An Interview with Jess McCormack, Maeve’s Mom
I had the honor of getting to know beautiful Maeve through the adoring love of her mother, Jess. If there’s one thing I’m certain of it’s this: though death steals a life, it can never steal the love between two souls– and it especially cannot sever the connection of undying love between a mother and her child. Though we as bereaved parents don’t get the privilege of seeing our children grow, we do get to experience the soul-deep growing of our endless love for them, and them for us– a love that transcends all time and space. And as grieving mothers, we too straddle time and space as we lovingly mother our precious children both in heaven and on earth. Thank you, Jess, for the honor of sharing your enduring love for Maeve with us. You are an incredible mother to both your daughters.
“I love you and I will never stop loving you.” ~ Maeve’s Mom
1). If you could describe your life now in one word, what word would you choose and why? “Complicated” was the first word that came to mind. I am still trying to figure out how to be happy and sad at the same time, hopeful and devastated, looking forward while still looking back. And I am constantly wondering how to live my life with the pain of missing my little girl.
2). What’s one way you wish your family/friends would have supported you in the first couple years post-loss? I have been lucky to have had the most amazing support in the last 13 months, from almost everyone in my life. They really have been incredible. There have, however been a few friends who have been unable to stay with me in my grief. They have had expectations that I couldn’t fulfill – I couldn’t always be the friend they needed me to be, because I was too consumed by my loss. So the one way I wish some of my friends could have supported me, is to have occasionally put their own needs to one side to be there for me, without needing anything back. I know that’s a huge thing to ask. I have also needed friends and family to allow me to grieve at my pace, to give me space when I needed it and to be there holding my hand when I couldn’t cope alone.
3). What is one question you long for people to ask you? What do you think Maeve would be like today?
4). What’s one question you wish they wouldn’t ask? I can’t think of anything I wouldn’t want to be asked about Maeve. To quote another bereaved mummy, “hearing her name makes my heart sing”. One hurtful comment that has stayed with me is a friend saying that “a lot of people thought there was something wrong with Maeve”. But Maeve was perfect. It’s important to me that people know she was perfect and it hurts that anyone would have questioned that.
5). How have you integrated the loss of your child into your everyday life? We talk about Maeve every day. Her little sister and I say goodnight to her picture every night and we have our own version of “twinkle twinkle” which features a big sister in the sky. We talk often about our family of 4 and include Maeve in some way in every special event. I also visit her memorial whenever I can. When someone asks me if my baby is my first, I always say “no” and tell them as much about Maeve as I feel comfortable to in that moment.
6). Describe a day in your life now. What is it like to be *you* today? What does it feel like, look like, and taste like? My life right now is centred around looking after my 3-month old, Mabel and in trying to be the best mummy I can be to both her and to Maeve. Days revolve around feeds and naps and different groups and activities. And threaded through each moment are thoughts of Maeve, wonderings about how she might have been. Would she have looked like Mabel as she grew? Would they have sounded the same when they cooed and cried? Would she have loved her baths too and hated getting dressed? Who would she have become? My life is rich and full and beautiful with motherhood, but there is always someone missing. Sometimes it’s hard to breathe through the pain of missing Maeve, but I can smile and laugh and delight in Mabel, and will keep trying to be the best mummy I can be in honour of my two little girls.
7). How would you define the word “hope”? The ability to look ahead to the future and feel happy, or imagine happiness to come.
8). What does the word “healing” mean to you? The pieces of my broken heart knitting back together, knowing the cracks will always be there, but that it will keep beating. Feeling stronger, finding it a little easier to breathe.
9). If you could offer another bereaved parent some hope to hold onto, what you would tell them? It gets easier and you will survive this.
10). What gifts have you found in the midst of your suffering? True friendship. I never knew the value of the incredible people in my life and am in awe of their unrelenting willingness to be with me in my grief.
