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Not so happy Mother's Day

Mother's Day: it's not always Happy.

By the time I learned my friend had been struggling, she was four years into infertility disappointments. I asked her if she wanted me to tell her in advance if my husband and I decided to start a family. She said that as hard as it was, she would rather know beforehand.

So, I told her. And then three weeks later, my pregnancy test came back positive.

I did not call her to tell her. I just sent her a postcard that said something like, “I am. It’s not fair. I’m sorry.” When she was ready, she called me and we cried together. As it turned out, our oldest children were born months apart, thanks be to God. But still. Her pain made me aware of something that I’ve never forgotten: not everyone loves Mother’s Day.

To the young women like my friend who want desperately to be mothers, but still have empty cradles, my heart hurts for you and for all of the Should-Have-Been mothers: those who have suffered infertility, miscarriages, or failed adoptions. I see you friends and I'm so very sorry you are in this place of pain.

I see you too, women who longed to be mothers but couldn't for whatever reason: those who never married or were never in partnerships that produced children; those who have illnesses that make parenting difficult, impossible, or irresponsible; those who have obligations to other family members—disabled parents or siblings, for example—that have prevented you from parenting. I pray God has given you children to mother throughout your life, and that these gifts have comforted you in your longing.

infertility mothers day

"To those who don’t feel Happy this Mother’s Day, I see your pain, and I am so very sorry."

Then, there are those of you who have other reasons for disliking Mother’s Day. I know of a mother who died when she was in her thirties; she had three children. The subsequent step-mothers who entered those kids' lives were not what you’d call nurturing (or sober, for that matter). I'm pretty sure Mother’s Day was not their favorite holiday. Whether you are estranged from your mother or are grieving mothers who are no longer on this side of heaven, I understand why you may not feel celebratory on this second Sunday of May. I get it.

I hear you women who choose not to have children and prefer not to advertise why you made this choice. I didn't always. Please forgive my ignorant intrusion. (When will you have kids? Why NOT?!) I didn't know better; I do now. I'm so sorry.

Maybe you don’t want to be a parent. Frankly, I wish more people who did not want children would make this decision. But maybe it’s something else. I once knew a couple who decided early that they would not have children. Before they married--in their TWENTIES--they took surgical steps to eliminate that possibility. I thought it was rash and ridiculous and I had all kinds of opinions that I'm sure I shared way too freely. (I was also in my twenties.) Twenty years into their marriage, one was diagnosed with a debilitating, inherited illness that required the other spouse to become the full-time caregiver. No doubt, this probability advised their decision two decades previously. There’s almost always more to the story.

And the thing is, Mother’s Day is EVERYWHERE! Honestly. If you appear female and are above the age of 25, you can’t check out from your local dollar store without being wished a Happy Mother’s Day. Shoot, you can’t even send a Bitmoji without seeing Mother’s Day greetings. YouTube or radio commercials, fliers in your mailbox, Google ads on your screen . . . Snapchat will have filters, Instagram and Facebook will be flooded with tributes and pictures and special frames . . . And all this is fine, it really is. I mean, this is the way of the world and I’m not tying to fight it.

But . . . and here’s my point . . . I will not make it the focal point of worship. I will reference Mother’s Day in the prayer and maybe the announcements. But we will let the celebrations take place in the world, not in the church. See, I am too aware of the Mothers-never-to-be, the Motherless children, and the Children-less Mothers in our midst to add to their pain.

The world does a wonderful job of celebrating Mother’s Day. And I celebrate it too, grateful as I am for my amazing mother and my beloved children. At church, though, I celebrate the love of God made manifest in Jesus: the love that comforts the childless and brings hope to the motherless, that draws us all together as one family--mother, father, sister, brother--and offers to each of us the peace that surpasses all understanding.