Today is the day I’ve been dreading for quite some time. Being a childless mother on Mother’s Day is, perhaps, one of the most difficult things a woman can experience.
Whether through infertility, miscarriage, death or any other loss, losing a child steals from you so many experiences you’d been dreaming about and longing for — and one of them is the rite of passage that is Mother’s Day.
Last year, Mr. B took me out for my first Mother’s Day brunch. And we were talking about that precious baby growing inside of me and all the years we’d have with him/her. What would our baby be like? Whose characteristics would our precious Pickle have? I thought I’d have dozens more Mother’s Days to celebrate.
It wasn’t long after that when we found out about Penelope Joy’s heart defect. And it was way, way too soon after that when we held Penelope Joy in our arms for the last time.
I’ve said it before: I don’t feel like a mom. Because I didn’t get any of the experiences moms are supposed to have: taking our baby home from the hospital, spending sleepless nights with a cranky baby, watching her take her first steps, snapping that ubiquitous first-day-of-school photo, talking to her about boys (or girls), helping her with her homework, sending her off to prom, watching her dance with her father at her wedding, holding my first grandbaby. I didn’t get any of those experiences with Penelope Joy — I will never get any of those experiences with Penelope Joy.
Just because I don’t feel like a mom, though, doesn’t mean I’m not a mom. And I say this for my benefit as much as I do yours. Being a mom is so many things. For some, it’s messy diapers, homework help and bedtime kisses. For me — short-lived as it was — motherhood was about being there for Penelope Joy and loving her through her very short 38 days on this planet. For me, being a mom was knowing when to let go. Because holding on was hurting my baby. Because holding on was selfish.
You see, being a mom is, ultimately, about love. Big, selfless love that always puts someone’s needs above its own. And no matter how desperately we wanted Penelope Joy with us or how hard we loved her, we knew that she was hurting and that she was the one suffering. We knew that we had to say good-bye. And we loved her enough to let her go.
So, yeah, I am a mom. A childless mom. I will always be a mom. Because to deny my motherhood is to deny that Penelope Joy existed — and to deny that she mattered. Because she did. She does. She always will. Penelope Joy made me a mom — the best gift I’ve ever received. And for that I will always be grateful.