The Other Side of Mother’s Day

I sat in the back row of the church where my husband and I worked.  It wasn’t our normal spot. But this wasn’t a normal day. It was one I dreaded:  I was grieving. I kept my head down and silent tears splashed.  The choir sang, everyone dressed in their best. There was light-hearted joy in the room. I could sense it, but I couldn’t feel it. I tried to be invisible in my dark place, willing people to look away.

I couldn’t stand the pity. And yet I longed not to be forgotten.

It was Mother’s Day. And after three long years of infertility, I still wasn’t a mother.

That was 12 years ago and while my dream of becoming a mommy came true, I don’t ever want to forget that this day filled with flowers and homemade cards is painful for so many women.

I know many others who skip the day all-together–some because the relationship with their mothers is a raw wound others because their mom is gone and she left a space too large to fill.

Last year after my kids served me breakfast in bed, I received a phone call from our dear Maureen in Kenya. Just three weeks after losing her 7 year old nephew, her only sister died. Sucker punch. When I remember that day, and the overwhelming helplessness and grief, I am reminded again of the bittersweet.

If I’ve learned anything in the past two years working in a third world country, I’ve learned that woman are strong.

And that we are all the same.

We use spit to wipe a smudge, our hands to protect, our hearts to lead. We question, wonder, doubt and regret.  But above all, we dream. We long for a world without war, heartache, poverty, loneliness.

We may be from a different culture, speak a different language, but no matter our circumstances, hope is always enough.

To all the women and mothers everywhere, Happy Mother’s Day.

I could feel her staring across the church, walking towards me. She inched closer and grabbed my hand. She squeezed tight. I held on and looked into her eyes. She never said a word, but the tears in her eyes said it all.

Whatever place you find yourself, think of the woman on the other side.

What to say When Words Aren’t Enough:

  • Give a warm, meaningful hug
  • Send a card, reminding her you remember
  • Ask her how she’s really doing. Wait for her to answer.
  • Use your past pain to help her thru her present
  • Don’t pretend she’s not hurting
  • Don’t tell her everything will be ok
  • Pray for the women in our world

Comments

  1. 2

    says

    A couple who used to attend my small group (now they lead a group of their own, yay discipleship!) has been trying to have kids for several years, with no results. I bet they can feel the pain when the rest of us talk about parenting kids and all that. I do try to comfort them, especially the wife. They are spiritual parents, though, so I bank on that…not only in their new small group, but she mentors her nieces, nephews, and her adolescent younger brother very well.

    Thanks for such a beautiful post. I am now thinking of that lovely woman, and I will comfort her this Sunday.

  2. 3

    says

    Kristin, thank you for this post. I had the same experience 4 years ago. After taking my first negative pregnancy test that morning, and it was the first of so very many, we went to church and celebrated all the other mothers. Ours was a 3 year infertility struggle that included heartbreaking losses, and it was so hard.

    This Sunday will be my first Mother’s Day with a baby in my arms – my Samuel is almost 5 months now. God is good, and I too will not forget each of those days, or the women who are still in that place. Thanks again.

  3. 4

    says

    Wow! Truly empowering words. It is so easy to get caught up in the joys of our lives and forget about the pain in others’. Thank you for reminding me to reach out to those women in my life that aren’t having a happy mother’s day.

  4. 5

    says

    To all those out there who have struggled with infertility: You are mothers at heart! Happy Mother’s Day. My husband and I tried for a year. I was able to get pregnant, but miscarried twice. Then it finally happened. It will happen. Have faith. God will give the desire of your heart. We must believe it, but always know it is in His time. A dear friend of mine and her husband have been trying for a few years and still get so discouraged every month there is a cycle. I know it is hard for her. For all of you who do go through it. Be strong!

    • 5.1

      MrsH says

      I have been married for almost 9 years, and we have not been able to have children. I beg you–Please do not tell me and others like me that we are “mothers at heart.” We know that–that’s why being infertile is so difficult. Because we want to be mothers. Another thing that well-meaning people say is “It will happen.” You don’t know that–only God does. I know that people mean well when they say these things, but for many women they are just reminders that make the hurt fresh again. Please consider these things when you talk with infertile couples. God bless you and your family!

