Last night I got a text. It was from someone in David's family. It read:
Happy almost mommy's day! Hope David is spoiling u. How are you feeling?
I read those words and I felt like someone punched me in the gut.
Almost mommy's day?
Are you fucking kidding me?
I wanted to cry. I wanted to throw something. I wanted to puke. I wanted to scream the f-word a million more times. I wanted to grab this person and shake her and make her understand that that no matter how nice her intentions might be, she seems to be utterly lacking in empathy. I wanted to tell that nothing could be more inconsiderate than implying that I am not yet a mother. I wanted to scream at her that I will not deny my daughter's existence, that it does not make me feel better to pretend she did not exist, that I am a mother just as much as she is, and that Eliza still matters--that her life still makes all the difference in the world to mine.
I took a deep breath. I had to do something. I didn't want to react in anger, only because I knew that would be counterproductive. But there was no way I could let this go.
I wrote back:
This is my third mother's day since we found out I was pregnant with Eliza in 2010. Hard to believe. Emotional day. We're really missing our girl.
I got no reply.
I didn't expect to.
But it needed to be said. How dare she imply that I am not already a mom? How she could POSSIBLY suggest that after what I've been through, I'm "almost" a mommy? I've now endured my second mother's day without my baby girl. I have lived through what I would have sworn was unsurvivable. I will not pretend that my daughter never existed, and I don't give a shit if that makes some people uncomfortable. Almost mommy's day my ass.
Every day it hurts that I was robbed of the opportunity to continue to parent my daughter. Every day I am struck by how unfair it is that we never lived through the everyday joys and struggles of bringing home a newborn and watching her grow. I think about this member of David's family, and I try to make excuses for her (they have a long family history of dysfunction and denial, and, after all, she's the only one in his family who even acknowledged me on mother's day, so I guess you could say she made an effort?). But mostly, I feel really hurt and really pissed off.
ALMOST? I wondered what her definition of motherhood is, and what it would take for me not to fall short of it.
I am as certain of being Eliza's mom as I have ever been certain of anything in my life. But I realize that I was never given the opportunity to do so many of the things I had dreamed of doing, that I had always associated with motherhood. So when did it happen, exactly? At what point did I actually become a mom?
Was it the Sunday morning in May of 2010, when I saw those two pink lines on the pregnancy test and felt the giddy rush of realizing that it had really happened--I was really pregnant? Was that the moment I became a mom?
Was it a month later, when we first heard the baby's heartbeat at the doctor's office--wow-wow-wow-wow-wow?
Was it seeing our baby duck on the ultrasound for the first time? Hearing the sonographer exclaim, "There's your little peanut!" and feeling the biggest smile of my life spread across my face as I squeezed David's hand?
Was it when I started researching and reading everything related to pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and parenting a new baby?
Was it when we mailed out our pregnancy announcements, so thrilled to share our news with family and friends?
Was it the first time I felt the flutter of her in my belly as I sat watching David's ballgame on a sultry August evening, when it was all I could do not to stand up and shout out to the pitcher's mound that I felt the baby kicking?
Was it the day we had her twenty-week ultrasound? When she was declared perfectly healthy and right on track for growth?
Was it later that evening when we sat outside, blissfully unconcerned about the gathering storm clouds, and opened an envelope full of sonogram pictures that confirmed my intuition--our baby duck was a girl?
Was it when we celebrated her and surprised our friends with the gender reveal at our "Donald or Daisy" party?
Was it the moment we picked out her nursery furniture? Her car seat? Her stroller? Her clothes?
Was it every time David took a picture of my growing belly?
Was it when we started attending childbirth classes?
Was it each time I prayed that she would be healthy and happy?
Was it at my first baby shower, laughing with my best friends from high school, college, and graduate school, hoping that Eliza would grow up to have friends like these?
Was it at my second baby shower, surrounded by all the women in my family, knowing that Eliza would be so loved?
Was it the night I started having contractions and we headed for the hospital without even packing a bag, never believing for a second that something might go wrong?
Was it the moment that the doctor said she was sorry but our baby had died?
Was it right after that, when the room got dark and then bright and then I vomited off the side of the bed?
Was it when I saw the pain and fear in David's eyes?
Was it when I gave the final push and knew in that instant that the physical discomfort was over but the real hell was just beginning?
Was it when the nurse picked her up and said that we had a beautiful baby girl, and the hospital room echoed with silence?
Was it the moment that I held her in my arms and marveled at her perfect hands and perfect feet and then saw that her little nose was bleeding?
Was it when the blanket shifted and I thought I saw her hand move and I caught my breath and abandoned all reason and rationality to hope that this had all been a terrible mistake even though I could feel that her skin was so terribly cold?
Was it when David took her from me and held her and rocked her and tears ran down my face and I thought my heart would just burst from loving the both of them so much?
Was it when I sobbed in his arms as we listened to the faint cries of other people's babies in other labor and delivery rooms?
Was it when she was dedicated to God by a minister and we filled out the little form with her name and ours?
Was it when I cradled her tiny, perfect body in my arms and told her over and over again that I was so sorry and we loved her so much?
Was it the moment I wished with all my might that it had been my heart instead of hers that stopped beating?
The truth is, I don't know exactly when it was that I become a mother. Eliza's short life was filled with so much joy, followed with the greatest pain I have ever experienced. Having a baby was nothing like I imagined it would be. Becoming her mom was exactly what I had hoped for eight months of pregnancy, and then it was absolutely a nightmare that I couldn't escape.
But none of that changes the fact that she was my baby and I loved her for every moment of her life. She is my baby and I love her still and I miss her more than I can say.
I think back to my pregnancy, and her birth, and the dark hours that followed it, and I can't pinpoint the moment that I knew with unmistakable certainty that this was it, that I was a mom.
But I can tell you this: there is no almost about it.