When I initially saw this shirt on The Wild Ones‘ Instagram, I loved it. I love that it was created specifically for loss mamas, and that part of the proceeds go towards raising awareness for pregnancy and infant loss. So I ordered it and was so excited for it to arrive. I expected to be just as excited to open the package and try it on. But looking at my reflection just made me sad.
There are countless opinions on what exactly makes someone a mother and when. So many pregnant women are referred to as “mom-to-be”. They spend Mother’s Day with a little life growing inside, and talk about celebrating next year. I’ve had some call me “mama” while I was pregnant, but after the losses they no longer did. Then I’ve had others tell me I’m “still a mother” in spite of the losses. I’ve had a couple refer to my motherhood as “in progress”. Many have remained silent, unsure of my status. Many women who have experienced pregnancy loss do not know if they can call themselves “mother”. And I guess that’s probably where I fall.
How can I claim to be a mother if I have never felt baby kicks inside me? Can I call myself “mother” if I’ve never given birth? Am I still a mother if I’ve never looked into the face of my own child? Should I say I’m a mother if I’ve never been a parent? I am not a parent, but I am something.
Everything changed the first time I saw those two little lines. Even before then, we prayed for our children. We made sacrifices and changes to just be able to conceive them. And each time we knew that another little one had come into existence, we began to plan and dream for them. We continued to pray. I talked to our babies even though they couldn’t hear me. We loved them and did our best to protect them while they grew in my womb. We hung the ultrasound photo on the fridge and cherished the sound of the heartbeat. We were planning for each baby to join us. We made space for them in our hearts. Had they lived, I would consider any of these moments the beginning of my motherhood. But they did not live, and I don’t know where that leaves me.
This shirt has remained in my closet for about two weeks. I’ve pushed it aside, wondering why I bought it in the first place. Wondering if wearing it would start a conversation where I’d end up feeling the need to defend myself. Wondering if it made me look pathetic or like I’m claiming a title that I don’t “deserve”. I wrestled with these doubts, but I finally put on the shirt today and walked out of the house. Openly wearing the title of “mother” made me feel like a bit of an imposter since my motherhood is not obvious. I do not have little ones in tow. Yet I cannot deny my motherhood, because that would mean denying the children who gave me this gift.
If I don’t count as a mother, then my babies don’t count–and that’s just not true. My motherhood is not typical. Our children are not with us, but they did exist. While they were here, they awakened a part of my heart that I didn’t know was there before. They are held in that space, rather than in our arms. But they still count. And whether you see it, whether I feel it, I can’t escape this truth: I am still a mother.