“I can’t find it.”
“Where did you last see it?”
“I can’t remember, I hid it away as it was too painful, but now I want it back. It was my first Mother’s Day card from Essie.”
My husband walked into our bedroom to find me turning it upside down as it was the day before Mother’s Day and I wanted to find the card that meant more than any other. The card is of Essie’s footprints, made by an angel in disguise when she was five weeks old and halfway through her 11 weeks stay in NICU after she and her triplet brother and sister were born on 1 February.
I didn’t want the card at the time. I was told that Essie was life-limited at 11 days old and would be severely disabled: no movement, no communication, no eyesight, no hearing, no breathing without oxygen and no feeding without a tube. I didn’t want to be Essie’s Mummy.
This feeling was one I had for most of her 11 weeks stay in NICU. We talked about getting her fostered. It was too hard to be her Mummy. She wasn’t what motherhood looked like in my mind. She wasn’t normal. She wasn’t what I wanted. She was different. She wasn’t going to live beyond childhood.
It’s strange now to remember those feelings nearly five years on and over three years since Essie died aged 18 months old. Ask me now and I have nothing but pride about being her Mummy. She taught me so much. I love her forever and know first-hand just how precious and priceless normal is – a fact that everyone has now also learned through the pandemic.
Mother’s Day is always a hard day. In the list of dates that now take on a different significance when your child has died, Mother’s Day is up there in my top three; easily. There is no hiding from it. My other kids give me handmade gifts, cards, tell me that they love me and I’m the best Mummy in the world (I don’t believe they really mean this, but it’s nice to hear!).
I spend the day with a half-smile painted on my face. Tears burning my eyes when I open their Mother’s Day cards. I get one from Essie with her name and a little star above the ‘i’, but it’s not the same. I miss her. I want to snuggle her and smell her curls. I hate that knot in my stomach that just won’t go away. A grief journey is hard – it’s the most unforgiving rollercoaster you’ll ever experience. One day you can be fine, the next ‘bam’ it hits you in the stomach and sucks the air from your lungs.
I prepare for Mother’s Day now. I have to after the first one took me completely by surprise. I know it will be hard, but I know that I want to enjoy it. I have memories to make for my kids – all three of them.
Memories are what get you through the bad days and keep you smiling and laughing on the good ones. As I say to Essie’s triplet brother and sister “we carry Essie in our heads with our memories and hearts with our love”.
I’m reminded every day about what I don’t have, I don’t have Essie. But I have her first Mother’s Day card and I won’t ever forget where it is.