I remember hearing that becoming a mom changes you, that you are not the same person after you give birth. I always knew I wanted kids, that I wanted to be a mom. I just never expected to be a loss mom, and I definitely never expected to have to remind people constantly that I am a mom and that I have a daughter.
Recently, I had a relative who was playing with their kids near me and when the kids seemed to be getting too much, said, “Go bother Mark and Michelle, they don’t have kids.” I immediately reacted, pretty positive that my face showed my complete shock and disdain for the comment, and in an effort to avoid a scene, I got up and walked away. I basically fumed all day, mad over the comment, but really mad over the idea that anyone’s first instinct would be that we were childless. Yes, my daughter is not here with me, but that does not make her presence and status as my child or my status as a mom any different.
As a redeeming side note, we both later got an apology and got to really share just why that was so hurtful and difficult to hear and why it was so incorrect. Not that the apology makes it better or even okay and in fact, the act of then having to educate is so exhausting. Needless to say, our relationship with that person will never be the same.
It is not just bold statements like that which are tough, it is also statements that cut out Colette.
A friend heard about our pregnancy and said to my mom, “You’re going to be a grandma.” I quickly pointed out, just seconds before my mom said the same thing, that she already was a grandma, that Colette was her granddaughter, but if I had a child at home, no one would say the same thing.
Then, there are just the statements that are fraught with assumptions, things like when I go to my OB/GYN for a regular appointment and the person checking me in says oh I remember you from when you were pregnant and asks how the baby is. It is these situations that I fear constantly because I do not want to constantly have to educate people and often comfort them when I myself am still grieving my child. Every loss parent I have ever spoken to has talked about how they hate questions like, do you have kids or when are you going to have kids.
I find myself engaging less and less in small talk and in situations where small talk will arise, because I do not want to answer these questions or have unintentional statements made that are hurtful.
Being just a few weeks away from the holidays, opening holiday cards was very telling of those in our world who really support us and understand where we are coming from as well as those who do not get it. While of course, I would love our cards spelled out to the detail, I just wanted something that indicated we were a family that included Colette instead of just Mark and Michelle. Those that did send it to our family and who took the time to include a message that included Colette were really the true friends and supporters in our lives. But, again, why do we have to keep telling people that? If Colette was still alive and living at home, would we have to keep saying and asking for the same thing? I highly doubt it.
As this pregnancy progresses, it becomes a constant struggle to continue educating and reminding people that we are expecting our second child, not our first, and that we are already parents, just without a living child.
We have been told things like, “you’ll see when you have kids” or “when you become a mom.” Most of these statements are usually well intentioned, but hurtful because it erases our experiences and the memory of Colette as well as the position of Colette as a member of our family. Additionally, if you don’t know what it is like to parent a deceased child, then don’t assume that my experience with parenthood is anything like yours.
I feel like we are preparing to navigate two experiences simultaneously—that of what it is like to have our first child at home and how to raise him or her while also figuring out how to divide yourself and manage the parenting of two children so neither gets neglected. Most parents have some time between these two experiences, but in this journey filled with potholes, we do not get the privilege of that experience. Plus, the experiences we did have are constantly being ignored or forgotten by the rest of the world and we have to keep reminding people of our parenthood and our children.