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This is my first Mother's Day following the stillbirth of my daughter — social distancing only makes it harder

In the past few weeks, Katie Ingram has been heartened by the emergence of brands giving people the option to opt out of saccharine marketing

Friday 20 March 2020 18:07 GMT
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As Mother’s Day approaches, I don’t feel the same dread as I did throughout the Christmas festivities; I don’t feel the fear of time passing as I did at New Year; I don’t have the same unease I had as my birthday approached – and I don’t feel the need to hide from it either.

This is my first Mother’s Day without my daughter, but Mother’s Day without a child isn’t new for me.

For eight long years I hoped that next year – next year – I’d be a mum on Mothering Sunday. I imagined bunches of yellow daffodils in sticky fingers, our child going on secret missions with Daddy to pick out a card, dried pasta-encrusted cardboard crafts brought home from nursery.

All of it still seems like a dream forever hovering just out of reach.

That’s not to say that I haven’t thought about Christmases and birthdays, family lunches, walks in the park and every other aspect of my life being different with a child in tow. Anyone longing for a baby, at any stage in their quest, spends countless hours wondering, “What will it be like when… ”

Mother’s Day is just a bit different. It is a day that celebrates the one thing I want to be. It is a day when everywhere I look there are reminders of the one thing I am not.

On Mother’s Day two years ago, we had just begun IVF.

Last year, I was a mum in waiting, 36 weeks pregnant.

This year, I am a mother – but not the mother I thought I would be. I am a mother who didn’t get to take her baby home. Almost three weeks after Mothering Sunday in 2019, we were given the news that our previously bouncy and apparently healthy baby no longer had a heartbeat. Ottilie Eve was stillborn later that day.

It is fair to say that this year isn’t how I thought it would be.

As I navigate the path of grief, it can feel as if the misplaced belief that motherhood is a simple rite of passage that we will all sail through perpetuates the pain. So often, reminders of my loss lurk around the corner ready to trigger an emotional response just when I least expect it. Sorry to the pregnant woman whose “baby on board” badge caused me to shed a tear on the tube last week as I was thinking about Ottilie: nothing personal.

I would be surprised if anyone feeling the pain of loss of either mother or child can ignore the impending arrival of the celebration of motherhood. In the past few weeks, I have been heartened by the emergence of brands giving people the option to try and make their inbox less of a game of emotional roulette; taking the sensitivities of Mother’s Day seriously and the potential for pain that their advertising can bring.

Florist Bloom and Wild, through their “Thoughtful Marketing Movement”, gives subscribers the option to opt out of all Mother’s Day messages and are using AdTech to ensure that they don’t serve digital advertising to those that take the option. They are encouraging other brands to join in and have an impressive list of those that are signing up.

Astrid and Miyu, a London-based jewellery brand, sent a similar message. In line with their marketing strategy that presents them as much more than a provider of shiny things, the email is evidence of a company that genuinely cares about the wellness and welfare of their customers.

For these smaller digital companies that have the agility of a relatively new business and seem to have predominantly female staff, the decision to support those struggling is an important but reasonably easy one to take. I salute the person in the Tesco marketing team who raised their hand and suggested something similar. For a marketing juggernaut such as Tesco to consider opt-out messaging on Mother’s Day as a viable option gives me genuine hope for a future when it is much more comfortable for parents like me to be able to talk freely about their children.

Mother’s Day is a sensitive day that heightens feelings of loss and longing for people with a variety of stories to tell. Against this new and unprecedented backdrop of isolation and distance, even those who have the seemingly “perfect” set-up are separated from loved ones, with hugs and kisses replaced by awkward waves through a tiny screen. Among my community of mothers with loss, the anxiety is palpable at this strange time. It is hard not to catastrophise when the most terrible thing has already happened.

My plan to surround myself with the love of my mother and mother-in-law can’t go ahead this year, and I know they will feel the absence of their children and the loss of their granddaughter on Sunday too. It is my hope that we can all find ways to be kind to ourselves on the days when emotions are at their highest.

I will take time to think about Ottilie; I may visit her in the morning just to be close to her for a short time. I might even take her daffodils – a moment away from the digital marketing I haven’t been able to opt out of, and the reminders of a life I almost had.

To read more about Katie’s story, visit: withoutottilie.com

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can contact stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands on 0808 164 3332 or email helpline@sands.org.uk.

You can also find bereavement support at The Lullaby Trust by calling 0808 802 6868 or emailing support@lullabytrust.org.uk.

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