Motherhood is a strong bond. Not even death can sever it. And there are certain things about mothering a child no longer here that are exactly the same as mothering a living child. I wanted to write a list of them. To provide comfort to those also missing their children. To let those that surround the grieving know how important this most invisible of motherhood remains.
1. You love them a little more each day
The first moment I held Isaac, I could not imagine my heart could accommodate any more love. I was bursting with it. But each day went on and each day I woke up surprised to find I loved him a little more. It was the same with Xavier and now with Elijah. But loving them a little more daily does not cease with death. Every morning after Xavier left, I loved him more than the day before. In particularly that first year, where the mounting love seems exponential is its growth. That love that begins when you learn you are pregnant, expands with each scan, each kick, swells when you hold them for the first time, grows each time you even think of them. It does not go away. I do not miss him less each day, I miss him more. I do not love him less each day, I love him more. And this is perhaps the crux of why it takes a very long time to arrive in a place of peace after losing a child. The passing days do not take away the hurt. For the first few months, they only added to it. Just as I do his brothers, every day I love Xavier a little more.
2. You worry about them
I worry about Xavier. Worry if he is happy. Worry where he is. In the early days of grief I felt that if I just knew where he was, just knew he was okay, the pain would be so much more bearable. I worried about burying him. That he would be alone at nights. I worried about leaving him in the hands of the funeral home. Worried that they would treat him tenderly. I worry that others won’t treat his memory as gently as I do. As he has grown, and my understanding of him has changed, I worry less. But, just as I do with his brothers, I will always worry about him.
3. Sibling rivalry and jealousy still exist
Whenever I make Xavier something, Isaac wants me to make him one too. The Christmas after Xavier died, I made him a stocking and Isaac immediately wanted one. If I buy a toy or ornament for Xavier’s grave, Isaac wants one for himself. There are some things that bind brothers, no matter how far apart they reside. They will always be brothers, and they will always demand the fair share of my attention.
4. You get mother guilt
I often feel that I am not a perfect mother to Isaac and Elijah. I sometimes watch other parents and I am concerned that I am not measuring up. I have guilt about certain decisions. I watch other bereaved parents and they way they honour their children. Through amazing creativity. Through inspirational fund-raising. Through words and deeds. And I wonder if I am doing enough. But how can we ever feel we are enough for our children? I will never reach it for Isaac or Elijah. And I won’t for Xavier. Because I want to be perfect for them, and I am imperfect.
5. You are proud of them
Every parent is proud of their children. I so love watching new parents with their firstborn. The absolute pride is tangible. They are walking a well-trod path but they act like the first people to discover how amazing starting a family is. I know we did. Parents want to share photos, tell stories about their children. It is no different when your child lives somewhere you cannot go. I share photos of a beautiful, living Xavier. But there are those whose only photos of their precious ones are after they had passed. How privileged I feel when I get to see those photos and share not in that parent’s grief, but in that parent’s pride. I feel proud of what Xavier has accomplished through his journey. Each of my boys will do amazing things that will make my heart soar with pride – the two on earth and the one in heaven.
I parent each of my boys according to who they are and what they need. But I will always be mother to each and love them to eternity.