said ‘Mother.’ I stared and stared at that line and when I left I had to call my mother while crying hysterically and I asked her if she thought of me as a mother. Of course she did, but it still bothers me to this day that others don’t. I will always feel set apart from other women who aren’t loss moms.

    I find myself getting angry at friends and family all the time, specifically one friend who actually uttered an ‘at least’ style statement (‘do you think it’ll be easier since you didn’t get to know her?’) four months after Ramona died. She’s pregnant now and I want to ask her, so, still think it would be easier?

    I think it gets harder as time goes by because people who haven’t experienced the loss of child seriously think we will ‘get over it’ in time. We deal with more and more stupid comments and then are told ‘they meant well.’ I don’t want people to mean well, I want people to stop and think about what they’re saying. The people who say they can’t imagine? I WANT them to try, imagine what it’s like if your child died. And then start a sentence with ‘at least’ and hear how stupid you sound.

    • Ahhh! at least you didnt get to know her??? I’ve seen that on sites that list crummy things people say but I havent heard anyone with the actual experience. there is no “meaning well” in that.

      and yes- I feel like I just want people to imagine too. I’ve stopped using that phrase myself. I now say “i can only imagine.”

  3. Oh, of course. K and I say that we’re mothers, but not yet parents. Yet on Mother’s Day, I felt like an impostor. My inbox filled up with people wishing us Happy Mother’s Day, eager to assure us that in their eyes, we were still mothers…. but it will always feel nominal. I don’t get to do motherly things. My daily routine is not shaped by the life of a child. I feel the same unease when asked if I have children. We do exist in an in-between.

  4. Same here. I wish I already have a living child to hold. It may make my situation better. But, life just played a joke on me. I lost a child I wished for 5 years and under knives many times for him. Just not fair.

  5. For some reason your blog keeps “falling off” of my reader and I miss all of your posts :-/ I had a little bit of a reassuring revelation about “being a mother” recently, when I was looking for a way to support another friend who is a new mother.

    She is struggling with loss of her previous identities and lifestyle, as well as some family and relationship things coming up, and especially “mommy guilt”… I realized that a lot of the things that we’re going through are similar. She’s taking care of a baby while I grapple with my baby’s death, but the “extra things” going on in my mind – beyond the pure grief – are common to any woman becoming a new mother (and that’s part of the reason I think it *is* often more confusing when your only child dies, because you have to sort through “new mother” issues and “grieving mother” issues all at once).

    That realization made me feel like I am in the “new mom” stage of life, in my own (awful) way. I don’t know if that will be helpful to you at all, but it made me feel much more… Like a mom.

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