Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

It is now 2:30 am on Mother's Day.

I've rewritten the first sentence of this blog 4 times now.

I'm having a really hard time really qualifying my feelings about today. I've been mulling them all week in anticipation of today. I purposely tested early because I didn't want to see a BFN today. Of course, I didn't know my period would be early, but I very purposely timed things so as not to make today any worse than it has to be.

I would say that the biggest question I have is "What is a mother?"

Am I a mother?

Because I don't know.

I conceived a child. I carried it in me. I worried for it. I saw its heartbeat. I prayed for it. I decided it was a boy and decided to call him Gabriel. My husband doesn't agree, but to me, he will always be Gabriel. Gabriel means "A gift to God" and I've found that appropriate in so many ways.

But I never held him in my arms. I never looked him in the eye. There is no birth certificate, no social security number. No one will give me a card today or wish me a Happy Mother's Day. Most of my family doesn't know he existed.

So am I a Mother?

I honestly don't have an answer.

I used to say things like "I'm not a mom so I don't know......" Now I am more likely to say "I've never had a baby so I don't know........" because I feel like I'm somewhere in limbo.

When I was younger, I had a boss who lost a baby at about 5 months gestation. She had a family member who had sent her a mother's day card every year since then. It drove her crazy. I remember thinking at the time how sweet her family member was, but also wondering if I would consider her a mom. I never did make up my mind.

I don't honestly know what I would do if someone gave me a card today. Cry, for sure, but I wouldn't be offended. I would think it was sweet, but I'm not sure I wish for it, because it would be bittersweet at best.

Mother's Day has always been an odd one for me.

My mother left when I was 2. People who know me casually think she's dead. She's not. Twenty five years later on a Sunday morning, she called my house.

It was an odd conversation to say the least. She acted as though she'd been pining for me for all those years. Yet I was 27 years old and had been listed in the phone book for more than 10 years. (Which is how she found me, for the record.) Our relationship this round didn't last half as long as it did the first time. Turns out she's a little crazy. It's a long story and one that inevitably leads to the "Oh.. I'm so sorry..." to which I reply "Don't be.. I was better off without her.. I swear."

She didn't raise me. If anyone was a mother to me, it was my paternal grandmother. She gets a gift & a card. I rarely even think of my mother.

Yet she is my mom. She knows she is a mother. One of the first things she asked when she called me was "Do you have I a grandmother?" Which struck me as only slightly odd at the time, but more so now. If she wasn't a mom to me, and I had a child, is she a grandmother to my child? That somehow seems wrong.

Even now, I always refer to her as "my mother" not as "my mom" because mom seems too personal. And when I speak of her parents I say "my mother's mom" not my "maternal grandmother" etc. I barely know my mother. I don't know her parents at all. Yet they can claim to be a mother or grandmother.

It just seems wrong to me.

If someone had asked me these questions before my pregnancy I would have said to them "Do you FEEL like a mom?"

And the answer to my own question is simply that I don't know. I feel like I made a baby. The day we saw our baby's heartbeat on that ultrasound monitor, I saw life. We ate lunch afterward and I said "that's us... that's our baby. We made a life." It felt extremely real to me. During my brief pregnancy, I worried for him. I told my dad once that "carrying another human being around in you is a lot of responsibility" because I just felt so overwhelmed with concern for his well-being. After he died, I prayed to God to tell him how much we loved him.

But as I've never held a baby in my arms and known it was mine. I don't know if that's what motherhood feels like. I honestly just don't know.

So. I'm spending the weekend with my mother-in-law. Which is an interesting thing anyway. She's one of those we'll-pretend-it-never-happened people.

Tonight we were talking about broken tailbones and I mentioned that mine still aches after a fall several years ago.

She said, "Oh.. I didn't know you had broken it. When you ever get pregnant you'll have to tell the doctor about it."

I paused briefly because it annoyed me, though I couldn't quite decide why just then. I just went on as though it was fine.

But after the fact I realized why it irked me.

It seemed to imply that I had never been pregnant. And it felt like she was denying not just my pain, my experience.... but my baby. As though he hadn't existed. It also hinted of "if you guys ever get around to it.." as though we haven't been at this for 8 billion years already and would one day wake up, decide to get have a baby, get pregnant and all would be normal.

