Mothers have been very visible in the media in the last few days for all of the wrong reasons. They are devastating, heartbreaking and life changing reasons. I know many mothers who have gripped their babies tight with love and fear, crying and whispering “there but for the grace of God, go I“.
There is something so special and unique about mothering. Since I started on my mothering journey, which for me began when I realised I wanted to become one, I have realised what a spiritual, all encompassing, powerful life-force mothering is. My identity as a woman is now intrinsically linked to my mothering status. It does not define me but it is part of the core of my being. I will never not be a mother.
Being a mother is very different from being a parent. There are myriad aspects to being a parent that can be shared with many people of either gender in a child’s life but there are some things that only a mother knows.
Only a mother knows what it feels like to desperately want to carry a child in her body. Only a mother knows the untold joy of knowing there is a life growing inside her and the corresponding fear and burden of responsibility that comes with that. Only a mother knows what it’s like to labour and birth her baby into the world. Only a mother knows what it’s like to nourish a baby at the breast from her own body and watch her child grow and flourish before her eyes.
Only a mother knows what it’s like to discover that her body won’t let her carry the baby she desperately wants. Only a mother experiences the anguish and devastation of a pregnancy leaving her body too soon. Only a mother experiences the overwhelm of unexpected and taboo feelings during pregnancy like not feeling maternal, losing interest in her pregnancy and the longing for a daughter turning to the devastation of discovering that she’s carrying twin boys. Only a mother suffers through ante and post natal depression.
The other side of this coin is that only a father can one minute be the positive supporter and protector of his expectant partner and their unborn child to the next minute experiencing the life changing and scarring loss of not just the mother of his children but those children too and all of the feelings of helplessness and despair that accompany that. It is the father who is left behind and alone to cope with the consequences and to try to move forward with his life without the one person he usually turns to in his hour of need.
I would guess that there is not a heart in the land that has not been moved by the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, a 31 year old woman expecting her first baby who died of septicaemia following the three day miscarriage of her 17 week pregnancy.
I would also guess that it is impossible not to be moved by the heartbreaking death of Anna Byrne, a 35 year old mother of two boys who fell to her death during the 38th week of her third pregnancy while carrying twin boys.
My heart goes out to the husbands of both women who have been left behind and who are currently being tossed around by the media like playthings at this appalling, difficult time when they should be left alone to grief the loss of their wives and their children and to try and find some way to start walking down this new darker unchartered path that was not part of their happy plans for their future.
There are joys and sorrows that only a woman as a mother can feel. There are raptures and anguishes that only a man as a father can feel. This week fathers and mothers are holding each other and their children as they cry as a nation for these terrible, unnecessary losses that no family should have to bare.
I hope the media remembers this part as they clamour to sell newspapers and advertising space.