Who am I?
Who am I?
It’s a question that has plagued me since my daughter’s unexpected death in January last year. Until that point I hadn’t thought deeply about the question of identity, because life had been so straight forward. I was just me: Larissa, a Christian, wife to Marcus, expecting mother. But when that last definition changed from “expecting” to “bereaved” it felt like so much more changed too.
Life wasn’t what I had pictured; it was nothing like I had planned and hoped for. I didn’t get to look after Ariella as she grew and delight in each new day. What I did get was a cemetery to visit and the same few photos to look at day after day. Not exactly the things I dreamt of while pregnant with her. The only plan I had for 2013 was to be a mother – stay home to raise our daughter, attend local mums groups, etc. I definitely was still a mother, but it certainly didn’t look like it. I had no child with me; I could not attend the mothers groups. My life, which was meant to be so full, was so.very.empty. I didn’t fit anywhere, except grief support groups. But was that all there was to my identity? Grief?
Getting pregnant again did not make it any easier to rediscover my identity. Looking back, I think it made it harder. Since Ariella died at 39 weeks, it meant that I went through labour. I birthed her. My milk came in. My body had to heal. Just like a mum who got to keep her baby. I didn’t belong in the “first time parents” antenatal classes because I had experienced those things, but I certainly didn’t belong in the classes that talked about introducing a new baby to siblings. I wanted reminding of how to breastfeed, but when I went to the class I couldn’t relate to the other women’s concerns or fears about whether they would be able to breastfeed. I knew I could produce milk for my babies…I just didn’t know if I would have a baby who could drink the milk. I didn’t really know who I was or where I fitted. Somewhere between a first-time mum and a second timer. A little of both. I was still left asking…who am I?
Nor did my son’s birth make it easier. I wish I could say that it did, that his arrival bought with it some marvelous epiphany about who I am. But it didn’t. I found that just because I “could” now go to the mums’ groups, I actually didn’t want to. It didn’t seem right to be doing something with Levi that I should have already been doing for a year with Ariella. Besides, did I even fit in those groups? Was there a place for me – a mother who can’t really understand when someone’s biggest concern is not getting enough sleep or whether or not their child tantrums in the grocery store? It took months before I felt like I could join those groups and honestly? It’s still a struggle now.
I was asked a little while ago how I would describe myself as a mother. My first thought was bereaved. But that’s not the whole truth! My son is still alive even if my daughter isn’t. I am more than a bereaved mum. My second thought was messed up – because of the range of emotions that go through my mind on a daily basis. But as time goes on I think I am making sense of the mess and learning how to best handle the messiness that is life.
Who am I?
It’s a question that has plagued me since my daughter’s unexpected death in January last year. But I’m discovering that the answer is more simple than I thought. I am Larissa. A Christian. Wife to Marcus and mama to Ariella and Levi. I am grieving but hopeful, messed up but healing. I am still me.