Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Gift for Mother's Day

by Bethany Conkel

I was not expecting to find myself in the card aisle at our local grocery store. I was just trying to kill a little time and ended up there by mistake. It’s not an area of the store I tend to frequent. 

As I walked through, Mother’s Day cards seemed to jump off the rack. 

I briefly glanced at a card with characters from Disney’s 101 Dalmatians on it. A cute love note to mom was written in a clever ditty.  In that moment, I couldn’t help but wonder what type of card my son would have given me this year. Would it have been handmade with brightly colored scribbles or store bought with his favorite cartoon character printed on the card? Would he have given me a flower planted clumsily in a pot, or would he have helped to make breakfast-in-bed for me? 

It’s been 3-1/2 years since my son was born and passed all on the same day. Although it has been several years, I still wonder sometimes what he would have been like and what life my life would look like with him in it. What would my Mother’s Day turn out to be like with a 3-1/2-year-old little boy running around?

As I walked out of the aisle, I felt sad that I will never get a card from my son. I will never get to cherish a special Mother’s Day gift from him. As I continued to work my way through the store, I realized something. Although I will never get a physical gift from my son, he has still given me a gift. MANY GIFTS, in fact. 

The first gift my son gave me was the gift of motherhood. My sweet boy was my firstborn and made me a mother. Although the time I had to mother him in my arms was short, I still get to mother his memory daily! I will be forever thankful to him for making me a mother. 

My son also gave me the gift of empathy. Before saying hello and goodbye to my son, I never understood the loss of a baby. I had met a few bereaved mothers, and honestly never understood why the pain lingered, even years later. Now I know. Now I understand. Now I am able to connect with bereaved mothers, support them, and empathize with their feelings. 

My son gave me the gift of knowledge. Before receiving a terminal diagnosis for my son, I never knew families even faced such things. I had never heard of anencephaly, trisomy 18 or 13, limb body wall complex, or Potter’s syndrome. I did not know things like perinatal hospice, bereavement doulas, or neonatal organ donation even existed. Although learning about these things has been difficult, receiving the gift of knowledge about this world has changed my outlook on life and allowed me to help others in new ways. 

My son gave me the gift of friendship. I cannot even count the number of people I have met, connections I have made, and friendships I have forged because of my son. Some friendships are so deep that I feel like I gained extended family members.  I have met some truly incredible people, and my life has been enriched in so many ways because of them. Had it not been for my son, I never would have met these amazing individuals. 

My son has taught me that life is both fragile and precious, and it should be embraced -- a lesson that I very much view as a gift.  

Although my son isn’t here to give me a special hand-crafted bobble to place on my desk, or a beautifully colored picture to hang on my refrigerator, he continues to bless my heart and give to me in so many ways. His life has helped shape who I currently am as a person and continues to influence who I will become. This Mother’s Day, I am going to be thankful for the many gifts my son has given me. 

If you are a bereaved mother, I hope this Mother’s Day will be gentle for you. I encourage you to look for some special gifts that your little one has given you. I hope you are able to find something amazing. 
~ ~ ~
Bethany Conkel lives in Ohio and is married to her wonderful husband, Eric. She is the mommy to two amazing children – one who is in heaven, the other here on earth. Bethany carried her precious son, Amalya Nathaniel (meaning: “work of the Lord”, “given by God”) to term after receiving the diagnosis of anencephaly when she was 11 weeks pregnant. Amalya lived for 1 hour and 20 minutes before taking hold of the Lord’s hand. After he passed, his liver, pancreas, and whole body were donated to scientific research. Bethany has since created a website about neonatal organ, tissue, and whole body donation called Purposeful Gift to help other families explore the option of donation. She is also a certified Birth and Bereavement Doula through and serves with Sufficient Grace Ministries.


Unknown said...

Beautiful article, I feel as if I could have wrote this myself. I love reading other peoples positive experiences after loss. I feel empowered by my daughters love and has completely changed my life in ways that continue to unfold. I am also a SBD :) so sorry for your loss mama. Hugs.

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