      • 5.1.1

        Jana says

        I appreciate your gentle tone, and I hope mine is, as well.

        Another thing not to say is “Have faith.” Whether or not the speaker intends this connotation, it can be perceived as “The reason you don’t have children is because your faith isn’t strong/big enough.” Salt in the wound.

      • 5.1.2

        Misty says

        We struggled with secondary infertility. We had our daughter, and then waited almost 7 years for our son. People asked me why we didn’t have another child, accused us of being selfish parents who “created an only child” situation, and then, when we finally shared with them our struggles with infertility, told us that we shouldn’t feel sorrow because God gave us a child and it was selfish to be sad because we couldn’t have another.

        Meanwhile, while we sat at our table eating dinner, we were all aware that someone was missing. We prayed and prayed and prayed and cried and prayed. We didn’t understand why this prayer wasn’t being answered. And yes, we are overjoyed that our little boy finally joined us…but it has also left a hole in my heart for women who can’t or haven’t had a child. It’s made me very aware that too often we try to alleviate our own discomfort with another’s grief by saying something “kind”. The person who is grieving doesn’t want to hear something kind. They want someone to understand and maybe, to care enough to grieve with them for just a moment.

  5. 6

    says

    Thank you for giving voice to this experience that so many women have on mother’s day. I gave my first son up for adoption when I was a teenager, and for years, this day was a horrible reminder of my own emptiness and pain. Then I lost my mom to mental illness.

    And then I became a mom to three amazing boys, but still…the day itself hurts. You can’t spend that many years grieving without it leaving scars.

    • 6.1

      Jana says

      As an adult adoptee, may I say, you are a hero! I am sorry for your scars, but I deeply respect what you did.

      • 6.1.1

        says

        Thank you, Jana. I do not regret giving my son life for one minute! The emotions are complicated, but the one thing that has always been constant is my love for my birthson. He will always be in my heart.

        I’m not a hero by any stretch…just a woman who made some mistakes as a teenager and tried to make the best of things…

  6. 7

    Lisa B says

    Last years Mothers Day was much of the same for me. After losing two children in just a few short months, the feelings of inadequacy set in. I am tearful now just thinking of it. This Mothers Day will be celebrated with being 8 months pregnant, but still remembering so much the children I loved and lost, and rejoicing in the fact they never felt earthly pain.

  7. 9

    says

    I’ve birthed four babies and had three miscarriages. I miscarried twice before our daughter was born. That Mother’s Day after the two miscarriages was SO hard. I remember how much it hurt, and I hope I always remember that! The first Mother’s Day after my Mom died was another one that was hard. If nothing else, at least it has taught me that the best thing to do in that situation is sometimes just giving someone a hug and telling them that you love them.

    Thank you for tackling this subject Kristen. The more we all share are stories, the more we will realize that we are far from alone!

  8. 10

    says

    I’m going to be giving the message at my church this Sunday, and this is exactly the group I’m addressing. The most painful Sunday I ever had in church was Mother’s Day 2002. I’ve been blessed with 3 girls since then, but I can’t forget how it hurt. I think about it every year, and wonder if somebody in a seat near me is feeling that kind of pain. I’ll be speaking on John 10: 1-18, the parable of the Good Shepherd. God knows us, he knows our hurts, and he loves us so much that he calls us by name.

  9. 11

    says

    I still remember the pain I felt after our miscarriage. On that first Mother’s Day, I had several who sent me cards. One dear college friend sent me a card with a small Precious Moments figurine. That meant so much to me and showed me how much a thoughtful remembrance can mean to someone who is hurting. I’ve never forgotten and try to remember to think of others in pain on Mother’s Day.

