What I’m Not . . .

“Ok all my computer savvy and connected moms and dads. Please share with me your favorite tips . . .”

Now, as it happens, with my work on not for profits, I have a whole bunch of tips. Which I am not going to offer, because I’m so annoyed that she asked mothers and fathers. Were this a random person, even a friend, I would shrug it off and carry on. This is the leader of my former dead baby support group. This is someone who not only should, but actually does, know the power of words.*

You see (and here I am getting to the point 200 words in) I know what she would tell me. I know that she would apologize for her lack of thought and she would feel badly, but more than that, she would tell me that when she thought of mothers, she includes me in that group.

I have come to believe that people get to do and think just about whatever they want when their child dies. Whatever thing, notion, fancy, fiction strikes them as healing, as long as it isn’t hurting other people, well, you hold on to that. I will be the first to tell you to go ahead, and I will be the last person standing to defend your right to get through the very worst kind of hell however you can. You cope, you define yourself, create yourself, impose order out of the chaos of grief however you can. You don’t have to be like me.

It’s just, I don’t think of myself as a mother. Please don’t misunderstand, Gabe is every inch my son, my child. I’m his mother, but not a mother. When ever people tell me (often in a sickly/sweet sort of way) that I’m a mum too, I kind of want to laugh at them.

Do you know what the last thing I did for Gabe was? I dusted his urn. And if I’m honest, the cleaning lady does that most weeks. There you have it, if I am a mother I am such a bad one that I let the cleaning lady dust my son’s remains because I’m so busy.

That’s kind of the point in my grief. I was supposed to have an actual child here on earth. I was supposed to have a being who depended on me, who needed me. I was supposed to have a child that required participation. My acts of service for my beloved child involve a swiffer, only once in a while.

I feel as if I am being offered some sick and bizarre consolation prize when people tell me that I’m a mother. Oh, Mrs. Spit, it’s ok, you don’t have to be sad. You are a mum too. You are just like me, with my living children. 

Exactly like you, except in every respect. What with the urn dusting instead of kindergarten. Exactly like you except that you will tuck your child in tonight and sing them a song and read a story and I will sometimes cry because that’s exactly what I would most like to do, and will not do this or any other night. Never did, really.

So, in the end, I don’t know if I will say anything to her about her choice of words. (Yes, we are back there) because I don’t want to make her feel badly as she tries to make me feel better. There we will be, both of us colliding with each other, the best of intentions, trying to make a terrible situation better. Clashing in to each other while carefully trying not to hurt.

Such is my life, my grief five years on.

**If you are going to point out to me that I really should get over it and provide my thoughts anyways, I will tell you that you are entirely correct, but I didn’t send the blazingly hot tempered email I really wanted to send, so for now I will leave things be. I will probably send her some information later today.

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5 Responses to What I’m Not . . .

  1. a says:

    Maybe you could go with, “well, I’m a bit too disgruntled for technology tips, but here are some wording choice tips.”

    I never understand why people will use overly specific descriptors when more general ones work better. (This puts me in the mind of my mother, who used to refer to “her black friend, Shirley.” I was like “why do you have to call her your black friend? Why can’t you just call her your friend?”)

    Were you being intentionally or unintentionally hilarious regarding your motherhood duties? Because I am chuckling at the dark humor there (until the part about the songs and stories and bedtimes – then I want to cry with you)…

  2. loribeth says:

    Deep down, I know that I am a mother. But you are so right here. It’s not being a mother in the way that everyone else thinks about being a mother. If someone starts talking about “moms & dads,” I don’t feel included — bcause I know they’re not thinking about me, except maybe (MAYBE) as an afterthought (“oh yeah, I meant you too…”).

    And yes, I have friends from our former support group who have other children and still make remarks like this. I remember standing silently by at one gathering where everyone was talking about their kids’ antics, and grinding my teeth when one said, “Well, we’re all moms here, we understand…” and thinking, “You of all people really, really should know better.” :p

  3. debby says:

    Mrs. Spit: You have taught me the shape and texture of grief. You have taught me that people can inadvertantly cause deep pain by thoughtless remarks. You have taught me that it is tricky to navigate between comforter and comfortee. Your friend may not have understood that you would be glad to lend your services, in effect to do work for a group that is supposed to help you heal from a deep sad grief.

  4. Kelly says:

    I know how you feel. For me – and this might not be for everyone – even those who have lost children don’t feel the same as me if they have other living children. I am a mother, because I gave birth. But I don’t have my child here to love. I am not dismissing the grief of those who have living children, born either before or after their losses. But I think it’s different if your only experience with pregnancy and birth is also linked to death. It’s the worst.

  5. suzanne says:

    Yes, dusting an urn, no, having the maid dust the urn, is a different kind of mothering task. In my trying to reconcile mothering a dead baby – because he demands both an incredible amount of time and energy and none at all simultaneously – I am painfully aware of the different doing tasks of motherhood. I watch women latch their 18 month old looking babies into strollers, and I don’t mother that way. I watch parents hold the hands of little ones learning how to walk, and the sight almost burns my eyes because I don’t mother my dead son that way. So what is it to mother someone who is dead? I ask myself that a lot. . .

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