This morning (and every weekday morning)…

This is not a blog post about grief.  This a blog post about what my morning looked like.  And pretty much the morning before it and the morning before it.  So if you have had one of those mornings.  If every weekday morning tends to be one of those mornings.  This is for you – you are not alone.

Wake up with eldest child’s foot in my face.  How is eldest child in the bed?
Squint blearily to make out the time on the alarm clock.  6:35am.  Make conscientious decision not to calculate the amount of sleep actually had after waking twice with the baby.  No good can come of it.  Check monitor and sigh with relief that said baby is still sleeping.  Hope madly that school lunch can be made prior to baby waking up.

Realise that eldest child’s foot is still in my face and that he is playing with the dog at the end of the bed.  Realising that he and dog are actually involved in a lick fest.  Rather than greeting eldest child with a beautiful “good morning” and cuddle, say “You know you aren’t meant to do that – don’t lick the dog back!”

Husband wakes, stretches and heads for a shower.  Think not very charitable thoughts about how nice it must be to have only person to get ready.

Get up.  Dog and eldest child involved in a very loud game up the corridor.  Baby wakes up.  Baby demands cuddles.   Realise that the dishes still are not done from the night before.  Wait until husband out of the shower before running the hot water.  Think this is really very nice of me.

Tidy kitchen and make school lunch with one hand as holding baby on hip.

Ask eldest to dress for school.  He cannot.  He must finish his game of legos.  Try not to raise  voice.  Breathe.

Ask eldest child to eat his breakfast.  He cannot. He must finish his colouring in.  Try not to raise voice. Breathe.

Make coffee in vain hope of finishing it whilst still warm.  Should really just switch to very short espressos.  Try to feed baby yoghurt.  Baby doesn’t really want yoghurt.  Baby wants a proper breast feed.  Feed.  Change baby. Calculate own time to get ready is rapidly dwindling.  Should still have 10 minutes though.

Pour cold coffee down drain.

Eldest child asks where his shoes are.  Tell him wherever he left them last.

Eldest child asks where his homework envelope is.  Tell him where he left them last.

Eldest child needs a feather.  Not entirely sure why but is terribly insistent about it.  Locate feather.

Time to get self ready now at about 5 minutes.  Doable.  Panic rising slightly.

Get in shower.  Baby crying.  Have to leave baby crying.  Fret about immense psychological damage this might doing him.  Pause and think about immense psychological damage this might be doing me.  Get changed.   Hold baby. Brush hair and put in contacts with one hand.

We seem to be relatively on time.

Put dog outside.  Have to employ military style tactics to trick dog into thinking this a good idea.

Cannot find keys.  Where are the keys?  Why don’t I leave the keys in the same place?  WHERE ARE MY KEYS?

Mummy, they are probably where you last left them.

Make it to school in ample time, looking like a nice, normal family.  Just like everyone else.

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Good Mother

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There is a terrific rant currently going viral around Australian social media networks celebrating all kinds of different mothers and encouraging us to stop judging others and ourselves.  Em Rusciano reminds that we are all good mothers – even if our parenting styles look different.  You can read the article here.

It made me think about the judgements we place on ourselves as bereaved mothers.  In general, the child loss community is fantastically supportive and kind.  It would be a very small minority that would judge the way another is grieving.  However, I think we often judge our own grief and the way we mother our angels.  I look at those that honour their angels through setting up projects, raising incredible amounts for their chosen charity or those that have set up their own charities and wonder if my way of mothering Xavier is adequate.   Should I be doing more for my little boy?   When my tears don’t flow as freely, and I am having several good days in a row, I wonder, “Should I not be hurting more for my precious baby?”    Yet, I have had people mention to me that they look at the creative things I do for Xavier and they wonder if they are doing enough in that space for their angel.  Others long to get to a gentler place in the grief.

Figuring out how to the best mother you can be is difficult.  Figuring out how to be the best mother to a child no longer in your arms is even more so.  We look at those around us for inspiration and sometimes come away feeling inadequate.  We put enormous strain on our already strained selves to do beautiful and wondrous things for our children.  When really, breathing each day, getting up, or deciding to just stay in bed is wondrous when you have lost a piece of your heart.  So, taking inspiration from Em’s new rules for motherhood, I wrote a set that apply to the bereaved mother.

1. Do you raise money, create, write, dream or paint in your child’s memory? – Good Mother

2. Are your tears the greatest testament to your love? – Good Mother

3. Do you get up and face the day even with your broken heart? – Good Mother

4. Do you stay in bed and cry for your lost love? – Good Mother

5. Do you embrace the things you have learned in your grief and find  peace? – Good Mother

6. Do you rage each day at the unfairness of a universe that stole your child? – Good Mother

7.  Do you love, grieve and miss them each and every day, no matter when they last were in your arms and make no apologies for doing so? – Good Mother

The Inside and the Outside

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Every Saturday my little family heads down to the local coffee shop and I wonder what we look like to other people. Beautiful four year old running at the front of the pram, cute little Hugo, our cavalier puppy, on his heels. N or I pushing the pram, lightly touching each other around the waist. It must look idyllic. It must look like the perfect family. What it looks like and what it is are so very different.

I felt similarly when pregnant. I wondered if people who had recently suffered loss or infertility looked jealously at my growing bump.

I know in the weeks after Xavier died I wanted to rush up to mothers of newborns and say “Do you know? Do you know how utterly privileged you are?” I wanted to talk to those heavily pregnant and ask “Do you know? Do you know the precious weight of what you carry?” I didn’t of course. But what if I had and she had returned the pain in my own eyes. If she would have said, with a heaviness another loss mother would recognise, “Yes”.

We go about our daily battles and it seems like everyone else’s battles are being easily won. But we don’t know. We don’t know how much pain lies before apparent happiness. Each of us are icebergs, only revealing the tip of our lives. Carefully constructing the image we allow the world to see. We know this of ourselves – why do we presume that everyone around us does any differently?

My personal Facebook feed is filled with photos of Elijah on different outings – parks, various beaches, numerous cafes. As my parents are currently overseas, I am posting daily pictures so they can watch him grow. This no doubt gives the impression of a terribly confident mother – happily out and about with a perfectly behaved newborn. This would be a generous assumption. In truth, I am not a homebody and will always prefer out to in. When I am at home alone with Elijah, the darker thoughts creep in. It’s when I hold him close and beg him not to die. Do I prefer the facade of a mother breezing through parenthood? Of course, but it masks a darker truth.

I never want to be defined by my loss – although I am happy to be shaped by it. But sometimes, I want to scream “Getting here wasn’t easy – the road to this seeming perfection was paved with tears and still, always, there is someone missing”.

But that’s not the image I have chosen to present to the world. There is a large element of choice here. Could I fall apart? Of course I could, in a heartbeat, in an instant. But I hold myself and my family together. Is this a form of lying? Would it be truer to myself to let more of the pain show? Would it ease the pressure on those around me if I was to be more “real”? I am not sure. So much of how I coped with Xavier’s death was “fake it until you feel it”. When faced with something that cleaves your heart in two, people really don’t want to see the full ugliness of it. I didn’t want to be the full ugliness of it. For all our talk of being real, there comes a point of too real. And so I have been play-acting for some time now. Not just for those around me, but for me. I have been play-acting for so long that it might be difficult to tell where the reality and where the acting meet. And perhaps this simply is my new reality.

Being grateful for each and every moment, striving to live in the now and taking advantage of every possibility can seem unbearably Pollyanna-ish. It can seem fake and impossible. But my alternative is impossible and so I take this path and I will smile through the pain.