*Trigger warning: this post contains references to infant and pregnancy loss*
…is a sentence that stops me in my tracks. When did I become a mother exactly?
Was it when I conceived my first baby, my beautiful boy Archimedes? I housed him the longest of my three pregnancies, a whole 38 + 5 weeks, and yet he died in utero the day before I had him. Stillborn. Our world fell apart. Was it the pregnancy 8 months later that we so desperately wanted and yearned for, but again, came crashing down? This time at 10 weeks. Or was it during the 3 rounds of IVF, the 2 failed attempts, the successful last one which is our miracle Persephone? Now 20 months old, the biggest ray of sunshine you will ever meet and full of sass. Persephone being laid on my chest is probably the moment most people assume I became a mother but for me it wasn’t. It was much, much earlier.
I’ve always wanted to be a mum, if you’d ask me 10 years ago I would have told you I wanted 4 kids. I wanted them on my hips, by my feet, a house full of chatter. Thankfully my other half agreed and we got cracking. Conceiving Archie was easy, we’d just started trying and you’ve never seen two happier people. I look at photos of my pregnancy and feel a mixture of emotions, stabs in my chest at that carefree happy woman. My pregnancy was blissful and straightforward. How naive I was but ultimately I feel privileged that I got to experience that level of joy, even just once. There were flashes of happiness during my pregnancy with Persephone, moments I let myself believe she might come home but mostly it was filled with fear. What the hell was I doing? The thought of burying another child makes me feel physically sick and yet there I was putting myself through it all again.
Having a stillborn baby is inconceivably dark. It’s a place that most people can’t even let their minds go.
If you quiz them, ultimately they understand what it means but I often had to explain I laboured my son. How do you find the strength to do that? That’s the thing about being a parent, it isn’t when you first hold your baby or change their nappy, it’s as soon as you find out they exist. You would do anything and everything for them. You find you have strength you never knew you had.
And so I realise it is the feeling around motherhood that fascinates me. Not the physical aspect of labouring or spending time with your baby, dead or alive. It’s the before; the hope, planning, imagining. Going home to an empty nursery was one of the hardest moments. I made my parents remove Archie’s moses basket from our bedroom before we got home from the hospital and I kept the door to his nursery shut for a long time. Days and weeks passed and eventually the door opened. In time I would spend hours in there, finding comfort amongst his things. Things he never used, clothes he never wore. But items purchased with him in mind.
I was a parent when I first saw the two lines on that pregnancy test in Westfield shopping centre (glamourous I know). That sense of responsibility and protection kicked in immediately. We had so much hope, so many dreams and plans and they just grew. While losing a baby at term isn’t too common (thankfully), having a miscarriage will happen to 1 in 4 women. You had that positive test, you had the hope and longing and excitement, and yet it is taken away. Regardless, you are still a mother, you had a baby however brief, and that doesn’t change.
My son made me a mother the moment I knew he existed. He was real, he was here and even though it was hard to explain that ‘I was a mother missing her baby’, I have always felt proud to talk about him. x
Georgina is a food writer and stylist from London. She wrote her first book ‘Stirring Slowly’ after her son died, believing in the restorative power of cooking. I’ve just preordered her second book Taverna (out in April) as the food looks really good!
Georgina asked us to donate her writer’s fee to the stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands.
In the run up to Mother’s Day and to celebrate the launch of The Unwind Package, we’re giving away three packages worth up to £50 each chosen at random from anyone joining in our #whenibecameamother campaign on Instagram. To enter:
1. Post a picture on your own Instagram account and include a caption about what you learned, or something you felt about your own experience, when you became a mother.
2. Include #whenIbecameamother in your post
3. Include the sentence ‘I am posting this to enter a @dontbuyherflowers competition’ at the end of your caption.
Entries close on 23rd March at 11.59pm. Winners will be drawn at random. Prizes can be delivered to UK and ROI addresses only.