The weirdest things are a punch to the gut after losing a child. Hearing a baby cry, watching the little boy in the pool with his floaties on, the emails and mailers that continue to come because the companies don't know better... Not everything hurts the exact same every single time. Within weeks of losing Carter, it seemed like everyone and their dog was having a baby. Seriously, there are probably about five people I would consider friends that had a baby within days of us delivering Carter. Sometimes I'm able to think about it in a positive way, like how nice it will be to have all these children to watch grow up, and be able to mark milestones for Carter based on what they are doing. But generally, it hurts. Watching babies smile at their moms, or seeing them discover their feet, or hearing them coo. My baby should be here doing that too.
I've noticed that when I am scrolling through pictures on Instagram, I tend to pause a lot on the pictures of babies that are around Carter's age. It's for the same reason I feel like I've developed a problem with staring at babies in public. I'm so jealous that these moms are living the life I'm not, and so so sad that my baby isn't with me. I study these babies, wondering what characteristics they and Carter would share. I wonder what it would be like, to watch Carter's eyes flitting all over the room, or to watch his mouth move, or to try and keep his wiggly little body tight in my arms. All these moms are living the dream with a four month old baby. They might complain about the late nights and the sporadic feedings, but compared to our lack of these things, I promise you, the sacrifices are a dream.
Besides the pictures, the hashtags, weirdly, have also become a punch to the gut. I don't know why, I've never really paid attention to hashtags before, but I've started to, and they sting. I have been using them to connect with other angel moms, and to grow my circle of mom friends that are in the club we didn't want to be a part of. But while my hashtags read grief, love, loss, recovery, and angelbaby, other moms get to use hashtags like momlife, boymom, momlifeisthebestlife, mamabear, and so many others. Honestly, I don't feel like I'm privileged enough to use those hastags. Like, I am a mother, and I have a son, so those hashtags are definitely applicable, but is it really okay for me to use them when my son isn't alive? Is it the same? Most people would probably say yes, but in my heart, I know it's different.
The standard definition of mom life is a long day after a short night of sleep, stained clothes (yours and the kids), running around like a crazy person taking care of your kids, and endless baby snuggles. Social media mom life tells us that "life is hard and I don't have it all together, but I have my baby so life is perfect." Social media moms are all about sharing their flaws and telling us how they're not perfect women and they aren't perfect moms, but their babies sure are perfect so nothing else matters.
This doesn't get to be the mom life for some of us. Our mom life consists of suffering through our milk coming in with no baby to feed, packing away the baby things and trying to decide whether to leave the nursery door open or closed, hearing babies cry and trying to keep it together, going back to work and taking cry breaks in the bathroom once a day. Our mom life is visiting our baby's grave and going home to a far too empty house.
Our mom life is different than most, but that doesn't make us any less of a mother. We carried our babies, delivered them knowing they either were not alive or would not live very long, and spend every single day grieving the loss and wondering what we did wrong. Our struggles are different; we don't stay up late feeding our babies, we don't not have time to clean the house, and we don't have to change diapers, but I can tell you that any mother in my position would give literally anything to do all the things new moms complain about. And I know complaining isn't the right word; moms know how lucky they are to be doing the things they are doing. But to an angel mom, hearing a new mom talk about how their baby's sleep schedule is off....they have no idea how much we would sacrifice to get no sleep for the rest of our lives, if only it meant being able to have our babies back.
I can't speak for other angel moms, but without my baby here, I feel like less of a woman, and definitely like less of a mom. I don't put in all the same work regular moms do, but I can tell you that grieving the loss of a child you barely knew is hard work. Really hard work. Sometimes I feel like a fraud, telling people that I am a mom. I don't even think I really ever say it out loud; when I talk about it, I always just talk about Carter being my son. But I don't ever say that I'm a mom. It doesn't feel real.
I wrote this post to challenge myself to feel like a mom, and to remind all the other angel moms that even though our babies aren't here with us, we are still mothers, and that is a part of our lives that matters greatly. I am no less of a mother than any other mom out there. I carried him, I delivered him, and I will continue to love him and care for him, his memory, his spirit, and his tender little grave for as long as I live. I am a mom, and this is my #momlife. Not less than anyone else's, just different.