Bereaved mothers are everywhere.
But it wasn’t until I became one myself that I realized this truth, though it didn’t happen immediately.
After experiencing an ectopic pregnancy followed by a stillbirth, the loneliness I felt was defeating. It was second only to the paralyzing grief I felt from losing two babies who I so deeply wanted to watch grow up; who I so deeply wanted to know.
It seemed as if I was the only one who knew the pain of pregnancy loss.
No one seemed to understand the magnitude of my grief. And no one seemed to want to try.
I was faced with pregnant women and newborn babies everywhere I turned, never failing to be reminded of what I no longer had and would never have—the two babies I carried but who would never set foot on this earth.
It wasn’t until I started talking about my losses that I understood just how common bereaved motherhood is. Just as pregnant women and babies are everywhere, I realized that so too, are bereaved mothers.
It’s just that discussions about motherhood don’t typically cover the topic of loss.
Sure, I participated in support groups online that were filled with women who had lost babies. I knew I wasn’t the only one, but in a big world that doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge the devastation of pregnancy loss, I still felt like I was. There was no one in my line of sight, or even my peripheral vision that had lost a baby. Not that I knew of anyway.
Until I spoke up about mine.
Suddenly, I was inundated with stories of pregnancy loss from women I knew in real life.
Aunts who had endured pregnancy loss decades before.
Friends who wished I’d have spoken up sooner so we could have discussed our losses together.
Women at church—some who had lost babies years earlier, and some only days before.
Acquaintances who said, “me too.”
Strangers who felt compelled to tell me their own stories of pregnancy loss at just the hint of my own loss story.
A lawyer. A phlebotomist. A teacher. A ministry leader. A dentist. A cashier. A coworker.
All bereaved mothers. All women who were missing their babies. All around me.
But it took speaking up to realize that I was far from alone in my grief.
Before my own losses, I had been oblivious.
Not only to a bereaved mother’s grief and pain, isolation and unspoken hurts regarding their motherhood. But to the need for honoring them and their experiences of loss.
I’m all for honoring mothers on Mother’s Day. As a mom of living children, I can say with certainty that the position is worthy of all the honor in the world. Mothering is hard, grueling work most days.
But I hope we can also make room to honor bereaved mothers alongside the non-bereaved.
Because as a loss mom, I can also say with certainty that bereaved motherhood is hard, grueling work too. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced greater exhaustion than that which results from grief, even when I had the pleasure of parenting newborns. And for all the emotional work that goes into mothering living children, there’s plenty of emotional labor that goes into living without babies who didn’t live beyond the womb.
Just like any mother, bereaved mothers are everywhere. Wishing they had never been placed in that category of motherhood, but every bit worthy of having their motherhood experienced recognized and validated.
Please, let’s do that for them.
Let’s honor bereaved mothers, too. If you'd like to honor a bereaved mother this year on Mother's Day, you can find suggestions for doing so here.