Sophocles (a famous greek playwright) once wrote that “children are the anchors of a mothers life”.
It’s particularly poignant for me, today, Mother’s Day, after losing one of my precious anchors.
On Mother’s Day last year, I was excitedly looking forward to meeting our baby boy, Elijah and I never expected that I would have to say goodbye before his life had barely begun.
No longer anchored by two sons, I’ve been reflecting on how that unexpected and tragic loss has changed me as a Mother to my living son.
I used to worry a lot.
I worried about him being successful. I had conversations with my husband about him leaving home in the future. How will he afford a house? University? We assume he’ll go, right? We must make sure he goes to a good school so he can do that. I visited private schools and read up on “fee structures”. We need to make sure that whatever Degree he chooses to do, we fully support him, even if that’s “Arty” and not something “Sciencey”. I have vague memories of us arguing over that point. We had those conversations and many, many more about his future.
I want, so painfully and acutely, that it hurts in my stomach, to argue ridiculous points about Elijahs future.
How ridiculous that I used to be concerned that Gabey (my now 3 year old) WILL be reading by 3. I once said that as I was reading by age 3, it must be “in his genes”. At the very least, I used to insist, we definitely need to make sure he is reading before he starts school. Ah, schools….I can’t tell you the amount of school Ofsted reports I’ve read. The amount of hours, days, I’ve thought about schools for my children.
Now, I worry about three things…
1) Is he alive
2) Is he healthy
3) Is he happy
Of course, I’m not an idiot. I’m not saying I want or would be happy for him to go to the crappiest school in Sussex but what I’m saying is I just don’t worry about the future as much anymore.
When your child dies in your arms, all thoughts of the future stop. How can you even see the next day, let alone starting school, when death has so cruelly and blatantly crashed into your life. Suddenly, everything shifts. Life most fragile. You start living and parenting in the moment, day by day, aware that every moment is precious and more moments are never, ever guaranteed.
A few weeks ago we moved to a new area and I went to visit our local Montessori nursery school with my 3 year old. Before losing Elijah, I would have visited at least half a dozen of the nearest and the best and I would never have considered a Montessori nursery. I was extremely traditional and no-nonsense all the way. I would have scoured the Internet for all the nursery Ofsted reports within the area. I would have taken weeks to choose, probably visiting each one twice and boring my husband with minute details of the pros and cons of each establishment. I may have even written a spreadsheet.
This time, I walked into the nursery and noticed how warm and gentle the staff were. How calm and happy the atmosphere seemed. Then I looked at my boy and he was smiling and pointing at pictures of dinosaurs on the wall. He was happy so I was happy. Not the other way around. This time it was his decision. I signed him up that day.
It was the first and only nursery we visited.
It’s a big change for me.
So on this Mothering Sunday, I wake up knowing that I’m now a different parent.
I’m now parenting after loss.
That will, undoubtedly, continue to bring many unexpected challenges but like every other Mother does, every single day, I’m just going to try my very best and keep my fingers crossed.
In the months since losing Elijah, finding a moment every day just for him has become very important to me. My days are always busy. Moving house, a beautiful, boisterous 3 year old and hospital appointments for this pregnancy, leave me with few moments to spare, let alone spend a moment for my lost boy.
So 3am has become “our moment”.
Every morning, I wake up and look at the time. It’s always close to 3am. I then spend some time thinking about him. I think about how different things should have been. I tell him about the crazy antics his big brother has been up to. I often tell him I’m sorry, especially when strangers ask me “so this will be your second?” and I reply “yes”. I ask myself questions…would he be crawling now? would he look like his brother?
With Mothers Day in the UK approaching this weekend, I woke up at 3am today, thinking about this…
I also thought about something an old friend said to me at the weekend, “I kept calling but you never picked up the phone so I just stopped trying”.
Maybe I should stop trying too? I guess my life would probably be easier. Simpler. Stop trying to keep a bit of Elijah with me. Stop trying to make sense of this new, unexpected journey. Stop trying to keep everyone happy at the same time as keeping afloat in a sea of grief. I could wake up at 3am, roll over and simply go back to sleep. I could immerse myself in my new house and my baby-to-be and try to forget my lost child and everything that happened. Just stop trying.
Albert Einstein (by all accounts a very smart man) once said “you never fail until you stop trying”.
So this coming Mothers Day, I’m going to make my 3am moment an all day moment. I’m going to spend the day with both of my boys, one in my arms and one in my mind, because for 25 hours I was a Mother of two and I’m never going to try and forget that.