To An Invisible Mom

Lea is a writer living in Chicago with her three daughters. She writes about life after cancer, interfaith children, and the hazards of life when outnumbered by toddlers. Excerpts from her failed attempts at perfection can be found at Becoming Supermommy

Mothers are good at finding each other. It doesn’t matter how long ago it happened, the magical moment when something about us fundamentally changed, but we all know it. The moment that we began thinking of ourselves as mothers. And for almost all of us, there is joy and pride in that title. We see other moms at the playground or in the grocery store, and if we can we go a little out of our way to show ourselves. Look over here! I see you, and we’re members of the same club! Look at my badge! Look at my scars! Let me see yours!

We speak the same language. It was an unassisted VBAC! Did you get EI for his SPD?

We watch the same television.  Isn’t Caillou the worst? I always dancey dance. 

We sing the same songs. Twinkle twinkle little star…

But what about the women afraid to raise their hands? Afraid to pin the motherhood badge to their chests and wear it with pride?

There are reasons to be afraid. Not for me, with my children at my side. But for you, my friend, the mother who lost her child before birth.

Mothers seem to spend a lot of time knocking each other down these days. But no matter what choices I make, you always support me. No matter how much I complain about the mundane frustrations of parenthood, you let me know what a great job you think I’m doing. No matter how many thousands of pictures of my kids I put on facebook, you’re always there, hitting “like” a thousand more times.

Every Mother’s Day your heart breaks. Every Christmas, every anticipated birthday. You count the days and years. You believe in your heart that someday, in heaven, a child with your features will greet you with love, with the weight of the missed hugs and kisses of a lifetime.

You became a mother before your child was born. You knew that as you stepped on the scale, compared nausea stories, decorated a nursery. You had plans. You were ready to open your life for the child you hadn’t met. Your heart was as open as the sky.

You are still a mother. You still speak that language you studied so carefully, even if you’re afraid to join in conversation.

And I know why you can’t. Sometimes you feel like a shadow, or a phantom, and you’re afraid of the looks on other mother’s faces if you spoke your story. Afraid of their fear. It’s easier to be invisible.

And all of this, this is more proof that you are a mother. A woman who cares so deeply for the feelings and well being of another person that it pains you. You look at children with love, as parents do. You take pride in your experiences of motherhood. You deserve your joy, you deserve your happiness.

Whether or not you hold your own baby in your arms, squirming with life and constant need, you are still a mother. With the weight of your loss, you are not diminished. You are not other. You are one of us- one of the club.

My heart breaks for you, the mother who has experienced the worst of all motherhood has to offer. And it breaks for you for having missed the most joyful. You have lost your child, as fully and truly as the parent of any lost child. And so many people neglect you, ignore your experience. Tell you that you aren’t a “real” mom.

But you are. I know it. And more importantly, you do. You know you became a mother once, and there is no going back. No un-becoming. No erasing the changes in your heart and soul.

You’re doing a good job, mama. Every day you do more than the rest of us can comprehend- you keep going. You keep loving. You keep giving.

You are a good mom.

Even when you’re the only one who knows it.


To An Invisible Mom — 8 Comments

  1. This. I needed this two years ago when our first child was stillborn at 24 and 5. Apparently, now, two years and two awesome baby boys later, I still needed it. Thank you.

    • Sarah, I’m happy you were able to find some comfort with Lea’s post. She really did offer so much support for moms with her writing.

  2. Thank you. The silence is the hardest part to overcome. I do have three beautiful little kids, but I also have 5 angels. Two I was able to hold, one while she was still breathing, the other three I was never able to lay my eyes or hands on. I rarely share with other mothers the sorrows of my past. When people ask about the large gap in age of my children, I just smile and shrug. It’s a secret. It’s shameful, though I know I did nothing wrong. I knew my babies as they were growing inside me. I was their mother, they were my children and I loved them as deeply and truly as I love my children I hug everyday. I’m so blessed to have been able to have three living breathing kids, but I still feel sorrow for the ones I lost.

    • Thank you for sharing with us. My heart breaks to hear about the tremendous loss you’ve experienced. I hope Lea’s post will educate moms everywhere about these feelings so many of us are oblivious to. I’m so sorry for you loss and send a great big hug your way.

  3. Beautifully written. This is something I am grateful I never experienced. Thank you for teaching me to be aware of what others might be suffering and to never question an age gap between siblings.

  4. I had another thought as I revisited this tonight. Besides her wonderful advice, if you know a mama who’s baby has died in utero or after birth, please welcome her to talk about it. Not just a Facebook message of concern stating “I’m here if you ever want to talk.” Go to her home, truffles and Kleenex in hand and cry with her. Sob. Curse God, then maybe offer to do it again next week. As time goes on, just like any death, she probably won’t be thinking of her dead baby every minute of every day, but it’s ok if you bring her child up. It’s good to know others remember the child you were robbed of.
    I’m only speaking from my experience, and what I wished for more than almost anything was comfort and someone to cry with me. Instead, I was surrounded by silence, wasn’t invited to two baby showers (probably to protect my feelings, but secretly I’m certain the new mama to be didn’t want my curse, I think I’m joking) . Just please, stop the silence. Allow grief to happen. Realize this woman has a child who will never breath again and she loved that child as much as you love your children.
    Thanks again Lea for your wonderful post.