Bereaved Mother’s Day

Soon it will be Mother’s day again. A day when many mothers will be in the center for a moment and receive breakfast and homemade gifts. A day when the pain of the children who are no longer there, or who never came, also comes to the fore sharply.

I think Mother’s Day is quite complicated. I am very happy with the children who are growing up in my house. I enjoy cherishing, teaching, coaching and caring for them, having fun with them and watching them slowly but surely become independent people with their own identity. It moves me and makes me humble: ‘Wow, is this really my child?’

But it is precisely by reflecting on my motherhood that the lack of the child that is no longer there automatically pops up as well. The child for whom I can no longer do anything and who I do not see growing up to become an autonomous person. That’s really annoying, especially on Mother’s Day, when your living children are doing their best for you and you really don’t want to think about your deceased child, but just enjoy those who are here. It feels like I am doing injustice to my living children to think about Amanda on such a day. So I try very hard to focus on the living.

Of course you cannot completely prevent grief to suddenly pop up. But maybe it helps to give room for that another day. I read about that this morning when I felt I should write something about International Bereaved Mothers’ Day. This day is meant to remember your deceased children, your miscarriages, or your grief that, despite praying and hoping for it so deeply, you never became a mother.

Bereaved Mother’s day is Mother’s Day for those who have lost their child(ren) and for those who didn’t receive children while desperately longing for them. A day to remember your deceased child, the miscarriages you had, your unwanted childlessness. A day to support a bereaved mother and to express a little bit more that she too is precious and loved.

Someone wrote about this day, ‘If we think about what we have lost today, we can be genuinely happy with what we do have next week on Mother’s Day’. I don’t know if it really works that way. Last year I wrote about Mother’s Day that I am just as much a mother of my living children as of my deceased child. My heart doesn’t make a difference.

But I will give it a try. We happened to go to the grave anyway this afternoon to place the new plank we made. The old one has become illegible, the tombstone still has to be ordered, and during our holiday last week there was an opportunity to engrave wood, so my Love and I made a new plank together. So today I will try to ponder my motherhood of Amanda and the miscarriage I had and I pray for the women I know who didn’t receive children, who had miscarriages or who had a child who died. How do you say this? ‘Happy Bereaved Mothers’ Day’? Let me put it this way:

Dear woman. You are loved, seen and precious and your grief is precious as well. Make time to think about it today if you have the chance. It is allowed to be there. Especially on Bereaved Mother’s Day.

This blog was first written in Dutch on May 5 (Bereaved Mother’s Day) 2019

The Second Year

‘First you have to live through the first year’, they said, and we did. ‘Then the second…’ they said immediately after that. I could not get my head around it that you might not be able to really get over this. That you could not just live through it and then leave it behind you. It made me feel angry, rebellious and very determined to show that I could do this. But the loss of a child goes much deeper than I thought. Grief is thicker than water.

It is Spring again. The weather is great and there are different smells and colors outside. ‘Look mum! Daffodils!’ my daughter says full of delight. I whisper that I see them too. I have noticed it before and this week it weighs on me. Daffodils make me think of Amanda. They were growing everywhere when she was growing inside of me.

Today two years ago we went to the hospital for another ultrasound. After years of waiting I was finally pregnant and so immensely grateful that God entrusted another child to us ánd very worried because the year before another precious baby appeared to have serious deficiencies at that ultrasound. Fortunately, our little baby was totally healthy and I cried when we heard we would have a girl.

Still we were referred to the hospital for another ultrasound. Because not all was well. Our girl was too small. We didn’t tell many people about it at first. We celebrated birthdays and we tried to not feel worried. First we needed to have that second check. That week I walked quite regularly through the smells and colors of Spring, felt my growing belly, prayed, spoke life and health and tried not to worry.

February 23, 2017. Our daughter wasn’t growing well indeed. I appeared to be in a pre-stage of preeclampsia and needed to take aspirin, though that probably was too late and would not work anymore. There was nothing more we could do, except praying. We wrote an email to everyone close to us with explanation and prayer requests. I prepared meals to freeze, arranged babysitters and read everything I could find about premature born babies. From 24 weeks of pregnancy on, I had to come back to the hospital every week. As long as she kept growing, I could go home again, But if she stopped growing, I had to stay in the hospital and she probably would be born soon, with all risks to that.

I took more rest, although they said that didn’t make any difference. I did only what was really important in the house and with the children. Nothing more. I did not want to feel regret afterwards. I wanted to do everything possible to help my child grow. I smelled the smell of spring, the promise of new life. I took time to really feel the small movements of my little girl. Looking back, this was the last month of her life.

