The Guilt & The Knowing – Parenting After a Loss

I am a babyloss mama. I mother two children… one who died and one who is somewhere between a toddler and a kid, at the tender age of three. This post will not only be about loss, but about life after loss, with a living child. I know there is a wide range of experiences that come with babyloss – there are those who had a living child(ren), and then had a loss(es). There are those like me who had a loss, then a living child(ren). There are those who have had loss upon loss upon loss, and then a living child(ren). There are those who have had loss upon loss upon loss upon loss, and no living child. There are those who have chosen adoption… my point is that there are many stories to share. And I welcome you to post comments or email me directly to share your story if you would like. What I write on this blog mainly comes from my own stories, and sometimes from other stories I’ve read or heard over the years. Today, this is my story.

Given that my first child died, I have no idea what type of mother I would have been before my baby died. Sometimes I think about that mama – mainly in that unhelpful mystical thinking way, wondering if parenting would be *slightly* easier if my first taste of motherhood hadn’t ended in death. In some ways, I think it would be “easier” – or really, just different. That’s accurate. Parenthood without a loss WOULD be different. Of course. That makes so much sense.

Today was one of those HARD parenting days. Toddler and mama melt down (funny how those coincide, huh?!).  But on top of whatever emotional pain my kiddo and I were experiencing today, I thought about my first. I felt the guilt of knowing I did not love every moment of parenting my living child. I felt the guilt of wanting a break, to have my fairy godmother swoop in and take my child for the day so I didn’t have to work through whatever we were working through (or not working through!). So on top of a hard day, I was being hard on myself. And this is nothing new. I know it happens. I know it is an extra layer of parenting after a loss. A cloak I wear. Some days the cloak is a nice, lightweight jacket, and maybe I even take it off on exceptionally sunny days. But today, like some days, the cloak was heavy – like a heavy woolen coat soaked with rain, and covered in mud.

Like other babyloss parents, I *know* the worst can happen. I know my child could die, because one already did. As I heard another mother speak recently to the death of her teenage daughter, she shared that she is every parent’s worst nightmare. Yes. And if you were a naive pregnant woman as I was at the time of my first pregnancy, I didn’t even know babies could die. So there is the guilt. This irrational belief that I “should” love and cherish EVERY moment of parenting, because in an instant, it could be gone… in a million ways, my child’s life could end. One of my deepest desires in life is for my living child to bury me, not the other way around.

Parenting after a loss has many layers. These are but two of them – the guilt of feeling like you should cherish every moment of parenthood, and the knowing that your living child could die. It can make for a nasty combination of berating one’s self for not being good enough when the two collide. The good news is that my kiddo and I survived the day. Definitely not one of my finer parenting days. Definitely not a day we thrived together. But some days, surviving is good enough.

If you are parenting after a loss, what do you know to be different about yourself as a parent if you had a living child(ren) before your loss? And if your first experience was loss and then parenting, what do you wonder about? What do you notice about parenting after a loss?