Mother’s Day After Loss

Today was Mother’s Day in the UK. I looked up the definition of the word ‘mother’ in the dictionary, and it told me that it is used as a noun, but can also be used a verb (e.g. a ‘doing’ word). This means that really anyone can ‘mother’ (look after) another person. You don’t have to be a female to ‘mother’ someone, and you don’t have to be a ‘mum’ either. I know plenty of people who are neither of these but do both perfectly. Interestingly, Mother’s Day was actually originally called Mothering Sunday. The meaning behind it comes from when Christians would visit their ‘mother church’ on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Somehow this occasion has become a day we now use to honour and celebrate mothers and children. I think that sometimes Mother’s Day can be seen as excluding those who are not mothers (as in those who don’t have children). However, I think that if it can be looked at in a way that celebrates all those who ‘mother’ us, it includes all sorts of families and those who care for us.

Anyway, grammar and history lessons aside, I have been thinking a lot today about Mother’s Day. Of course it’s been a day for me to celebrate. It’s been a day for me to honour my amazing Mum. She is my role model, the mum I aspire to be. I am so grateful to have had her (and dad) in my life. I am actually really grateful they chose me to be their daughter. Without them I know that my life wouldn’t have worked out the way it did. Without them I definitely wouldn’t be where I am in life today. Today has been a day to celebrate being a Mummy myself. I am the lucky one to have my little girl. She brightens up our lives more than she will ever know. She brings fun and laughter to our house. She has taught me so much about myself, and she inspires me daily to be the best mum I can. Sometimes even now I still can’t quite believe I get to be her mum.

Today has also been a day to be sad and to reflect. Of course with adoption there are losses, and today they seem to be very much apparent. As we celebrate me becoming a mum, I cannot forget that in order for me to do this, someone else has ‘lost’ their child. Little Love’s Birth Mum will of course always be her Birth Mum. I can’t ever take that away from her (and would never want to). She delivered Little Love into the world, and they will always have that connection. It makes me very sad that she doesn’t get to share the experience of watching Little Love grow up. We work had to make sure that Little Love knows she has a Birth Mum, and I guess I want to reassure her (Birth Mum) that we actively do talk about her and try to help Little Love make sense of her story. I do often wonder about her, and wonder where she is or what she’s doing. I worry about her, I hope she’s ok. I think about how she might be feeling. I’m glad we met her, maybe we’ll meet again one day. I think as she gets older Little Love will understand more about the ‘loss’ of her Birth Mum, and I imagine this will be hard for her too. I hope that I can support her to come to terms with this as she needs.

Last year, nearly a year ago I had a miscarriage. Today was the first Mother’s Day after loss. At the time I didn’t expect the miscarriage to have had such an affect on me. I expected to just be able to get over it, and have been surprised that that hasn’t been the case. I’m ok, but every now & then I am hit by what I guess is a wave of grief. Grief for the baby that never was. Grief for the future that I imagined but that we’ll never experience. These last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking more about if we’d had that baby, and how they’d be a few months old now. I makes me miss something I never even had if that makes sense. Baby or not we still have Little Love, and I’m not saying that having a birth child would make me any more of a mum than I already am. Neither am I saying that Little Love is any less our daughter, but it still feels like something of me is missing. I was working today, so we didn’t go to church as usual. I think it was actually a blessing in disguise because maybe being surrounded by all those gorgeous little babies there at the moment might just have been just too much for me today.

Anyway, to summarise, Mother’s Day is wonderful, and great opportunity to honour those who love and support us. But it’s also a day in which people’s sadness is very acute. Mother’s day after loss is hard, and that’s ok to.

The Baby Club

The other day my little girl was off school sick, so she did what any poorly person would do, and watched quite a lot of TV. One of the things she watched for the first time was ‘The Baby Club’. This is a programme that is on CBeebies at the moment. It’s essentially a baby group that you can watch at home, and join in as much as you’d like. Each episode has a small group of parents, their babies and a presenter who leads the group. As with any baby group, there are songs, actions, stories and sensory play. Parents interact 1:1 with their baby. Each session lasts about 15mins. The idea behind it is that if you can’t attend a real life baby group, you’re welcome to join in from the comfort of your own home. It would be great for isolated parents, although it does miss the actual interaction with other adults that is essential for parents. The great thing is that you can get it on iPlayer, so you can join in at any time at suits you and you’re not restricted to a specific time like you would a normal group.

Anyway, Little Love really enjoyed this programme, and watched it several times. She asked me if we could go along, and I had to explain that 1) she is not a baby and 2) we didn’t know where it’s held. She took it upon herself to make her own Baby Club with her teddies. This was totally unprompted, and I was really surprised that she initiated it herself. She must have been really desperate to go. It was great for her independent imaginative and role play, which she rarely does.

Because she enjoyed watching, but wasnt particularly actively joining in so much, I decided to sit with her to watch and participate as if we were in the group ourselves. So we enjoyed doing the signing and actions. We listened to the story, and we explored the sensory object of the session. This involved being organised and having the bits we needed on hand. That time we needed a sponge and bubbles. We also did the ‘calm down’ activities and enjoyed rocking and cuddles at the end.

Her love of this programme got me thinking about why she enjoyed it, and what she took from it. She’s nearly five, so in theory should be long past the baby stage of development. She developmentally shouldn’t really need the level of nurture or sensory experiences that babies do. She should probably find basic nursery rhymes and repetitive stories a bit boring. She is incredibly bright. She can read, she is doing amazing at school. She is a great talker, she zoom fast on her scooter. She can feed herself, she can take herself to the toilet.

Her love of this programme reminded me that even though she is all of the above, she still a little girl too. She’s a little girl who may have missed out on lots of aspects of her infant life. We don’t know a lot about what her experience of being a baby was, so we can only assume that we need to fill in those gaps. She needs, she seeks those baby experiences. She loves sensory play, she loves being a baby. She thrives off being cared for like you would a baby. Sometimes balancing parenting her as a nearly 5year old as well as a baby feels a bit strange and counter intuitive. But, we go with it, because that what she needs right now. She needs the basic nurture (bottles, swaddling/wrapping in blankets, rocking, feeding, dummies) to feel safe. Letting her regress when she needs to helps her cope with the big demands of everyday life. It provides perfect opportunities for us to provide the nurture she needs to feel cared for and loved. It is so important for attachment and bonding. I really wish we’d done more ‘baby’ stuff when she came home aged 2 and a half. She’s big for her age, so I can’t carry her anymore, but these activities all take place sitting together on the floor, so we can have that close physical contact without it being physically too much for me. I don’t think it’s ever too late to do ‘nurture’ activities, and I think the child will make it clear if they want it or not.

I would really recommend this programme to other adoptive parents with older children who would benefit from nurture, sensory, repetitive activities that you can do together. Because you do it at home, no one is watching or judging you for caring for your child like you would a baby. You can do as much as you like, and can adapt the activities to what you need. It’s a fun, quick and simple way to interact with your little (or not so little) one. They won’t need it forever, but I guess whilst they do, it’s a perfect opportunity to soak up those moments of precious quality time together.