Mother’s Day is rapidly approaching, which means a lot of us are starting to research gift ideas and brunch spots to honor the mothers in our lives. But, while we’re getting ready to celebrate, I wanted to take a moment to offer another idea to give the moms in your life this year – patience, understanding, and the space to feel.
It seems as soon as spring hits, we are inundated with ads for flowers, jewelry, restaurants, spa gift cards, etc. But what these ads often fail to mention or acknowledge, is the fact that Mother’s Day can cause an onslaught of complex feelings for a lot of women, and for many reasons.
For some women, we’re white knuckling it through brunch and feigning gratitude for the fancy meals, homemade cards, and flowers; but inside we’re waging a war with heartache. Some are struggling with infertility, mourning a pregnancy loss, grieving their infant, child, or even grown adult child. Other women have their hands full, but their hearts feel empty from missing their own mother they don’t get to celebrate anymore. Perhaps even the mother that is alive but is no longer a part of their life for various reasons.
Personally, I’ve struggled with complex feelings over Mother’s Day for the better part of a decade. While I’m extremely grateful for my three living children, my first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 12 and a half weeks. The miscarriage and subsequent dilation and curettage (DNC) procedure took place in the middle of March, which meant I was barely done with the physical effects and out of pads by the time Mother’s Day rolled around in early May. I felt hollow but had to still attend a brunch with my husband’s family. I’ll never forget the feeling that washed over me when a server approached the table and asked, “how many mothers?” A family member responded “two,” and the server handed a rose to two women at the table, neither of which were me. Everyone at the table knew what had happened, but no one said anything to me. I not only felt hollow, but now invisible as well.
The following Mother’s Day, I was pregnant again, about 6 months along. Everyone, even family and close friends, were wishing me a “Happy first Mother’s Day!” I felt like that hollow and invisible woman again – completely unseen. That was not my first Mother’s Day. The prior year my arms and womb may have been empty, but in my heart, I was a mother who loved a child very deeply, even if I would never get to meet or raise that child. I now have three beautiful, wonderful children – ages 7, 5 and 3; but often grapple with those feelings of grief when Mother’s Day rolls around. A piece of me is missing and will always be missing.
But every Mother’s Day, my heart doesn’t just hurt as a mother, it hurts as a daughter as well. I didn’t grow up with the type of mother we shower with gifts or read about in Mother’s Day cards. Five years ago, when it became clear she also wouldn’t be the greeting card grandmother type either, I made the difficult decision to protect my children and become estranged from my parents. While necessary, the decision is not without its own set of struggles. Going out to eat and seeing sets of mothers and daughters genuinely enjoying one another’s company, or logging on to social media and reading heartfelt posts about how women could not do life without their own mothers serve as a painful reminder of something I’ll simply never have and will always long for.
After several years of feeling a sort of dissonance every Mother’s Day, I decided to start sharing my feelings and quickly learned that I am not the only woman having a hard time, I was simply one of the few willing to talk about it. My experiences are not unique, I have loved ones who have battled infertility, lost their pregnancies, their children, or their mother. I’ve had friends and family pass away and their mothers now try to forge ahead without them.
So if you’re reading this and have had these types of feelings on Mother’s Day, whatever your experience, know that you are not alone — I see you, I am with you, and your feelings are valid. If you’re reading this and thinking about the mothers in your life, offer them your ear, your compassion, and maybe some time and space to feel their feelings this Mother’s Day.