Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mothering grief

It is hard to talk about my live child around dead baby mamas, and it is hard to talk about my dead baby around live baby mamas. It is so complicated, the emotions around having one living daughter and one dead one.

I have been feeling so alone these days, so different from everyone and everything. I feel like a Vulcan in the last stages of life. (Hello, nerds, time to shine.) I have reached out to some babylost women who parent living children to talk about what it is like to grieve and parent, and my emails seems to never get mentioned again. Lost amidst my other whining, I suppose.

Catherine wrote a beautiful post about her twins. And it resonated with me a great deal. I have read women talk about how much easier this journey is when you have a living child. I won't presume to know the other way, or pretend that my experience is harder. The prize for that competition is not pleasant. I have absolutely no desire to compare griefs. It all hurts. It is all complicated and sad and achingly tough. That is all I do know. I will talk, however, about my experience grieving and parenting.

In my experience, I do appreciate my living daughter in a way I didn't before. I look at her some days and think, "How did you make it here? How is it that you lived so easily?" I look around at a lot of children and think that. All they have to do is eat and breath, poop and giggle. But I appreciate that, yes, I get to hold a child every day, but not the child who died. I mother a child that looks exactly like the child who died, and is passing milestones my dead baby will never pass. I take care of a beautiful girl, yes, who has no idea that I am so sad I want to turn into a thousand pieces of ash, let the wind carry me in all the directions closer to oblivion. I have a daughter that needs me to get up and get her milk whether I am sobbing or not. And sometimes she points at me and laughs when I am crying. She laughs and says, "Mooooommmmmmy," as though I am doing some ridiculously silly thing. She just wants to play fairy princess, or baby dolls. Watching your child play baby doll after your daughter was stillborn is remarkably difficult.

When I read first time mothers who have lost babies question whether or not they are a mother, my heart breaks. And I want to explain to them how I know they are mothers. I know they are because I know what it is like to mother a living child and a dead one. Don't mistake it. I actively mother both Beatrice and Lucy. That love I have for Lucy is as present and deep as if she were here. And I ache that she is not here. That feeling of panic I have when I see Beatrice about to get a scraped knee, that is the feeling I carry with me everyday. That feeling of not being able to catch a falling child. That pain, I absolutely know, is something only a mother feels.

Maybe what others might not understand is how present Lucy is in our home. She demands, like a living child. “Pay attention to me, Mommy. Pay attention. Watch me not grow up.” And I sometimes spend the day in bed sobbing, giving in to her demands. The Lucy-sized hole in our lives sucks our smiles into it some days. When I ask Beatrice who Lucy is, her reply remains, “Lucy is Mommy crying.” Her sister is my grief.

Today, I am exhausted.


  1. "Lucy is Mommy crying"- how heartbreakingly loving.

    There are so many layers to love- and your love for both your daughters shines through so strong in your every word.

  2. I started writing a reply, but I'm going to email you instead. x

  3. I have found it very difficult to be a "good" mother to my living children since losing my twins. It is sometimes so hard to be a part of their daily activities when all I feel is sadness. I do appreciate them and they bring me joy everyday, but it is still so hard.

  4. I have no other children. Sometimes I think it's easier this way, no need to try and keep it together, keep functioning for someone else. But at other times I wish I had another little person to bring me slivers of joy when there isn't any.

    Beatrice and Lucy are so lucky to have you as their mom, Angie. And I feel that as she gets older, Lucy will be more to Beatrice than Mommy's grief, and I know she already is, just in a way that a toddler can't express. Much love.

  5. exhausted.

    me too angie. me too.

    Wish I had better words today, but I understand this struggle...the days full of bitter, and sweet.

  6. I wish that I lived nearer to you Angie. So I could come round and have a cup of tea with you. So that I could meet Beatrice. So that you could meet Jessica. So we could talk about Lucy and Georgina. Or say nothing at all, just drink our tea.

    'I have a daughter that needs me to get up and get her milk whether I am sobbing or not', I can't tell you how many nights I pumped milk for Jessica and cried and cried for her sister. Just a big ol' mess of bodily fluids, that's me.

    They are here in our lives, those missing daughters. Even if our parenting of them is done out of sight, in secret. Lucy is in Beatrice's life, Georgina is in Jessica's. Sad yet beautiful. Bitter yet sweet. Snow with roses. Impossibly simultaneous. Yet they are, entwined in a way that has yet to reveal itself. Or articulate itself, at least until our daughters are old enough to do so for themselves.

