Three years ago it was my first Mother’s Day. And by that I mean the first Mother’s Day since I had carried a child inside me. I didn’t look like a mother. I didn’t have a child in my arms. I didn’t even have a child in my belly. The world didn’t think I was a mother. But I wanted to be a mother so bad. I wanted to join what felt like a special club that I wasn’t in.
On this day, I found myself in church. I wondered what my church was going to do for Mothers Day. They tend to make a big deal of honoring the mothers in the church. The year before they had given them all gifts. But this time, they said they also wanted to honor those who Mother’s Day was difficult for – those facing infertility, miscarriage, infant loss, the death of a child or their mother. It was us who the church wanted to pray for. The ones who are nearly always forgotten on the day of floral arrangements and handmade crafts and lunches with mum. It was like they were speaking right into my heart. How did they know?
You see, that was the first Mother’s Day since I had lost a pregnancy at 12 weeks (more on that here). Everyone had moved on from this little incident, but I had not forgotten. Mothers don’t forget. We hold all our children in our hearts, whether they are here or not.
I was recently reading a book by a mum who lost her infant baby. She describes her first Mother’s Day in church, when all the mums were asked to stand for prayer. She records her conundrum writing, ‘Do I stand up? Do I sit?’ It reminded me of the confusion and grief that Mother’s Day brings to so many women. Those who were a mum, who wanted to be, who almost were, or are trying to be.
After I miscarried, I suddenly heard of so many others who had. I joined a group of women, that no one wants to be part of. I became the one others would whisper to in the workplace kitchen – telling me that last week they were pregnant and now they are not. And my heart broke every single time, because I knew the emptiness they felt, the enormity of their heartache, the loneliness of the grief that only a mother’s heart can feel. Because I had told people when we lost our baby, it gave others permission to tell me. And now I realise the world is missing so many babies.
That first Mother’s Day was a trigger for me. It was a reminder that I was supposed to be celebrating my first Mother’s Day, but that I had nothing to celebrate. I didn’t feel that I could consider myself a mum. The day showed me that because I didn’t have a baby on my hip my baby didn’t exist. Mother’s Day was not for me. Not that year. Not until I became a ‘real’ mum.
The prayer at church acknowledged that I was a mum, that this day was also about me. It gave me permission to grieve on this day. It reminded the congregation that, when there is a lot to celebrate there is also often a lot of pain. I appreciated this prayer so much.
I know many have lost much more than I have. Some will have had multiple losses, some an early loss, some a baby or child who had been born, some will be waiting, some will be experiencing this day for the first time, some will have living children as well, some will be celebrating, some will be grieving, some will do both.
My message to mums facing this, is as simple as the message I so wanted to hear – Your child is important. Just because he / she isn’t here, doesn’t mean that he / she is not your child and doesn’t exist. And you didn’t stop being a mother the day your child went to heaven. Mother’s Day, even if it brings you tears, even if no-one buys you flowers, is for you too.