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Mother’s Day is hard.
For me, Mother’s Day started getting hard after my mom died when I was 19 years old.
Truthfully, our relationship was a work-in-progress when she died. I didn’t know what to do as a young woman without her mother. I became baffled by how persistently Mother’s Day was discussed and advertised in the weeks leading up to it. My little sister– five years old when we moved 3,000 miles away from our mom and nine years old when our mother died– would bring home Mother’s Day arts and crafts from school and give them to me. They read, “Happy Sister’s Day.” I wondered what thought process or discussion with her teacher led her to create these crafts for me in the absence of our mother. Did she feel more sad she didn’t have her mother to give these crafts to or relieved she had her loving big sister trying to fill that void in our family.
I wondered what feelings she endured and felt simultaneously flattered and… I don’t know the word for the feeling. Abashed? Guilty? Empathetic? Some combination of the three, or more? I don’t know, but it was a gut-sinking feeling that didn’t feel good. Sweet as it was, the fact was she was giving these gifts to me and not her mother, and I couldn’t wait for her reach the magical age at which children stop making Mother’s Day gifts in class.
I, myself, didn’t know what to do on Mother’s Day. I muted all the commercials. ALL the commercials. So many commercials. I gave my dad flowers and a card. I sent my nana a card acknowledging her role as a mother. My mom would have, after all. I made sure Nana’s card collection wasn’t deprived like her heart surely was after the loss of her child.
That was the beginning of my painful awareness of the sadness Mother’s Day brings others.
Then I began trying to conceive when I was 21 and continued to try through 22, and 23, and 24… Did I mention all those Mother’s Day commercials? Seriously, what about Father’s Day? There is nothing for Father’s Day. But then maybe that’s a source of relief for the dads silently and strongly suffering through infertility alongside their significant others.
My place of employment kept giving me Mother’s Day off. Silly. Each year, I would trade my day off for a shift of a mother with small children. One year, there were two mothers scheduled to work while I had the day off. I took the shift of one and treated the other to dinner out after our shift ended. She was about my mom’s age (or the age my mom would have been.) Her daughter lived far away and couldn’t make the trip to celebrate the day. We were a good match. We were talking and laughing when the waitress commented how nice it was that I had taken my mother out to dinner.
What la-la land of living mothers and fertility did these people live in where they felt they could safely make this assumption? I decided I would visit one day and placed my order.
Five years after my mom died and over two years into trying to conceive, I started my period on the day of Mother’s Day. It was raining. I thought screw it and picked out a “My kids have four paws” bumper magnet in passive-aggressive response to all those “Baby on Board” bumper stickers in overpopulated, car-infested Southern California. (See also this Human on Board bumper sticker.)
After six motherless, childless Mother’s Days, I was expecting a rainbow baby and wanted to be able to celebrate but wasn’t sure I counted as a mother.
I thought I should celebrate this one… just in case.
I thought I would have been a mother by now… if I had it my way. If I hadn’t lost my first baby.
I thought I’m silly. I’m not actually a mother.
I Googled (yes, I went there) other women’s opinions on celebrating Mother’s Day while pregnant.
Let me tell you–
You, the mother of angels;
You, the woman preparing her body, heart, mind, and home for a someday-baby;
You, the woman mothering children born not of your womb;
You, the woman who birthed her baby from her womb and into the hearts of others;
You, the woman who would have been a mother by now if you had it your way;
You, the woman who’s “just” pregnant with your longed-for child and “not actually” a mother;
You, the woman who feels like a mother but isn’t listed here because there are so many countless ways to be a mother
–their opinions don’t matter.
Yes, you count. Yes, you deserve to be recognized. You deserve a foot rub and some dark chocolate and a bouquet of flowers. A million bouquets. Because mothering is complicated. It’s hard, especially– for some– on days like today. But don’t we do it all for our children, seen or unseen? Aren’t we changed because of them? Aren’t we forever making decisions with them in mind regardless of when or how they come into our lives? You are a mother.
Happy Mother’s Day
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