My passive aggressive way of dealing with it was to bring up my miscarriage a couple of times. She visibly blanched when I mentioned it. And didn't respond at all. She talked completely around it. Which in some sick, twisted way pleased me. She had made me uncomfortable and I had reciprocated. Probably not healthy, but I am still me. I'm nothing if not a bitch.

So, if my MIL denying his existence leads me to feel protective of him, is that not a maternal instinct? Again.. I just don't know.

If anyone has any profound thoughts out there, I'd love to hear them. I'll just be over here with a fake smile on my face trying not to cry.


P.S. A special thank you to Tertia for a blog entry that was both profound and touching.


Nichole said...

Trish - that is an amazingly compelling entry and I could not agree more. On mother's day DH and I went to Wal.Mart where they were handing out free flower bouquets to moms. As we walked up to the checkout the cashier said. "Happy mother's day if you are a mom." I smiled said "Thanks, but I am not." Then she said "Well if you have animals, then you are pretty much a mom." I wanted to say "Well I have 2 dogs so give me my damn flowers." But I didn't. I was with the corner with a fake smile trying not to cry.

The Town Criers said...

Wow--this was an amazing entry. I don't know--in my world, there's more to mothering than squeezing out a baby. It's a restructuring of thought--and when you felt that responsibility and fell in love with Gabriel--you became a mother. Or maybe even before that moment. I think when you're putting yourself through treatments, putting that not-yet child before yourself, you are becoming a mother. Holding the baby is just a continuation of those thoughts and feelings. And not every woman feels that connection to their child or goes through that restructuring of thought. They're still placing themselves first or not considering the needs of the child. And it's a certain kind of unfairness that places that woman as a mother and one who is trying to hard to parent is not considered a mother. And loss can't take away that status--you are a mother, even if our society has structured itself in such a way that they're not going to recognize that loss or honour you on a certain day of the year. I'm so sorry about Gabriel, sweetie.

Colleen said...

first, I love how you are able to convey emotion with your words. You moved me.

second, I am very curious as to how other people define what being a mother is.

Gabriel was real, alive for a brief moment and then died, and yet he will be loved for a lifetime; your lifetime and David's. I think that is being a mother.

I don't think that a mother that has a child die at the age of 5, 13, 21 or 30 then stops being a mother. You still have loved that child. You still had dreams for your child...wether out of the womb or out in the world. I think to me, you are a mother. You have had the experiance that most mother's lost your child. That feeling can't be ignored or labeled with something else. You loved, you still love, you are still a mother. Just in a different form...but the name is still the same.
And I hope to be with you in spirit when your next child reaches his arms to you and calls you mom.
I love you.

lady-when-waiting said...

This really was a compelling and moving entry. For what it's worth, in my mind you are most definitely a mother. No question. You conceived a child. You loved him. You lost him. You are Gabriel's mother. And this might sound weird, but I am really looking forward to meeting him in heaven. "Gabriel?! You're my friend Trish's son! It's so good to finally meet you!"

my thoughts, fwtw
I love you, Trish.

Rachel said...

Wow, I feel like I could have written that post, except you said it much better than I could have. Our lives have had similar paths.

On mother's day I was on a cruise and given a carnation for mother's day. Even though they gave flowers to all women on the trip, I didn't know how to feel.

If people ask if I am a mom and I say yes, then I have to explain I lost my baby before ever naming him. If I say no, people want to know when we will start trying and I feel like I am denying my first baby. There is no good answer in these situations. Although I do not wish my pain on anyone, I am glad there are people like you who understand.

Sara said...

I was thinking about trying to write a post like this for mother's day, but now I'm so glad that I didn't, because you said it all.

A dear friend of mine lost her twins around 20 weeks a few weeks before mother's day. Because the losses occurred a couple of days apart, her son was considered a miscarriage, and has no legal documentation, whereas her daughter has a birth certificate and a death certificate (dated three hours apart). Does that make her mother to a daughter but not a son? These designations are just so arbitrary and unsatisfactory.

I'm sorry about your loss.