    I'm still finding my way as a mother. Many of us are, whether our children are here in our arms or elsewhere. I'm glad you are here to show me the way to mother both my girls. Everyone here in our little patch of internet, whether their children are living or not, has taught me how to be a mother. I'm glad you're here. xx

  7. Me too, Angie. I get you, I really do. xx

  8. Oh Angie, I want you to know you can talk about Bea in all her glory all day every day to me, if you want. I will always listen. I don't want to compare grief either and I can't imagine your pain as you can't imagine mine (or ours, who have lost our firstborns). My only fear is NEVER having another living child. It has never bothered me or upset me that others do. I'm so glad Bea is here, but equally as devastated, of course, that Lucy is not. What I also love about you is your constant ability to make me feel like a real mother, moreso than others have ever been able to. Your explanation of Lucy taking up as much time and energy and love as Bea does makes a lot of sense. I now know what I am doing in "parenting" Hope is the real deal and it will be good practice for the "real" stuff that is hopefully to come with my son in the months ahead.
    Lots and lots of love to you, Sam, Bea and sweet little Lucy.

  9. Angie, this is all so true. It is so difficult to balance parenting and grieving. My living children are older than Lucy and are acutely aware of my shortcomings as their mother right now. It breaks my heart when they go to Daddy or when I hear them whispering together that Mommy is sad about Sydney and they should go play and leave me alone. I feel so guilty when they make me laugh and continue to bring me joy, because sometimes I feel that I shouldn't ever laugh or feel joy again. I hope that they never look back and resent me for this time in our lives.

    Hugs to you, Angie.

  10. I only experienced this for 7 weeks - those 7 weeks that Kees lived. 7 weeks where I felt joy as well as sadness. And even though I wish so much that both my children were here with me on earth, I would settle for one of them. If I had to. That's the difference you see. None or one - there would be no choice. Of course I would settle for one. But there was no choice, so I have none. They are both dead. So I miss them both equally. Every day.

    ((hugs)) Angie.

  11. Yes, there is an appreciation for Lil' Mama that wasn't there before, in some ways it has made me a "better" more calm toddler mom. And then there are the others days... when I have guilt and feel like the worst mother ever. Guilt + grief= yuck. I am spaced-out, I snap, I am wrecked, and all I'll do is cry. On those days, I serve a half-ass grilled cheese sandwich lunch wet with tears to both of us.

  12. I once wrote that I imagined mothering two would be difficult, but I realized after one died how much *more* difficult it was because the one couldn't visibly see how the other was demanding my time. Bella can't know when I need to check out and pay attention to Maddy; a griefburst can't decide to wait until Bella's done hanging upside down from a tree.

    All I can say is that it does get easier, even if you feel as though you're split in two now.

  13. “Pay attention to me, Mommy. Pay attention. Watch me not grow up.”

    People looking in from the outside have no idea how much time a deadbaby requires.

    Big hugs for you Angie

  14. "Lucy is Mommy crying" just broke my heart. Just as it broke when I walked into your home and Bea explained the toy she was playing with was Lucy's and pointed to Lucy's candle burning in the corner. Angie you do such a beautiful job of parenting both of your gorgeous daughters. And please never feel that you can't speak of Bea or parenting her with me...her mere existence gives me hope.

  15. I understand. I do. I feel like an alien b/c I'm not with Zoe's father. I share my grief with a man who never met my other child. Perhaps that is what makes him such a rare gift to me.
    Mine and Ivy's (L.O.) relationship is also different. I too look at her sometimes and wonder how it was so easy for her to live, to get this far you know?
    My love to you...Lindsay

  16. You can always talk to me hun :)

    *HUGE hugs*, beautiful mama! XXXXX

  17. I know exactly what you mean about talking about a living child you had prior to a dead baby, whilst among other DBM, and vice versa. I have a friend who is pregnant with her first child, she wasn't when Logan died, and it is becoming increasingly hard for me to talk to her about Logan. It scares her. But here in blogland it feels like my daughter has no place on my blog about Logan. It seems out of place. I am thankful that my DD is so young and doesn't realize that her mommy is sad, and she too laughs at me when I cry. "Lucy is Mommy Crying" broke my heart. How tragic for our children to experience this grief also, and not be able to understand it. My daughter keeps me going when I just don't have the will anymore, but she reminds me of what I lost. Everyday I see her and I think of Logan, how much he looked like her, would they have been close, would Aubrey carress him and kiss him and love on him the way she does her dolls and the dog? And then the ache of knowing she needs a sibling, that I TRIED so very hard to give her one...that people feel the need to remind me that she needs a sibling. Sometimes I feel ashamed that I feel so full of sorrow and so unlucky when I was blessed with a living child here in dead baby land, when so many would give their soul for just one living child, and greedy me...I wanted two.

  18. I hear you Angie, you know that I hear you xxxx

  19. I like hearing about Bea and Lucy both, Angie.

    And it's all hard - nothing easy or easier about any of this. xoxo

  20. I'm so sorry you feel alone, Angie. I hope you can talk with me about Bea as well as Lucy. I don't have other children, obviously, but I would never want you to hide your feelings or thoughts for that reason. Bea is a beautiful, sweet girl and it must take a lot to get up each day and be there for her while grieving Lucy. Hang in there.

  21. this post brought tears to my eyes. i have no idea what it's like to parent a living child after babyloss, but i do know how demanding it is to parent a dead baby. i knew being a new mommy would be hard, but i never imagined it would be THIS hard.


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