By: Jordan Tate
Just like you, before a healthy baby happened, my heart, mind, and physical body were already transformed fully to those of a mother. My body is scarred by pregnancy, cesarean section, and natural birth. My “mother’s heart” was forever awakened the moment I held my first little girl. She did not go from womb to some mystical place in the atmosphere… her physical body came into the world and I held her when she died and I carried her sister and held her as she died and they were taken from me, but my badge of a mother was not. I would argue that it was more fully earned.
Further, I would argue without a doubt in my mind that carrying those incredible girls to term and delivering them and watching them die will always always always be harder than doing this thing I’m doing now- it’s harder than these fleeting sleepless nights that I get to wake up and feed my sweet child who breathes and cries and wants to be held. Wait- so you mean I get to wake up and hold a snuggly baby!? Still blows my mind. This term “mother,” that you and I are just now being stamped with (or have yet to be stamped with if you’re still waiting) by most of society is being used in a way that doesn’t do justice to the word mother.
One of the meanings behind the word “grief,” is “the heart of a mother.” Why? Because mothers feel so deeply and love so deeply and the meaning of that hits my heart way more intensely in regards to Ellie and Elsie than it does with Shepherd. Our children who are gone are still very much a part of daily life..but that doesn’t always make sense if you haven’t felt it.
Waking up to care for Shepherd, my very alive son, is literally a piece of cake in comparison to the cumulative months of sleepless nights I cried through with a heart that ached, both during my pregnancies and, of course, after they died. Does that mean parenting my son is easy? No. It means the other stuff was so very hard. The hardest.
Does it mean I’m not a sleepy mom? No, I could nap at any point of time…anywhere. But sleepy is not equivalent to bad. It’s equivalent to blessing. It is equivalent to redemption.
So, my friends. I see you. I feel your heart when people ask how many children you have. You have permission (not that you needed it from me) to include your sweet babies that died much too early. I see the tears and the nights of heartache that nobody really knows about. I understand that you can’t turn off the mama part of your heart even though your babies aren’t with you and that is simply not fair, and wouldn’t it be easier if we could? You are a mom, because you did the hardest thing a mom could ever do, and that is saying goodbye to her sweet baby.
If you haven’t yet had your “rainbow baby,” I’m here to tell you this: it’s a joy. It’s all a gift. Few will have the privilege of seeing parenthood the way you will…some do get it – you know who I mean. But loss makes the gift of your healthy baby inconceivable to most who have never had to say goodbye. I would never wish our loss on anyone..but don’t you wish your heart and feelings could be felt for just a moment by anyone who wished it? It’s a devastating experienced that now gets to be your greatest weapon as you parent your alive baby with a deep understanding of purpose and a deep gratitude for health. It will forever make you a different brand of mom. The best kind.
You’ve seen the very worst side of motherhood and none of the best sides. You don’t get to pull up to baby play dates with a baby in your arms and you can’t talk about how often your kid dirties diapers or his latching abilities or his nightly routine, but you can talk about planning baby funerals and how much your heart aches and how you hate baby aisles in stores right now and so it’s not fair, my friend, that you’ve seen only the worst and none of the best and yet you may not be labeled a mother until you see the good.
So, if your heart allows, when people ask you how many kids you have: tell them. We say we have three and two aren’t here with us. It may be alarming to the average person, but it opens the doors, if they want, for tough conversations about life but great conversations about healing and hope.
Are moms who haven’t experienced loss a lesser kind of mom? No way. Never. But you are a different breed. Your journey to motherhood was not the kind you asked for–but if you let it, it will be the source of the greatest moments of gratitude and amazingly miraculous perspective on the very beautiful gift of life.