A Grieving, Human Mother
I blamed myself when my daughter died seventeen years ago today (photo is age-progressed, a gift from my children that I hadn’t known I needed until they gave it to me last Christmas). I shouldn’t have planned a home birth. I was too old. I’d had too many problems in childbirth with other children. I felt something was wrong. I should have done something, anything! I should have saved her.
Somehow, even if I know that I was doing the best I could with the information I had, I was her mother. And a mother is always supposed to stand between her child and death. I didn’t save her, so what kind of mother does that make me?
A grieving mother.
A human mother.
A powerless mother.
A despairing mother.
A broken mother.
A mother like every other mother who loves her child so much, who wants to fix everything, to make everything better or easy or just to take away the pain.
A mother who is not enough.
Because the one thing that motherhood has taught me is that no mother is ever enough. We can never fill all our children’s needs. We can’t even see those needs clearly most of the time. We are all scrambling and failing.
Over the last seventeen years, I have realized that part of my need to blame myself comes from the need to believe that I am not powerless, that the next time, I will do better. Somehow, I can keep my other children alive, no matter what evils the universe has in store for them.
For years after Mercy’s death, I made my children eat only “healthy” food (vegan) because I was trying desperately to keep them alive. I walked them to school to make sure they didn’t get run over by a car. I watched them while they played in the yard. I stopped sleeping most nights and would roam the house, peeking into bedrooms to make sure they were still breathing, since Mercy died while I slept and how dared I be less than perfectly vigilant when I was in charge of my children?
I know now why I did this. I know how foolish it sounds, and how pitiful. I didn’t have control over Mercy dying in the womb. I still don’t really know why she did, though the doctor said it was “placental failure” (which sounded a lot to my ears at the time…