“A mother is not defined by how many children you can see, but by the love that she holds in her heart.” – Franchesca Cox
This Mother’s Day I will not wake up wondering how long I have to pretend I’m still asleep until someone remembers what day it is and decides to make some attempt at breakfast in bed (or at least makes their own breakfast). I will not sigh disappointedly at the presentation of a hurriedly scribbled card after realizing my sons have forgotten a gift. This Mother’s Day, as with those that have gone before, I will embrace anything the day brings, knowing it can only be better than that Mother’s Day.
That Mother’s Day when I was discharged from the maternity ward without my baby son. The physical act of walking out of the lift, across the hospital foyer and out of the double doors meant fighting against every fibre of my being. Silent tears streamed down my face, while inside I was screaming from the ache of my empty arms.
That Mother’s Day I had earlier been sitting beside my newborn son in the NICU, who was hooked up to all sorts of machines that were assisting him to breathe and helping to shake loose the sediment of meconium that had settled like road tar in his lungs. From across the room I watched a mother say goodbye to the tiniest human being I have ever seen. Born at 24 weeks gestation, this fragile little boy had been in the world for 6 hours, but would not survive the day. All of the babies in the NICU were fighting the battle to live, but this little one was losing.
The visceral pain of that mother the moment her baby son died was like a physical force, exploding through the hearts of every person in the room. The sound of her anguish reverberated through the core of my being, and today, ten years later, echoes through my head at the thought of it.
Every Mother’s Day I remember that woman in the NICU. I recall with absolute clarity the mind numbing fear I felt at the threat of losing my son, coupled with my amazement at how, despite losing such a precious part of her, she didn’t shatter into a million pieces.
This Saturday we will celebrate my son’s 10th birthday. It has been ten years since he was born purple, silent and still, and then fought like hell to stay on this Earth. Many weeks after that Mother’s Day, I was finally able to walk through those hospital doors with my baby in my arms. As his body has healed so have I been able to retreat from the abyss of grief.
So many mothers are not that lucky.
Carly Marie Dudley knows the incredible pain of losing a child. In 2007 her baby son Christian was stillborn. From Christian’s death something beautiful was created. At a beach in Western Australia, Carly Marie works most nights at sunset, writing and photographing the names of children who have passed, on the seashore of remembrance. Since the middle of 2008, over 20,000 children’s names have been written in the sand at sunset on Christian’s beach.
Born out of the need to share her experience with other families “walking the road of pregnancy, infant and child loss”, Carly Marie and her family created International Bereaved Mother’s Day. Typically held the Sunday before Mother’s Day, it is a day to acknowledge women who have experienced the trauma of losing a child. As Carly Marie says:
“Anna Jarvis officially founded the traditional Mother’s Day to honour her mother Ann who experienced the death of 7 of her children and somehow through the years it has turned into a commercialized mess that card companies make millions of dollars from, but the worst thing is that bereaved mothers are completely forgotten. This day was created in honour of a bereaved mother.
The traditional Mother’s Day has proven to be an emotionally difficult day for so many mothers around the world. International Bereaved Mother’s Day is a temporary movement…. It is our greatest hope that sometime in the near future all mothers will be remembered and recognised and there will be no need for this day at all.”
International Bereaved Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 6th 2018. It was created for any woman who has experienced the cruel pain of being unable to conceive, the heartrending loss of miscarriage or stillbirth, the death of a sick baby or indeed, a child of any age.
Women who are still standing despite unimaginable loss.
Stand in any room full of women and you will find an astonishing number who fit this description. At work, at the supermarket, the gym, or school drop off, there are women who may hold some of their children in their arms, but others only in their hearts. Women who know the ache of empty arms, but hopefully also know the overwhelming joy of wrapping those arms around a warm, snuggly child.
We all have our own stories to tell. Let’s acknowledge, respect and cherish each other for the amazing, strong women we are. Let’s remember the reason why Mother’s Day was created, and reclaim the day for all mothers.