A Second-ish Not So Very Happy Mother's Day

May 17, 2018

By Sanda Rathamone

"No one else will ever know the strength of my love for you. After all, you're the only one who knows what my heart sounds like from the inside."
My second-ish Mother's Day feels like it passed by so long ago, even though it was celebrated only just four days ago. I say second-ish because my first Mother's Day was when I was a little more than three months pregnant with Elijah.

My second Mother's Day was last year (2017), the year after my first Mother's Day (2016), but the first year after losing Elijah.

So far, I have not had a Mother's Day with a living child. 

This year would actually be my third Mother's Day, but since we lost Elijah, it feels better to say second-ish because this year is the second Mother's Day without Elijah.

Hence the -ish in second-ish.

Does this even make any sense?

Life after stillbirth changes the meaning of everything and everything is pretty much... confusing.

That is also how I feel about being a mother; I feel mother-ish. Not exactly a mother, but a mother nonetheless. I say that I am a mother because 1.) although my pregnancy was lost at five months, my experience of pregnancy is still a valid part of being a mother 2.) I had a very traumatic, but natural birth and 3.) Elijah is my son, whether or not he is present in human form.

Yet, the part where I could not be a witness to Elijah's life beyond the womb makes me feel mother-ish. I have "mothered" him, gestated and grew him inside of me for five short, but very long months (some may call my loss a "late miscarriage"). Now, I could only "mother" him from afar, which is loving him with all of my heart (for the rest of my life), but never again with his physical presence.

Before losing Elijah, I would have never thought that Mother's Day would pull so many strings in my heart and make me ache so hard that I would wish that Mother's Day didn't exist. Then again, this is how most holidays and celebrations feel after stillbirth; they hurt because a little person who should be there isn't there and this makes those days feel so big and empty.

Every time a holiday or a family gathering comes up, I often think about how sad it is that Elijah could not be there or that we could not enjoy those days with Elijah. 

Mother's Day will now and always bring me so much grief and anxiety because the one little person who made me a mother isn't there to make Mother's Day - A MOTHER'S DAY. I will never hear Elijah say, "Mom, Happy Mother's Day!"

Like the first Mother's Day after losing Elijah, I wasn't looking forward to it. The days, even weeks, before Mother's Day, felt heavy and brought knots into my chest. Not just because of losing Elijah, but also because mothers with living children and pregnant mothers could celebrate Mother's Day with their children and their growing bellies.

Little did I know that mothers who have lost children, but have other living children also find Mother's Day gloomy and full of grief.

I guess my jealousy ends here.

Not everyone who has living children is happy on Mother's Day.

Then, I realized that not everyone could celebrate Mother's Day with their mothers. Some have lost their mothers or live faraway from their mothers (like me).

This year, I didn't say, "Happy Mother's Day" to my mom. I didn't call, text, or FaceTime.

A part of me, well, actually a lot of me, is still hurting when it comes to my mom and Elijah. Elijah is a "sensitive," no touch topic when it comes to my mom. She still calls my stillbirth a miscarriage and to this day, probably does not know Elijah's name. I have never told her his name and she has never asked. It still hurts knowing that when I tried to show her a picture of Elijah, she didn't want to see him.

I know that this wasn't intentional to hurt me, I knew that she was afraid. But, it doesn't negate the fact that she cannot accept my loss as something truly painful and needs to be expressed and that Elijah means the world to me.

I love my mom, but the part where she doesn't acknowledge me as a mother to my son or even Elijah as a person, doesn't make me happy to say, "Happy Mother's Day, Mom."

I didn't want to be the "bigger person." I really needed to hear that I was appreciated and loved for being Elijah's mother, for the grief I endured, and I needed hope for the future.

My motherhood isn't easy and all I wanted was for those closest to me to know that every day, I try my absolute best to keep living and breathing and doing what I do. There have been plenty of days that I just didn't want to wake up and nights where I couldn't sleep, but would do anything to close my eyes (without any tears).

Every day, it is a battle with misery and this aching hole in my heart and the only thing that makes me smile and truly happy is the thought, feeling, and knowing that my mother heart and my motherly love for Elijah is real. Actually, the love is beyond real; it is unconditional.

The day before Mother's Day, my husband and I tried out this new (to us), but not so good-for-the-price pizza place. I have to mention that it was the most overly-priced, overly cheesed pizza (with not enough tomato sauce) we have ever had. Never again will we go to Pizza Rustica.

When we got our pizzas, we went to a nearby park. This was one of those days that we have "pizza picnics." Before we parked the car, I saw a small group playing croquet in the grass. Among them was a pregnant woman. I was already feeling the knives stabbing my heart. I didn't say anything to my husband, but I didn't want to go there anymore.

Once we walked down some steps, immediately, I saw this couple with a baby in an infant car seat, sitting under a shady tree. I pretended that they weren't there, but the stinging in my heart grew even more. As we sat on one of the many benches, to our right were huge, shiny pink letter balloons that spelled, "BABY GIRL."

I probably didn't see it earlier because when we passed by the couple with the baby in the car seat, I had tunnel vision. I tried so hard to keep my eyes straight and forward.

I just wanted to die.

Aloud, I heard myself say something like, "That is terrible!"

I laughed.

I said to my husband, "Did I really just say that?"

I laughed some more.

I think he laughed, too. I knew that he had understood how I felt.

It turns out that the baby shower wasn't for the first pregnant woman I saw earlier, but another pregnant woman.

I wasn't having a good time or a good pizza, but I thanked my husband for trying anyway. I knew that he wanted to spend a nice day out and enjoy a good meal with me. I really did try to put on a smile. But after my pizza, I was more than ready to leave. And from that day, it really didn't make the transition to Mother's Day any easier.

