This Mother’s Day Tommy’s are running their #WeAreAllMums campaign in recognition and celebration of the many faces of motherhood.
‘How old is he?’ the barista smiles as she hands over my extra-shot cappuccino.
‘Nearly 8 months,’ I reply, trying to keep said hot beverage (which I’m praying will get me through the flight home) away from Leo’s flailing arms as he tries to wrestle out of my husband’s grip.
‘Bet you can’t wait for Sunday – there’s nothing like your first Mother’s Day.’
I stop, feeling the familiar knots tightening in my stomach. She’d be forgiven for assuming that’s the case: we clearly look like a family returning from a trip abroad and there’s nothing which obviously marks us out as a multi-child household.
There’s no double pushchair; no 3 year old hanging off my arm; no 10 year old staring blankly into a tablet; no teenager rolling their eyes as I try and get a family selfie on the tarmac. Nothing which suggests I would have had cause to celebrate Mother’s Day as a recipient before.
Except this isn’t my first Mother’s Day.
If she looked closely, she would see the angel wing pendant on my necklace.
She would see my bracelet, its custom charm with the imprint of a tiny foot.
She would see the heart, safely cocooned inside square brackets, inked onto my wrist.
She would see my face fall; my eyes widen; my lips move as if to say something in response to her innocent statement, only to decide that there isn’t really the time right now. I don’t quite have the words.
Because, in fact, last year was my first Mother’s Day.
It was the first one after Findlay was born; my first really as a mother, as the previous year we had only discovered we were pregnant a couple of weeks before. And even though from the moment I saw those tiny blue lines I felt overcome with love and joy and wonder at this new little life safely tucked inside me, my head and heart full of hopes and dreams and the fantasy of the life we would share together, I didn’t feel I had earned the right to call myself a mother yet. I hadn’t felt my baby kick, or held them in my arms, and I naively believed that these were the things which qualified you as part of ‘the motherhood.’
Now, of course, I realise I was wrong.
Mother’s Day 2016 fell on March 6th – my birthday. Again, my first as a mother. It should have been a day of double celebrations: the house filled with cards and spring flowers; my husband gallantly announcing ‘I’ll do all the nappy changes today darling’ whilst I contentedly scoffed chocolates and enjoyed sleepy post-feed cuddles with my 4 month old, before heading round to my parents for an afternoon tea style celebration; our beautiful boy charming everyone with his toothless grin.
Instead, I awoke early that Sunday morning after a restless night; not (as I had imagined) due to countless steps pacing the bedroom, rocking a fractious baby to sleep, but because I had laid for hours, hand pressed firmly to my abdomen, wondering if what I could feel were movements of the tiny rainbow growing there or just my imagination.
I had tossed and turned, my head filled with images of the cards, TV adverts and gift displays which I had been unable to avoid over the past week, each one tormenting me in the darkness.
I had taken Findlay’s bunny from his memory box, it’s furry ears dampening as I pressed them to my cheeks, trying to recall every minute of our time together, fearing for the day when some of the details may slip from my memory – his smell, the picture on the wall in the delivery room, the weight of his tiny body in my arms.
This was supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life. It was hell.
I was wandering through No Mans Land – could I even call myself a mother with no baby to hold? I felt Findlay kick, I held him in my arms, but then I had to give him back. And now I was pregnant again, but there were no guarentees I would be able to keep this baby either.
I felt like a fraud. My heart was so full of love for two babies, but my arms were empty. To the world outside, I didn’t look like a mother, and my Mother’s Day didn’t resemble those in the TV ads. It was spent laying flowers at a graveside, re-reading condolence cards, looking through the finite photographs we have of our son.
Did you know…
- 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage
- 10 babies are stillborn every day in the UK
- 60,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the UK
- 1 in 90 pregnancies in the UK are ectopic
- Up to 75% of miscarriages happen in the first trimester
- Approximately 1 in 100 women in the UK will recurrent miscarriages
- 1 in 5 women in the UK who experience miscarriage have anxiety levels similar to those people attending psychiatric outpatient services
- A third of women in the UK attending specialist clinics as a result of miscarriage are clinically depressed
There is no one version of motherhood – it has a great many faces, each one as real and deserving of acknowledgement and celebration as the next.
The mother whose baby was born on his due date, perfect in every way, but never took a breath.
The mother with a box full of positive tests, but an empty crib.
The mother whose scar is the only physical marker of the baby who was ‘out of place’.
The mother whose son was born 10 weeks prematurely; whose first experience of motherhood was incubators, and breast pumps, and walking out of the hospital each night dreading the phone ringing.
The mother of twins, who saw two perfect heartbeats but it’s a single pushchair standing in the hall.
The mother whose baby suffered from a life threatening condition, who made the devastating decision not to carry to term.
The mother whose daughter fought for 13 days in NICU but never came home
The mother who looks at her three beautiful children and thinks ‘there’s one missing.’
We are all Mums.
This year, my Mother’s Day will look somewhat different. I’ll be at a christening, with my rainbow in my arms, surrounded by all our wonderful NCT friends. We’ll no doubt be comparing notes on how weaning is going, chuckling as they struggle to share the assortment of toys and excitedly making outdoor plans now the weather’s picking up (whilst reminiscing about our summer babes’ newborn days).
But it is only half of my story.
I am the mother of two boys.
Two beautiful boys: my fair-haired soldier and my rainbow cub.
One has tiny, delicate fingers and my nose; the other has a golden lion’s mane and impossibly long lashes.
One loves bath time, and cheese triangles, and Five Little Monkeys. The other had £8,000 raised for Sands in his memory.
I take one to Tiny Talk, and we go to the park, and meet friends for coffee; the other I take flowers.
This is my motherhood, in all its messy, thankful, teary-eyed, joyous glory. It is not the one I imagined for myself, or for my children, but it is mine.
And I am both extremely happy and heart-achingly sad about it.
Whatever your journey – whether you hold your babies in your heart or in your arms – take care yourself this Mother’s Day.
We are all Mums.
Please join us this Mothers Day using the hashtag #WeAreAllMums across social media. For more information, advice and support please visit www.tommys.org
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