Mother’s Day as an Empty-Armed Mother

It’s Mother’s Day this weekend. It will be my third in my two years as a mother.

My first, in 2014, came just three days after Hugo died. On that first Mother’s Day I took to my bed. Neither Martin or I left the house, and I avoided social media. I knew seeing happy families would have been too much.

It had been Martin’s birthday the previous day, too.

With Hugo’s progress and the drug regime he was on at the time we thought celebrating Martin’s first birthday as a daddy and my first Mother’s Day with Hugo was pretty much a certainty (as much as anything can be a certainty with such a sick baby).

Not being able to achieve these milestones, on top of losing Hugo, was an added blow.

When your child is seriously ill you live for the little wins, the next milestone. The simple things take on an added significance.

I thought the unit would be likely to give mothers some sort of treat on mother’s day. I was hoping that we could sing happy birthday to Martin next to Hugo’s incubator. A proud little family fighting against all the odds.

Me and my beautiful Hugo enjoying a skin-to-skin cuddle.

Me and my beautiful Hugo enjoying a skin-to-skin cuddle.


Last year, my first mistake was looking on social media. All my feeds were full of proud mamas showing off little cards and gifts they had been given by their children, and the breakfast their little ones had provided for them. Everyone looked so happy, and proud. And of course they should look happy, and of course they should share these pictures on social media if they wish – quashing the joy of others would do nothing to ease my sadness.

On last year’s Mother’s Day Martin and I had been enjoying a lovely break in Cornwall. We headed down to the beach in the town where we were staying. The beach, of course, full of families making the most of the day together, mums, dads and children enjoying themselves, having fun.

I stood on the promenade and cried.




This year, I cannot help but feel excluded.

The trouble with Mother’s Day, like so many occasions in the modern world, is that it has been taken over by commercialism. For weeks in advance, the TV and social media are full of adverts promoting the day, and shops of all types are keen to get in on the act. It can be diffficult to escape.

I try to pretend to be a shire horse wearing blinkers to protect my eyes from distractions. A shire horse that is strong, robust, able to take the load and persist, keep moving forward. Moving forward provided my eyes are facing forward.

But still the time is difficult, avoiding distractions an onerous task.

In the past week I spotted a thread on social media where thoughts were being expressed for those who find Mother’s Day difficult. I was going to contribute until I realised that all the comments related to people who no longer have their own mothers, and who miss treating them on Mother’s Day. Should I have contributed with my story? Maybe. But I felt like my story didn’t belong there.  These women were grieving the loss of their mothers, and I felt like my grief would have trespassed on their shared experience.

I felt like I don’t quite belong, like on so many other occasions.

I feel like I am not only a member of an exclusive club that noone wants to join but noone can leave – but a member of an even more select sub-group, that of the empty-armed mother. (There is, as ever, no better or worse, I am saying how it feels for me).

Where does a mother with no living children fit in society, after all?

For example, a certain national pizza chain is advertising ‘a free glass of Prosecco’ for mums on Sunday. Now, I wouldn’t be so stubbornly bonkers as to torture myself by sitting with a load of families to prove a point about me still being a mother despite having no living child to bring with me to prove it. But still it stings.

My resentment of Mother’s Day is about more than commercialism, of course.

It stems from knowing that Hugo will never proudly present me with a card or present he had made himself. Knowing that Hugo will never delightedly bring me a haphazard breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day, the kitchen downstairs in chaos.

Possibly it will never get better. March is a difficult month anyway because it is the month during which he died. It is a month where we cannot help but think “on this day we were…”

For me, at the moment, Mother’s Day is about grieving – grieving everything that I have lost, and everything that should have been.

Hugo. My precious, gorgeous little boy gone forever.

Hopefully, one day in the future I shall be the proud recipient of a scrawled card, hand-made gift, and randomly-selected breakfast in bed from Hugo’s little brother or sister. I’ve no idea how I shall feel that day – how can I?

The waves of grief are unpredictable.

But amidst the sorrow, it is a positive life-raft of a thought to grip on to.

Mother's Day as an Empty-Armed Mother

6 Comments on Mother’s Day as an Empty-Armed Mother

  1. Mary
    March 9, 2016 at 11:21 am (6 years ago)

    I hope the day was okay for you Leigh – Its so hard to have mothers day when your child has passed away. I know I have others, people use that as a reason I SHOULD be happy on days iike this and for moments I am, but it does not erase the pain of loosing a baby, loosing them in your family, loosing the mother and child relationship we would have cherished, whined about etc etc its just so sad and I realised here on my second mothers day with out Poppy that I think it will always feel a sad day. Ive been okay for a while and then couldn’t stop crying sunday morning! Grief is so weird!
    Anyway I hope it was okay x

  2. Becky Cowley
    March 7, 2016 at 9:57 am (6 years ago)

    Oh Goodness Leigh, I have no words really as no words will help. I just didn’t want to read and leave.
    Much love to you on Mothers day, you are still Hugos wonderful mummy and everyday and strength sent to you xx

  3. Luana
    March 5, 2016 at 4:45 pm (6 years ago)

    I will go through the same thing on Mothers day this year (Ours is on May 8th). I actually had my gender reveal on mothers day last year. It was a nice symbolism at the time. 4 months later we lost our Soly. Sending Hugs.

    • Leigh
      March 6, 2016 at 7:54 pm (6 years ago)

      I’m so sorry. Sending love xxx

  4. Kiran
    March 3, 2016 at 10:59 am (6 years ago)

    I can’t know how you feel but my heart aches for you reading this Leigh. All my love. xxx

    • Leigh
      March 3, 2016 at 3:22 pm (6 years ago)

      Thank you lovely xxx


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