I have hundreds of photos on my phone, all happy, smiling, having fun. Pictures with friends and family, selfies – the usual. Birthdays, Christmas, holidays, days out & get-togethers.
When I look through my phone’s photo gallery, I see all these things, these memories. I captured images of myself and my loved ones.
Every precious moment saved forever.
When we found out we were expecting, my focus changed. I took weekly pictures of my expanding belly. I took photos of things I wanted for my baby: the dragon stuffed toy, the perfect wallpaper for his nursery.
There’s a period of time on my phone when the joy and the excitement spill from the pictures. The happiness and the love for the treasure in my womb are written all over my face. I’m so proud I’m going to be a mother.
There’s this period on my phone.
It hurts. Too much. But pictures, they’re all I have.
The tiny boy laid across my hands. Pictures of him wrapped up in a towel. Of him looking like he’s sleeping. He’s not sleeping.
I don’t know why I took pictures at his funeral. Maybe to try to make up for the lack of memories we have. We had no time to make memories: no birthdays or holidays, no visiting friends. We didn’t even get to take him home.
Instead, I have photos of sunflowers, a toy elephant and a rose from my wedding bouquet. I took pictures of the balloons that we both attached a letter to, for our son, that we released and watched drift away.
After Ethan, the pictures changed for a while. No pictures of me. Couldn’t look at me. This guilt. The feeling that I didn’t deserve to be a mummy. I must have done something wrong.
I took pictures of my husband, my beautiful nieces, and goddaughters. My friends and family. But not me. It wasn’t just the shame and the guilt; I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong.
I didn’t look like me. I didn’t recognise myself anymore. My body had changed shape, and my face wasn’t the same.
It took a long time for me to realise why I looked so different.
My 6-year-old goddaughter asked me if my face was so sad because my baby went to heaven.
Out of the mouths of babes.
We went away for our anniversary and husband suggested a selfie of us both.
I did it. And I smiled.
I could see myself in the picture — the new me. The woman who had her heart shattered, her world torn apart. The woman who had survived the hell of saying a permanent goodbye to part of herself. To her son.
I look at the pictures of me before Ethan, and I don’t recognise myself. I see a woman who had never had the privilege of meeting one of life’s great loves — the women who had never held her world in her hands.
I wouldn’t go back to the before pictures.
Ethan made me the woman in the after pictures; I see him in my tired eyes and the extra wrinkles on my brow. I see the nose he inherited from me.
I’m the Mother of an angel, always will be.
This is me.
About the Author: Annalisa is the proud mother of an angel named Ethan.