By KATE BOCCA
“A mother is not defined by how many children you can see, but by the love that she holds in her heart.” – Franchesca Cox
This Mother’s Day I will not wake up wondering how long I have to pretend I’m still asleep until someone remembers what day it is and decides to make some attempt at breakfast in bed (or at least makes their own breakfast). I will not sigh disappointedly at the presentation of a hurriedly scribbled card after realizing my sons have forgotten a gift. This Mother’s Day, as with those that have gone before, I will embrace anything the day brings, knowing it can only be better than that Mother’s Day.
That Mother’s Day when I was discharged from the maternity ward without my baby son. The physical act of walking out of the lift, across the hospital foyer and out of the double doors meant fighting against every fibre of my being. Silent tears streamed down my face, while inside I was screaming from the ache of my empty arms.
That Mother’s Day I had earlier been sitting beside my newborn son in the NICU, who was hooked up to all sorts of machines that were assisting him to breathe and helping to shake loose the sediment of meconium that had settled like road tar in his lungs. From across the room I watched a mother say goodbye to the tiniest human being I have ever seen. Born at 24 weeks gestation, this fragile little boy had been in the world for 6 hours, but would not survive the day. All of the babies in the NICU were fighting the battle to live, but this little one was losing.
The visceral pain of that mother the moment her baby son died was like a physical force, exploding through the hearts of every person in the room. The sound of her anguish reverberated through the core of my being, and today, five years later, echoes through my head at the thought of it.
Every Mother’s Day I remember that woman in the NICU. I recall with absolute clarity the mind numbing fear I felt at the threat of losing my son, coupled with my amazement at how, despite losing such a precious part of her, she didn’t shatter into a million pieces.
Carly Marie Dudley knows the incredible pain of losing a child. In 2007 her baby son Christian was stillborn. From Christian’s death something beautiful was created. At a beach in Western Australia, Carly Marie works most nights at sunset, writing and photographing the names of children who have passed, on the seashore of remembrance. Since the middle of 2008, over 17,000 children’s names have been written in the sand at sunset on Christian’s beach.