Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I took Bess for a walk by myself today. Usually, Ed and I take her together after he’s gotten home from work—it’s been too hot to go much earlier than 8:00 at night anyway. But we had dinner plans with a friend from out of town tonight and it was overcast and not as hot today, so Bess and I went out by ourselves around 5:00. I was about halfway up the block from our house when I was struck by the idea of what people driving and walking past must see when they see me. I thought, “They see a childless woman walking her dog.” And then I thought, “Is that what I am? What am I? Who am I now that my daughter has died?”

My dear old friend Page recently posted on her (uniquely awesome) mommy blog some advice for those of us who are “Climbing Out of Hell,” meaning all those of us who have suffered losses of many kinds. At the end, she says, “The last thing I want to say is that you are ‘The One.’ You know, ‘The one whose parents died in a plane crash.’ Or, ‘The one whose sister killed herself.’ Or ‘The one who was raped.’ Whatever the atrocity is, you are ‘The One.’”

She is spot-on, like she is about so many things. But God help me, I don’t want to be “The One.” Even during those horrible days in the hospital, when we were faced with the fact that Hudson was not likely to survive, I remember thinking, “I don’t want to be ‘the parents who lost a child.’” I’m not totally sure what that was about. I think part of me couldn’t bear the thought of that new identity, of being an object of pity, of being a person people feel like they have to mince words around. But I realize now that part of me was already trying to come to grips with what it means to be a mother without a child. When Hudson was born, I think I felt for the first time in my life that I knew who I was and understood my purpose. Although I was (am) certainly more than just “Hudson’s mommy,” I derived more meaning out of that identity than anything else I have ever been or done. I cherished that identity. It was (is) not all of who I am, but it was (is) who I am nonetheless. I don’t want to be anything else.

But who (what) am I now? I am still Hudson’s mommy, but yet I don’t get to actually be her mommy anymore. My identity as I knew it two and a half months ago no longer exists. I walk around the block without my little girl in a stroller. I drive a minivan with no kids in the back. I can do whatever I want all day long without planning around naps, meals, and bedtime. These are not things that mommies do. “Childless mother” is not an identity I ever anticipated. I really have no idea who I am in this new world into which I have been thrust, quite literally kicking and screaming, against my will.

Page says, “How you choose to deal with your oneness is going to make or break the way you live in your ‘After.’ The good news is the more time goes by, the more people forget about your oneness.’” Once again, I know she is right. As we are forced ahead in this “After” without our sweet Hudson, we will never forget our girl, nor will anyone who knew her and loved her. But as time goes on, I hope I will feel less like “the one who lost a child.” And I certainly hope I will not always be a “childless mother.” Because honestly, there’s just no worse identity in the world.


  1. I encourage you to admire your strength and courage, Mandy. I wish I knew why this happened and more importantly, why it happened to YOU and your HUDSON. Unfortunately, I don't have those answers but what I do know is that through it all, you have demonstrated incredible grace. I wish you peace and comfort, my friend.

  2. Mandy,

    You are a wife, a sister, a daughter, a lawyer, an author, and a mother. Period. There is no before or after to any of those things. There never will be. Perhaps you are not using your Mother role as much today as you were three months ago - but you are not using your Lawyer personna as much either from what I hear. And I doubt you are considered by strangers a "Practice-less Lawyer."

    You are mothering though - by sharing your struggle, by highlighting what makes Hudson special, by telling us about wanting more children. To those of us who know and love you, you can not be a childless mother, precisely because you are Hudson's mom. You and she are forever linked for us, and so to remember her, to celebrate her, is to remember and celebrate you.

    Does that take away your pain? No, I doubt it does. Nothing I say - or anyone says - can do that. I hope, of course, that Ed takes more of it then the rest of us, and I believe that being able to share this journey here is a healing balm.

    So the next time you take Bess out, whether by yourself or with Ed, I'd invite you not to see yourself as a childless mother walking your dog. To me, and to all your friends and family, that's not who you are.

