There are some things in this life that I really wish I never had to learn:
…that 1 in 160 pregnancies result in stillbirth (23,600 each year in the United States).
…that organizations like Molly Bears exist to help provide comfort to grieving parents.
…what it is like to leave the maternity ward empty handed.
…the pain of losing a child and being a mother with no living children.
That list could go on and on and on. See, being a bereaved parent comes with a whole host of knowledge and awareness of which I would have, quite honestly, been perfectly happy to have stayed blissfully unaware. And yet, despite the fact that I would give up all that knowledge to have sweet Alexander in my arms, I am so incredibly grateful that support systems, organizations, and resources exist for myself and other grieving parents who have experienced the loss of a baby.
Today, the first Sunday of May, is designated as International Bereaved Mother’s Day. It is a day set aside to raise awareness in hopes of eventually reclaiming the true meaning of Mother’s Day, which was originally founded by a bereaved mother who gave birth to twelve children only to have four of them survive into adulthood.
I have already felt it this month. The stirring in my heart. The pangs of jealousy as I see “in honor of upcoming Mother’s Day” posts on Facebook sharing details about the births of children. The anxiety over what the next week will feel like as I walk through the 10 month milestone of losing Alexander followed quickly by my first Mother’s Day without my sweet boy here in my arms. The anger over what should have been but isn’t. The deep sadness and grief that remains an undercurrent of my days, even when I am breathing more deeply and fully than I have in months.
I need to remind myself frequently to still take it easy on myself. To still take care of myself. To still allow myself to grieve when I need to grieve. Grieving the loss of Alexander will be a lifelong journey, and we are not even through the first year of milestones. As I wrote last month, parents are considered to be newly bereaved for five years. That’s a long time to carry fresh grief.
This week, I’m intentionally taking a break for some self-care during a week full of milestones and reminders of our loss as Mother’s Day approaches. I’m taking some time off work. I plan some things for myself that I’ve been putting off. I plan to do simple things that bring me joy and peace: hang in my hammock in the backyard (weather permitting), cook meals from scratch at home, do some spring cleaning around the house, spend time in Alexander’s nursery, read for pleasure and self-care, write some blog posts, and spend plenty of time with the best dad I know.
So, today on International Bereaved Mother’s Day, and this week leading up to Mother’s Day, my hope is this. That we will all be sensitive to those who are grieving as this day approaches: Those who have lost children. Those who have lost their mothers. Those who desire to be mothers but struggle with infertility or recurrent pregnancy loss. Those who have strained relationships with their mothers or with their children. Remember, Mother’s Day was born out of a life filled with complexity and grief. Let us recognize this day for what it is, and be grateful for the gift of mothers and motherhood whatever that looks like.
Beautiful bereaved mothers, I see your mother heart.