After my son died, I desperately sought out connection from those who could understand my grief.
I had felt all too much the crippling isolation of being a stillborn mother; I had felt the resentment towards anyone who has never had to experience such a tragedy.
I initially accepted the loneliness, as it seemed like an appropriate punishment for the guilt I harboured when Rossi was born into this world sleeping. But somewhere between the relentless chaos, and the deafening silence, I knew I needed something, more so someone, to make me want to be whole again.
I had no such luck.
On my quest for bereaved kinship, I suddenly felt more alone than ever. Every Instagram, Facebook, or Blog told the stories of mothers of who you would expect to be mothers.
They all were married, homeowners, mentally and physically healthy, or at least provoked the image of stability and happiness before their loss. A majority of them were trying to conceive before pregnancy; a lot of them went through great lengths to do so.
This narrative did not fit my story in the slightest.
All I wanted to do was feel a part of something, even if it was the bittersweet entrance into the ‘Loss Mom Club,’ and yet I had never felt more alienated in my life.
Before becoming pregnant, I was in no way ready or even remotely interested in becoming a mother. This was reflected in my behaviour, my lifestyle, and my dreams.
I was nineteen when I conceived, and twenty-years-old when my son gained his wings.
I had only been dating my son’s father for a couple of months at that point, and we were both adamant and confident in our decision not to be committed to each other long term.
I was in recovery from an eating disorder, which resulted in alcohol abuse to bandaid over how lost I was without my eating disorder. I worked jobs that encouraged this lifestyle, with no incentive or intention to pursue anything that would be more sustainable.
My only other aspirations were to hopefully one day travel, maybe backpack Europe as a ‘starving artist,’ and whenever I did get back, I would be ‘the vodka aunt” to all my sibling’s kids that they always wanted and I did not.
But everything changed when I saw those two lines.
There was no gradual transformation; there were no second thoughts. All there was an overwhelming love for my unborn child, and how I knew I would do everything I could to protect him.
Even if that meant protecting him from myself, I left my former life behind, with no regrets, no longing, no questions.
Once I told his father about him, after some hesitation, he came along for the ride with me and told me to move in. We didn’t know ourselves, let alone each other, and we still decided to make the first real commitment we have ever made for the sake of our child.
So that’s what we did.
I moved into the murky, one-bedroom basement man cave, determined to make it work and make it a home.
I did just that, and as my pregnancy progressed, so did our relationship. I slipped into motherhood by accident and stayed out of pure excitement and confidence in nurturing another human being.
Everyone around me was stunned by my vigilance and certainty in taking on the hardest and most rewarding challenge of my life.
After the original scrutiny and shock, the circle around me was not only excited for the newest addition, but relieved that my mental and physical health took a turn for the better.
My baby was thriving, and so was I.
He was remarkably healthy.
That once damask apartment became a small, yet comfortable starter home for a family of three. Two selfish adults learned how to be selfless.
A once lost, and unstable nineteen-year-old transformed into a self-assured, compassionate, and devoted mother. All the pieces were coming together; everything made sense.
But then my baby died.
It felt like nothing was holding me to the newly found identity I had created for myself.
When I was in labour, it seemed like I not only had to say goodbye to my baby during those final pushes, I had to say goodbye to everything I had built my life around.
I thought I would have to say goodbye to his father, as I let myself believe that our relationship was solely dependant on us having this child together.
I convinced myself that my son’s death was the work of higher power, putting me back in my place.
I concluded that the tragic revelation of my son’s demise was all a result of every poor decision I had made before him, and I was left begrudgingly wondering who he would have been.
The guilt, feelings of incompetence, the preoccupation with devaluing myself as a mother at every turn did not stop when I finally decided I needed some support. The heart-wrenching stories of lost babies rang through my eardrums, consistently, and on top of that, the mother’s story before and after her baby always stuck with me too.
I would read about moms who tried years of IVF to have a baby and ended up losing them.
I read the story about the happy couple with the white picket fence, which had to say goodbye to their daughter.
I learned about the philanthropist mother who had lost her son after several health complications but decided to see the pregnancy through anyway.
I somehow rationalized that these moms deserve their babies so much more than me, so did I even have a right to grieve?
It’s funny because even moms with living children still ruthlessly compare, but you would think this bad habit would be spared at the expense of grief. But it’s not, and it took me so long to realize that no matter what path we decided to get there, all of our traumas and sorrows are valid.
Our babies all meant different things to us, and they all changed us in different ways.
I now know that there was nothing wrong with those mothers having it “together” and me having it “not together” before our babies died.
Pregnancy loss does not discriminate, and my life before Rossi is not a reflection on how well I could have mothered him. It’s not a reflection on how well I can protect his memory.
I thought that going back to my old life was the answer to bypassing my sadness, and yet it only made me feel further and further away from my child that I so desperately needed to feel.
I eventually decided that Rossi’s absence was not a free pass to destroy myself again. Who I became when I was with my son was in me all along, and my pregnancy finally allowed me to set her free.
His life had so much purpose, and one of those purposes was to show me how worth it I was.
It didn’t happen instantly. However, I finally understood that his life was a gift and not a punishment.
When my insecurities finally allowed me to believe that, my perception of myself as a parent changed drastically.
I no longer feel lesser than any other loss mom. I no longer feel intimidated; I feel connected.
Regardless of our backgrounds, we have all had to love and let go. We all have had broken dreams, empty arms, and heavy hearts. We all would have done anything to save our children, and will continuously honour their memory when we know that we can’t.
I think my baby is looking down on me, and I hope he is proud. I wonder if he sees that we got out of that little one-bedroom, and now have a beautiful place with big windows where the sun kisses our faces every day.
I pray that he knows that Mommy and Daddy fought for each other when his loss could have torn us apart.
I have to have faith; he sees that I’m following my dreams, overcoming my hardships, and taking him with me every step of the way.
I trust that he notices that I was able to find love again, despite my fears, because his presence has given me the strength I needed to trust the uncertainty again.
Something loss moms all share is that we are not the same people we were before our loss.
Some changes we could live without; some were fiercely needed.
In any case, wherever you find yourself on this path of healing, your loss is valid.
Your baby is important.
You are in no way less deserving of your right to grieve and your need for closure. We are all mothers, trying to navigate the world after loss.
I realized that instead of antagonizing myself, I could appreciate the beautiful person I had create – my son, and my greatest crown I could ever wear: being his mommy.