I have written this post over and over again. I am struggling with what to say for Mother’s Day because this is not just about me being a mother, but also about my relationship with my own mother as well as with my mother-in-law. Losing Nate and Sam did not just turn me into a mother with no children, it forever changed how I relate as a daughter. And because of my loss, I can’t relate to my children’s grandmothers.
My mother-in-law has always wanted to be a grandmother. I think she even wanted to be a grandmother before she was a mother. She bought toys for my kids back when my husband was still in high school. Never mind that he didn’t meet me for another 20 years. Never mind whether or not we wanted kids or whether we could have them. She was ready for babies, dammit. And then Nate and Sam were born. And died. My mother-in-law was at the hospital with us, but she didn’t come in to see us, or see Nate and Sam. And I still can’t forgive her. When I am feeling charitable, I acknowledge that she may have been too devastated. That she was raised in a time when holding, cuddling and caring for stillborn babies was not done. That she might regret not having agreed to see them. When I am not feeling charitable, I am reminded that the nurses and social worker who encouraged me and supported my husband and I were there for her too. They would have been there, telling her how important it was for her to come in and say her goodbyes. But she still never saw them. And I am hurt and angry. To me, this was a rejection of my sons, and a rejection of our family. She was so eager and excited to greet them when they were alive, but couldn’t stomach looking at their perfect faces after they had died.
I am fortunate. Both my mother and my mother-in-law acknowledge my sons. Even though they have not experienced loss themselves, they know that I want Nate and Sam remembered. They know that they are forever part of my life and I am forever their mother. Not every mother is like that, and in research, other mothers have reported the pain of having their parents give little support. As one mother, when pregnant again after losing a baby, said:
“They’ve [the grandparents] all been very excited about this baby . . . but they don’t know how to react. They don’t know what’s going to upset me and they’re so afraid of upsetting me by bringing Derik up. But what’s upsetting is when he’s not acknowledged. They think it’s easier now, that we will push [away] the grief, our memories of Derik and just move on, which is obviously not the case. So that’s really difficult. His anniversary is coming up and last year we did a formal memorial. This year we haven’t planned anything and nobody’s inquired either.”
Another mother talks of how hard it has been with her father-in-law and his wife:
“My family [has] his picture up with all the grandchildren’s pictures. Steve’s mom’s house it’s the same way. But Steve’s dad and stepmom, when it was over it was over for them. They think it’s just awful that the girls even know about it. They don’t call on Davis’s birthday and even say hello. They’re just really strange. It can’t ever be talked about over there. Of course the girls do but they just ignore it. I think they mentioned to Steve once that we should take the pictures down and he said “No, its fine. It’s not that it didn’t happen.” They’ve never really said why they can’t deal with it. If I ever bring it up they just stiffen.”
How has your relationship changed with your mother or mother-in-law since losing your child? Will this change your Mother’s Day?
Quotes from other mothers were taken from: O’Leary J; Warland J; Parker L. Bereaved parents’ perception of the grandparents’ reactions to perinatal loss and the pregnancy that follows. Journal of Family Nursing. 17(3):330-56, 2011 Aug.
Amanda Ross-White is the proud mother of four beautiful children, including her twin boys Nate and Sam, who were stillborn in 2007. She is eternally grateful to watch her rainbow children, daughter Rebecca and son Alex, grow around her. She is also the author of Joy at the End of the Rainbow: A Guide to Pregnancy After a Loss, which won second place in the American Journal of Nursing’s Book of the Year Awards (Consumer Health).