Last year, I celebrated Mother's Day with a three week old Piper. WIth her snuggled up against me, I felt braver to venture onto the internet than I had the year before when I avoided it like the plague. My Facebook wall was peppered with joyful wishes for me, which was very bittersweet. As much as no one wants to hear it, it's hard to be entirely happy on days like that - days where your motherhood is celebrated and you are a mother without all of your children. There's an even greater sense of incompleteness on a day devoted to mothers. I can imagine children who have lost their mother feel a similar disconnect.
The child who made me a mother will never be with me on Mother's Day - or any day. Which is why those "Happy First Mother's Day!" wishes last year cut me to the bone. I got several. Dozens. Happy FIRST Mother's Day. First? No....2013 was my first Mother's Day. 2013 when I sat in my house, foggy headed and glassy eyed, two and a half months after the worst day of my life. 2013 when I was terrified to visit social media at all because I knew the Mother overload would have sent me over the edge. 2013 when I can't even remember if anyone wished me a Happy Mother's Day because I was in so much pain, but I know it was few and far between. But, 2014 rolled around wrapped in a Rainbow, and suddenly I am a mother. Suddenly, well wishes poured from the sky. Suddenly, my motherhood was okay to talk about and okay to celebrate because I had a living child.
Granted, not everyone knows what to do with another person's grief, and mine was very fresh. Most likely, people just didn't know what to say. They just didn't have the words - or even know if I wanted the attention. I can't fault people for being silent in 2013 because everything was so new for all of us. But, I can say, had I been recognized that day, had my wall been filled with Happy Mother's Day wishes, I would have felt a little less alone and a little less broken. I would have felt like my Motherhood was something to be celebrated just like everyone else's - because it is. I would have been so very grateful that people saw Kenley as who she was - my child - as opposed to what happened to her.
Two years have passed since that true, First Mother's Day. This year will be my third. I have two children. One, you can see plain as day. Laughing, crawling, and covered in applesauce. The other, you have to look more carefully to find, but she is always there. She is in the owl satchel I carry to and from work evey day. She is in the owl lanyard that holds my classroom keys. She is in the Kenley's Playlist on my iPhone that I listen to when I need to feel connected. She hangs around my neck every day in a necklace with her name and birthstone - and has since my first week home. She is not absent; she is just not as easily seen. But she is still there. My baby. My first reason for celebrating Mother's Day.
Yesterday, the loss community celebrated Bereaved Mother's Day - a day set aside to celebrate the mothers who don't have all of their children with them. Mothers who walk the line between two worlds, balancing between what they feel in their heart and what the rest of the world sees. Mothers who might feel uncomfortable or afraid to celebrate Mother's Day a few weeks later because they aren't sure they feel like a mother - because so many others tell them they are not. Maybe not so blatantly with their words - but more subtlely with their silence. While I love the compassion and care surrounding this holiday, the attempt to include bereaved mothers in the celebration of their motherhood, it still pains me it has to exist. Baby death is still so taboo that women who experience it feel like they aren't real enough mothers to participate in Mother's Day. People outside of the loss community aren't sure how to recognize women without all of their children, and so they don't. Hurt and forgotten, we have created our own holiday to heal our hearts from a pain so many just don't understand.
I am bereaved and I am a mother, but I didn't do anything special yesterday. Mostly because this weekend was a crazy weekend - but also partly because I don't want a special holiday. I don't want to celebrate my motherhood in muted tones away from the masses. I want to celebrate my motherhood with everyone else. All of the Bereaved Mother's Day events I saw posted on Facebook were beautiful. Names were written in the sand. Trees were planted. Pictures of moms were posted holding name or a framed photo. It's a very healing day, and I am not knocking it at all. It just frustrates me that those things can't be incorporated with Mother's Day - that Bereaved Mothers feel the need to pull away because their own version of motherhood isn't as accepted or honored by the mainstream.
I am no more a mother today with Piper in my arms than I was before she was born. I am no more a mother today than the day I took my very first pregnancy test that set me upon this road. Kenley made me a mother. The ways I get to be her mother vary greatly from the ways I get to be Piper's, but I am still a mother to both of them. I became a mother in July 2012, and although my circumstances changed that following February, my status as a mother did not. This year will be my third Mother's Day, not my second. I say this not necessarily for myself, but for the women out there celebrating their true First Mother's Day this year with empty arms, for the women receiving First wishes when it's really their Second, and for the women who had children before their loss and are wondering if the Mother's Day wishes include thoughts of their missing babies.
We are all mothers. Those of us who have lost babies and those of us who have not - none of us are more or less of a mother. Death does not take away our motherhood. It cannot tell us who we are. It may shape our roles as mothers, but is does not change the fact we are one. For those of you who have all of your children in your arms - Happy Mother's Day. For those of you who do not - Happy Mother's Day.
Celebrate who you are as a mother. Celebrate your children. Celebrate the path that has lead you to where you are - because our children do indeed make us better people, regardless of whether or not we can hold them.