He never said mama. And now that he’s gone, I can’t even say I’m a mama with full belief. Being a mother requires having a child, doesn’t it? Having in the present tense, I mean. I had him, but he’s gone.
I have wanted to be a mother since I can remember. Watching my friends become mothers followed by waiting, waiting, waiting patiently for years. One failed fertility attempt after another left me wondering if I would ever be, could ever be, a mother to a child. On the day we got our positive pregnancy test, I was stunned. From that very moment, I felt like a mother. I had a life growing inside of me, and although it started so microscopically small, it was the biggest, most important thing in my life. I had a purpose. My identities as wife, sister, daughter, friend, teacher all took a back seat, and my new role as a mother came to the forefront. Nothing else mattered- truly. Nothing else. I was a mother. I was a MOTHER.
When Miles was born, I remember the feeling of his small, warm body on my chest. As he found his way to my breast for the first time, I realized the enormity of my new job. I was responsible for this little human- for not only keeping him alive through feeding him, but for his safety, well-being, and raising him to be a good person. This job, although daunting, was the first job I’ve ever felt truly qualified to do. They say it takes months to settle into a new job, but I was comfortable being Miles’ mom from Day 1. Actually, from Day 0. My whole life had been building towards this dream job, and now I had him. My son. My life. My purpose.
I quickly went from mother to caregiver at 3 months when he got diagnosed with cancer. My days, which used to be centered around feeding him and playing with him, were now filled with hospital stays, and nursing tasks I never thought I would find myself performing on my child. My status, even in the government’s eyes, went from mother to caregiver of a critically ill child. Until the end of his life, I felt as much a caregiver as I did a mother. Countless tasks centered around his physical care when he was palliative filled my days and gave me a purpose, and a reason to wake up in the morning.
In the last week of his life, he wouldn’t settle anywhere but lying on my chest. We spent 24 hours a day like this, mother and son, mama and baby. The moment they took his body away, my purpose was gone. I no longer had him to hold, to take care of, to feed, to nurse. What is left is an emptiness. His crib, his room, our home, our lives. Empty. He’s gone. When people ask “Do you have any kids?”, what the hell do I say? On mother’s day, do I still get cards and flowers? The physical evidence of my motherhood is no longer here. I have photos, memories, boxes of his clothes and toys, but I don’t have him.
People tell me I will always be Miles’ mom. But motherhood eludes me now. If I am not currently mothering him, how can I earnestly call myself a mother? I hope to one day be able to believe that I’m still a mother. But right here, right now, it’s who I used to be. I WAS a mother.