If you’re struggling to find something to celebrate on Mother's Day after the death of a child, Elle Wright wants you to know that you’re not alone in your grief...
For me, Mother’s Day had always been a happy day on which to celebrate my mum, and thank her for being there. I never imagined that it would take on a new meaning, something that symbolised everything I had longed for, and everything I had lost.
In 2016, our son, Teddy, died just three days after he was born. I’d had a textbook, healthy pregnancy, yet in May that year we left the hospital with empty arms and broken hearts, catapulted into a new narrative of motherhood – one I hadn’t contemplated and wasn’t sure how to be a part of. Losing Teddy changed my perception of everything. Since then, I have lost and gained friends, and learned to navigate the twists and turns on this road of bereaved parenthood, while struggling on a new path of secondary infertility and IVF treatment.
I remember my first Mother’s Day without Teddy, 10 months after he died. We had made it through Christmas (just) and been thrust into a new year, having come out of the worst one of our lives. I had been so focused on getting to his first birthday in May that I hadn’t contemplated the extra milestones we would encounter without him. As the end of March approached, I felt that familiar sinking feeling in my stomach; where you feel as though something terrible is about to happen, then your subconscious catches up and reminds you that it already has.
I felt empty, alone and utterly bereft to be experiencing my first Mother’s Day as a mummy without my son to hold. We should have had a cheeky 10-month-old, chasing him as he learned to crawl. Instead the day came – and it was just us.
My husband surpassed himself, giving me a beautiful card that he wrote from himself, Teddy and our pug, Boris. A breakfast of pancakes and a bunch of spring flowers. He told me we could do anything I wanted that day, but I just wanted to hide away. My mum, to whom this day had always belonged, also bought me a gift from Teddy. I remember sobbing as I opened it. It felt so strange that she was having to comfort me on a day that had always been for her.
Social media was awash with happy families and lucky mothers being presented with flowers, cards and breakfasts in bed. Captions like, ‘Getting my reward for managing to keep them all alive another year...’ hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t keep my son alive, and I would have given anything to save him. I know they weren’t intended to hurt, but I think the narrative of the bereaved is often forgotten on days like this. Mothers without children, children without mothers, those struggling on a fertility journey they hadn’t imagined when they made the decision that they wanted to become parents. We are all the forgotten ones.
Of course, there were the friends who remembered me; who realised how hard that day must have been. I received texts and cards, and one even sent flowers. I cried at every one, not because they made me sadder, but because they made me realise that I needed that day – and that I wasn’t alone. I was surrounded by a bubble of love and people who cared.
You see, there are so many of us, the forgotten ones, whose version of motherhood might not fit into the pixel-perfect world of social media. It might not be pretty, it might not be how we ever imagined it, but we are here. Our story of motherhood and our journey towards it is as valid as anyone’s. I have learned that even on those days that feel saddest, this is to be celebrated with all my might, because it makes up who I have become.
So if you are feeling alone this year, or perhaps facing your first Mother’s Day as a bereaved parent, or without your mum, or you’re going through fertility treatment, know that I stand with you, as so many of us do. And if you’re wondering what you can do to support someone you love who will be dreading this Mother’s Day, reach out to them. Don’t be scared to tell them that you’re thinking of them, and that you care. It will mean more than you could ever know.
Teddy's mummy x
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