Saturday, July 17, 2010

Two Truths

We went to visit J. and his wife J. last night and their new baby. We have not seen these friends since well before Aidan died. Actually the last time we saw them was when I was 12 weeks pregnant and we thought things "might" work out. They did not know Aidan's birth story or exactly what he died from. I was initially nervous going over there. I knew it would be a little awkward, and it was...but not unbearably so. I realize that it's hard for them to relate to us because, well, their baby is healthy and happy and sleeping in the next room. But I think they realized it's hard for us to relate to them because, well, our baby is dead and his ashes are sitting on the shelf in our living room.

We both had babies...but that's where the similarity ends.

For example, girl J. described to us what it was like being in labour for 20+ hours and then having an unplanned C-section. I was interested to hear her story, in fact I asked her about it, but I just couldn't relate AT all to what she was saying. The differences of course go beyond the fact that I had a vaginal delivery and she had a C-section. Beyond that I had no epidural and she did. Blow past the fact that I had a ridiculously short labour and hers dragged for hours.

Her delivery ended happily and mine did not.

She was happy and excited going into her C-section. I was terrified both for my baby and myself at my delivery, knowing my baby was not going to live and fearing I might not either.

I realized something last night too. Babies do not bother me. I have nothing against them. I don't mind being around other people's babies. Their baby is not my baby. I miss Aidan...and their baby is not Aidan.


Watching other parents interact with their baby does bother me. A LOT. Watching other parents fuss over their baby and coo at him or her makes my insides shrivel up. The inflection in parents voices when they talk about their babies. The way they interrupt everything they are doing, including conversations, or eating, or peeing, to tend to the baby. The way nothing can command their attention more than the barest squeak from their offspring. The way that gravity no longer seems to bond them to the earth, but to their baby.

I want to be a parent. I wanted to be that for Aidan more than I wanted anything else, ever.

So watching them, I realized that although I am a 'mother' and Brian is a 'father', we are not parents. Mother and Father are biological definitions. We had a child, therefore we fit into that category.

Parenting, however, requires a live child. Parents make decisions for their child. Feed their child. Ensure their child's safety. Read stories to their child. Teach their child. Cuddle their child. Aidan does not need any of these things.

One cannot parent a dead child.

I am not a parent.


Truth # 1: I love babies.

Truth # 2: Can't stand parents.

For those of you who have no living children, can you relate to this at all? For those of you that do, what do you make of this? Do you feel like 'less' of a parent since the death of one of your children?


  1. emily, i have had the same thought - that although i am technically a mother, i am not a MOM. it kills me, and it is what i want most in the world. i have not yet had to be around anyone's newborn, and i dread it.

  2. You speak the words I have been struggling to come up with for the last three months. : ) Its NOT the babies. The sight of them doesn't hurt me. Its seeing the parents interact. Its the mother/child bond. Its the thrill of holding life in your arms. THAT is what I am hurt by and jealous of.

  3. I understand how you feel. Right now pregnant women bother me because I should still be pregnant, generally I am OK with seeing babies. But a few weeks ago I saw a woman carrying a very young baby, maybe a month old. That was fine, but when she started breastfeeding, it was too much and I couldn't stop myself from crying. It was seeing her do something that I will never be able to do with Jacob. I was also still producing milk (I still am, but much less) and didn't even have the prospect of a baby to feed it too.

    I have struggled alot with whether or not others will see me as a Mom. But your definition is so true, although it is painful. Biologically, I am a Mother, but I don't get to do the things that Mom's do. I was talking to someone a week or so after losing Jacob (she lost a baby 6 years ago) and we were talking about this. I was crying, worrying about Jacob, saying how I tried to take such good care of him. She pointed out that I was feeling exactly the way a Mom does and I always put him first, did everything I could to make him healthy and that is what a Mom does. So in that way, we are Mom's, we are parents.

  4. You posting this actually made me realize WHAT exactly I'm feeling. At first I said babies don't bother me at all but pregnant women do...Yesterday was actually the FIRST day I was around a baby. I held her, played with her, kissed her cheeks etc. But when her mom came around and started talking to her or had to take her to feed her or change her diaper, that's when it hit me. I can't do that with my child and that kills me. So I feel EXACTLY how you feel. I can't stand to see parents...the babies don't bother me...

    Today I went to the lake with my family and another family decided to sit RIGHT next to us...and guess what. there was a baby! The baby didn't bother me though, it was when she started crying and the mom started trying to comfort her by talking to her and playing with her and I just thought "UGH I wish I had a t-shirt that said "baby loss mom" so she could see it and take her parenting somewhere else.

