Before we left for the hospital, our home was ready with everything we might need in the case that Charlotte would be miraculously heeled and come home with us. We left hoping for the best, but we’re still trying to prepare ourselves for the worst just in case. And as you know, the worst happened.
If you've spent anytime talking to me over the last several months, you might notice that I don't refer to myself as a mother mainly because I don't have anything to show that I am one. Some of these reminders below are the reason I don't feel like a mother and while it feels pretty difficult to convince me otherwise, I'm slowly understanding that that's not necessarily true.
1. The nursery.
Despite Charlotte’s diagnosis, Sam & I decided to try to stay positive and hope for the best through the rest of the pregnancy. As the months passed, our house began to fill up with all the necessities one might need/want to take care of a baby, so when we returned from the hospital empty handed, reminders of what our new lives should have looked like where everywhere we looked.
Within the first week or so, Sam and I began to pack up everything that we had received for Charlotte. Many people offered to help take care of this for us, but the desire to be in the room we prepared for our daughter was so strong that I knew I had to do it myself or it might be harder on us (me, especially) later on.
Since then, I've actually surprised myself by wandering into the room and just thinking & praying by myself.
2. Milk supply.
One of the hardest reminders of Charlotte was my milk supply. While still in the hospital, I began pumping and finally understanding what all the hype was about after actually supplying milk to my child in the NICU. But the empty feeling I felt inside after losing Charlotte was even more difficult due to my milk supply continuing to come in as if I had a week old baby to care for.
Because I didn't get a lot of guidance from the hospital in regards to weaning off of pumping, I continued to, tearfully, fill up my freezer and pray that my supply would just dry up. Thankfully, I had family & friends who supported me in every way they could.
It wasn't until my best friend told me about someone she knew who was in search of breast milk for her son that I finally got some answers. Within a week's time, I was connected to this mother and had given her a couple hundred ounces that I had pumped thus far. And almost a month after I had started pumping, I had weaned down & ended my supply without any physical pain on my part and providing breast milk to someone who could use it.
3. Empty Arms.
When we first came home, the feeling was so strong. I carried a teddy bear that my MIL had given us in hopes that that would help, and while it did, it didn't take away the pain in my heart. Less than a week after we left the hospital, we had to go back up to the NICU and honestly, there are no words to describe the feeling I had to walk through the NICU doors into the room we spent over a week in and expect to hold my baby girl and know that I couldn't. That she wouldn't be there. That was the first time (of many) that it felt like this wasn't just a bad dream.
Now, I still long to hold my baby girl in my arms, but don't feel like it's as constant as before.
I know I’m not alone in this title or sentiment – a mother without a child – and my heart breaks thinking about each & every family who has gone through a similar situation. My words will never do this feeling justice and I know we were "lucky" enough to have both some time to prepare and even a few days* with our precious baby, but I'm here to say that no amount of time would ever be enough be enough to make this whole experience understandable.
And I'm so sorry to those who have experienced these reminders before...
*Please know how incredible thankful we are for the nine days we got to spend with Charlotte. I'd take 30,000 more, but I will forever hold those nine close to my heart forever.