06 May 2012

Thoughts on a mother's day

I've been through her line at Costco a number of times. I moved here early in my second trimester of pregnancy with Austen, and Jennifer had seen my belly grow and always commented on how much she liked my hair. When she asked if this was my first, I told her truthfully it was my second child. Boy or girl? she asked.

Boy, I replied.

And that's as far as it ever went.

I went through her line again on Friday and she asked if I'd like to donate to the Children's Miracle Network. Before Ewan even existed, I'd give donations when asked. But ever since Ewan lived and died, fundraisers like this one will always receive my support. Even though he didn't come home with us, we admire the people whose work gave him even a little bit of a fighting chance.

She commented again on how cute Austen was and asked if I'd like to take home a balloon with lollipop attached. I know you've got another one at home, she said.

[Deep breath. Here we go.]

Actually, our son died when he was 16 days old. 

The words surprise me a little every time they come out of my mouth. I still have a hard time accepting the reality to which they point, and am taken aback at how matter-of-factly I hear them passing my lips. He had a heart defect, I explained.

I think people are surprised just as much by what they're hearing as they are by how I say it -- and that I say it. Most of the time, my voice doesn't crack and my eyes don't tear. I touch the necklace around my neck that has his name on it when I say it -- something physical that's with me all the time, pointing to him.

Perhaps it sounds too casual coming out -- like I don't miss him, like it didn't hurt like hell, like it doesn't still kill me to wake up every day remembering that I have a son, and that he is dead.

nana & auntie visit
She reminds me of Ewan so much, especially when she sleeps.

I get why people with whom I have such a casual and impersonal customer-checker relationship don't ask the obvious but personal question about why the son I've mentioned is never with me.

But sometimes I wish they would.

She looked positively stunned and was silent for awhile. That must have been awful for you, she said soberly. I'm sorry for bringing up something so painful.

It was painful, I said. But I never mind talking about him. It wasn't ideal at all, not what anyone wants to face. 

Especially with your first, she said.

Yeah. [Long pause]

So (pointing to Austen) she is a little extra special to us. And we have an incredible appreciation for what they do at children's hospitals. They gave our son a chance.

She thanked me again for my donation. Then Austen and I made our way home.

Though anniversaries and days like Mother's Day can hurt a little extra, I don't need them to remind me of who we've lost. I don't need a stranger asking me about the son she's heard about multiple times but has never seen to make my heart hurt.

The truth is, his death is a fact of my life. 

The truth is, I remember it every day and like so many other mothers who have gone through this type of loss, it's a weight I've become accustomed to carrying. Tears typically don't come in the checkout line at Costco or in the greeting card aisle at Target, but in the quiet of our home after the motions of my day have slowed to a stop, and the sun has gone down.

This isn't my first Mother's Day, but it's the first time I'll have a child to hold when we mark the day. Last time, my arms were empty and it felt incredibly bitter. Though the bitter hasn't gone away, this time it will be more than a little bit sweeter.

Both tastes in my mouth, just like every day.

Today is International Bereaved Mother's Day.
Click on the image to find out more.