This is a strange Mother’s Day for us all. Lots of mothers, grandmothers and children across the globe can’t be together today because of coronavirus. So maybe it will make this first Mother’s Day for me after Etta died a little easier to bear. I won’t be seeing all the afternoon teas and pub lunches or spa days all over social media and wondering whether that’s something Etta and I would have done as she grew older. But I’d be naive to think an entire day dedicated to being a mum isn’t going to sting a bit.
I know I’m not unique in this; there are so many people who will find this day really hard for lots of different reasons. But I was totally ignorant to this pain before and now I hope I can tread a little more carefully for others. Not just a ‘thinking of everybody that finds today difficult’ type post on Facebook but an actual checking in on people I know might be finding today tough.
When Sam asked how I wanted to celebrate today (way before the world was a scene out of a zombie film) I wasn’t too sure. Maybe a walk somewhere special? Maybe some sunflowers (the flowers we had at her funeral)? I think really all I desperately want is to feel as much Etta’s mummy today as I do Ezra’s and that’s really hard when she’s not here in my arms. I’m longing for any sort of connection to my daughter when I can’t physically hold her- it’s very easy to forget that you’re a mum of 2 when the world only sees 1 child.
A couple of weeks ago, I was called by a secretary at the hospital and they asked to speak to Etta’s Mum. They wanted to update her GP records because it said that she was no longer under our GP’s care. Cue a really awkward moment where I had to explain that Etta had died. I cried a lot after she hung up because I’m still not used to saying those words out loud but what I realised afterwards was how lovely it was to be called Etta’s Mum. It had been a while. When we were in hospital, we were Etta’s Mum and Dad all day every day. I’m Ezra’s Mum every time I pick him up from nursery. Apart from with friends and family, I don’t think I’ll ever be called Etta’s Mum again and that really hurts.
We had a lot of milestones and celebrations in the first month after she died. Christmas, NYE, my birthday, Ezzie’s birthday and lots of aunties and uncles birthdays too. Milestones are hard because they are the days of the year that you’ve pictured in your head before the event and so to have that day without your most special people in it doesn’t feel right. And they’re supposed to be happy occasions so you put on a brave face. Christmas 2019 felt like a terrible terrible nightmare. We were really hoping we would be home for Christmas but we never expected we would be home without our little girl.
Celebrations are hard but actually the every days are sometimes harder. I listened to something recently from another mum who lost her baby saying ‘Some days are an Aneurin [her son]- heavy day and they are painful but nice and some days are just really fucking hard’ (@elenalucie). And I feel like that sums it up completely. Sometimes I feel like I need to take an ‘Etta day’ where I look through photos and the scrapbook I made of her life and face the grief head on. It’s painful but nice. But the times where I feel like I’ve had the air knocked from my lungs aren’t on Etta days or the milestone days- they are the unexpected days.
So today was very much a painful but nice day. Sam got Etta’s name engraved on the British Heart Foundation’s Heart of Steel, got lots of thoughtful gifts and even accidentally got 2 bouquets of flowers delivered (although I like to think Etta had a hand in that- 1 for each of my children!!) He did all he could to make today a celebration. And of course, I’ve still got my Mum to be thankful for- I’ve never loved and appreciated her more than the weeks she had to act as Mummy to Ezzie so Sam and I could look after Etta in hospital. Yet again I’m ending a difficult day feeling beyond lucky to have my mum, one healthy child still with me and a heart full of love for the one who isn’t.
This morning, we scattered Etta’s ashes on the hilltop we can see from our house. It felt like the perfect day to do it. It’s Mother’s Day, the sun is shining and let’s face it we may soon be in lockdown and I don’t really want her ashes sitting in a cardboard box on our desk forever. We blew some bubbles, we threw some confetti, we lay some flowers and we even lit a sparkler. And now the last physical part of her is free to float wherever it fancies. It was a little bit sad but it was mostly just another nice way to say goodbye and think of her.
I was worried about not feeling like Etta’s Mum today and struggling to feel a connection to her but it couldn’t be further from the truth. As long as I’m living, my baby she’ll be. And I’ll keep remembering her on the milestone days and all the other days in between.