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30th May 2016

‘I’m a Different Type of Mother – A Bereaved Mum’

Anne Marie Walker

I always had very set ideas about what type of mother I’d be. I tend to have fairly set ideas about a lot of things. 

The type of parent I wanted to be was mostly borne from the positive examples around me, while some of it was a reaction to the negative influences I perceived. I guess if I’m honest I can be a bit judgmental. The journey to conceiving Max was so long that I had plenty of time to study the role of ‘Perfect Mother’ from the safe distance of not living the challenges.

I suppose the main thing I wanted was to be the type of mother who gave her time. I remember being quite against the constant buying of ‘stuff’. I felt determined to read books and play games rather than buying things for my child’s entertainment. I loved pregnancy yoga when I was pregnant and I pictured going on to mother and baby yoga, toddler groups, Mummy & Me cinema dates. I wanted to be the type of mother who would encourage education and study. I wanted to help my child with their homework, to work with them on projects, to know when they were struggling and support them.

Exam results and work promotions were never much of a big thing in my house, growing up, and while I don’t think that particularly did me any harm, I guess I saw myself as the type of mother who would celebrate her child’s little (and hopefully big) victories. I wanted my child to grow up to be open-minded and liberal. I wanted to teach him about love and acceptance and equality. I wanted him to spend lots of time with his big cousin Chloe, who has the wisdom and kindness of a hundred years on her 10-year-old head. I wanted him to be musical and creative. I pictured him bashing away on our piano with his Daddy and being a much better singer than me by the time he was six months-old.

I wanted to forge my own path through motherhood. I wanted to breastfeed, despite it being seen as a bit weird by some people around me. I wanted to avoid Christening him just because ‘That’s what was done’. I wanted to make every decision that was within my remit for him to help shape his life into the type of open, kind, confident person who could grow up and move out and choose a completely different way of raising his own children if that’s what he felt was right.

I was determined for my child to be healthy. I read the books. I would have followed the guidelines and weaned appropriately. I would have banished salt and sugar and processed foods and probably freaked out at well meaning grandparents who saw no harm in giving an ice-cream to a one-year-old. Mostly, I just wanted him to be happy. I wanted him to look back on a childhood where he could be himself, where he laughed until his sides hurt, where he was encouraged in everything he loved to do, where he had a loyal puppy who stole his socks and licked his face, where he was allowed to get messy, where a fall and a grazed knee was met with a soothing cuddle and not a scold, where he knew what was wrong and what was right, where he felt safe and loved and secure.


Losing Max has changed the type of mother I am able to be. I guess it’s true to say I am a mother but I haven’t had the opportunity to parent my son. I didn’t get to teach him any of the things I’d dreamt of, I didn’t get to cheer on his first steps or cradle him as he slept, ignoring the tuts of others about spoiling him. I didn’t get to experience the day-to-day challenges of being a parent, or indeed the moment by moment joys. Instead, I face other challenges. Instead the type of mother I am to Max has been shaped by my grief, and by the actions and reactions of those around me.

I am his mother in my pride for him- by sharing his photo, his story, the precious memories I have of him. I am his mother my making him real for people, a person rather than a concept, a life rather than a ‘near miss’, a death rather than a ‘never was’. I am his mother by speaking his name, by writing his name, by screaming his name. I am being a mother in not being able to and not being willing to concede to discomfort of approved periods of grieving and allowing his memory to fade. I am being his mother by making things for him, his mosaics, his teddy, his beautiful books and photo collections. I am being his mother when I feel over protective of him, when I cry tears of pain and frustration over people’s sometimes indifference to his existence.

I am being his mother when my heart floods with love and gratitude towards the people who choose to remember him, when my soul soars with the kind words and actions that people have shown towards us, and most importantly, towards him. I am his mother in my love for his father, in closing ourselves into the little cocoon in which he is real and missed and loved. I am his mother in committing to love him always, to count him always, to balance the sadness of his loss with the joy in his life.

I wonder a lot about the type of parent I may be in the future. My belief in the physical reality of that is shaken to the core, but deep down I do still believe that with determination and resilience we will one day hold our living, breathing child. I really struggle with the concept of what parenting our future family will look like. I will not be the same mother I hoped to be to Max, I feel certain of that. I worry that I have a sadness, a pessimism that will permeate my future, and my future family’s future. I worry that I won’t be able to participate in ‘normal’ mother things. I know I will never sit through another ‘normal’ anti natal class. I will never innocently anticipate a birth. I will never fold clothes into a hospital bag with the assumption that they will end up milk stained. 

I worry that I wouldn’t be able to sit in normal parent toddler groups with people who haven’t experienced what I have. I am worried I won’t be able to relate- that I will roll my eyes and gnash my teeth at the normal everyday issues of sleepless nights and potty training.  I worry that I will remain so vulnerable and raw that innocent comments about the challenges of toddlers, or multiple children, or little boys might derail me. I worry about how I will let people in. I know that people are so ill-equipped to deal with a baby’s death that they simply don’t, but I don’t know how I look into my future and let those same people who have ignored my first, silent son, into the life and the joy of my future screaming ones. I don’t want to drag my future family into a bubble but I really struggle with the idea of letting people close who will not love all my children equally. I want my future family to feel shaded by the love of their big brother, without having their lives cast into the shadow of his loss.

Getting Started

In so many ways though, I know I will be a better mother for Max’s influence on my heart. I know I will love all my children with a patience and a gratitude that is not bound by the struggles of exhaustion or time. I’m sure that I will struggle the same as any other mother, but I believe that the loss and the struggle we have experienced will make the valleys less pronounced and the peaks more glorious.

I know that I will put my children above everything else, above money or work or personal space. I know I will love them and hold them close. I know I will parent more with my heart, I will cherish the tiny moments that I uniquely understand are truly the most important.  I will be there for them no matter what, regardless of the challenges or the difficulties in their lives. I don’t know yet what the future will look like, or how many more cruel hurdles will trip us up before we reach happier times. I do know that whatever the journey looks like, Max will be carried with us throughout it all. There is no expiry date on my love for him. There is no quota to the love I hold in my heart for him and any future children we may have.

There are no books that tell you how to be the mother of a child who never breathed. There are no milestones to check off. There is plenty of criticism, plenty of judgement, plenty of ‘if it were me’. There is also lots of love and support. There are lots of other Mothers and Fathers braving the unknown terrain. I will keep moving forward, I will keep doing my best with where and how I am.

I will keep being Max’s Mum. I don’t know how to be anything else.


Anne Marie is a very proud mother of Max, who unfortunately was stillborn in the 42nd week of a very healthy pregnancy in January 2015. She originally wrote her blog to help those who knew her understand her loss and her ongoing love for her Son, and is now passionate about the rights of bereaved parents to talk about their children and about the importance of lifting the veil of stigma and discomfort that surrounds the subjects of baby loss and infertility.