Perception, Conception and Loss: When Does Motherhood Begin?
“Do you have any kids?”
I still don’t know how to answer that question. It’s stuck in the grey area.
I could say Yes — I have his birth certificate tucked away in a small blue box that the nurse who helped me deliver him gave me, and I had a hospital bill that I had to pay for the hospital holding his body overnight before they transferred it to a nearby funeral home.
I used to have a tiny Ziploc bag full of his sandy ashes, but then his father and I broke up when I realized that if he wasn’t willing to be there for me when I grieved the death of our son, then I wasn’t willing to be there for him for the rest of my life. I got the cat. He got the cast iron and a temporary ownership of our son’s ashes.
My son wasn’t quite the age to incubate, a handful of weeks short of being kept in a hospital to finish growing. The nurses gave me brochures on miscarriage and stillbirth, telling me that I wasn’t really in either situation. Their calm, cool hands held mine as they compassionately met my tired, overwhelmed eyes with superhuman warmth.
They assured me that although my situation was somewhere in between most others, there were still many resources for grief.
It was in that same grey area for abortions. So you carried a child in your womb for 19 weeks and felt it kick and had an adorable baby bump? Your glob of cells had a fast, strong heartbeat for over a month and fully developed genitals and fingernails and measured the length of your hand? Is that life enough to be considered past the point of termination? Is that an unthinking, unfeeling, soulless fetus? Is that murder?
Or is that preservation of the current state of your life and level of responsibilities? Or is it some bit of all of the above?
I don’t know the answers for everyone, but I know the answer for me. I held Lucius, my son, on my chest for a few minutes while his heart slowly stopped beating after my body unexpectedly went into labor halfway through my pregnancy. He was alive, real, tangible, tiny, sticky, red, bruised by my birth canal. So, yes, I think abortion, for me, would be murder at any point past five weeks.
But I once heard a story from a woman who also went into labor during the same week of her pregnancy, and she had a totally different viewpoint. She had a two-year-old with a lot of life-threatening physical disabilities, and the kid was due for a major surgery the next morning. He was scared and he needed his mother. So for her, the whole scenario of being in the hospital giving birth was less of a priority than being there for her terrified son at home.
She asked the doctors to give her Pitocin to speed up the process, and when she delivered, she wanted to be discharged immediately. To her, the still-developing child in her womb was not as much of a priority as the two-year-old at home who needed to be tucked in and held and sung to, then compassionately wheeled into the OR the next day.
It’s all perspective. Lucius was my first. I was ready and devoted. I had become a mother the second I saw a positive pregnancy test, and every day thereafter my world has been different. There was no longer a moment that I didn’t consider his existence, and most hours, I was imagining a future with my son. The loss was different for me, because it was the biggest, most important thing in my life, and it had transformed everything.
For a few months after Lucius died, I kept getting randomly asked if I had any children. Maybe it was coincidence. Maybe people could tell that I had become a mother, whether or not a child was around. If you see someone buying diapers at a grocery store but no kid with them, does that ever make you question whether they are a parent?
So, do I have any kids? No. I have a tiny bag full of the ashes of my son’s corpse in a small, British ceramic sugar bowl from the 1800s turned into an urn somewhere with my ex-partner. Am I a mother? Forever and always. And someday I’ll have the courage to educate people on my grey area, and maybe next time someone asks if I have any kids, I’ll say, “Yes, I do. I have a son. His name is Lucius, and he died on his birthday on October 8th, 2014.”
Rebekah Kolbe, aka The Moonchilde to her equally eccentric friends, is a writer and newb Yoga teacher in the Michiana area in passionate cultivation of a consciously loving and creative lifestyle. When she isn’t writing sassy and sappy personal essays or exploring esoteric psychology, adoring her loved ones, practicing Yoga, cooking, making music, or walking in the woods, she is working for the creatively philanthropic company called MudLOVE. To get connected to more of her musings, go here.