Mothering Memories

In place of my son I have a box and a bear. This box contains baby grow, a red book, lots of bits of paper, documents that prove the existence of a life, it also contains photographs, a postmortem report. The bear holds ashes.

We don’t look like mothers, those of us that whose children have died, and yet mothers we are. I had all the thoughts of a mother, all the feelings, and no outlet for them. I had had the experiences, birth, feeding, bad nights, good nights, I knew what to do and yet these things remained inside me


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The first two weeks I was a One rather than a Two and I didn’t want to be. Nothing held any meaning. My house and arms were empty, my heart broken beyond any fixing. My bed was my refuge and I didn’t move for days. I didn’t have the drive to move. I didn’t have the drive even to eat, for a month, maybe more (time at this point became a torture and I refused to acknowledge it), I survived on cuppa soup and smoothies. Liquids. Wine. A lot of wine. The world did not grieve with me either, some friends did, the family grieved for themselves.

It did not take particularly long before most went on with their own lives. I had to learn how to be me again, only the old me - the student, drinker, carefree person - was long gone. The me I became then was a cheap imitation of myself. I used alcohol to mask the blistering grief I felt and as a way to talk about my son without breaking. I blamed myself, though there was nothing to blame. Rather than open myself to the world, I closed off, completely and entirely. I closed all feelings in a little box and left it.

But I was not even a person anymore. I was just a lie.

When I fell pregnant again I felt better. Like I was making my way back to the actual me. Mother me. To a place with an outlet and a place where I felt comfortable. When I went to the hospital for reassurance scans I found myself lying again about cramps and bleeding because sheer terror was not enough. The nurse said to me that no amount of scans would prevent something going wrong, and I could have laughed in her face - she spoke to me as if I wasn’t an expert on tragedy already! How nice it would have been to be naive. Instead of laughing, there was anger, however, because I had miscarried and my body had done nothing about it. I sort of didn’t mind, I’d been through worse and I’d come to the understanding that I was not supposed to be happy, I’d never really been happy before (aside from the brief time with my son of course) and so why should I get to be and stay happy?

When I feel pregnant a third time, a successful pregnancy, I finally had an outlet for the mothering I needed to do. The world saw me as a mother again and conversation centered around my capacity for mothering. I was, and am, treated, by those that did not know me as a first-time mother. Had I a pound for every time I was asked if this was my first I’d be a rich woman. So now, rather than the fight to be seen as a mother, I was fighting to make sure my son was not lost in the waters of what could be a living child. I was being told things that I already knew, and I felt as if I was swimming against the current in trying to have my son recognized. His existence was, and still is, consistently brushed over by myriad people - health professionals ignored the sticker on the front of my pregnancy book, looked at my name, flipped the book open, and asked me “Is This Your First?”. And I explained again and again, No. My Second. Maybe I should have said my Third as technically it was my third pregnancy, but they were asking about babies, not pregnancies.

I spent my period of not being pregnant, and not having a viable pregnancy, talking about what my son used to do and what I used to do then too. “It feels weird being up this late. I went to bed at 9 when Ezra was here.” “I feel sick this time, I didn’t have that last time. I just went off eggs.” I was a mother, sure, but not to anything visible. I was the mother of the abstract. To a whole lot of memories, and memories that I had to parent, I had to make sure remained steady and clear and followed me and others through this Time that seemed to be whizzing by me. It was difficult in that sense too, every day took me further away from my boy and closer to the possibility of a living child. I wished days away and yet wanted nothing more than to just stop, to remain frozen in one day in, say, May 2016, a time where I could say “last month”, a time were his clothes still held their smell.

To mother memories is a peculiar thing, not very different in theory to mothering a newborn. Fiercely protective, to the point of possibly coming across a little bit intense, and yet wanting to show them off to everybody that would listen. I kept my memories to myself for a long time, I wasn’t in a position, mentally, to let anybody in on it. I was (and still am, by choice) a single parent and so my son was my own, I didn’t share him then and I wasn’t going to afterwards. But now I have because I want the world to know how much I loved him. He literally changed my world, my entire life changed course due to his existence and he had this same earth-shifting effect on others too. So why not share?

I decided to share now because I was tired with the internet’s version of thankful grief, tired of those that wore grief like velvet, photos of their tears paired with it having been better to have loved and lost. I was not here for fundraising and random acts of kindness, I wanted to see the true face of angry, bitter grief.

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Candice Brown-Brathwaite