Living With Grief

The Final Taboo

Ball and chain (noun): A heavy metal ball secured by a chain to the leg of a prisoner. Used to convey the idea that something is a crippling encumbrance

This morning I’ve revisited the “Am I even a Mum?” frame of mind, still answering it with a big fat NEGATIVE (this phrase, by the way, is trying-to-conceive terminology that I’ve recently been made aware of via social media. Ahh, ignorance was indeed, such bliss). Perhaps rejecting my mum-status is my personal and final taboo, the ball-and-chain I’ve yet to lift or embrace.

I no longer feel uncomfortable talking about baby loss (although I have had a few moments, sat opposite people for the first time after launching this blog – knowing that they’ve read it – thinking “oh gosh, I’m that person now, that lady with the baby loss blog” and cringing inwardly). But I still don’t feel at all comfortable thinking or referring to myself as a mum. It’s something that makes me outwardly cringe. I feel ridiculous even entertaining the thought. Yet, I don’t feel uncomfortable exploring the topic, so here I am.

It is quite clear to me: I am Summer, BoC and My Baby’s mummy. And though I try every day to be someone for them to be proud of, as their mum, I am not a mum.

I haven’t had to say it out loud yet, but one day I will say “Summer was my daughter, but she was extremely premature and she died. She was my third loss”, but that still doesn’t make me a mother, that makes me a caretaker, a curator of the memories. That’s all these Mumoirs blogs really are, a store of memory and an attempt to preserve them.

It would be so helpful if society or our families encouraged that thinking, that carrying a child makes you a mother, end of discussion (I say that, but when my sister-in-law gave me some mummy and daddy mugs last week, I was so awkward accepting them. I’m still not sure what to do with them). It’s clear to me that it will take some convincing. I am a good student and it is all learned behaviour. I would have to unlearn some things, to rewrite the books. I would have to – as a lovely new loss mum friend suggested this week: Become the new version of the old me.

In time, I think I could like it. I would like it. If it became so normal, so normal for someone to think or refer to a loss mum as simply a mum, I could come to embrace it. I would breathe a sigh of relief – for the decision that had been made for me – remove the shackle and free myself of the ball-and-chain. For now though, it’s still embarrassing to think of myself as a mum. What I want and what really is, are two entirely different things.

Our families acknowledged the passing of Summer, but they don’t know what to do with her. It’s not a surprise, James and I have discussed similar recently: how do we make space for her? Now and always? What’s the correct balance? If I’m being honest, I would like our family to make literal space for her. To print off the photo we sent them, and to have her in their homes. To be proud of their granddaughter or niece, like they are of all their others. Like I am, of my nieces and nephews, that I have proudly displayed in my home. But it might make them uncomfortable, or they might think it will make others uncomfortable, so it makes me uncomfortable… I see you taboo! Anyway, like so many things, it’s only something I’ve come to think about, now that I’m in this unenviable boat. So thank you to the family member and friend who have had much more awareness and have asked to have Summer’s photo in their homes. It’s meant so much – we’re proud of her too. (James is going to say, “Oh great Anj, now people are going to feel they have to put her photo up” – no they don’t, that isn’t what this is about).

When you think about it, this whole website is an exploration of what kind of mum I would be, and the despair that I never got to find out. When you grow a baby for the first time, you eventually get to join an antenatal class and learn how to be a mum, together. I never got that far. However, given that I’ve experienced loss (and finally sought support), I now have a wonderful international group of new friends from the baby loss community. Together we’re learning how to be mothers to the children we didn’t get to keep. I am so grateful to them, so grateful to S, L, L and E.

I sometimes glimpse who I could have been, in my Mumoirs, and that’s why I do it. I can see that I feel things deeply, that I really do notice all the little details, that I make time for those I deem important – I have a lot of love to give. That’s what being a mum would be, right? Never-ending love and sacrifice? Sign me up.

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(1) Comment

  1. My sweet Mum friend. Your motherhood gets to be whatever you define it to be. However that is, it is normal.
    It won’t make you feel better I am sure but I struggled really really hard with this too. It probably took 6 months or more before I was no longer embarrassed about being referred to as a Mom. You may never feel that way and that is perfectly fine too. Much love, and as always- love reading your Mumoirs!

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