I am a mother.
My son Samuel died four hours after birth.
It has been over three years since he died.
It’s been almost four years since we decided to start our family.
I am not trying to conceive another child.
My arms and heart ache for the family we should have.
Each of those statements are my truths. I live with all of them every day of my life. I know the immense joy of becoming a mother – it happened the moment I learned my son was coming – and the unrelenting heartache of his absence. Both co-exist within me at all times. I know both healing and the weight of sadness that never leaves my heart. I know what it means to live in a world that refuses to recognize the reality of life-long grief. I have come to accept that I will never fit in as I once did. I have also come to realize I don’t want to if it would mean leaving my son behind, or pretending his life did not change me to my core.
In the time I’ve been a part of the loss community, I’ve made many connections to others who understand the constant ache I feel, and the struggles to rebuild my life without my son. Many times, I’ve felt an instant connection to someone with the simple yet profound words, “My baby died too.” We get it and in that moment, it lifts the burden of knowing an ugly truth about life – babies and children die. We don’t have to carry it alone while in the company of those who understand.
But as much as I’ve made connections, and found support, I’ve also felt more and more like an outcast among the outcasts as months and years passed and I did not go on to have another child. Especially in the pregnancy and infant loss community, there seems to be an unspoken rule that you must go on to have another child if you want to “truly heal.” That, if you don’t, you’re not “doing it right,” or you’re “stuck.” It really seems to be unimaginable to most people that you wouldn’t. I have to say, this mistaken idea is neither accurate, nor useful. In fact, many women like me, who suffer the loss of a child, do not go on to have another child. And that’s something even most loss mothers don’t want to hear. (Just like how most typical mothers don’t want to hear that babies die.)
Here’s the reality. For some mothers, having another child is physically impossible; what stole their child also stole their ability to bear a child. Other mothers face secondary infertility (many times unexplained) that robs them of the chance to add to their family. For others, the thought of even trying again is too much for their heart to bear and they simply refuse to bury another child (because, as we all know, the only way to 100% prevent a child’s death is to not have that child). And there are many loss mothers who did try again, only to have another precious child die. (Unfortunately, the same unspoken rule about having another child after loss includes the idea that it’s impossible for loss to happen twice to the same mother. Sadly, also not true.)
Regardless of why, there is a large community of loss mothers within the community of loss mothers who are feeling left behind, hurt, and alone: We are Still Mothers, and we are living childless after loss.
We are grieving, we are healing, we are honoring and remembering our children with love, we are seeking peace and rebuilding our lives, just like the rest of the community. We are trying to help the world understand grief and re-educate others on how to treat us, just like everyone else who knows traumatic grief. We belong to the ugly club no one wants to join, just like every other loss mother. But, we don’t feel included because we haven’t had “redemption” like the mothers who go on to have another child. We don’t get to see our babies in the faces of a sibling to raise. We don’t get the experience of birthing a child who actually stays with us. Our hearts don’t get the great big healing patch that a new life brings. The baby things we purchased for our baby who died will remain forever in their boxes.
Being a loss mother with no living children is the taboo within the taboo. Not even loss mothers want to hear about it. But it’s time to break this second-silence. And just like any loss parent hopes their non-loss friends will listen with an open heart and mind, we hope you’ll do the same.
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If you are loss mother with living children, and you’d like to learn about about what it’s like to be a Still Mother and how to support us, please read the accompanying post on this topic, Being a Still Mother in the Loss Community.
If you are a loss mother with no living children, or no child born after loss, Still Mothers is the new resource just for you! We are Still Standing Magazine’s newest sister-site for mothers living childless after loss, and we would love to support you!
Find us online at StillMothers.com
on Facebook, We Are Still Mothers
we also have several private Facebook groups to support you. Find the one(s) that fit you,