Hidden Stories of Motherhood

I’m proud to be featured in this diverse, at turns heartbreaking and heartwarming but always thought-provoking collection of essays published by UK-based magazine Postscript, “Motherhood Untold: Six Essays on Unconventional Motherhood.” In it you’ll find pieces by on teen motherhood, how race and migration affect mothering, even the taboo subject of regretting motherhood. I’m honored that one of the magazine’s editors, Elvira Vedelago, found my work and reached out to commission the piece. My essay is called “Still a Mother” and is the first time I’ve written publicly (outside of social media) about my experience of being a #stillmother—a mother with no living children. Here’s a snippet:

“Before our daughter died, our house was full of sounds. Naima’s coos, grunts and even hungry wails were comforting, because they let us know that she was all right. That all changed when she died. The silence of still motherhood is numbing, hollow. Even the little sounds of our much-loved dog—whom we got after our last miscarriage because I desperately needed to care for a living being—don’t quite fill the void.

Beyond the silence of a childless home, there is the silencing from well-intentioned people. Some of the things I heard from family and friends after losing Naima and as my husband and I struggled to have another child:

‘Don’t cry, what’s the point?’ (Said by my mother-in-law the day after Naima, her only grandchild, died)

‘It’s okay, you’ll have another baby.’

‘You just have to relax, and you’ll get pregnant again.’

‘You can always adopt, there are so many children out there who need homes.’

No one tells you what to do when none of these things happen, when you do everything ‘right’, when you wait and pray and cry, when you pay thousands of dollars for fertility treatments and adoption fees, hoping against hope that this time things will work. Instead, these dismissive responses to our pain only make us not want to talk about our losses, make us fall silent and feel invisible.

Almost a decade after our daughter died and a year after our adoption fell through, friends have stopped asking about our parenting journey, and when we bring it up, they often quickly change the subject. Their seeming lack of interest in our struggles as still parents makes it difficult to talk about. What I would tell them—if they even asked—is that I feel like an utter failure at the one job that I wanted more than any other: to be a good mother. It’s hard not to feel this way, after seeing most of our friends (including those who had lost babies) have children, even grandchildren. I am also tired of being the person everyone feels sorry for. Who wants to be that person forever? So my husband and I sit with the pain of our still parenthood, mostly silent about it except with each other, and do our best to soldier on.”

Please buy this beautiful, much-needed collection. Voices like ours are very much missing in the broader public conversation about motherhood and parenting, even though our experiences are not as uncommon as people would like to believe. You can help change that.

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