Wednesday, 7 May 2014

A Bitter Sweet Mother's Day

By Sally Heppleston
WHEN I wake this Sunday morning on Mother’s Day, I will look like millions of other mothers around the world who are treated to lukewarm breakfasts and clumsily made presents from school or kinder.

But the two living children who call me mum and demand more of me than I ever thought possible don’t tell the full story of my motherhood and my reasons for wanting to sometimes pull the covers up and hide away from Mother’s Day, or from everything.

The scars that bear the truth are internal, and if you take one look at me at kinder drop off or in the supermarket, you wouldn’t know the depths of my hurt.

Stillbirth not only took the life of my firstborn daughter Hope, five days past her due date after a perfectly healthy pregnancy in August 2008, but it also stole my title as mother.

I remember fondly my “first” Mother’s Day, when I was deep in to the second trimester and beaming with happiness about the months that lay head. Fast forward 12 months and I was eight months without a babe in arms and deep in an unrelenting grief I never thought possible.
If you’d walked past me in the street that day, nothing about me would have said mother, but it didn’t matter, as I didn’t leave the house anyway, not even to attend Hope’s grave, the baby who made me a mother.

It is now nearly six years since Hope died, and I’ve been so lucky to have welcomed two siblings for her in to this world, siblings that lived and breathed and gave me a reason to go on. Siblings who re-instated my title as a mother and who gave me someone to mother.

When you’re deep in the trenches of parenting small people, grief often has to take a back seat because if I allowed myself to wallow in it like I absolutely did for those first 18 months after Hope’s death, none of us would survive the day to day grind that is life.

As the Mother’s Day with my living children have come and gone, some years I have gone to the cemetery to visit Hope, some years I haven’t. I can’t say whether I will or not this year but it doesn’t matter, because there is not a shadow of a doubt that I won’t be thinking of her, and wishing she was taking charge of her two little siblings to orchestrate some burnt toast and tea in bed to kick start what should be one of the happiest days on the calendar, and certainly is for most mothers out there.


Not that the day isn’t a sweet one for me now, it absolutely is, but it is a day where the bitterness creeps in too, and as I have done for more than five years, I have to straddle the bitterness and the sweetness to make it through.

Sally Heppleston
Sally is a Melbourne based journalist and mother of three. Her first born daughter Hope was stillborn at 41 weeks in August 2008 after a trouble-free and healthy pregnancy. She and her husband Simon went on to have two more children after Hope passed away, Angus who is now four and Juliet, who is two. The children fill her days with chaos and her heart with love. She also runs a small community arts charity, which raises money for stillbirth research.




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