Mother’s Day of 2013 wasn’t originally on my radar as a day that would be difficult after my loss. It just wasn’t a day that I gave much thought until around Easter. That’s when the cards started appearing at the grocery stores. The jewelry adds appeared out of nowhere during my evening shows. I couldn’t miss the magenta and pastel pink displays of chocolates at Target, the blog posts floating around my Facebook feed, the viral Pinterest pins of the top Mother’s Day gifts running rampant through my mind. I realized something new: there is another day I hadn’t thought about that could be painful.
I knew someone from childhood who had gone through her own loss a few years before me. She reached out to me via Facebook as the day drew near. She offered her support, and she revealed that Mother’s Day could be kind of confusing.
And I realized that “confused” was unquestionably the best way to illustrate how I felt.
I loved celebrating with my own mother and the mothers I care about, but at the same time, I wanted to recoil into myself and forget how lonely my arms remained. Yet, I had done all the motherly things: I worried, I tested, I hoped, I cried. I also longed to be recognized for my maternal journey. I didn’t feel any less like a mother, except that I was missing my baby…every single day. The urge to hibernate partnered with the desire to acknowledge my own place in the motherhood space was the epitome of complicated.
And now, 5 years later, I celebrate this Mother’s Day as a trifecta of sorts: I am a mother of loss, a mother of two small kids, and a mother-to-be. If you are reading this as a mother of loss, as a supporter of a mother who has lost, or as someone looking to know more, I can say this: embrace the paradox that this loss brings. Allow all your feelings to mesh, to contradict, to stretch your assumptions, and to settle as they will.
Below are 3 things I want to tell a mother of loss as Mother’s Day looms near.
ONE – You are still a mama to your special baby.
I can’t say it enough: no one can ever take your motherhood from you. Motherhood doesn’t necessarily start when our babies are born. I genuinely believe it begins the moment you allow yourself to be remarkably vulnerable and hope for that baby. You love the idea of the baby, and you nurture yourself and your choices hoping that it will leave you with an infant in your arms.
Motherhood is so much more than it appears. It’s the tests, the choices, the injections, the consultations, the heartbreak all for the love of a child we long to hold. Motherhood is loving someone before they are a someone, fully and helplessly.
You deserve to be honored just the same as if your baby was here. You didn’t choose this outcome. You did all you could.
TWO – It is normal to be confused; feel every feeling.
As with any other milestone, the feelings surrounding Mother’s Day will be as complex and unique as you. Each response to this day is valid, so long as it is authentic. We feel how we do as a result of this circumstance that we didn’t choose. Explore each feeling that creeps up. Every bit of what you perceive is valid. Losing a child, no matter at what stage, is not a natural thing to prepare your heart for. In this, we grieve without a map.
As your grief and confusion may be recognized by others, reject whatever isn’t helpful in your healing. You aren’t obligated to accept platitudes. You have no obligation to celebrate, you have no responsibility to mourn. Do whatever you find that makes your load feel lighter.
THREE – Respect your own maternal sacrifice.
Know with certainty that you did everything right. Your story is still being written. There was honestly a day when I didn’t dare even to imagine sitting in this place. Despite a lifetime of longing, motherhood may just not be for me.
I am not here to say that there is one thing to hope for in your future. There is not one way forward. However, I am encouraging you: don’t lose hope for something you may not dare imagine today. Even though you can’t see it today doesn’t mean it never will be.
If your deepest hopes are too painful for today, just tackle your next battle. But never assume you have to write anything off permanently because it may seem too uncomfortable right now. Get through this through Sunday, then keep going with small steps.
Sunday is a day that you can celebrate, and it’s also a day that you are not obligated to recognize. Only you know what works for your heart. Do the thing that works best for you. Let go of expectations, lean into what you truly are feeling, and recognize yourself as strong. No matter where you are in your grief, your motherhood matters more than any one day.
Thank you for being you, brilliant and courageous mama.
You are loved.