On the morning of Mother's Day, I could hear my husband making lots of noise. He woke up so early! I later heard the zipper of his jacket and knew that he was going somewhere. I woke up and he whispered something like, "Go back to sleep, babe. Like for another hour."

I knew he was up to something, it was too obvious. So, I went back to sleep.

An hour later, he wakes me up and comes home with a bag of my favorite, not so healthy, Jack-in-the-Box curly fries and gives them to me. (That was unexpected, but much appreciated.)

He said, "Happy Mother's Day" and gave me a kiss. 

He later comes in with this huge flower pot of purple hydrangeas (not my favorite flowers, but still much appreciated). He wanted to get me something "different." In it had a card in an envelope. I didn't open it until he was sleep/napping.

Although his words were brief, I knew that he had wrote them with love. And the card, oh, it was beautiful. Lots of glitter, but it was the most beautiful card. I'm sure that he was really taking his time picking it or at the least, reading a bunch of cards before getting it (maybe not). The card didn't have pink on it, but blue, which made it all the more special. The blue reminded me of Elijah.

But, there's a "but." 

The flowers and the card and the fries were lovely, but it still didn't make Mother's Day a happy day. All I could think about was trading the flowers and the card and the fries (and the buttermilk sauce) for Elijah. For a baby. For our baby.

If I could, I would trade everything I had, for our baby, or at the least, to be pregnant again.

Not being pregnant on Mother's Day, again, hurts. I guess I will always compare Mother's Day to my first Mother's Day - the day that we had announced that for the first time, we were expecting.

After my husband's sleep/nap, I wanted to go to the bookstore, where magic (at least for me) always happens. I had a coupon for Half-Priced Books and wanted to go to the store in Berkeley. It wasn't such a good idea, since the place was crowded with people and parking sucks. Changing my mind, we went to another Half-Priced Books store and got some drinks along the way. He treated me to a bubble milk tea and himself with a Peet's coffee.

And like always, the Half-Priced Books store in Fremont is a successful, relaxing, and magical time (again, at least for me). Ever since the first visit at the store when I saw a book called, "Elijah" in a clearance cart out front, the books I find are as if they were set there on purpose.

One of the books I got was called, "Nothing to Hold But Hope: One Woman's Story Through Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infertility" by Jennifer Kostick.

All of my years buying and reading books and never have I seen a book like this. Plus, after experiencing stillbirth, I found that personal stories about stillbirth is hard to find in a bookstore! To this day, I still find it mind-boggling that there are more than enough books - at most bookstores - for pregnancy and motherhood, but not enough or any on miscarriage, stillbirth, and infertility. Books on pregnancy loss is a rare to find, yet, most of them are found online. It's like "my kind of books" are hidden from the world, on purpose (not in a good way).

I read and finished Kostick's book within two days.

There was another book that I wanted a year ago called, "Grieving the Child I Never Knew: A Devotional for Comfort in the Loss of Your Unborn or Newly Born Child" by Kathe Wunnenberg. I ordered it from B&N, but it somehow got lost and I ended up getting a refund. I didn't try to re-order the book or even thought about it again.

Somehow, I found the book in the "Infertility" section at the bookstore. Again, a very rare find. Most books on infertility are more like "guides," than personal stories.

I was really happy to find Kostick's book, which "sounded" so much like me, and then to find the book I wanted long ago was an added bonus. What makes this really special was that I found these books on a day of all days that I really wasn't looking forward to survive.

Finding these books was like Mother's Day gifts sent from heaven. They didn't make this Mother's Day a happy one, but a touching one. One that -  like the first one after losing Elijah - memorable, and the first one when I was happily pregnant - exciting.

I was at the right place at the right time. 

I later didn't feel so bad anymore about telling my husband that I didn't want to spend Mother's Day with his family at the Casino because it was an "all you can eat seafood buffet day" because of Mother's day and also because it was his dad's birthday. I knew that he wanted to go because of the buffet and to be there for his dad...

But Mother's Day at a casino? Even if Elijah was here, I wouldn't be celebrating such a sacred day in a place such as a casino. I would imagine Mother's Day near a lake, with lots of trees and a nice breeze or at a sunny, warm beach, building sand castles with Elijah.

My husband and my sister were the two that wished me a, "Happy Mother's Day," without my asking or mentioning. However, I realized that two is better than none, because the two of them will never forget how Mother's Day means so much to me, but at the same time, hurts as much, too.

I'm not sure if I could ever celebrate or "do anything" on Mother's Day next year or ever again. I feel like Mother's Day from now on will always be a drag and something I just don't know what to do or feel about anymore. I'm not sure if I could go to any Mother's Day events, outings, or "innings."

The loss feels fresh all over again on holidays, especially on Mother's Day. I realized that no matter how long its been, I will always grieve a little harder on days that are meant to be celebrated, but without Elijah.

At the end of Mother's Day, the gifts didn't matter.

Mother's Day is not about the gifts or being a mother to living children. It is about women who have so much love and so much heart and so much soul to give to others.

It is about honoring the mother heart

For some, some could not have children, but are mothers in the way they are.

For sure, my mother heart hasn't stopped beating since all of those years before being pregnant with Elijah.

My mother heart grew after losing Elijah; it beats slightly different than the mother who never lost. Yet, it beats just the same as any mother who loves and misses her precious child, especially on Mother's Day.

 Read the full story about Elijah:
Elijah's Story: From Gender Reveal To A Spontaneous Delivery

Photo: unsplash

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