And now, two years later, I walk and bike through spring-smells again. Yesterday I did it with my whole, not whole, family. We went to eat in a restaurant managed by volunteers who were all students to raise money for a good cause. We had some good laughs. The children were happy with a week of holiday and we were glad to be able to do go outside after we had flu for a week.

So there I am, with my Love and my four children. Pain pops up. I have to make every effort to not think of her, but often touch my bracelet with her name on it. I feel childish and say to myself: ‘Come on. You are rich. You have four big children around you who are laughing and making fun together. Who love each other even when one of them has behavioral problems and is showing that shamelessly.’

It works. A little bit. But again and again a wave of pain comes up, while I laugh with my daughter who almost looks like a student herself, just as those who are serving us. I am proud of my four and really happy with them. I realize again that this is the reality I need to live with. I will always lack one child. No matter how full my table is. No matter how full my heart is with love for these four. At the same time I miss my fifth and the pain is just as heavy as the joy and the gratefulness. It is a complicated cocktail of emotions. But we have to go through this and live through this last month of the second year.

First published in Dutch on February 23, 2019

Foto door David Jakab op Pexels.com

Waves

Suddenly it is there again. Grotesque, importunate and incredibly painful. A silent scream inside of me wants to come out, but stays stuck somewhere. A sob that wants to be cried, but stays inside.

For some days I walked around feeling this way. I felt pressure behind my eyes and a grumpiness coming over me where no prayer seemed to help against. Until yesterday it finally became too much. I cried and couldn’t stop. Again and again, tears stream down. I realized that I miss her so much. It comes over me like a very big wave.

I miss little arms around me. Whimpering of another kid behind me this morning, awoke a longing for my whimpering Amanda, who never whimpered, because she didn’t live long enough to be able to whimper. I miss her face against my legs while talking to someone. That she runs towards me because she is happy to see me again. The dull pain of missing her is hard to grasp and at this moment also impossible to suppress.

It’s so weird. How can you miss what you did not have? How can I miss her as the toddler she would have been, while I only knew her as a tiny baby? Words my Love said resound in my head: ‘she just grows up together with our family. She just somehow grows up too’.

So, now I miss the toddler that makes noises and keeps me alert all the time. When I hear other mothers say that they are so glad that their children are a bit older now and don’t need 24/7 attention, I only think: I would give the world to have that right now. To be able to watch her and to not leave her alone for one second.

She seems to disappear. To be forgotten. She is no visible part of our family. From the outside our family seems complete. We are six people together. For many people that is already busy enough. But I lack a child and panic keeps coming back to me. I do not want to feel it. I do not want to admit that the missing is still there and that nothing seems to help to ease the pain. It should stop. We buried her a year and seven months ago. We experienced how terrible it is to leave your child behind.

We had to go on with our lives immediately an now I want to do that too. I manage quite well to do that. I take care, I sing, play music, try to be there for those around me. But meanwhile beneath it all it continues to gnaw. I understand a bit more why people say that ‘mourning is hard work’. It is in a way indeed work, working through, processing, let it sink in, continue to work with it. And there is progression and there is development.

I am translating my blogs into English and by doing that I am confronted with what I wrote a while back. I reread how I wrestled with God. How I tried to figure out how to live with this deep grief inside of me. And I’ve learned that I have more peace now, that I trust God a bit more and that I am indeed learning to weave the missing into my existence as someone described it. I even thought that the missing became less and more doable. Up till now.

Now it is very much in my face again and I feel the despair, the intense mourning, the very sharp pain all over again. And how and why that happens, I don’t know. I am not searching for it. I just live, work, do the things I should do. But apparently it is like they say about mourning: it comes in waves. And you need to keep space in your life to deal with that. So that you can cry when you need to. Or so that you have time and space to write, like I am doing right now. Because when you write, you give words, you acknowledge and give space to just let it be there.

I will keep missing her. She is my daughter and she should be here right now. Realizing that she isn’t, is like a wave coming over me, taking away my breath and smashing me off balance. I can only say, like I did many times before, that God is my anchor and the rock on which I stand. I try to remain standing and allow the waves to bash at me. And I wait until the sea calms and the waves stop bashing – for now.

