Mothers who have lost a child often get lost in a vicious cycle as well. We want our child to be remembered, so we talk about them often. We post statuses of how we are feeling. We share links relating to grief or losing a child. Maybe we share informative articles about stillbirth or miscarriage or whatever information we might want to get out to the masses. However, as a result of this, our lives seem to be focused on grief and sadness and death. By being vocal, we also unwillingly create a label for ourselves. We become "The Woman with the Dead Child".
At first, we wrap this label around ourselves like a blanket. Yes! Yes, my baby died. Yes, I want you to remember her. Yes, I want to educate you on loss. This is who I am now. Deal with it! We pull in the corners and tuck them around ourselves so that all the outside world sees is us bundled beneath it. It is warm and protective. It gives us a way to identify. We seek out others who have also swaddled themselves because they are the only ones who understand what it is like to live wrapped up in loss. But, as time passes, and as we use that time to work through the onslaught of emotions, we realize that the blanket we love so much is actually kind of itchy. And stifling. So, we try to take it off. We try to unwrap ourselves, to loosen the tight corners and let ourselves breathe a little, to become more than the blanket lets us be. Sometimes, we even let it fall to the floor, but as soon as we do, someone comes along and puts it back on our shoulders. "You with the dead baby. I know someone else with a dead baby. You should talk to her." or, "You with the dead baby. Here's an article of someone else with a dead baby. You should read it." We have become associated with death and loss.
When someone says "bagel", you think "cream cheese". When they say "peanut butter", you think "Jelly". And when you hear the word "Stillbirth", you think of me. It's okay. I have done an excellent job creating that association in your brain. But, I am more than my loss. Peanut butter can be in cookies, eaten on celery, or used in a chicken stirfry sauce. Cream cheese can make mashed potatoes creamier and soups smoother. You can put jelly on bagels with honey. The point is, one can exist without the other. They do not define each other and they don't have to be so closely tied. The same is with me and loss. I am not my loss. Kenley is not "a loss". There is so much more to both of us.
I am more than a "Baby Loss Mom". Yes, losing Kenley was a pivotal point in my life. It changed everything about who I am, including my perception of the world. Loss colors my life, but it is not my life. I am more than the "Mother of a dead baby". Kenley is more than something that happened to me. She is also my daughter. She had a head full of dark hair, her mother's nose, and her daddy's mouth. She weighed 5 pounds and 1/2 ounce and was 18 inches long. She loved to kick and twist and move around, especially in the mornings. She is a person, not a loss.
This is a really difficult thing to explain because loss is all encompassing, yet I strive to not be encompassed by it. Missing Kenley and loving Kenley and wanting Kenley to be rememebered is etched into every fiber of my being. I want HER to be known, but I don't want to be just known for losing her, and I certainly don't want her to only be known for being dead. I want to be vocal and clear about how loss affects life, but I don't want to be simply associated with loss. It's such a hard balance to achieve. I think most of us are unsuccessful because if we don't bring up our children all the time, we think people will forget them. Yet, when we do bring them up, they are remembered as being lost. We remind the world they are no longer here, and then the world is also reminded of our sadness, and we are the "Baby Loss Mom" again.
For example, sometimes, as mothers do, I want to share something wonderful about my children. I can do that with Piper easily. I can post a picture of her getting her first tooth, or a video of her making silly noises. I can't do that with Kenley in the same way, and when I do post something related to Kenley, my responses from others are very different. Piper's responses vary from "She's so cute" to "adorable!" to "What a doll!". They compliment her. They show adoration for her. They make others think of "normal" mom and baby life. Kenley's responses are often simple emoticons. " :( " " <3 " "xoxo". Sometimes an "I'm praying for you" or something of the like gets thrown in too. People have been reminded that they are supposed to be sad, and so they respond accordingly. To be clear, I am NOT bashing those responses. I am so grateful that anyone even responds to Kenley posts. It means they care. I totally understand that. What I want YOU to understand, is that you don't have to be sad. Although I miss her and my heart hurts for her, while I am still sad she is gone, I am not posting those things to make you sad. I am not trying to bring you into my grief. I am not reminding you of her death...I am reminding you of her life. I am reminding you that I have another daughter who is only in my heart, but who is still special and still loved.
I have yet to find the solution to this problem. I don't know how to remind people of her without reminding them of my grief. I don't know how to talk about her without being that mom again.
If you take anything away from this very confusing blog post, let it be this:
I am a mother who has lost her child, but that's not all I am. I am also a mother who loves both of her children very much. I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, a teacher. I love to bake and share silly internet memes. While I will always miss Kenley, there is more going on in my life than mourning her. There is more to my life than loss. I have worked VERY hard to get to this point...the point where I can say that I live more in the light than the dark.
Remember Kenley, but remember she is more than her death. We both are.