I’ve just finished having my annual meltdown over the heartbreak of being in the hinterland of non-motherhood on mother’s day. It involved me sitting in my car crying, listening to Roberta Flack’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face . Then there was a valiant attempt to cheer myself up which didn’t work and I ended up an emotional puddle of sad all over twitter. I cleaned all that up this morning because, well, at this point in my journey I want to be ok to openly grieve, but I also don’t want grief to define me. It’s a bit of a tightrope walk, because I don’t want to ever stop talking about my daughter and her death, because we NEED to learn to talk about grief, we’re so pants at it, but I’m also very aware that that sometimes makes people uncomfortable, and in turn that makes me feel like an outsider. I have a poem in the new collection about it, about being a walking warning sign, and trying not to be some crazy with a ‘THE END IS NIGH’ sign, harassing people trying to enjoy their children and their pregnancies.
Mother’s Day is tough for lots of people, for lots of reasons, and I think it’s very important to be aware of that. But it’s also important to not let that suck the joy out of your joyful experiences. I’d love to be able to tell grieving mums how to survive mother’s day, but I haven’t really got my head around how to do that, so I can’t. Apart from just being selfish and distancing yourself from the constant barrage of adverts and radio shows about mums and mother’s day. You just have to cling on and get through it.
All the years we were trying to have a family, I dreamt of Mother’s day: hand made cards, daffodils in a little jar, breakfast in bed, my babies and my husband. Yet, when I was pregnant with my daughter and Mother’s day did come around, I felt a bit embarrassed to celebrate it. I felt like I was being silly celebrating something that hadn’t happened yet, like it might jinx it. If I could go back and give myself some advice it would be to celebrate all of it, because you can’t jinx things, things either happen or they don’t. No bereaved mum ever looked back and wished she hadn’t celebrated her pregnancy.
So I wanted to just give this piece of advice to those pregnant mums and those mums with kids: celebrate the shit out of Mother’s day. Don’t let people tell you that it’s commercialised crap, it doesn’t matter. If you’re pregnant, celebrate this utter miracle that is growth, that is your body doing all this amazing stuff on its own, without your control. Celebrate being fat, celebrate the difficulties, the hard stuff, the tears and tantrums, because you’ve bloody earned it. Being pregnant is hard work, have a good moan about it, and celebrate the fact that you’re doing it, surviving it, carrying your little person along with you.
If you have kids, celebrate the fact that they are there, that you are loved, that you have soft, solid little bodies crawling into your bed at what-bloody-time-do-you-call-this o’ clock. Even the shite bits, even the crap of laundry and mucky dishes and endless arguments, celebrate yourself for being a mum who cares enough to worry about that stuff. Celebrate the success of having them there, of being the survivors, of getting through each day, even when it is hard as f**k. I tip my hat to the single mums, they have it harder than most, we should all be celebrating those hardy little devils. Celebrate the chaos, celebrate the love. Don’t focus on only having one or only having two kids, just celebrate the hell out of the one you’ve got. No one ever died from not having siblings, but I know plenty that would quite happily murder theirs. Celebrate yourselves, mums, take photos of your bumps, take photos of your breakfasts in bed, swamp social media with them, but God, celebrate it. I wish I had. I wish I had.
And one more thing, please don’t forget us, us mothers who can’t mother, who’ve lost our worlds, who’ve let them go into the ground, who can’t get past that loss. We are mothers too. Don’t let our stories and our grief stop you from enjoying your joy, but don’t feel we need fixing, that our pain needs to be dealt with and got over, our joy and our pain run parallel, we talk about both at once, we can’t not. That’s our truth, we need to own it. And it doesn’t matter how long ago it is, we’re still mothers, it’s still hard, anniversaries are hard, Mother’s day is hard. I guess what I’m saying is go grab your kids, hold ’em tight and give ’em a squish from me.