It’s the day before Mother’s Day and it is snowing. There is just something wrong with that, with the idea that snow should disrupt one of the beautiful days of spring. The cold, damp weight of winter shouldn’t be allowed to interrupt the warm hope and promise of spring, but life doesn’t always consider these things. Sometimes snow comes on Mother’s Day. Sometimes snow comes on Mother’s Day two years in a row.
Sometimes the snow isn’t literal, but a snow of the heart and of the soul.
I remember celebrating Mother’s Day as a child. I brought home decorated Styrofoam cup dolls, colored macaroni picture artwork, and hand drawn cards. They were horribly unartistic, but offered with all the love of a child who adores her mother. I saw my mother’s gentle smile and appreciative glance when my brother and I brought home a white plastic bowl filled with grocery store fruit as a gift from her teenagers who couldn’t quite figure out what to buy for their mother. Mother’s Day was magical.
As a young woman I looked forward to the day when I could celebrate the day as the mother and not only the child. It was my deepest wish to be a mother, and as soon as possible.
My husband and I didn’t start our family until we were married for several years. Like many young couples we thought that the smartest thing to do would to be to spend some time “getting to know each other” before we complicated matters by adding a small, very time-consuming person to the mix. We never considered that there would be anything other than simplicity in bringing a child into the world, and thought that we could add to our family when we were ready. The promise of Mother’s Days to come were just something that would happen for us, and on our schedule.
I remember being 16 weeks pregnant with my first child, dreaming of the future and the person our child would become. I was entertaining myself with imagined gifts of dandelions and sloppy PB&J kisses. I thought about the moments we would share, the quiet moments we would have, and yes, even the times when I’d cool a fevered brow, or hold back hair for my sick child.
One evening, on a date for our wedding anniversary, my hope of a Mother’s Day to remember were dashed. I lost that little baby at 16 weeks of pregnancy, but I didn’t lose the love, the desire, or the hope for future memories. Those are never lost, even when the child they rested on is.
A few months later, baby #2 followed baby #1 to heaven and I was left, again, with empty arms.
I remember the morning like it was yesterday.
Mother’s Day morning, 2008.
My babies were dead, my arms and my womb and my heart were empty, and I desperately wanted to know if I was a mother. I wanted to know more than anything if I could celebrate my motherhood even if my children lived somewhere beyond my reach.
I silently dressed, moving through the rituals of getting ready for church, my mind consumed with the thought.
Am I a mother?
I AM a mother!
People won’t think it counts.
How do I manage this?
I went back and forth through my thoughts, alternately justifying and berating myself for something that was 100% out of my control. I felt consumed with what others would think of me if I appeared sad.
Every Mother’s Day our church presented a token gift to mothers. The children of the church picked up flowers from the front of the auditorium, and the pastor asked all mothers to stand. The children walked through the auditorium and gave the flowers to the standing ladies. It was meant to be nice, to be affirming, but I felt ashamed, confused, and deflated by where I fit in.
Should I stand?
What would people think if I stood with no pregnant belly, no baby carrier, or no diaper bag by my side?
Honestly, I don’t even remember if I stood that day 7 years ago. I am fairly sure that I went and used the bathroom and silently cried instead.
What I do know is, it was horrible.
Since then I’ve had the blessing of speaking with many precious women: women who struggle with infertility, women who have babies in heaven, women with empty arms. Mother’s Day is hard for many of us. For some there are no macaroni masterpieces, no sticky kisses, no precious moments.
For others children have come after time and the pain eases but never fades completely.
Every Mother’s Day I remember ALL my children, the ones who I hold, who climb into my bed in the middle of the night, who give me tremendous joy, and the ones who I never held.
For me, I have six children. Two who I love and cherish every day that they’re here in my arms, and four who I love and cherish in the hope of a time when I’ll meet them in the hereafter.
For you mommies without biological children, Happy Mother’s Day!
Whether your womb has held a child for a day or full term, whether your arms are empty or full, you are a mother! If you are struggling with infertility or miscarriage today, I want to tell you something very intently. I desperately need you to hear me.
You are a mother!
Motherhood is more than the physical act of conception and birth. It’s more than the physical care of a child. Motherhood is a calling in your heart. Even if you aren’t able to mother your own children, you are a mother to someone; to those who you gather to your heart, who you nurture and protect, you are their mother.
For those who may have never experienced infertility or pregnancy loss, please be kind to those who have. Look out for these hurting mommies. Recognize their motherhood this Mother’s Day. Give them a hug, a reassuring squeeze, a “Happy Mother’s Day”.
Let them know you care.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Have you experienced the loss of a child? Please let us remember and recognize your children, please tell us about your family in the comments!
P.S. Please share this with a hurting mommy this Mother’s Day!