As Mother’s Day is approaching it is hard to work out how I feel about it.
I don’t feel the same dread as I did through the Christmas festivities.
I don’t have the same unease I had as my birthday approached.
I don’t feel the need to hide from it, which is new.
But that’s just it. Mother’s Day without a child isn’t new.
For eight long years I have been hoping that next year I’ll be a mum on Mothering Sunday.
I have imagined bunches of daffodils in sticky fingers, our child going on secret missions with Daddy to pick out a card, dried pasta and glitter encrusted cardboard crafts brought home from nursery. All of which still seem like a dream forever hovering just out of reach.
That’s not to say that I haven’t thought about Christmases and birthdays, family lunches, walks in the park and every other aspect of my life being different with a child in tow. Anyone longing for a baby, at any stage in their quest, spends countless hours wondering “what will it be like when….”
Mother’s day is just a bit different. It is a day that celebrates the one thing you want to be. It is a day when everywhere you look there are reminders of the one thing you are not.
Two years ago on Mother’s Day we had just begun IVF. The endless tests, scans and unexplained diagnosis were coming to an end and it felt like we were finally moving forward. I started injecting a few days later.
Last year I was a mum in waiting. 36 weeks pregnant, I took my bump to a wedding the night before. There was a palpable excitement in the air that finally The Ingrams were having their baby. I was cuddled and kissed and the bump was stroked with increasing intensity as the booze flowed, before I removed myself from the hazards of a late night dance floor. I imagine some of my friends had a mild headache for their first Mother’s Day the following morning.
This year I am a Mother. Not the Mother I thought I would be. I am a Mother who didn’t get to take her baby home. Almost 3 weeks after Mothering Sunday last year we were given the news that our previously bouncy, wriggly and apparently healthy baby no longer had a heartbeat. Ottilie Eve was born later that day.
It is fair to say that this year isn’t how I thought it would be.
Almost a year on from her stillbirth there is still plenty of healing to do, I imagine that will never end. We take each day as it comes, we talk to each other, professionals and our friends and family and we are making progress all the time.
On days or occasions that feel like they will open the floodgates of emotion we have learned to give ourselves options. We make a plan, but we allow ourselves to think about the alternatives too. Just because we have said we will, it doesn’t mean we have to if it feels too much. We are fortunate to have the support of friends, family and colleagues, there are no expectations that we have to power on through.
It is easy to feel committed to a plan, confined to a decision you have made in one frame of mind when you find yourself in another. Giving yourself an escape route from any decision makes that decision less of a burden, it releases the anxiety and gives answers to some of the “what ifs?” that creep in as the plan draws closer.
What if I can’t cope - I can take a break and come back.
What if I still can’t cope - I can leave.
As it turns out, we haven’t walked away from anything. Knowing we can has been enough to make every situation manageable, including the holiday we had planned with our friends and their babies before Ottilie was born. I am so glad we went, even though we couldn’t take her with us, but there were plenty of moments when I didn’t think we would.
For Mother’s Day 2020 I will adopt exactly that strategy for coping. We will celebrate both our Mothers who have cared for us and lost their Granddaughter too. We will spend time with our family - at home, because perhaps a restaurant packed with other people’s kids might be a step too far. I will cook, my chosen distraction for as long as I have been able to hold a wooden spoon.
I will take time to think about Ottilie, I may visit her in the morning just to be close to her for a moment. I might even take her daffodils.
I won’t be able to walk away from the pain of not having Ottilie with me, I won’t be able to pretend that every fibre of my being isn’t aching to be balancing my almost one year on my hip as I lay the table. But I will be able to take time out to acknowledge that hurt if I need to. And that is ok.
The knowing support of an incredible group of women I have met through The Rainbow Running Club will also be there for me, as it is every day. The bonds of shared experience run deep and will continue to be part of my healing. If you are not sure if one of Lucy’s events is for you, I urge you to give it a try. Meeting just one person that understands has the power to lift you in ways I didn’t know I needed.
I wish everyone a gentle Mother’s Day, no matter where you are in your quest for motherhood.