I was at a networking event sitting at a table of about six women under a sparsely shaded area outside
in the sweltering summer heat. Half of us sipped on wine while the other half fanned ourselves
profusely to keep from melting in our chairs. To my right, was a young woman, noticeably pregnant. We
began the usual round robin introduction of self to each other. After the woman to my right announced
she was pregnant, my friend to my right then stated, “So now that you’ve mentioned you’re
pregnant…..because I know it’s rude to assume…..when are you due?” The conversation spiraled into
some of us sharing if we had children or not and how many. I felt like I was watching a ping-pong match
as ladies shared experiences and showed pictures. What am I going to say if they ask ME that question?
I am the mother of an invisible child. I am a mother whose child is not with us in the physical realm. I am
the mother who has to decide, when situations like these occur, if I am going to say, “No, I don’t have
any children” or “Yes, I have a child who is no longer with us.”
Liam Elijah Wesley Boatwright is his name. My only son. He transitioned from this realm on November
15 th , 2016, and since that day I have attempted to maneuver through the “How many children do you
have” or “Do you have any children” questions. After almost three years, I still wrestle with the anxiety
that surfaces when the conversations come up. On that day, it wasn’t just the heat that had me
sweating, but pure nervousness. I wanted to jump out of my seat and Usain Bolt my way to my car for
What was I desperately desiring to run from you ask? I wanted to run from the pity looks. I didn’t want
to be a killjoy of our light and bubbly baby conversation. I didn’t want to hear the, “Oh no! I’m so sorry!”
I didn’t want to have to preface my motherhood status with, “I hope I don’t offend anyone” followed by
“my baby passed away three years ago” for fear I may scare the pregnant woman. I didn’t want to
endure that awkward silence then abrupt transition to a totally different conversation. These are
situations I’ve had to endure in the past, and the thought of it happening again wrecked my nerves!
I am more settled when in a more intimate group or speaking with someone individually. In these
instances, I am fairly comfortable with giving a response, and my response differs depending on the
situation or who I’m talking to. Sometimes I say I have no children. Sometimes I say I have a child who
passed away. Sometimes I say I have an angel child. I roll with whatever I feel like saying in that
moment. I am still a work in progress and I have to constantly remind myself that I experienced an
extremely traumatic event that only happened just recently. So, I share with you some things I remind
myself when (and in some cases after) I am confronted with the “Are you a mom” question.
- – Be compassionate with yourself: I know it may sound crazy, but I put hella judgment on myself
when I expect myself to have the “perfect” response to others that won’t offend or kill the
mood. When I operate with self-compassion, my TRUTH comes forward. There is no
maneuvering through TRUTH- It just presents itself. Besides, the truth is so much more
comforting and doesn’t come from an anxious place. Truth comes from a place of love, strength,
- – You are not responsible for other’s reactions. Don’t let it be your burden: I have to remind
myself that if I walk in my truth, then everything I speak will come from a place of love. If others
are offended then that’s on them. I also have to be ok with letting people feel how they feel. If
it’s pity they feel…it’s ok. If it’s hurt they feel…it’s ok. If it’s pure sorrow they feel…IT’S OK! I
don’t have to be the Emotional Expression Monitor. The only feelings I control are my own.
- – YOU ARE A MOM: I have to remind myself, “Tiff! You are a mom you know?” The absence of a
living child does take some getting used to. It’s like having all of the motherly instincts we were
equipped with, but no child is connected to them. I think subconsciously, I invalidate my
motherhood title because my son isn’t present, which makes me feel as if I am not worthy to
take part in motherhood conversations. But I am worthy! My story is different. My motherhood
is different. I am a mom!
- – Your child isn’t invisible: “But the title is Invisible Child Tiff.” I know that’s what I called this
article, but in order for me to be settled mentally, combat my anxiety, walk in my truth, and
ultimately get to a place of healing, I have to commit to the narrative that Liam is NOT invisible!
He is alive and well in and through me! He has a story! He has a legacy! He deserves to be
celebrated, memorialized, talked about, and jokingly reprimanded when I hear a bump in the
night (I do believe my son visits me from time to time). When I honor him and his place in my
life, I operate from an unapologetic space, which has no room for anxiety or fear. When you see
me, you will surely see him!
I encourage all my moms, angel moms, soon to be moms to validate your experience and your feelings.
It is more than ok to feel what you feel, and those feelings are REAL! More importantly, as a licensed
mental health professional, I urge you to seek professional help if you feel like your mental wellness is at
stake. This journey is tough and I wouldn’t wish this traumatizing experience on anyone, but you can
survive! Take the time to love on yourself, be true to yourself, and honor your (In)Visible Child.