Mother’s Day can be difficult as a mama who is pregnant after loss. It’s a day in which she is reminded of what she does not have. The sight of a newborn cradled in its mother’s arms reminds her of the baby she never held. The social media images of mothers with their children remind her that there will always be someone missing.
She may wonder where she fits in on this special day that is meant to honor mothers. She may not yet look like a mother, but she knows in her heart that she is. She has not performed the typical duties of motherhood, such as changing diapers or pulling all-nighters to feed and soothe a crying baby, but she has carried a baby nonetheless. She has loved her baby, and always will.
She wonders if her pregnancy after loss will provide the opportunity to fulfill these roles. And she may feel like she has to prove herself as a mother in a society that has disregarded her motherhood.
Society seems to forget about the mothers who have not had the opportunity to bring their babies home from the hospital. It fails to recognize both the pain and enduring love that a loss mom experiences as well as simple fact that she is indeed a mother.
The mama who is pregnant after loss is hopeful that her current pregnancy will result in her motherhood being validated by society’s standards; that by this time next year she will no longer be an invisible mother, but will instead have her arms full with a baby of her own. But while she is hopeful, she remains heartsick. There will always be someone missing from those treasured Mother’s Day photos and she knows that no matter how many other children she has, the one who is gone will never be replaced.
Mother’s Day can bring up a variety of conflicting feelings for the mama who is pregnant after loss. She aches for one baby while awaiting another. She is heartbroken and hopeful. She is unsure of where she fits in the role of motherhood and observing the celebrations that surround non-loss moms can feel demeaning and confusing.
But there are a few things you can do to support the mama in your life who is pregnant after loss.
1. Acknowledge that she is in fact a mother.
Her motherhood may look different from that of the average mom, but she has carried and is carrying life within her. You might consider giving her a card or a small gift as a way to celebrate her status as a mother.
2. Wish her a Happy Mother’s Day.
Even if she has yet to hold one of her babies in her arms.
3. And then recognize, that despite her current pregnancy, she may not actually be happy.
She may be sad about the baby who died, and scared about losing the baby she is carrying.
4. But don’t assume she is sad.
Or happy. Or anything in between. Ask her how she is feeling and then validate her feelings, no matter what they are. Ask questions and then listen.
5. Acknowledge both the baby who is gone and the one she is carrying as being her children.
Talk about them, say their names and treat them as lives that were and are being lived. This validates the reality of their lives as well as their mama’s motherhood.
6. Think before you speak.
Do not refer to her as a “mother-to-be” or make general statements about “when” she becomes a mother. Remember, she is already a mother even if her arms are currently empty.
Celebrate. Her babies. Her strength, courage, and perseverance. And her motherhood. Tell her you admire her and let her know that she and her babies are loved.