For the past five years, we have celebrated Mother’s Day in our household. The celebration has settled into a mixture of sadness and joy, tears and smiles, and memories both gripping and traumatic. I have been a mother longer than most people realize. I have made decisions I wish on no parent. I have seen my babies in ways I dream of never existing. I have loved babies who cannot be here, and for that I am proud. I don’t consider myself a bereaved mother. I am simply a mother.
I was a mother when I found out I was pregnant for the first time.
I was a mother when I learned at 18 weeks my first baby would not survive.
I was a mother when I decided to go through with the amniocentesis, tears streaming down my face.
I was a mother when I contemplated termination.
I was a mother when I instead went into labor, spent three days in the hospital, and finally gave birth to her.
I was a mother when I held her 9 oz body and watched her take her last breath.
I was a mother when I sat at the funeral home deciding on the wording of her obituary and which tiny urn she would come home in.
I was a mother when I fought for my second pregnancy to make it.
I was a mother when that baby’s heartbeat was not longer detectable.
I was a mother when I carried that baby an excruciating four additional weeks, knowing the end was coming but not ever knowing when.
I was a mother when we cautiously became pregnant a third time.
I was a mother when I had my blood tested every other day to check for rising hormones.
I was a mother when I heard that baby’s heartbeat.
I was a mother when subchorionic hematomas (SCH) resulted in passing large blood clots and heavy bleeding.
I was a mother during the harrowing trip to the ER, afraid we had lost another pregnancy, only to realize the baby and its tiny flickering heartbeat can endure SCH.
I was a mother when I worked through morning sickness, lack of appetite, and extreme fatigue.
I was a mother when at another fateful ultrasound, the doctor struggled for several minutes to find the nonexistent heartbeat.
I was a mother when that baby passed in my bathroom and we had to bottle up the remains for testing.
I was a mother when the nurse called me at work to say the baby’s chromosomes were normal and that it had been a boy.
I was a mother when we rolled the dice and decided to try “one more time”.
I was a mother when my husband and I tearfully hugged and promised each other we’d take the fourth pregnancy one day at a time.
I was a mother when the doctors told us over and over again that this baby most likely has birth defects and would likely become our fourth loss.
I was a mother when we decided to break up with the high-risk doctors.
I was a mother when I wanted to deny I was going into labor at 31w 4d but decided to go to the hospital at 1am anyway.
I was a mother when I had to decide if I wanted to take the painful steroid shots and other medicines in the hopes that baby number four would stay put a little longer and grow a little stronger.
I was a mother when she was born anyway via c-section only a few hours later.
I was a mother when she first let out a cry.
I was a mother when I made the long walk down the hospital corridors, clad in my hospital gown, and fighting through the pain of the incision just to see my baby in the NICU.
I was a mother when I tried pumping every three hours (nights included), in the hopes that I could coax my body into producing enough milk for my preemie.
I was a mother when I was discharged from the hospital and had to leave the first night knowing my baby had to stay.
I was a mother when she finally got discharged five weeks later and I sat in the back seat with her hoping this would not be the drive we got into a wreck.
I was a mother when we found her physical and occupational therapists, took her to the orthopedic doctor every week for casting of her clubbed feet, and to weight checks at her regular doctor often.
I was a mother when I shed a few tears the first day she went to daycare.
I was a mother when I had to constantly battle her ear infections.
I was a mother when I saw her first smile, heard her first hoarse sounding giggle, saw her first rolling over, and watch her grow and develop into a peacefully happy, curious, lovable baby.
So, while this Mother’s Day will be my first with baby Evelyn–the first in which I can have all the baby hugs and snuggles I want–it is not my first celebration of motherhood. Like every parent, I have made decisions both easy and hard, somber and joyful, rushed and drawn-out. Through these five years, I have experienced the depth of sorrow and highest of elation. And while I hate to have seen my each of my previous babies leave this world–and our lives–every step I made has lead me to Evelyn. And every moment I have been a mother.