  10. 12

    says

    Thanks for this. You just inspired me to finally write that note I’ve been meaning to send to a couple who just had a miscarriage after years of infertility. It was a hard note to write, but you reminded me that just having pain acknowledged is helpful.

  11. 13

    anonymous says

    I’m so glad you posted that.

    And, then there are the step-moms.
    We’re not real moms.
    The biological moms make sure the kids know the distinction between us and the “Real Mom.”

    Does that make us fake?
    Our love is no less real.

    If you sit in the bleachers or auditorium and are asked, “which one is yours?” you can point and describe the child to get around using the words – clarified or not. Heaven help you if you are found out to be “only a step-mom” while sitting there. Like you were going to steal their mom-decoder ring or membership card. Honing in on real Mom-ness. As if we are just posers.

    It’s a unique person who smiles and continues the conversation normally when you use the word “step.”
    Usually, the person responds with…
    “Oh.” Then silence.

    This week was an exception. A lady sat near me and we had a nice chat at the orchestra concert. The word step didn’t matter to her. I’m an important part of his life, so i know many answers. When she asked something I didn’t know (because is was before I knew him) she took it in stride and continued the conversation. That night, she was God’s angel. I wasn’t invisible. Or fake. Her grace was a gift.

    Many of us wish were were Moms.
    Many of us don’t get the “burden” of being room moms, or “having to go” to parent/teacher conferences. There are so many of those “burdens” that we long for.

    But, we aren’t allowed.
    Because we’re not “real mom.”

    Years ago I heard a pastor on Mother’s day mention “those who long to be moms.”
    I was so glad he said that.

    Now, if we could just remember the step moms, the “not real moms”…
    Who have real love.

    Sorry for the rant.
    I would love to post it on my blog…but I just can’t.
    Most people…would just not get it. :)

  12. 14

    says

    Anonymous – thank you for this honesty. My “real” mom wasn’t able to mother me well, and I’m eternally grateful for the other women in my life who stepped in to mother me. They’re the moms I send cards to each year with joy and gratitude.

    Never underestimate the impact you’re having on your stepkids. And thanks for being willing to step in. Trust me, you’re real.

  13. 15

    says

    Great post Kristen. I think sometimes we do forget that women can be grieving on Mother’s Day without having lost a child. Like you started the post talking about grieving the day when you went through infertility for several years. Thank you for the reminder.

  14. 16

    Jenn says

    For 4 years I HATED Mother’s Day. The first year was marked with 8 (!!) negative tests. The next year was an early miscarriage, the next the late loss of our daughter at 18 weeks, the next year another late loss of another daughter at 22 1/2 weeks (a mere 3 days of what doctors considered “viable”….I’m still working on the bitterness). But the next year we were (unknowingly) a month away from meeting our now nearly 5 year old (she came 3 months early). And then in 2008, ON MOTHERS DAY, our son was born.

    I don’t forget the different feelings of all of those Mother’s Days year ago.

  15. 17

    says

    Thanks for your words Kristen, and for remembering those of us for whom motherhood has been, well, different.

    My 2 children are in an orphanage in the Congo, and even though they are mine and approved for immigration we’re still waiting for visas. My little girl actually turns 4 on Mother’s Day.

    Thanks for the wisdom to remind others not to tell us that everything will okay. While it’s wonderful that I will be bringing them home, I’m grieving the fact that they are not here for Mother’s Day, and a birthday.

    I’m a Pastor’s wife, but can I have permission to skip church? ;-)

  16. 18

    Kim says

    Thank you, Kristen. I lost a baby at full term 17 years ago. I well remember sitting in church on Mother’s Day and baby dedication days with my heart breaking.
    Yesterday, I met an elderly couple who lost their 2 children (both were in their early 20’s) in car accidents within 2 years of each other. My heart breaks for this mother who no longer has children to love and no grandchildren to love in their old age. I’m going to take her flowers today. I would want someone to do that for my mom, if I weren’t able.

  17. 20

    Keri K says

    Thank you! From the depths of my soul, thank you! Just when I feel like no one can understand, I read this. THANK YOU!

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