When I was an infertile woman, desperate for a baby but unable to conceive, I had this perfect ideal in my mind of the kind of mother I would be – calm, relaxed, creative and snuggly. When I got pregnant with Gideon I dreamt of the way our new little family would be and the perfect mother I would be to him.
No part of any of those dreams involved hospitals, nicu or death. No part of being a perfect mother involved witnessing my son suffer, caring for him in his incubator, or being party to the decision to end his life.
My dreams of a perfect family never encompassed the soul-destroying moment of holding my baby as he died. For a long time I was (and still often am) riddled with guilt over losing Gideon. His pregnancy, his life, his death all seemed a momentous failure of my dreams of perfection. Where does baby loss ever fit into such dreams? While I knew it wasn’t my fault, I still knew I had failed at the one primary parenting responsibility – keeping my son safe. I vowed that one day, should I ever have another child, I would make up for it. I would achieve my dreams of perfection. I let go of the dream of a perfect pregnancy, spending most of it on bedrest and doing the best I could, but I still dreamt of the mother I would be when he arrived. The perfect saintly mother.
Of course I’m not. I’m far from a perfect mother, I’m tired and cranky, I have no idea why my son cries most of the time, I have no idea what half his cries even mean. I shout, not at him in particular just in general, I get frustrated, I get annoyed. I even failed at breastfeeding – Benedict could never gain weight on my milk alone. None of this was in my dreams of perfection, once again I’ve had to let them all go. All of them!
Sure we do have moments of playing happy families where Benedict is happy and laughing and we are smiling and relaxed but lets be honest, most of the time we are chaotic, disorganised, stressed out and desperately trying to keep calm a very fussy, and very ‘spirited’ baby. There is no perfect mother, no perfect parent. Here’s the thing I forgot when planning my perfection…parenting is hard, really hard. Whether you’re parenting in special care or in the comfort of your own home, whether you are single or married, gay or straight, it’s hard and confusing and chaotic and nothing at all like you imagine it will be.
And experiencing baby loss doesn’t make it easier. It’s still hard and you still lose your temper sometimes; even though you know, first hand, just how lucky you are to have this (living, breathing) baby in your life, and yes you feel guilty about that. But one day you will realise that this IS perfection, in its own way. Not the dreamy, unrealistic movie perfection you once imagined but a new kind.
Perfection wrapped in the crinkled, grumpy, exhausting chaos of real life
And I wouldn’t change it for the world.