I have heard it said, and seen too many times, the struggle in many a mothers eyes as they come to terms with the loss of their sweet baby and just long to know if they can really call themselves “A Mother”? The desperation for this reassurance that they are is a very raw and ongoing part of grief following the loss of a baby, and since getting pregnant for the 4th time I have found myself pondering A LOT on this too; specifically on being a mother to more children and what that will be and feel like. I have, for almost 2 years battled with these same questions and the reality that I am actually the mother of 3 though I only get to parent 2, and the 2 I have, in the beginning were often used to pacify my pain from loosing the 3rd. Numbers of kids is something I took lightly, it is now something very real and at times painful for me… How many kids do you have? How many do you want? I just want the ones I’ve had, I just want to be acknowledged as a mother to them all.
Days like Mothers day, Christmas and anniversaries all bring you back to this numbness as you realise that the pain erupts again from the missing piece in your family… you know there is no child to celebrate this with or buy for…no name written in a card to acknowledge the sacrifice you made to give them life. There is no one to place their tender little hands upon your cheeks and say “mummy I love you”! No one to teach, discipline, drive you mad, nurture and love. Everything a mother does was paused because there was no baby to bring home, no child physically here to do those things with. A mothers love is suddenly manifest through endless tears and a realisation that a gap is ever present in your life as you always wonder who they would be, what they would be and what they would make you. Each day is a battle to remember them and have others remember them too, because your biggest fear is that time will steal their memory. But amidst your new life as a bereaved mother, one things for certain, and this I know that they most certainly are your child and did make you a mother whether it be for the 1st time or the 3rd, 4th or 5th!
In just a few short weeks our 4th baby and 3rd girl will be arriving into our lives and she will make me a mum of 4. My baby girl Poppy Quinn, that many have only heard and read about was my last born daughter in 2014, and though she was still born, I am her mother. And…despite having our amazing 2 living children, it does not erase or lessen these thoughts or make these feelings any less strong, especially when outsiders assume I only have 2! But, as I say, to the many that don’t know our story I will in a few weeks have 3 kids, and this is so hard for me to deal with and makes my heart ache… I will be and know I am a mum of 4 beautiful kids, but then I have no idea what having 3 is like. I have jumped and missed a step.
I have already had numerous comments from well meaning strangers about how my hands will be full, how busy our life will be and blah blah blah… I let out an inward scream because I know and had it all in my last pregnancy, but unfortunately my physical load and balancing our time remained pretty much the same as I stumbled along in life carrying my loss and continued with the flow of family life with just the 2. There is to us all an obvious gap in our family, there is pain, love and a lot more pain recently as I approach the arrival of our next baby and fear the worst that there is always a chance I might just only ever parent the 2. I find myself calling her baby instead of the name we have settled on because it scares me to bond too much, and then I wonder so much again about this number placed upon our family – am I and can I call myself a mum of 3 or is it a mum of 4? Are we a family of 5 or will it be 6? I envy those who grow their family and have each member present, that don’t have to fight to keep the memory of those gone alive, that have had kids and know how it is to be the mum of that many kids. It all seems so simple and natural.
I look at my sister, sister in laws, fellow bloggers and friends and observe how their life is and has become with 3 kids in a hope to learn something, because soon I will be the mother to 3 living despite it being the 4th. In these observations though I realise that for me to raise and have 3 kids really is foreign ground because it was never my experience and reality and this at times causes me to feel jealous that I went through a full pregnancy, labour and delivery.. held my sweet baby girl and still only have 2 to hold in my arms today. . I ask them how it feels, the dynamics of family life and how stretched they are. How the older siblings with their already strong bonds and routines took to a new baby? How you balance a new born schedule with older kids to run around after? All normal questions I am sure at this stage when going from 2 to 3, but another realisation to me of a stage I completely missed! Every picture I look at of my kids or our family causes an ounce of pain as I am ever aware that it looks like we have 2 but we know we have 3, we were just robbed of that parenting experience when she was gone too soon.
I know deep down though, at the end of the day I am right now a mother of 3 going on 4 and I am entering and replaying a chapter of going from 2 kids to 3. I know it doesn’t matter really how others perceive the size of our family because we can never forget that we should have already lived this stage and be experienced in this. So as I fumble along, learn new routines and dynamics, I know I will always have 4 kids no matter if I never know what having 4 kids in our home and life is like. I am always going to look to others like I am a mother to 3, but I am, and proud to be a mother of 4 beautiful children, and trust me, because of our loss, my heart is fuller than my arms will ever appear to be.