    And as to the strangers - who cares what they think. They don't get to recall Hudson's infectious laugh, or Ed's futile quest for a more cuddle oriented daughter. You do - that's part of what makes you a mom - and you always will have that advantage over them. Embrace it.

  3. I can't possibly say it any better than "Phillip"-- as long as there is love in your heart for you child (which is forever and beyond) you are a mother.

  4. Admiration and amazement at your honesty and bravery in the ability to share your raw feelings and experiences but never pity. Never.

  5. Philip H said it well. You are all of those things and none of those things all at once. But I do understand your post today and what you are trying to say. I love you.

  6. You are so much more than "the one who lost a child." I totally get what you mean about how your identity as Hudson's mom meant (means) more to you than any other identity you have had, because I feel the same way about my children. I would never think of you as a "childless mother," because, of course, Hudson is your child and you are Hudson's mama (and these truths will always be). But I understand how you feel like a childless mother, because as you say, for some reason none of us can understand, you don't "get to actually be her mommy" in the way you want to be. I believe in my heart you will be a mommy again in the way you were with Hudson.

  7. You are right. You are a mother without a child to mother. It is one of the worst identities in the world. I am sorry you are in this position. Like I said in my last comment, Hudson's loss is two-fold: you have lost Hudson, but also have lost the ability to engage in the act of mothering. You want a child to hold, to kiss at night, to make messes you have to clean, to have to plan your day around, to play games with, to buy things for every time you go to costco or target. You want it to be Hudson and to go back to the way it was before she died, but maybe having another child to love and to do these things for will help to alleviate some of the grief over this change in identity. But even if you have another child it won't be Hudson, and you will always have to explain to people when they see you walking with 1 or 2 or more children that there is another child who only exists in your heart. It's not right, it's not fair, and is just plain terrible.

    My son's classroom at daycare is in the midst of an outbreak of strep throat. The primary problem being that the kids don't have enough symptoms to justify a throat culture so the doctors just say it's a virus and to bring them back if symptoms persist or get worse. Mind you these kids range in age from 18-24 months so they can't complain about where it hurts and we are left to guess. The way this outbreak was identified is because my husband got sick (2 days after we took our feverish son to the doctor and were told it was a virus), my husband was diagnosed with strep throat, and we took our son back to the doctor and requested a culture which was positive. The doctor was pretty sure he didn't have strep throat based on physical examination and symptoms and mainly did the culture to appease us. Two more cases have been identified in the last 24 hours because of our efforts. The saddest thing when I think of Hudson is that they have a list of at least 7 children in the classroom who have had a rash (a symptom of strep throat) and more than one parent complained about the requirement for a doctor's visit and medical release to return child to school! This is how my son got strep throat in the first place. Take care of your kids people! The unfairness of what happened to Hudson makes me sick. Not that anyone deserves to lose a child, but it shouldn't be the person who takes their child to the doctor, calls the doctor for advice and with updates, and follows medical guidance.

    You are the epitome of a mother. I'm sorry your girl is gone and can't call you mama anymore.

  8. To those of us that know and love you, you are still Mandy. And all of the things that go along with that and all that will come along. Perceptions of strangers are fleeting and weightless.

  9. You are a mother. It is just much harder to mother a dead child than a living one . The change of identity has been difficult for me as well, even though our situations are different. Peace to you.

  10. Mandy, as much as it may seem like your identity is tied up with being a mother (as it should be, both now and when Hudson was here on earth), there are so many of us who see you as much more. You are the tall, beautiful girl; the hyper-intelligent woman who owned law school; half of a wonderful, loving couple; the alumna who donated so much money to ensure the security of charitable legal work. And so many more things.

    However, ultimately you are the only person who can define yourself, and therein lies the struggle. Right now it is hard for you to see yourself as anything other than consumed by your grief, which is completely understandable. Yet, you are - to all of us - so many other things. Further still, many of your future titles and labels have yet to reveal themselves. ...still thinking about you and Ed.