Article by Alexis Marie Chute
You have probably noticed the Mother’s Day advertisements plastered on every available sign and windowfront for the last month. Marketers won’t let you forget about celebrating your mom, your grandma, and the mother of your children, particularly if that’s you! However, these ads can provoke a painful reaction in some women and couples, which is one important reason why International Bereaved Mother’s Day is so important. This celebration is typically not covered much in mainstream media, but is critical for the multitude of people that are grieving for a child.
International Bereaved Mother’s Day was started by Carly Marie Dudly in Australia and has been embraced by people around the world. This year, the remembrance day takes place on May 7, one week before traditional Mother’s Day. It is a day for any parent who has lost a child, and, in particular, it honors mothers who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, or any type of pregnancy and infant loss.
Motherhood is complicated. Even when you have never lost a child, being a mom is the hardest and best job – and I know this from experience! I also know what it is like to lose a baby. My second child, whom my husband and I named Zachary, was twenty-five-weeks gestation when doctors broke the news that Zach had a random genetic abnormality that allowed tumors to grow in his body. That was the moment all the sleepless nights and frustrations from parenting my daughter, who was one-year-old at that time, were put into perspective. That was when I learned the depth of the mother’s heartache – and also the mother’s love.
Zachary was born – and died – at thirty-weeks gestation. That was the hardest season of my life, and the years that followed were a challenging battle with grief. Parenting my daughter, Hannah, was tough. Grief sucked away all my strength and I struggled to hold in my anguish so Hannah would not see me cry. Eventually, I realized that authentic grief was healthy for her to witness and now, as seven-years-old, she is one of the most empathetic people I know.
Mothers Day reminded me of the future we had lost
After losing Zach, Mother’s Day reminded me of him and the future we had lost. At the same time, the sorrow made me hug Hannah that much tighter and wish for another baby more fervently. Mother’s Day was a mixed bag of emotions, that’s for sure, and I learned early on that some people were not comfortable with that. Thus, International Bereaved Mother’s Day was a godsend, for me and for many others.
Bereaved Mother’s Day is an opportunity for moms grieving for their children to be open about all they’ve endured. They can talk about their birth experiences, what their children who died looked like, the dreams they had wished for their families, and how they may be hurting. Women who lost a baby and do not have living children can be recognized for the mother’s that they are, even without their babies in their arms. The day is a celebration and a memorial.
Opening the conversation around grief and loss is needed to encourage healthy expressions of pain, sorrow and ultimately healing. From my experience, the discomfort from others on the topic of death was intense. Through losing Zachary, I have learned that sharing stories is key for families to turn their pain into joyful remembrances and peace. This starts at home with mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, and friends. With one in five pregnancies ending in miscarriage and one in one-hundred-and-sixty ending in stillbirth, there are a lot of stories to be shared. There are a lot of babies to be remembered. And, especially around Mother’s Day, a lot of bereaved moms to be acknowledged.
Alexis Marie Chute is the author of the award-winning memoir Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing and Pregnancy After Loss, available on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Alexis Marie is a writer, artist, filmmaker, public speaker, and bereavement expert. Learn more about her book and documentary, Expecting Sunshine: The Truth About Pregnancy After Loss, at www.ExpectingSunshine.com. She is a healthy-grief advocate educating others on how to heal in creative and authentic ways.