My mother used to say she hated Mother’s Day. As a child it always confounded me that she could hate a holiday filled with our doting attentions, breakfast in bed, hand painted macaroni necklaces, and crayon colored cards filled with funny answers to questions about how old she was or what we thought she did all day. As tradition dictates the speakers at church would lay the sentiment on thick with anecdotal stories about “Mother” before corsages and chocolates were ceremoniously handed out. What I have discovered, years later and with a few coming of age experiences under my belt, is that beneath all those sweet tributes is a triple decker sized, death-by-chocolate, layer cake of complex emotions and experiences that can make sitting in that pew with a smile pasted on my face feel like I am eating that entire cake in one sitting.
Motherhood has been an elusive endeavor for me. The last ten years have been filled with the heartache of negative pregnancy tests, the pain of driving home from the hospital with arms so empty they physically ached, miscarriage after miscarriage, silent pauses that used to echo in my ears and pierce my heart when a stranger would ask how many children I have. The overwhelmingly bittersweet joy of finally becoming a mother through adoption when another mother placed her baby in my arms and the ironic pit in my stomach knowing she would drive home with those same aching arms. My heart has been joyfully and painfully stretched beyond what I could have ever anticipated for myself as a young newlywed with starry dreams of family life in my eyes. Early on in the journey we tragically lost our baby boy well into the second trimester of pregnancy. I returned home from the hospital beaten and weathered and suddenly aware that the world was a harsher place than it had previously been. I’ll never forget walking into my mother-in-laws house for dinner the next night and with a loving and tender hug she whispered, “You seem a little girl to me”. It was such an interesting things to say, but I felt the meaning of what she said on a deep level. What she was really saying was that I, a grown woman, was in need of mothering. I needed mothers to make dinner and stroke my hair and tell me I wasn’t alone in a way that only other mothers could understand.
This is the awe inspiring work of motherhood, the wheel that churns us through seasons of mothering and being mothered and loves in equal or greater measure than sorrow. This is why the loss of it, even on the smallest scale, so easily rises to the surface and fills our eyes with tears at the slightest reminder of what could’ve been. Children are not always required here, but heart is a must. So if you find yourself this Mother’s Day sitting in a church pew or at brunch or at home on your couch and the hard feelings are swirling around your mind as you smile and nod…..take heart. Come as you are and bring a fork because this party has a triple decker, death-by-chocolate, layer cake and that is cause enough to celebrate. I won’t judge if you eat the entire thing.