Mother’s Day . . . It’s complicated. The first challenging Mother’s Day for me was in May 1996. Technically, I was a mother. I had delivered a baby via C-section in October 1995. He was very premature and passed away in my arms the day after his birth.
That Mother’s Day, I was keenly aware of my empty arms and broken heart. I didn’t really want to go to church. At our church on Mother’s Day, all mothers stand to receive some token of thanks for being a mother. How awkward would that be? If I stood, would people look at me with pity? If I didn’t stand, would people quietly remind me that I am a mother (just without a child to hold)?
I went. I stood at the encouragement of my husband. No big deal, right? I felt numb. I tried to focus all my thoughts that day on how blessed I was to have such a great mother and mother-in-law. I made it through the day.
1997 and 1998 brought pain and more tears. I still had empty arms. Fertility drugs were making me feel crazy (and weren’t working at all). I awkwardly stood each year to receive my thanks for being a mother. But I still didn’t have anyone to “mother.” Mother’s Day 1999 brought more hope. We had been approved for adoption and were working with an adoption agency. I felt at peace at least knowing that we were doing everything possible to become parents. Again, I turned my focus to my own mother and wonderful mother-in-law. Our first child was placed with us November 1, 1999, a beautiful baby girl. I thought Mother’s Day was about to get easier, but come May 2000, I was faced with the most conflicted feelings I’d ever experienced on this day. My feelings were bitter-sweet because as I held my daughter in my arms, I knew there was another mother with empty arms and a broken heart. I was sure she was feeling the same loss I had felt for four years. I was a mother, but at a cost to someone else. Each Mother’s Day since then, I think about the sweet gift three different birth mothers gave me by placing four children into our home. It has become a day of reflection and gratitude, and still, at times, tears. I have a friend who, like me, became a mother through adoption. I remember her speaking in church on Mother’s Day a few years ago and I could relate to her words. She said, “I used to cry every Mother’s Day because I was not a mother. Now I cry every Mother’s Day because I am a mother.” I am well aware that Mother’s Day can bring both joy and pain for a variety of reasons. So to those who painfully endure this day, remember that you are loved for whatever role you play in the lives of children: birth mother, aunt, sister, teacher, friend. Please remember that you are not alone nor forgotten on this day.