The Mother I Wasn’t, The Mother I Became, and Everything In Between
As we’re about to celebrate Mother’s Day, I know there are many out there with holes in their hearts. Holes that will never really truly be filled and I know because I have three. Mother’s Day, 1997. Inarguably one of the worst days I’ve ever known because while everyone else was busy celebrating motherhood, I was completely and utterly empty. It was as if someone had taken my breath but at the same time was forcing me to speak; my muscles in a constant state of contraction. An empty deeper than any hole one could ever imagine. Vast, lonely, deep, dark and numbing. Simply put, the kind of empty that only someone who’s gone through something similar can understand. Empty because I’d lost the triplets I was carrying on February 5, 1997 at 24+ weeks. Three boys, identical twins and one fraternal.
Utterly alone and completely empty. I couldn’t verbalize to you who I was much more than that, but I did know this. I wasn’t anyone’s mother.
I was simply someone who had suffered a terrible loss and was now either being doted on or completely ignored because human nature is just like that; people reflexively react differently during times of horrific loss. It certainly wasn’t their fault and I can’t really say that I remember too terribly much of anything. I was disconnected and removed from the entire situation, almost as if it had happened to somebody else. I felt like I was hovering above my own body watching it all take place but unable to stop it. I could articulate very clearly what had happened but in a very clinical and stark manner; there were no feelings attached to it whatsoever. Again, on that very first Sunday in May all I knew is that everyone else had something to celebrate and I felt like an absolute nobody.
I do remember making the very conscious and rational (at least then) decision to chemically assist my pain for a couple of months; numbing everything out seemed like a much better alternative to dealing with anything I was feeling at that particular moment. Of course, all that did for me (besides the obvious of allowing me to come in and out of a foggy, dazed haze long enough to function for a mere few hours a day) was delay the inevitable. Depression and anxiety loomed over me and the person I once was – a risk-taker, spontaneous, afraid of nothing and no one, a take-the-bull-by-the-horns kind of girl, that girl? She was suddenly gone and a very fractured shell of what I used to be remained. Fear consumed me. Fear of failure, fear of losing everything and everyone around me, fear that the scratch on my arm was going to turn into a flesh-eating bacteria and kill me…you name it, I was fearful. Therapists quickly became my new best friends, until I just as quickly came to the conclusion that I was becoming so insightful about myself I no longer needed to pay someone else to tell me what I already knew. It took some time and a lot of soul searching, but that dark period soon began to lift and is also of course when photography came back into my life. It was then and remains today to be my one constant source of relaxation. I dove in headfirst and never looked back. The rest as they say, is history.
I found out I was pregnant again just under a year later and my focus shifted, swiftly. I felt as though I had something (and someone) to live for again and boy did I. I threw myself into motherhood and loved every single second of every single day. The connection I felt with my baby boy was like nothing I’d ever felt before. While I couldn’t wait for that first Sunday in May after having him I still wrestled with an amalgam of feelings, both pure joy and just plain sadness all at the same time. Just as I have every Mother’s Day since; I still feel that loss like it was yesterday.
Rob and I now have three very healthy boys and are very happily married; he’s the most supportive partner I could ever ask for. God has truly blessed us and I love everything about being the mom I am today, even when I suck at it. And believe me, I do. I try to be the very best mom I can be, sometimes perhaps too hard. The reality is that I fall short most of the time. As many of you that know me (and those of you that really know me, lol) know, I have teenagers now. I mean seriously, I can yell and scream and become almost as much of a 15 year old as my actual 15 year old when he pushes my buttons enough, which let’s face it, is almost every time we argue. I suck at home cooked meals since starting my business a couple of years ago (oh who am I kidding, even before that), I barely make it to anything on time, and I’m brilliant at complicating just about any situation because I am constantly trying to do it all perfectly. It’s who I am. I wake up and vow to do my very best every single day and sometimes I wake up and vow to simply make it through the day. I like to think I’m not the only one.
While I am truly grateful for all that I have and all I’ve been given, seventeen years later I still think about them. What would have looked like? What they would have loved doing; would they be like their brothers? Played the same sports, loved Maine, worn the same clothes? How many girls would have been banging down my door, lol? I have these thoughts all the time. I can almost see them if I close my eyes tightly enough, when I’m both happy and when I have that ache and longing for them in my heart the way I do today.
Lest not we forget my sidekick. Guilt. It was (and still is) the one emotion that no matter how far I’ve ever come to terms with what happened will still come crashing down around me like a tidal wave, taking me out to sea and forcing me to fight my way back with every ounce of will that I have. How could it not? It was my own body that failed me, that ripped them from me while I held on with a strength I didn’t know was possible until that moment and yet it still wasn’t enough. Yes, I know I’m the only one who can forgive myself. I’m still working on that and that’s ok with me. Does it effect my life today? Absolutely. And when I have those dark moments I try to remember what I would do if they were here with me. The example I would want them to live by. Rather than catastrophize everything, concentrate on the positive and not the negative. Focus on what is here in my life and all I am blessed with.
My message and my reason for sharing this part of me is because I want for any of you that may be feeling that same loss, that same emptiness to know you are not alone. Celebrate tomorrow. Embrace it. You are a mother. Now and forevermore, your babies will always be with you. We may all be on different journeys and have different experiences, but we will always have this in common. We are all mommas.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you.