Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mother on the inside

Over the past two weeks, I have read Alexa's book Half Baked.  In it, she describes how during the course of a twin pregnancy, she has lost one baby at about the same time that I lost Adrian, and the second baby survived to 25 weeks and had a long NICU course, but is now doing very well at the age of two.  She candidly explains how she literally had no time to think of Ames (the stillborn son) when she had to care for Simone (the surviving daughter).  There is very little space in the book dedicated to Ames or feelings about him once Simone was born.

Having a child in NICU probably takes up 150% of the available resources in terms of time, attention and emotions, and in Alexa's case it is understandable that she had no resources left for thinking about Ames and his brief life.  I felt sad however reading this paragraph:

"I thought of  Ames very little in the next months.  In truth, almost never.  People assumed I mourned in private, but I did not, and when others mentioned him when Simone was in the hospital, I grew impatient.  Couldn't they see I had a live baby to worry about? (...) Ames hardly seemed real-I wasn't sure I even considered him my son, at least not the way Simone was my daughter."

Honestly, when I read this last sentence, I closed the book and decided that I had had enough.  I was angry!  It triggered the ubiquitous anger that mothers of stillborn babies feel when their child is not acknowledged as a "real baby" by others.  (The "others" will usually be composed of people who have never had this kind of loss).  I asked MrH to read this paragraph, and we discussed it.  I appreciated Alexa's candour, and without walking in her shoes, I decided that I could not judge her.  She wrote what she felt.  And that is the whole point of blogging and of writing a book, to express the undistilled emotion, without fear of offending anyone and without having to censor oneself.  Alexa, as a good writer, has expressed her feelings as they were, but has not denied that had Simone not existed, she would have felt the same depth of pain that I have felt:

"If Ames had been a singleton, when his small form was rolled away to the morgue, my insides would have howled with a feral emptiness.  If Ames had been a singleton, my heavy, leaking breasts would have been a hideous physical mockery.  But instead, I had Simone to think of, and it was time to pump".

I am sure that having a live baby is worlds away from having a stillborn son.  One requires constant care and attention, hard physical work, and unslept nights.  The other one requires emotional work, soul searching, courage to integrate oneself back into life, and daring to hope again.  The former leaves very little time to live.  The latter leaves very little will to live.  They are absolutely different...but does that make the stillborn babies LESS in any way, does that diminish them and their existence?  Does that make them less our children?  If Adrian is not my son the way that Simone was Alexa's daughter, does that mean that I am not Adrian's mother?

Hardly.  I am his mother because he grew in my body, because I loved him viscerally, because even in giving birth to him and knowing that he would die, the only thing I could think about is that he have no pain, that he not suffer.  I was and still am his mother to the depth of my bones.  I do not need others to acknowledge that, and I did not get too upset on Mother's day when only my husband and a coworker remembered that I had a son.  My own parents and all my friends forgot.  (MrH was so sweet, he got me a lovely orchid which I am currently struggling to keep alive, as I have been known to kill orchids before).

Despite knowing this, it was still odd to read on Faces of Loss my name and then the words "mom to Adrian".  The internet is the first place where I have been publicly acknowledged as a mother.  My first instinct was to think that it must be a mistake, other people don't think of me as a mother, they must have gotten me confused with someone else.  I have gotten so used to being excluded from the motherhood club, that I learned to confine myself to the nebulous position of woman-who-has-had-a-baby-but-he-was-stillborn-so-she-is-not-a-real-mother.

In the end, people are limited by their own life experiences and their own capacity for empathy.  To ask that others understand where we, babylost moms, come from, would be too much.  To ask to be acknowledged as mothers, alas, also seems too much for most.   But being a mother on the outside, to the world, is just an image.  Being a mother on the inside is reality.  My reality.


  1. Momma H, you are very much a mother. Not only to Adrian, but to those in your life that you care for. Your time for another child to hold and walk the halls at night with is coming. There is hope. Know your not alone, there are so many women out there who wish they were as strong as you.

  2. Adrian was a loved, cared for and desperately wanted baby, whose mother still cares for him now.