The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and I can even hear fledglings peeping in their hedgerow nests. It's Mother's Day and later I will be taking along a card and gift for my Mum and having lunch with her and Dad, which I'm really looking forward to.
This morning as I was lying in bed listening to the radio I heard a request for a song to be played for 'All those mothers who no longer have their children with them'. This of course applies to many situations - mothers whose children are being raised by someone else (children adopted, fostered, or being raised by their father for example) - but I think the person making the request was thinking more specifically of mothers whose children have died. One doesn't of course, stop being a mother or feeling the emotions of a mother just through separation or bereavement.
For the first time this morning though, I realised that I too fall into that category. I have mentioned here before my unfulfilled desire for children of my own, but what I haven't written about is that I did bear a child.
He was longed for and the pregnancy - after many years of trying - seemed like a prayer finally answered. Unfortunately, complications developed during the pregnancy and Peter was stillborn.
Losing a child at any age is unbearable, but losing a child before he is born puts you in a strange kind of limbo. Many people seemed to think it was kinder just to brush over the whole episode - "least said, soonest mended" - but in my experience I would say being able to talk about Peter, being allowed to hold him and spend time with him after the birth and then being able to give him a proper funeral was what gave me peace and closure.
The strange kind of limbo comes in the years afterwards. Do I count myself as a mother or not? What do I say when people ask if I have children? I usually just say no and leave it at that. It's mostly too complicated and painful to explain. But occasionally when I say I have no children I see the immediate assumptions being made. Oh, career came first. Oh, doesn't like children. Oh, chose to live the life of Reilly without the inconvenience of kids. That stings, even worse when it comes with the slightly judgemental, 'Oh, didn't you want a family?'
I suppose what I am trying to say this morning is that Motherhood - and Fatherhood for that matter - comes in many shapes and sizes. Women have children, have miscarriages, have stillbirths, have abortions. Children are adopted, fostered, raised by other family members; are abducted, run away, die. Shit happens, and we don't always have a choice in how things turn out. And that doesn't stop us being parents, or experiencing the love and pain that that involves.
So next time you ask someone if they have children, please don't make assumptions based on a 'yes' or 'no' answer. The story is almost always more complicated than that!
Happy Mother Day to ALL the mothers out there. Including me.