If motherhood is lonely, then I imagine motherhood after loss to be like being on a deserted island. You search and search but there is no one close enough to help you figure it all out. Occasionally, you may become aware of someone else’s presence on the island by the intermittent smoke signal or rumblings in the dead of night, but truly it can feel like you are all alone in the middle of nowhere. Just you and your family, left to navigate unfamiliar terrain with little experience or resources.
Now, imagine that your deserted island life is suddenly being broadcasted live for all the world to see.
All of your mistakes and challenges are laid bare, while your daily victories go largely unnoticed. The novelty of your rainbow baby has worn off for everyone else. And while you are still surfing the emotional tide of loss and motherhood, everyone has moved on to the next thing. So much like a reality TV show that is in its 5th or 6th season, it is no longer new and exciting but there’s enough drama to keep the show going along. And people who are in no way emotionally connected to you but feel it is there right to do so, are shouting their opinions at you from the safety of their couches.
“Don’t you spoil those babies!”
“Make sure and spoil those babies, remember what you went through to get them!”
“Those children have no behavior!”
“She has no control over those children!”
“She is so full of herself!”
“Poor woman can’t catch a break!”
The external banter would continue I am sure. And I will continue to learn to block it out and focus on being the type of mother God wants me to be, but honestly that isn’t even the real reason this feels so lonely.
It’s been four years since my daughter was born and I first experienced the euphoria of holding my very own baby. Four years of love and laughter, of tickles and kisses, of teaching and instructing. My children are a source of joy to me but the thing is, for the most part, I still struggle to find the words to encapsulate this experience.
I grieve the three children I lost while falling more and more in love with the two children that I do have.
And I am not always sure how to express that without sounding like a broken record. I can already hear my television audience groaning loudly, they don’t like this recurring story line in my life. But here we are.
This month represents a loss anniversary for us and I am right back here. Back trying to clear the thick, impossible bushes that separate me from other mothers. There is always something keeping a normal motherhood experience just out of my reach. I feel out of place with non-loss moms because as much as I love my children, I feel grief.
I may not be grief-stricken, but I feel grief and probably always will.
I am not sure that non-loss mothers can understand that as I watch my daughter dance at her wedding reception, a tiny part of me will wonder what those other weddings would have been like. And, as I hug my son before his first plane ride without me, I’ll hug him a little tighter because I still get scared that I will lose him too.
Yet, I also feel separated from other loss moms too. Not because they don’t share my experience and confusion but because I don’t always know how to approach them. Are they willing to discuss their loss or have they closed the chapter on that part of their life? In my own family, there are at least two other women who have rainbow babies. But, I have no idea what this experience is like for them. While I speak openly about mine, they do not, and I know that this is a very difficult thing to speak about so I try to respect their position.
So, whenever I meet another rainbow mother, I keep conversations light and focused on the rainbow, which is a very good thing to focus on. Yet, there is a part of me that wants to ask them, “But, how is your grief journey going? Are you okay? Can we talk about it?” I never do, though, and I know that makes me part of the problem.
So, the result is I live two types of lives. One where I am the proud mother of two growing children and do mommy things and the other where I volunteer to work with families in grief because their grief helps give expression to my own. By giving them my attention and assurance that it is okay to grieve they give me a release of emotion that I struggle to find in my other life.
My goal, though, is to find a way to bring those two realities together. To experience motherhood in its totality, both in life and in loss.
Motherhood after loss can feel lonely, but I know that there are other mothers out there wanting to have these conversations. You may not have all the words yet, I don’t either but I am calling to you across the divide, hoping that you can hear me and respond.
“How is your grief journey going?”
“Are you okay?”
“Can we talk about it?”