For the last few days the kids have been sneaking around between their rooms wrapping gifts in coloured paper and writing love notes for me. They have handed me their book bags on school pick up in a shady manner and told me not to peek, and they have given me strict instructions not to look in certain places in their rooms whilst they are out at school (like I have nothing better to do than snoop in my 6 and 8 year olds rooms!). It is all very cute, and their excitement and humble offerings for mother’s day tomorrow has already been so touching and filled my heart with immense Joy.
I love being a mother – It is a fun, crazy, forever changing adventure. And, whilst half the time the struggle is real and I spend the majority of this journey winging it and thinking I am in way over my head, being a mother has taught me how to sacrifice for others, how to love more deeply and how to have more compassion. It has shown me how love grows and helped me to see the good in the world daily and laugh at silly things often. It has made me a warrior, helped me be more confident and sure, more kind and adventurous, more brave and it has made me appreciate the small things.
Motherhood has made me many things, but one thing I never expected, was that it would make me the mother of a child in heaven and a person able to see the darkness of life whilst still being stood in the light and feeling joy.
I never realised that becoming a mother meant that I would also begin to see the cracks in things that brought surety and security to life. But losing a baby through stillbirth introduces this perspective to life, and you can never unsee it.
Four Minus one is still four…
I have been thinking a lot recently about the lesson’s you learn as kids and the formulas for life you are given that bring surety to it. The things you trust, because they are proven method’s – like if you are kind to others then kindness will return to you. Or if you work hard then you will get a good job, or if you do this, that and the other, then such and such is the result. We hear it all the time, and teach it to our own kids now – Even simple maths like “1+1 = 2” or “4-1=3”!
There are many in this world that still live in that bubble where simple math and habits have obvious return and solutions, and I am happy for them, but for me, and others who have lost a child too, we exist in a place where things aren’t that simple or sure. We live in a place where the formula’s can very easily be disproven (and it isn’t a state of negativity, it is a fact that sometimes in life the formula’s don’t work for things).
I have realised through both maturity and adulthood and also with becoming a bereaved mother that nothing in life is certain – Seemingly obvious formula’s don’t work for everything. Pregnancy doesn’t equal newborn for everyone and trying to conceive doesn’t mean you will. I realise that we all have examples where we have been kind and kindness hasn’t returned to us, or we have worked hard and never quite made it. For some it is this pregnancy example, but for me the methods are flawed when I have realised that something as simple as four minus one can still equal four- because when you birth 4 babies and take away one from life, there are still 4 babies.
Four children, minus one to stillbirth, still equals being the parents and the mother of four children.
It still equals me having 4 pregnancies, 4 children’s birthdays and 4 kids we named.
Don’t get me wrong, I can still see how four minus one still equals 3 – that is crystal clear to me, and something the world will always push back to prove – because on days like mother’s day it is seemingly right. It is one lees card, one less cuddle and one less handmade picture. It is sharing my home every day with minus 1 child and my days with minus 1 four year old, but just because she isn’t here and you only see 3, I know in my heart that four minus one still very much equals four. It just looks different to how you see the result.
Yesterday I helped at the schools secret shop and there was one little boy there that really stood out to me and touched my heart. He stood there with a small bouquet of flowers and said “I want to get these for my mummy” – I almost started to cry – he was a vision of cuteness and I wish I knew his name or his mother so I could let her know that. But, as I have pondered on that moment, and wondered why it affected me so much, I have realised that it was something about him that stirred my grief a little more than I would have liked. He reminded me in that moment that I have one less little cutie buying me a little thoughtful tribute and being so keen and eager to hide it from me til sunday. It was him that reminded me that in 12 months she would be in reception too, stood in that spot and facing the secret shop excitement for the first time – and it hurt.
It reminded me that one has been taken and only 3 remain, and that was hard to briefly think that the formula could be right afterall. But I know it isn’t and, I had to remind myself that one is still there…that one less 4 year old in our lives isn’t one less child we have. One is still there – she just loves me differently and is present in different ways – but she is still there. We are worlds apart and there are flowers on a grave from me instead of flowers in my hands from her, but I still have four, love four and mother four. Even when we only see 3 and raise 3 day in day out.
Motherhood is a daily struggle and how any of us survive it is an example in itself that things are never as they seem.
Grieving a loss is hard too, and when these two cross over it becomes a massive mess and lifelong struggle. On most days I wing it and somehow survive the day. On most days now I feel okay and my grief is like a still water, but there are still, and always will be the days and moments when the waters are stirred, and I am back to treading them and trying not to drown in the sorrows of them.
For a long time I thought that the hardest pain in motherhood would be birth or watching them fail and hurt, but I now know that the hardest pain in motherhood is living without you child and having to bury one of them. The hardest pain is constantly having to remind the world that four minus one can still equal four and proving that joy and sadness can exist together.
Motherhood looks differently on everyone and each of us is fighting something to be the mama we want to be – for me it is fighting the daily pain of baby loss and always wondering. But, I am somehow still happy in that struggle and pain, and I am very grateful for all four of my children – For making me who I am and teaching me so much about life and this world that I never saw before. I am grateful for each one of their souls who are always teaching me about joy, fun, life and how to love more and live more fiercely. Who show me pain, sadness and grief can exist simultaneously to joy, gladness and gratitude.