Almost a Mother
By: Christy Wopat
There was a time when my motherhood was invisible. I did have some tangible pieces of evidence, two tiny urns: one blue, one pink. A white note card with four smudged footprints, and hospital bills piled on the counter. Two matching cribs, lying in pieces, hidden underneath a sheet in the garage.
I walked around, my motherhood invisible, while grief waged an all-out war on my attitude. Pregnant bellies caused an eye roll and a huff, while double strollers induced an all-out tantrum. A pregnancy announcement would cause a night of tears, my husband holding my hand, desperate to help. I sat through stories at lunch about first steps and first words Really? I’d think. My babies are still dead.
I was still in the hospital when the first relative tried to comfort me. “Hey, you’ll have more kids,” she said. “And besides, those two definitely had something wrong with them, or God would have saved them. They probably would have been serial killers.”
I wish I were making that up.
I wanted to scream the words. “I had two babies! I am still their mom! Can’t you see?” That failed, and so I whispered, “I had two babies…” But when I whispered, people still looked away. They shuddered. Don’t talk about it, their eyes commanded. Shrugged shoulders and tilted heads told me what I already knew-move on. We already have.
For months I tried to move on. ‘What are you even so upset about,” I’d ask myself. “They lived for like a day. You didn’t even hold them until they were dying, and then that was it.” So all the nursery furniture went up on Craigslist, and out it went. Memories were shoved in a box. Reminders would make it worse.
My heart insisted, “But they were your children! She wrapped her whole hand around your finger. You carried them for months. It was only your voice they knew. You can’t just move on! Their memory is yours to keep alive!”
It went on that way for a while, the back and forth. And then, it was Mother’s Day. We were headed to a family cookout. Surely, everyone would remember I’m a mother.
Instead, we arrived and instantly the averted eyes and silence told me this day was not meant to celebrate me. “You’re a fool,” I scolded myself. “You should have known better.”
Later that day, I found myself out shopping with my mom, and my 6-year-old nephew. I tossed my items on the conveyor belt so that they’d get charged to my mom, and I ducked out of the way, grinning.
The clerk looked up as she scanned. “Hey,” she said. “Isn’t today Mother’s Day? Shouldn’t you be buying this stuff for her?”
“Oh, that’s my daughter for ya,” my mom laughed.
The clerk laughed, too. “I hope you remember that someday when you are a mother.”
I sucked in a breath.
My nephew piped up from behind me, ”Aunt Christy was almost a mother,” he told her. “But then she wasn’t anymore.”
I turned and ran out of the store, the tears burning in the corners of my eyes. I made it to the parking lot, my sobs now uncontrollable.
“What is the matter, Aunt Christy?” he asked.
“Oh, nothing, buddy,” I choked out. “I’m ok.”
I got into the back of the car, feeling the grief work its way in, and around, curling itself into me like tendrils of smoke. Silence surrounded me, once again.
I went home that night, and I started a blog, which I titled Almost a Mother. The very first line read, “Contrary to the title of this blog, I am a mother.” I spent night after night writing our story. Writing while I was crying so hard that I could barely see the screen. Writing through anger that made me feel insane. Writing through my next two pregnancies that were fraught with anxiety and straight-up terror.
Today, my motherhood is more apparent to the people around me. They can easily see Avery and Evan, my six- and four-year-olds. I try to be honest about the fact that motherhood is amazing, like when your kid is star of the week and all they want is for YOU to have lunch with them, and how sometimes it is so NOT amazing, like when they throw up all over your bathroom counter, or when they break your TV by “surfing” on the TV stand while you’re cooking dinner.
But, I won’t let the OTHER part of my motherhood be invisible. So, I continue to say their names. Sophie and Aiden. They are my children, too. I will honor their memory forever, in anyway that I can. I truly do not know who I would be if this hadn’t happened to us.
In the end, I know that my sweet nephew had NO idea that his words would carry such meaning. He was looking at it in the most black-and-white, six-year-old kind of way. But, he was just saying out loud what everyone else was thinking. I am forever grateful that he did say those words because they made me realize that I was not ALMOST a mother. I AM a mother.