I see Moms at the preschool my little boy attends, standing at the entrance, laughing and chatting, their toddlers jostling around at their feet. There is an easiness to their interactions and lightness in their demeanor.
I used to join them. Now, I do not.
Now, I stand just outside the group, busily checking my phone or studying the notice board. I avoid the opportunity to engage at all costs, avoiding eye contact, and purposefully excluding myself from conversations.
I used to be at the centre of the group chat, rallying back and forth with the other parents, encouraging and humouring. Our momentary interactions seemed to spur us on to make it through one more menial challenge, and collectively celebrating the small victories of parenting young children. It was as if this camaraderie carried us forward to the next part of our daily round. I loved these shared moments with other mothers. Our animated discussions were for me, an outward celebration of doing this “Mom thing” in a community of people I respect just because they show up everyday and put their best foot forward. I felt inherently connected to these women simply because we were all doing the same thing; being Moms. I am fierecly proud of being a member of this club. But now I just don’t feel like I completely belong.
Why is it different now? I am still a Mom. I am a mother to my four children here, and to my angel Samuel. Losing my fifth child should not change how I connect to other mothers. I have been a mother for 9 years, and still am. So why has losing my baby changed how I identify with this group?
Somehow it has, and I hate it. I don’t understand this change. I suppose I resist connecting with these women because these mothers, whom I now watch from a distance, all seem to have their bubble of innocence still well in tact. They haven’t touched this part of motherhood; the part where you have to let go of your baby with no say in the matter. The part where you did everything right, and still things went completely wrong. I envy the innocence of this perspective, because I used to have it. God how I miss it! I miss the optimism. I miss the “everything generally works out just fine” viewpoint. I even miss thinking that small problems were bigger that they actually were. Part of me yearns to find that again, to let myself be tricked into believing that everything is ok, and that it is ok to let go and let the light in. I crave to be able to chat with other parents about the menial aspects of life and parenting without wanting to shout, “This doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter that you are tired because you are up all night with your baby, or that the hardest part of your day is trying to manage a playdate with school pickups and going to Costco!” Because of course it matters! The day to day round is what being a mom and a parent is all about. I just can’t seem to let go so that I can converse with others about the smaller aspects of the everyday.
Will I ever see things without this filter of fragility and powerlessness? I wonder if I will ever feel it is worth my energy to connect with my community of Moms unless I know them well. I really want to feel inclined to try. But I just can’t summon the courage to engage with others the way I used to. I guess I want them, those “other mothers,” to know this thing about me. The thing that happened to me that explains the cautiousness that veils my eyes and the wariness in my smile. If I could just announce the news first, maybe it would feel easier to be amongst them. If I were to stand up initially and say, “Hi, I am so and so, and I lost my baby boy 10 months ago.” In other words, “Treat me tenderly. I don’t know how to relate to you without you knowing this about me. Help me find my way back to belonging. And yes, please, please ask about him. Please don’t avoid the topic. That feels false and even more painful. I want to share him and my experience just as you want to share your stories about your 10 month old. Samuel would have been 10 months too.”
I guess maybe that would feel just a tad awkward in a large group.
This experience I have been through though is not mine alone. Sadly there are so many who have walked this road. Perhaps even in this community of mothers I belong to, there is a Mom who knows this same truth about life and loss. Maybe she will recognize this pained look right behind my strained smile. Maybe she will reach through the invisible barrier, and help me re enter this world I know so well and miss so much.
I hope she sees me. I hope she recognizes my discomfort, and gently helps me find my way back to belonging.