During my first pregnancy, I was surrounded by a number of women who were also pregnant for the first time, and together we navigated the uncharted territory into motherhood. I was lucky enough to have been completely naive to any potential complications, lucky enough to enjoy that pregnancy. And lucky enough to have given birth to a full-term, healthy baby.
Just like the women I voyaged through pregnancy with, my voyage ended with bringing my precious newborn home. My journey to motherhood had looked almost identical to those surrounding me, and I fit right in.
But when my next two pregnancies ended in loss, I suddenly felt like an outsider.
The topics that were generally at the forefront of conversations with my fellow moms no longer seemed to matter.
Sleep schedules? Choosing the right preschool? Potty training? Tantrums?
“WHO CARES?”I wanted to scream.
While I had a perfectly healthy toddler, and these topics were certainly relevant, the overarching theme in my life had become loss. The problems that weighed so heavily on my heart weren’t relatable to the moms who surrounded me. The grief, the depression, the longing. Through no fault of their own, the concerns that plagued me were simply not on their radar.
I would listen to them discuss the day-to-day drudgery of motherhood, and I fully understood what that was like. But if motherhood had been difficult before, it only became harder after loss. I struggled to get out of bed most days, suffocated by grief and hopelessness.
I was a visible mom, dragging my feet through the visible burdens of motherhood. But I had invisible children too and I navigated the invisible burdens of losing them alone.
As time went on, I thought that if I could just have one more baby, I would feel like a normal mom again. I thought having another child would help me to belong.
But after another baby came, a healthy living one, I still felt like an outsider.
And I still do, standing alone somewhere in the middle of the motherhood spectrum. Somewhere between normal and abnormal.
I am a loss mom and always will be. I have experienced the devastating loss of babies so desperately wanted. And not a day has gone by in which my babies have not crossed my mind.
And yet raising the children in front of me has not been made easier by the realization that I am not guaranteed another day with them. Four years after my second loss, I still find myself sinking in the tumultuous seas of motherhood.
I love my children. Even after the worst of days, I go to bed with a full heart, thanking God for the two children He so graciously gave me to raise. And yet, many days I find myself nearly in tears because I so desperately long to have one uninterrupted thought, to go to the bathroom alone, to escape the excessive noise. To breathe.
These waters are murky. And I find myself flailing about with both loss and non-loss moms, all of whom are weighed down with one burden or another.
I know which group I’m expected to fall into – I am a loss mom after all. And yet, when I find myself crying because I’m overwhelmed with parental responsibility instead of grief, I wonder if I fit in there anymore.
There is an unspoken rule in the loss community. And it involves keeping quiet about the struggles of raising living children when you know it could be so much worse. Admitting that you are overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, or ready to flee the responsibilities of motherhood is seen as complaining. And how dare any mother complain when she is fully aware of how painful it is to live without one of her children.
And I get it. When I became a member of the baby loss club, I couldn’t stomach hearing women voice frustrations about their children. I felt offended. How dare they complain about their living child when my baby is dead, I thought.
But it’s been 4 years since my second (and final) loss and life finally seems normal again. Like many mothers, I feel bogged down in the overwhelm of motherhood. And while there are plenty of moments to love, I certainly don’t love ALL of them. I find myself venting and joking about the ordeals of every day parenting as a way to cope with the crazy. But I know to the precious mamas who have lost, my words can sting.
And on the other side, there are non-loss moms who wonder why I’m still talking about my dead baby 4 years later. They think I am wallowing, unable to let go. I’m certainly not wallowing, but it’s true that I’m not letting go. Because the babies who aren’t here are still missed, and a mother never lets go.
So that leaves me somewhere in the middle. Misunderstood by both sides. Some of my fellow mamas question the complaints that come out of my mouth while others question why I still haven’t managed to get over my losses.
I understand the questioning and here is my response:
I complain because this stage of my life is hard too. I’m tired and sometimes I miss my freedom. But that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten my babies who died. That doesn’t mean I’ve gotten over my losses. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss them. Because I am forever their mother and I will always remember the joy in their existence and the pain in their death.
But even though life has changed for the better and is full of goodness, it’s still hard.
This article was originally published at Pregnancy After Loss Support.