When do we become mothers?


Today is Pregnacy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Having lost 4 pregnancies, I can’t help but wonder, does that make me a mother?

Certainly the death of one’s children doesn’t take motherhood away. It doesn’t erase the time the mother spent caring for her child, feeding and clothing, supporting and loving. So it’s easy to say one is a mother as long as she cares for her child, for his/her entire life. It doesn’t matter how long the child lives, if it’s 50 years or 5 years. 

What if the mother never gets the chance to care for her child? If the child is stillborn, for instance. She never fed or clothed him/her, but she was there for the entirety of the baby’s life. Will the death of the child, in this case, remove the mother’s title? Does it then mean, it’s right after birth, when the child takes the first breath, that’s the moment a woman becomes a mother?

If you answered yes, what if then this same child, only seconds after, stops breathing? How much different is this mother compared to the woman who gave birth to a stillborn?

If you say the woman birthing a stillborn is a mother too, then how much different is she to someone who lost her baby at 19 weeks, just a few days before it’s technically considered a stillborn? Are those few days what makes a woman into a mother? 

If, instead, you think that no matter how far the pregnancy goes, the woman is a mother, I imagine that means it’s the pregnancy in itself that credits motherhood. When is that achieved? Is it when one feels the baby moving? Is it when one sees a sac on an ultrasound image? Or is it the moment one sees two pink lines on a test?

If you believe it’s the latter, let me ask you this: what if the embryo implants but dies before one is able to see those lines? Is this woman less of a mother than the one who sees the pink lines for a couple of days before them disappearing? If not, then is it at the moment of implantation that one becomes a mother? 

If you agreed to implantation as the defining moment, what about the woman who goes through cycle after cycle of IVF, have many embryos fertilised in the lab but never manages to see them implant? Is she not a mother, although the one who lost the embryo only a few days later is? Are those days what makes this woman into a mother?

However, if you think the woman who endured IVF is a mother, because her eggs were fertilised, what do think about the many others who can’t afford these procedures, but try years on end? There’s no proof that a egg was ever fertilised. Are they then not mothers? Is it the accreditation of a fertility lab that makes a woman into a mother? 

What about those who spent all their lives hoping and dreaming of babies but for one reason or another, were never able to conceive? Their eggs never met a sperm, although their minds made many plans? How are they different than I am?

And what about an adoptive mother? She for sure cared for and loved her child for his or her entire life, but there was never fertilisation of her eggs. Nevertheless, no one will consider her anything else but a mother. The woman whose egg was fertilised and gave birth to this child, is she not a mother anymore? Her child is alive, but she lost her motherhood the moment she handed her child over? 

If you say they’re both mothers, then what would you say about a gestational carrier? She carried the child, her body supplied him/her of all the nutritional needs for nine months, much longer than I ever could. Is she a mother for this child too? Does the child have two mothers then?

Are we all mothers, no matter for how long we carry our babies, no matter if an egg is fertilised or not, as long as we love the babies we see in our minds or hold in our arms? 

I’m sure that’s not how society sees me. I’m sure any woman who hasn’t been through infertility or pregnancy loss does not see me as a mother. I’m just a woman who happened to have miscarried, nothing more. In my heart, I want to think I’m more; but am I really?

I’d like to know from all of you, battling infertility or suffering loss: do you consider yourself a mother? If yes, at which moment you became one? If not, at which moment do you think you will become one? 

At which moment exactly a woman becomes a mother?


8 thoughts on “When do we become mothers?

  1. This is such a difficult question to answer, and I’ve thought about this many times myself.

    There’s a really poignant phrase about how a child who loses their parent is called an orphan, but there is no word for a parent who loses their child. Maybe because it’s just too painful to think about; something that should never happen.

    I’ve had people say to me ‘at least it happened early on’ about my miscarriages, as though that somehow makes me feel better, but you know like I do that as soon as you start trying for a baby, you start to dream, feel, love and protect like a mother. This doesn’t stop if you can’t fall pregnant, or if you lose a baby, if anything that love and desire to care for and love a baby becomes stronger. I’ve found myself more drawn to children since we’ve been trying for a baby, maybe hoping that being around them will somehow help my body to do what it should do, like most women can.

    I think all of us on this journey have asked ourself this question, I just hope that all of us can find the love and peace that we’re searching for xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have experienced both side of the coin. My infant son passed away at 19 days of age. I have also miscarried. Everyone’s experiences are unique to the situation. I will say that having already buried a child the miscarriage probably affected me in a different way. I had been living with grief for nearly two years. I am a high risk pregnancy. Therefore my planning for pregnancy began months and years before conception. Prenatals, folic, Omegas with DHA. Cutting out certain foods and drinks. It is not always the moment you see the two lines….do you start the care for your child.

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  3. This was a very painful post for me to read. It dredges up many very sad and desperate moments on my own journey. I don’t have answers to all of your questions or a tidy way to address the rhetoric of motherhood. I can say that I first accepted I was a mother when I grieved my first loss. My first miscarriage. It had taken me over two years to see those two pink lines for the first time and then a couple of months later it ended. Badly. I can’t say it was right to claim motherhood status when I grieved that lost life versus before that time but it was the first moment someone said I was a mother, giving me a sense of permission and ownership to which I never felt entitled before. With the reflection that comes with hindsight I don’t think that loss was what really made me a mom. But I deeply needed and appreciated the recognition when I say grieving with empty arms for the first of many times.

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  4. To me, I am a mother even though I have no living children, nor have I ever seen a heartbeat in any of my pregnancies. But I feel like society doesn’t recognize me as a mother because of the above. So I keep it to myself, and to the world I still have no children, but I know the truth in my heart. Very excellent post, and when it comes down to it I don’t think there is a real answer. Something to think about some more…

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  5. In my perspective, the woman who opens her heart – and her imagination – to the possibility of a baby placed in her arms, and having that baby taken away from her – at 5 weeks or once it is born – feels the grief of a mother who has lost that baby. Does the grief manifest itself the same way? This will be personal. I cannot and should not speak to the “degree” of someone’s grief it is not my own. I have one living child. I have lost babies as early as 7 weeks and as late as the second trimester. Yes, My second trimester losses were a unique brutality for me, because allowed myself to imagine those babies in my arms with clarity and even moments of joy. My earlier losses I did everything I could to avoid such wondrous hope and imagination. But it doesn’t matter – all losses were devastating – even those pregnancies where I grimly denied myself the hope and imagination of a good outcome. And I agree with others here: We speak in the language of motherhood, which lacks the adequate language for loss.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I often struggle with this and how I feel can sometimes change day to day. Some days I feel like I am absolutely a mother. Other days, when I see my friends with their children, I do not feel like a mother. Not in the way that society celebrates. There are no easy answers. But I know that I saw my babies on those ultrasounds and heard their heartbeats and that is enough for me to say “Yes, I am a mother” on most days.

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