First published in Dutch on October 28, 2018

Back to School – 2

Suddenly it is there again big time. I can’t go around it, but with everything I have, I try to pretend nothing is wrong. I see mothers with babies and toddlers. They are there together with me at the school playground to bring big brother and/or sister to school. I feel pain coming up and quickly look the other way while walking into the school building. And despite of how cute the toddler is that tries to climb the stairs, despite of how I fond I am of children, this moment I just can’t bring myself to give some attention to this little kid.

I walk pass the mother and child and try to ignore them, focusing only on my own child. Walking back home after bringing my children to school, I feel empty and more alone than before. I walk without holding the hand of my toddler. The first few days I managed to push away this feeling. There were still children at home, as secondary school started some days later. But after these days I waved them goodbye as well. Without a child on my hip.

I had not expect feeling this again. This feeling of missing, this amazingly deep pain. I don’t know what to do, so quickly go to work, work that I would not have done if Amanda had lived. Some things I even do because I lost her, like helping out in a group for mothers who lost a child, and blogging.

But how empty this all feels. And how this emptiness continually frets, though usually in the back of my mind. I realize that I intensely long for her. And she is not here. I had a child, but I can’t do anything for her and with her. She really is not here anymore. To realize that again is so painful, and because it hurts so much and I can not do anything with that feeling, I just continue to work.

I walk home and someone walks up to me, with a toddler on his neck. I feel jealousy and tears burning. In my head it yells: I should have walked here too with mý toddler, but I am alone. Without a child in my arms, without a child in a strawler and without a baby in my belly, as I still am not pregnant again and grieve about that too.

So here I am again. In our empty house. The tears finally come and I realize again that people matter. How big or how small they were doesn’t matter. Some of us have to deal with the loss of someone who had the privilege of living here for ninety years. Others, like me, didn’t even had the chance to get to know their child better.

But all these people, no matter how old or young they were have value because we loved them. Grief is love you can’t give away. And although I found things to give my time and attention to, though there are still four children in my home who need my care, still there is also this deep love for this specific beautiful little girl that only lived in my belly. And I miss her. My God, how I miss her. I pray more and more that God will bring my greetings and love to her. Again surprised that I do these things since her passing. It helps a little.

Now that the children go back to school, I need to get used again to this empty house, although it is exactly the same as before the holiday started. I have to get used again to a life with only big children who go to school, and work waiting for me. She would have been able to walk by now. We would have brought the kids to school together and then walk back at a slow pace. She would have noticed everything around her, every detail on the street. I would have taught her how to function in this world, step by step.

But I walked home alone and this deep feeling of missing her, an intense pain, came over me. I go to God with it and it comforts me that she is well and on the best place. But the missing remains, hurts, and I still need to learn to live with that. I actually don’t know how to do that. So I just go back to work.

This blog was first published in Dutch on September 5, 2018

Live Forever

Today I went to the grave of my little daughter again. When biking to the cemetery I realized again the bizarre reality that she really is my child, my baby. And that she is laying there, in the ground.

Last week someone send me a picture of her little baby, who has the same age my daughter would have. Suddenly my loss became much more real and concrete. First, I was living towards my due date. Now that date has passed and I don’t have another thing to live forward to. I can’t say: if only this date has passed, then…

First there was me missing the baby in my belly, now it is me missing the baby that should have been in my arms, the arms of my husband and my other children. And in the arms of her grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and nieces. This is a new kind of pain and I don’t know how to cope with it. I need to find my way in this too, to learn to live with it.

‘Cemetery closes at 5 pm’ says the sign at the entrance. I think back at that time that I went to her grave, but the cemetery was closed. I had felt panic: I can not go to my daughter! ‘How can it be that you can’t visit your own child’, I thought, and when cycling back I corrected my way of thinking. It is only her body that is laying there. Amanda herself is not there anymore. Not here in anymore.

I kneel down at her grave, get rid of weeds, make her little place neat again. For a short time, I allow my tears to rain down and I realize that this is a new layer. I didn’t cry this way before. Quietly I pray to my God: Please help me. Help me to carry this loss and to really go through it. And show me that there is an end to this deep valley of shadow of death.

The sun bursts through the clouds and warms my back. It feels as if it’s a wink of the eye. Words of a song I loved to sing when growing up, and suddenly heard again last week pop up in my head: ‘Death has been annuled, Jesus has risen. Jesus, the Lion of Judah, conquered death.’’

And I suddenly remember words someone texted me that morning: ‘God is your Lord! He will not let go and He will not allow that you will be overcome by this. With Him you will go through this and you, together with Amanda will live forever!!!’

I am encouraged to go on.

First published in Dutch on July 28, 2017