11). How has your loss changed you? I don’t even know where to begin in answering this. I am still me, but irrevocably changed in so many ways. I have felt the greatest fear imaginable in not knowing if I would ever feel ok again. And yet I no longer fear death, because my wee girl is waiting for me. I used to believe in magic and miracles, that good things happen to good people, but I no longer know what to believe in.
12). What do you find to be the most horrific, gut-wrenching, torturous part about life after the loss of your child? Re-living the moment we found out Maeve was gone and still not having an outcome to the hospital’s investigation.
12.5). What have you found to be the most beautiful part of life after loss? The love and support of friends and family. We have seen such beauty in the kindness of others, both loved ones and complete strangers.
13). How has your child’s death changed your relationship with your husband? We are more gentle with one another, kinder to each other and know that we are forever linked by having created and lost such a beautiful little girl.
14). What is your biggest trigger, and what helps you cope when it hits? Other people’s pregnancies. I cope by holding my baby tight, by remembering how lucky I am to have had two wonderful girls, and by holding on to hope that I might one day be pregnant again.
15). What is one thing about your grief, your circumstance, or your life now that you do not feel free to say out loud? And what usually keeps keeps you from sharing it? “You don’t understand, you don’t get it”. I don’t share it because I know most people are trying as hard as they can to get it and to understand.
16). What do you want the world to really really know about pregnancy loss or life after loss? They were real, they were important, please say their names.
17). What kind of grief support have you found to be most helpful? The support of family and friends and our doctor who looked after me during my subsequent pregnancy.
18). What do you want the world to know about your precious child? She was our little miracle. She had lots of wispy dark hair, a rosebud mouth like mine and a little button nose. She had long arms and legs and big feet! She was so beautiful! When she was in my tummy, she used to wriggle the most when I was in the bath. She gave us such hope and such happiness. We couldn’t wait to meet her.
19). How would you describe your life as a bereaved parent? Forever seeking the balance between grief and hope, sadness and happiness, and loving the child who is with me and the one I lost the same amount.
20). What is the hardest part about your everyday life now? Finding enough Maeve time.
21). How do you keep your child’s memory alive? By talking about her all the time and involving her in some way in everything that we do as a family. We usually release a lantern or light a candle on the 16th of every month and visit her memorial whenever we can. We are also using money donated in her memory to make and give memory bags to the hospital where money was kept in second chance banks.
22). If you could say anything without worrying about the way people would react, what would it be? I would just talk and talk about Maeve without worrying I had said too much.
23). What do you wish the world understood about the reality of being a bereaved parent? The hurt never goes away. It doesn’t get ‘better’. I still want to talk about my little girl. Having another baby makes life better, but it doesn’t make my loss better.
24). What helps you most when you feel waves of anger, despair, or grief? A hug from my husband or my baby girl. A little message from a friend.
25). What has given/gives you the strength to keep on keeping on? Being pregnant again and then having had another baby means I have the most important job in the world to do, so I have to keep on keeping on.
26). What makes you feel most connected to your child who is no longer here? Just talking about her and remembering my pregnancy, wondering what she would have been like.
27). What is one thing that would help make your burden lighter today? I can’t think of anything. I feel it is an honour, a privilege to have this burden, no matter how heavy it feels.
28). If you could tell your daughter anything, what would it be? I love you and I will never stop loving you or thinking about you. You will always be my firstborn, my precious Maeve. The lives you have touched have been changed for the better.
29). If your daughter could tell you anything, what do you think she would say to you? I hope she would say, “It’s ok mummy to smile without me. It’s ok to keep on living and I will see you again one day”.
30). If you could choose one picture that best visualizes/represents your life now post-loss, what would it be?
“I feel it is an honour, a privilege to have this burden, no matter how heavy it feels.” ~ Jess McCormack
I am still trying to figure out how to be happy and sad at the same time, hopeful and devastated, looking forward while still looking back. ~ Maeve’s Mom