I became a mother and then a bereaved mother 3 days later. Raising a twinless twin meant ‘learning to be a new mother’ at the same time as ‘learning to be the mother of a dead child’.
Motherhood came with sleepless nights, challenging start with breastfeeding, organizing a funeral, and turned into a constant feeling of overwhelm, anxiety and restlessness, mixed with overflowing love, cuddles and giggles.
Now, three years later I am parenting a strong-willed toddler, which brings me to the edge of patience on an hourly basis. She’s challenging me with the reoccurring, “No,” not wanting to brush teeth, put on jackets on cold winter mornings or get dressed at all. These scenarios, for the bereaved mother without children, might be met with statements like “I wish if only I had those challenges…”
Having held my 3-days-old daughter in my arms as she drew her last breath, I know what it means to lose her. I know what it means to stand in the fire of heart-breaking grief. The missing of my child is etched in my bare skin.
Grief scratched my soul so deeply, it left me wounded in a way that hasn’t just left a permanent scar, but a permanent sore wound which impacts my relationship with my living daughter. Even though her humour showers me with healing light, I am fearful something might happen to her. I jump when I see as much as an appearance of a potential dangerous situation, even when there isn’t really something to fear.
I do enjoy motherhood and I love my living daughter to bits. It does not need much imagination to get a sense of what her identical twin sister would have looked like. I am totally aware of what I don’t have and I do appreciate what I have.
I savour the moments I have and tell my daughter how much I love her every day, uncountable times. She might get therapy later for being smothered with love. I see twin parents being challenged with the load of two and I know what it means not having what they have, even if it’s dealing with the challenges. But knowing something they are not aware of does not make me a better mother.
The potential of loss is something I’m painfully aware of, in every waking moment. I am definitely experiencing motherhood deeply and consciously. I love smelling Ananda Mae’s hair and study her ringlets as she sits in deep concentration of Barney. Having said all of that, I’d rather be blissfully unaware and have two heads with ringlets to smell and comb through in the bath at night, even with the double crying of water and soap in their eyes.
I feel self-judgment as I lose patience in the moments of an extroverted 3-year old testing the boundaries. “No wonder… you wouldn’t have been able to handle twins” do I hear the haunting critical narrator in the cinema of my mind. The expectation to be always calm and poised is far-fetched and totally surreal, I know. And still: “I have experienced my daughter dying in my arms, sure enough, I should make sure I enjoy EVERY moment I have with her sister…”
And yes, I’m a master at being hard on myself.
I don’t have any comparison to being a mother without the experience of the loss. So really, who am I to say I would have been a better mother before or without the loss? It’s just a feeling, one that I can never get proof for.
There are no ‘Sliding Doors’…
Loss has made me acutely aware of the fragility of life. I don’t take things for granted. I enjoy deeply. I’ve seen eye to eye with death. I know what my purpose is with my daughter. Having said all of this, I’m human. I lose my temper. I scream when it all gets too much. That threshold of what I can bear has moved closer since I’ve wrapped my lifeless daughter on a bed of roses for her last journey.
I am just a mother.
Happy and elated in one moment.
Lost and helpless at what how to react to my child in another moment.
Simply human – but not simple.
This article was first published December 3, 2014 in Still Standing Magazine.