Can I Call Myself a Mother?

03/08/2016 16:47 | Updated 03 August 2016
Love Song Photography

The first positive pregnancy test, the 10-week scan and then nine months later the delivery. The baby out. Dead. The standard pregnancy story runs similar to mine. However instead of the gorgeous daughter I was looking forward to meeting, I gave birth to a corpse.

And therein lies my conundrum. Can I call myself a mother to her?

Until I started telling acquaintances that I did have a child but she wasn't alive anymore and I realised the question was harder to answer than it initially appears.

There is a vulnerability and intimacy with sharing such a fact, and a perfect stranger is then feeling sorry for me after just having asked a casual question. Or worse, they remind me that she couldn't have died because she never lived either.

How many children do I have? Zero? But that's not the full truth. And denying her existence would not be fair to her memory. We do not live in the yesteryear where such events were kept hidden and the parents were expected to forget immediately. But how do I keep her memory alive without dragging others down with sadness? Every time I claim I have no children a wave of guilt washes over me.

I buried my baby before she ever lived. I incubated her for so long and she successfully grew to a healthy weight and size inside the womb but she entered this world dead.

Nine months of pregnancy but no baby to show for it.

'Real' mothers seem worryingly smug when they remind me I don't have nappies and nighttime feeds to deal with and of course they are right. I won't experience with her the standard emotions that come with becoming a bona fide mother. I won't watch with pride as my daughter takes her first steps, experience the pain as she cries herself to sleep after a tough day at school or proudly walk her down the aisle.

Do I deserve the title of mummy if my baby was never alive to say it back to me?

On the other hand, if she is not mine, then who does the little baby buried in the cemetery belong to? What relationship status should I have written as I signed for her stillbirth certificate? The council had requested that only parents had the authority. I was still granted the baby bump, the milk, the recovery, the stretch marks, full maternity leave and free 12 month post-birth dental care.

Her lips looked remarkably like mine and her long legs were my husband's genes for sure. In terms of DNA we would probably be defined as her parents.

If the start of motherhood is that moment when you realise you are joyfully putting someone else's needs before yours then all discomfort and pain to allow for the baby's development was a sacrifice only a mother could do to her child. My maternal instinct kicked in already when she was just larger than an egg.

People tell me not to worry about such questions and I should just try again and be more successful next time.

Then I shall definitely be able to call myself a mother, even in public. But what about now?

Sharon Schurder's first child together with her husband was born stillborn in 2015.

This article is written on the first anniversary of their baby's stillbirth, and hope to raise awareness of the anguish and life questions that stillbirth brings to a family. They ask those reading to reach out to friends and family who have gone through similar experiences and just love, listen and care.