It’s Mother’s Day this coming Sunday.
As I get older and walk longer through life, I realize that days that are marked for joy, for so many, are occasions that inflict and dredge up hurt for others. Among the merriment and celebration of some, there are multitudes who wait these days out in pained silence.
As it approaches, I know that there is a sisterhood among women who have felt dread on that day, wishing they could fast forward from Saturday straight to Monday.
My first taste of this truth was on Mother’s Day five years ago. My husband and I were still reeling from our first miscarriage at the end of the past year. The fact that I should have been giving birth in a few short weeks was unshakable. I had no nursery with clothes freshly laundered and folded. I had no swollen belly, no name picked out. The only expectation I had was dread and pain over all of the milestones we had yet to hit without our baby. I knew our due date would hurt; my mind just hadn’t floated to Mother’s Day. Yet.
I remember waking up and wanting to skip church that morning. Growing up going to church in the South, there were a number of holidays you could count on being recognized in a special way; Mother’s Day being one of them, right up there with Easter and Christmas. Normally it goes a little something like this:
Flower corsages are given out at the door to all of the mothers. Greetings of ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ are handed out to women who look to be of child-bearing age or beyond. When seated in the pews, in the midst of service, there is a call:
At this time we’d like for all of the mothers in our congregation to please stand to be acknowledged.
There are smiles, rounds of applause, and whoops as the privileged take to their feet, and often, words are spoken about “the most important job in the world”. I’ve even heard of congregations giving gifts to the oldest mother, the mother with the most children, or the newest mother, making a sort of game out of it. The sermon is often centered around motherhood, as well.
For anyone who has ever felt the sting of these traditions, my heart is squeezed along with yours. I know what it’s like to sit in your chair, trapped in a row of families, among the smiling and clapping masses, feeling six inches tall. Your neck burning. Your stomach at your feet. Wishing you had stayed home. I know what it’s like to angrily turn off the radio, exhausted by one more mother’s day commercial. It was the first of many Mother’s Days I would grieve.
The sad truth is, if you could survey the women in the room, statistically, you would find that there are very few who would be untouched by miscarriage, infertility, broken marriages and families, or death. So why is it so unheard of for these hurts to be acknowledged in the same breath as we acknowledge the amazing work of motherhood?
My prayer is that we find a way to boldly acknowledge pain while still celebrating the gift of Motherhood in an intentional way.
To the woman who is experiencing her first Mother’s Day since losing her mom, we grieve with you.
To the mother who is praying for a phone call from an estranged child, we pray with you.
To the woman who feels no call into the role of motherhood, we celebrate you.
To the mother who grieves her child lost to stillbirth, although her living children gather around her, we remember with you.
To those whose relationships with their own mothers are painful, strained, or toxic, we support you.
To the pregnant single mother, who doesn’t know what to expect and is doubting it all, we encourage you.
Lisa Jo Baker writes that “all of us are called to mother one another”. The beautiful parts of motherhood that we celebrate every year: selflessness, tenderness, caring, they are present in the heart of women, whether or not they procreate. So I should, and shall, choose to tell my friend whose heart beats to save homeless pets that her mothering heart is beautiful. I need to send flowers to one of my oldest friends who pours her life out to elementary school kids every day to demonstrate gratitude for her care and sacrifice. And I will hug my own mama, who lost her own a few years ago, to show her that she is appreciated and valued in the middle of her pain.
Here’s to you, women, who love fiercely and sacrifice readily. Whether your Mother’s Day is perfect in joy and celebration or marked by the putting on of a brave face, my hope is that you are built up by those around you.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.