Some of you may have read Elle’s posts here before following the loss of her son Teddy. It’s a heartbreaking story but Elle is full of courage, determination and love for her little boy. Even though Teddy was only alive for a few short days that doesn’t stop Elle being his mummy and today’s post is all about how she is learning to deal with the comments and questions that she receives.
When I started to write my thoughts down about this subject, I couldn’t recall whether I have touched on it before; not in its entirety at least. When you lose a child, your only child, some days it can be hard to consider yourself a mum. To be a Mum is an intrinsic thing, it’s built into us once we fall pregnant and give birth; but to be called a Mum and seen as one by others, well that’s something altogether different. It’s about how the outside world perceives you; do they really see you as a Mum, even though your child isn’t here?
I think the thing that’s got me thinking (and writing) about this the most is a comment that was made about me on a recent thread on a popular forum used by Mums (I’ll let you do the maths on that one). Granted, this lady didn’t like me that was clear (which then begs the questions why on earth does she then still choose to follow me on social media? We’ll leave that one for another day shall we?). It isn’t what she said about me that upset me at all, in fact I couldn’t give a toss about that (I mean, realistically we are never going to be everyone’s cup of tea are we?). It was the sentence she started her tirade with that cut me the deepest and took the very breath from my lungs. “I am not sure even she could even be considered an Insta-Mum, but Feathering the Empty Nest….” All I read was that she didn’t see me as a Mum, she didn’t recognise that Teddy made me a mother. She thought that because he was gone, it therefore made me less of Mum than anyone else on Instagram who chooses to write about or share photos of their Motherhood. I can remember feeling that same pang of hollowness that I felt after Teddy had died, like I had been unceremoniously pushed out of the Mummy Club once more. “Your child died, so you can’t sit with us.” This is my motherhood though.
If I was going to sum up the resounding feelings for me that losing Teddy have bought into my life; feeling excluded is an extremely powerful one. I know I am part of a club with all of the other lovely mothers I have met and spoken to who have also lost their children; but how does everyone else see us? The ones who don’t have any other living children here, to prove our existence as a Mother. Is my Motherhood less than someone who has their child here? Am I less of a Mother because Teddy died? Of course, I know the answer to those questions is no; but the person who wrote that comment didn’t see it that way did they? My son died and therefore my right to call myself a Mum and act as someone’s Mum is erased. She could have called me any name under the sun and it would not have even come close to upsetting me (Growing up with two older brothers will do that to you); but she had to go and say I wasn’t a Mum. So, to that person I simply say this……
Dear Inconsiderate Forum-Commenting-Keyboard-Warrior,
I understand that you think my Motherhood is worth less than yours, and I would like to tell you why it isn’t. I have a son; his name is Teddy. I gave birth to Teddy, I felt it, I saw it and I held him; my son. The thing is, although we didn’t know it during my pregnancy, Teddy was very poorly, and he was never going to live. That doesn’t make him any less of a person, he is just a person who died, because they were sick; like thousands of people do in the world every single day. Teddy only lived for three days; but during those three days, as we watched over him in his hospital cot and we used up every single ounce of positivity and every single wish we ever had for him, we were his devoted parents. We are still his devoted parents, and nothing changes that.
Unlike many other parents, our story is a little different. We held him when he took his first breaths, and we held him as he took his last. I felt equally proud of him in both of those moments. I didn’t feel scared when he took his last breaths, because I didn’t want him to know that I was scared; I wanted him to feel safe and know that his Mummy loved him. That’s what a Mother does isn’t it? Forgets her own feelings in order to protect those of her children. Instead, I read Teddy a bedtime story, stroked his face and kissed him. I told him how much I loved him and a held his little hand, so that he knew I was there; always looking after him. I would have done anything for things to have been different for Teddy, but sadly they were not to be.
When you lose a child, you don’t just lose them in the physical sense, you lose all of the plans that you had with them in your life and you lose all of the dreams that you had for them. In order to keep Teddy in our lives I write about him, and I talk about him openly to keep his memory alive and to keep him very much a part of our family. I also write so that other Mums, mums like me, will feel less alone and will not allow themselves to be isolated by people like you. In doing so I feel like Teddy is still here, showing me the way and helping me to muddle through life as best I can without him here. I owe it to him to say his name openly and proudly, and it makes me feel an enormous sense of pride when others can too.
Any mother who gives birth to a child (I don’t care how that child comes out into the world) is a mother. She is that child’s mother; not just until that child takes their last breath, but until she takes hers. I will not be made to feel like less of a Mum because Teddy isn’t here with me, and I will not be pushed out in the cold by people like you who think it’s OK to do that to someone who has already had to endure the hardest thing that any parent will ever have to go through. I won’t allow that to happen; not for myself, and certainly not for any of the other wonderful Mums I have met on this journey since losing Teddy. We are all Mums, and I could not be prouder of who I have become thanks to Teddy’s existence. Please just think about that the next time you consider who makes it into the club or not.
Images by Anna Rowlondson Photography.