The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Mother’s Day is my grandmother Hall. Every year of my life, we dressed in red (her favorite color), and went to visit for the day. It was so very all about my grandmother that I don’t even REMEMBER honoring the other women in my life who were so very important to me. I don’t even remember honoring my own mother, but I suppose my dad made sure that I did that in some way.
My mom died when I was 15. That’s when it all got weird. Visits with her family felt awkward, forced even. I’m truly not sure that anything had changed other the fact that my mom just wasn’t there. There’s something about having a parent with you (no matter how old you are) that is just comforting and familiar. Once my mom was gone, NOTHING felt familiar. We tried to hold it together for a few years…we made it a little over a decade, actually. But Mother’s Day had turned into an obligation for me. It was just a day that came and went every year, a painful reminder of who and what all I had lost.
Then came my personal struggle to become a mother. And THAT changed the way I will feel about Mother’s Day for the rest of my life.
My husband and I went through about a year of fertility treatments. We had great insurance that covered everything except IVF. So, we did everything except IVF. It was the most insane roller coaster I’ve ever been on. My hormones were so completely jacked up that I didn’t know who I really was anymore. I was so very hopeful EVERY SINGLE MONTH that I would find out I was going to be a mom. And that positive test never came. It was devastating, and it nearly destroyed our marriage.
Does your church do that thing on Mother’s day where everybody who is a mother gets a flower? It’s sweet, really. But it was so so very painful for me. I sat through one service the year we were going through fertility treatments and I vowed to never go back to church in the month of May ever again. It nearly destroyed me, seeing everyone around me getting flowers when I SO desperately wanted what they had. And really, I think the flower thing would have been okay, except for the fact that NOT ONE SINGLE TIME did the pastor or anyone else mention those of us in the congregation who were struggling with infertility or might have experienced the loss of a child. I KNOW it was not an intentional slight on their part, but I felt so small, so insignificant, so painfully aware of that ache in my soul. And I wanted to run away and never come back.
True, our story was private. We told NO ONE about the treatments we were going through. BUT, I still wanted the struggle to be acknowledged…even if they didn’t acknowledge me personally. I felt like the road of infertility was such a treacherous one, that it should be acknowledged. (YES, I STILL feel that way!) I was just hurting so badly, and I think when you are hurting SO badly, you just really need someone to say “I see you” even if it’s not you specifically that they are seeing. One of the greatest human desires is for connection with others. I wanted to connect, but in that time in my life, I felt so very isolated and alone. I was terrified to speak up about our struggle. Because let’s be honest, some people are just mean. And I wasn’t in a place mentally or spiritually to handle that. I needed people to be kind to me. I was so so very fragile. (If that’s you as you’re reading this blog, let me just say that I SEE YOU! I acknowledge your struggle, I validate what you’re feeling, Even if what you’re feeling seems too big and sad and ugly to deal with, please just FEEL IT. You have to feel it to truly deal with it and be able to let it go. You don’t have to do that by yourself. Call up a friend you trust, find a random stranger in a support group, go to your pastor, or message ME. You are NOT alone, so STOP acting like it! I was in a very unhealthy place for way too long because I just couldn’t – *ahem* wouldn’t – talk about it!)
Eventually I did move forward. In what seemed like a long journey at the time (and was actually quite short in hindsight), I came to the realization that my heart’s desire was to be a mother. Period. And you know what? For me, that had NOTHING to do with being pregnant. I felt like God called me to be a mother, and I knew that He had the most perfect child out there for us. This led us down the road to adoption, and I am now the proud mother of the two most perfect babies!
Being their mom has brought my journey full circle. I cannot imagine loving any two humans more than I love those guys. Before we adopted I heard a friend of mine say “It wouldn’t have mattered,” referring to her children being biological or adopted, and I think that as you’re beginning a journey into foster care or adoption, you wonder if that will really be true. Let me tell you, it IS true. It wouldn’t have mattered if I birthed these babies, or someone else did. They are mine, and I love them fiercely, deeply, and with every fiber of my being. I tell them all the time that God gave their birthmother good health for 9 months so that she could grow them in her belly, and He knew all along that when they came out, I would be their mommy. (Side note: They think it’s weird that people sometimes keep the babies that are growing in their bellies and don’t give them to other moms. We’re working through that…)
I still miss my mom fiercely. This year will be 20 years that she’s been gone, and I still think of her every day. My kids ask about her, and they like to visit her grave so I can tell them stories while they look at the beautiful flowers my brother keeps on there. (They also think it’s weird that people are buried under ground, and frequently ask why she can’t be buried on top of the grass where they can see her. I’m always really creative about changing the subject…)
As for Mother’s Day, my grandmother is gone now, and I don’t really see my mom’s family much at all anymore. It still feels weird for me to celebrate Mother’s Day, and I STILL don’t like going to church that Sunday. Those of you who are hurting and wanting so desperately to be a mom, please know that on Mother’s Day, I STILL hurt with you even though God has answered my prayers beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I see you. I feel your pain. And you know what? I hope I always do. I hope I always remember the hurt and hard times on my journey because those shadows are what serve to provide such a beautiful backdrop to the bright times.
Brene Brown is one of my favorite authors, and this quote is from her. If you’ve never read her books, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! Just be prepared to do some deep soul searching when you read them…
Bright light without darkness is glaring. It’s unpleasant, and so blinding that you can’t see anything for what it really is. But bright light defined by the shadows of heartbreak and pain is BEAUTIFUL. It allows you to have perspective, and to see things for what they are when the bright parts come. Take heart that the dark time you’re walking through right now, painful as it may be, is merely serving as a defining shadow for a really bright part of your life. It’s the dark before the morning! So, to all of you out there who are a mom or ever will desire to be one, I SEE YOUR MAMA HEART, AND IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL!
Happy Mother’s Day!