  5. thank you for that distinction between being a mother and parenting. it helps. it's something i've been struggling with.

    i love babies. i'm nearly always ok with them. but pregnant people, people who have visible bumps who can obviously feel their babies move around? them, i can't be around. i don't hate them or anything. i just can't be in the same room as them.

    it's hard, this, isn't it?

  6. Completely relate to what you said, very well written! I too don't feel like a parent & have a difficult time being around people with young children or pregnant women...the pain & grief are just too fresh right now.

  7. Your post really hit home for me. I like to consider myself a mother. But am I really? Am I just fooling myself? Is it some sort of a wish-fulfillment thing on my part? I've only carried my babies for a few weeks. I never knew genders, had names for them, held them... so how can I be a mother?

    I know for sure I am not a parent. And that's the worst feeling of all.

    I love babies. I'm not bothered by being around them at all. In fact, I like see babies and interacting with them.

    You are exactly right about the parenting thing, though. Watching them do all the things I would give ANYTHING to do for my babies. It's more than I can stand.

  8. You nailed it. This one hurts me too. I've moved into being able to call myself a mother (at times at least), but I don't know anything about parenting a living child. I had a baby, but I never learend how to breastfeed, change diapers with ease, how to heat up a bottle, when to introduce solids, and what kind of food, how to make tummy time fun, etc., etc, etc.

    I went with SIL and niece to the pool a few weeks ago. I love my SIL and niece- fabulous ladies, and it's always hard. My niece takes her mom's hand (she's a little over 2 years old), my SIL totes along the appropriate bags of supplies... I think about how I don't know what to pack to take my daughter to the pool - how EMPTY my arms are. :( And how long to be actively mothering.

  9. I normally just quietly read but this post really struck a chord with me. I relate so much to what you wrote about seeing people with their children. That often hurts me the most too.

    But I have another perspective on the "not a parent" idea.

    My husband and I made decisions about my son's life before he was even born that most parents with living, breathing children will never have to make. Then, after he was born alive and very, very sick we had to make more decisions that most parents would like to pretend never even have to be made.

    Now we make decisions for him about how to go about keeping his memory alive and where to keep his ashes.

    We may not be making decisions about cloth or disposable diapers or which car seat is the safest for him but we are his parents and we parented him the best we could while he was alive.

    I guess that is why it is so difficult to see other parents with their living children, often voicing their frustrations about some of the more mundane aspects of parenting (which I know is completely natural) like bedtimes and toy-sharing, etc. Such are the intensity of decisions some parents have to make while I had to make decisions that related to my son's actual life. Yet people so rarely acknowledge my parenthood. As if those decisions we made never happened.

    Just another take on the parenthood aspect of having an invisible child, I guess. But I can understand your view on the whole thing too. Either way it sucks.

  10. As a reply to the comment above, yes I too felt like I was parenting Aidan before he was born (with all the terribly awful medical decisions we had to make, or thought we might have to make) and that continued for the 27 hours he was in my care until they took him away to the morgue. The 'parenting' decisions also continued afterwards, including wanting him dressed in the outfit I picked out for him when he went down to the morgue. I specifically asked the nurse who took him to put a little note with him that said "please re-dress after autopsy". I wanted to make sure anyone who saw him thought of him as a baby who was baby who was loved. I also felt that the decisions we made to have him cremated, the urn we selected and the "birth/death" announcement we sent out in the mail were all ways in which we 'parented' him. But those decisions have, for the most part, come to an end. Yes I can continue to remember Aidan and do things in his name...but those aren't decisions directly about him...they are about his memory. They affect me, more than they affect him. I still stick to my original thought that while the dead do indeed have mothers and fathers, they do not need parents.

  11. Emily, I just came across your blog and sat here and read every entry. My heart breaks for you, and I shed tears for you and your family. We lost our daughter at 23.3 in 1/4/2009. Like you I had a horrible SCH early in pregnancy that didn't' resolve until about 19 weeks for me. I went into PTL due to Pprom at 22 weeks. I miss her everyday of my life. We went through IVF to get pregnant the second time around, and actually I am 23.5 today. I am terrified. I pray everyday for the safety of this baby.

    I also can relate to your post about pregnant women. I had a very difficult time speaking to parents who had babies the same time Zoelle was born. My SIL was pregnant shortly after we lost her as well. Even now, being pregnant I envy those with a naive outlook on pregnancy. We know all to well it doesn't always work out. To this day I have yet to hold a new born. The next newborn I hold will be our daughter. That was a personal choice for me.

    Know that my heart goes out to you and your beautiful son. Your pain is so new and fresh right now, but I swear to your pain will ease. I don't believe it ever goes away...time helps ease the pain but our babies will never be forgotten.

    Hugs to you! Kate