Have you ever felt out of place? Perhaps it is because you stepped out of your comfort zone and tried a new activity or hobby. Maybe you went back to school and it feels strange to be around 18-22 year olds if you yourself are not an 18-22 year old. Maybe you’re single and most of your friend group is now married. Maybe you don’t subscribe to the world’s view of what you should be doing for a career or perhaps you love the gypsy life of traveling to far away places and your family would rather you settle down and check the boxes they and the rest of society believes you should check.
Truth with a Capital “T” time: I’ve felt greatly out of place in the mom world my entire mamahood life. I’ve never quite fit into the boxes associated with motherhood and honestly, a lot of them meld together for me, which puts me into subcategories that people find challenging to understand or relate to.
Motherhood, for me, began with death. The death of my first child. The death of the way I assumed pregnancy would go. The death of the dreams I had for my child’s life. And the death of the idea that when shit hits the fan in your life, your people would automatically know how to respond and rally for you. I felt like I was at the starting line of a race, the shot went off and I started to run but I got a debilitating cramp shortly there after and had to stop. All the other runners continued, but there I was not too far from the starting line, alone.
Six months later, I lost my second child, Grace. Another six months after that I lost Reagan. And a year and a half after that, I lost Caleb the day before he was supposed to have been born. Every time I would square up for the race, take off with the sound of the shot and be sidelined once more. Every time wearier, every time more heartbroken and stricken than the last. When Caleb died at full term, the fragility of pregnancy was etched in my brain indefinitely and I knew then I would never have a pregnancy absent of debilitating fear.
By this time, most of my friends had at least one, if not multiple, children. My sister had two, my sister in law had two. Our best friends had twins. I was surrounded by constant reminders that I didn’t fit into the typical motherhood boxes. I parented children that were in heaven. I found ways to honor them and keep their names in conversations, but it wasn’t about milestones or tantrums or sleeping issues. It was figuring out how to be a mama to babes that weren’t here physically and to advocate for my motherhood to be seen and valued. I did not fit in with my friends and family in the parenthood department and it felt overwhelmingly lonely.
I was the leader of support groups for families who had lost babies a few short years later and whenever I would tell my story, the first question that was asked was if I went on to have a living child. That question haunted me because I would then have to look this tender grief warrior in the eye and say that I hadn’t. The hope they were desperately searching for in my story wasn’t there for them and I felt as if I had not only failed in producing a living baby for myself, my husband, my family, and friends but for the grief warrior community as well. It destroyed me and reminded me that even within the pregnancy and infant loss community, I was an anomaly. Most families needed the promise of a rainbow baby to help them through their raw grief. As a leader, they looked to me to provide the hope of a rainbow baby and, at that time, I couldn’t. I felt like I didn’t belong in the very community I should have felt most connected to.
When we decided to pursue adoption out of foster care, a lot of people didn’t understand it. Our goal was to adopt and the foster care system’s goal is to reunite families with their biological parents whenever possible so we decided to pursue the adoption of children who were legally free – parental rights had already been terminated and the kids were available for adoption. In the monthly support groups we went to with our agency, we didn’t have much in common with the rest of the families (with the exception of a few) because they were navigating bio parent visits and treatment plans and we were navigating adoption dates and wary judges due to multiple failed adoptions our kids had experienced by that point. We didn’t fit the typical foster family mold and it felt lonely because no one could relate to what we were experiencing.
I became a grandma at 36 years old and so I REALLY didn’t fit into the grandparent club. People to this day raise their eyebrows when I tell them I’m a grandmother, waiting for the punchline of a joke that won’t come.
Then, surprisingly, we got pregnant with our rainbow baby while we were navigating melding two non-biological siblings into our family as well as being young grandparents and ensuring our angel babes weren’t forgotten. It was a lot. It was 9 months of barely breathing, of anxiety and of everyone telling me I’m doing pregnancy after loss wrong. I didn’t fit in still and I essentially shut down and pushed a lot of people away to self-protect.
Where in the world could I possibly fit in at this point? All roads pointed to uncharted territory and there wasn’t anyone in our lives that had experienced loss, foster care adoption, young grandparent hood and pregnancy after loss. I was a freak – no one could relate to all of these things or understand that because of the complexity of it all, it requires us to parent in ways that we never imagined we would. We don’t get a lot of grace –we get a lot of unsolicited advice.
I’ve come to accept that I don’t seem to fit anywhere in the mama-hood because I have kids with trauma, a toddler who is 13 months to the day younger than his nephew, I still throw a birthday party for Caleb each year and go to the cemetery with the treats I craved during pregnancy with each of my babes to celebrate their angelversaries. I have a rainbow baby but had two beautiful and incredible living children that came before him – I’m not quite sure of the term for that?
It’s easy to feel lost and forgotten and lonely when your parenthood isn’t quite like the “norm”. Infertility, pregnancy and infant loss, adoption, kinship placements/adoptions, etc. don’t lend itself to the “normal” mama-hood related conversations that float around playgrounds and PTA meetings. Feeling like an “other” or an outsider sucks. It’s shitty and unfair and I’m so deeply sorry if you feel that way too.
But can I tell you this, grief warriors? Your parenthood, in whatever forms it occupies, is welcomed, and valued here. I have the space to hold for your precious journey and the words “me too” for when you’re feeling different, or lonely, or a misfit. Your journey, like mine, may not be what you thought it would be or what you had hoped it would be. It’s ok to feel that way – to grieve what you had thought it would look like. It’s ok to be where you’re at and feel how you feel. Just know, from the bottom of my heart, that you aren’t alone. You have a place to belong, right here, with me and The Beautiful Scar Project.