Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Bittersweet Mother's Day

"[Death] was a fact of life,
but if I brought it up,
people would suddenly get interested in
their hangnails and cuticles,
or else distant places in the sky,
and seem to not hear me."

-- Sue Monk Kidd
The Secret Life of Bees

It's Mother's Day today -- a day to honor mothers, a day to be honored as a mother. I'm a big fan of Mother's Day as a concept, because really, who doesn't appreciate a day where all sorts of great stuff is centered around them? It's like a bonus birthday, and there's nothing bad about that.

But Mother's Day is not all about flowers pinned on dresses and lunch out with the kids. For many people, Mother's Day is a day of grief and misery -- a truly heavy burden to bear. On Mother's Day, some people recall the mother missing from their lives, while other people recall the children they've lost or only dreamed of. People would most especially rather not discuss the dead on Mother's Day, but today, as I sat in Sunday service, I couldn't help scanning the crowd wondering who there had a broken heart.

As for my heart, there are still significant cracks. It's amazing how things change from one year to the next to the next, and even more amazing how much remains precisely the same.

Two years ago on Mother's Day, Zachary had been dead about a minute and a half and I was a seeping, weeping wreck. I could hardly pick myself up off the floor, much less celebrate motherhood, still, that Sunday morning, I let the family drag me down the street to The Waffle House for breakfast. We left when a pregnant woman waddled in and I started sobbing into my syrup.

Mother's Day last year was much better. Though dealing with a bout of unexplained infertility, I was functional and capable of celebrating my blessings while realizing that celebration was not a dishonor to the dead.

Mother's Day this year is full of interesting dynamics. I'm pregnant, which is honestly both a blessing and a burden. I am still in shock to be with child, I am in shock to still be with child. I don't deserve this miracle at all. God has shown me the most unmerited favor, and a happier person could not be found. But pregnancy brings up all my failures: my failures as a parent, my failures as a woman, my failures as a child-bearer. In the midst of the joys and blessings of Mother's Day, tears were shed today -- tears for our struggles, tears for our losses, tears for the fears we still feel.

Today has been a bittersweet day.

Fortunately, my sweet family seems to understand these odd dynamics, so for this Mother's Day, there was little on the agenda -- just what I needed. I was met this morning with kisses, cards, and gifts. James and the kids chose a meaningful set of Willow Tree figurines that represents both where we are now as a family and where we hope to be in the next few weeks. (They were on the mantle before the early church service.) We later lunched at La Madeleine with my mom, then came home for a lovely lazy afternoon.

"He settles the barren woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the LORD."

Psalm 113:9


  • Amy

    So beautiful!

    It really is an interesting day - Mother's Day. While it is my favorite "Amy-day" now, I have had years that I didn't think that I could bear it. Thank God that that burden has lightened. But tonight as I was sitting, holding Cooper, and reflecting on my day and my children, I could not help but think of my lost babies. I kept thinking, "I want to say, 'I am a mother of 5!' Not just 3." I adore my 3. I am thankful for my 3. But I wanted to be known as a mother of 5 on this day about mothering.

    Thank you for your sensitivity and insight, as always! You are a great mother to all of your children. The way that you honor them all is precious as are you!

  • Randi

    You're right ... Mother's Day is a hard day for so many. I thought so much today about all of my friends who have lost children.

    Mother's Day is a weird day for me and I could relate to what you said ... in recent years, as my kids get older, it actually makes me reflect more on my failings than on what I've done well.

    I'm glad this year's Mother's Day was filled with more celebration than grief, even in the midst of remembering.

  • Jenny

    I played at church all weekend and every service I made a point to look at the different women coming in. Since it was baby dedications as well there were lots of extra grandmas and family in crowd.

    I found several faces of friends who had lost their own mother in recent years and it was just a reminder that mother's day is often a very hard day. So, whether losing a baby or losing a mother it really is so hard for so many... and yet, as my friend told me after service... every day she misses her mom, not just Mother's day.

    Love your new figurines!

  • Karen

    I totally understand the bittersweetness of mother's day. I could not help but think about and pray for all of the women who so badly want to be mom's, those who have lost children and those who have given up thier children to be adopted. It just breaks my heart.
    I was also filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and responsibility. That God has entrusted me of all people to raise these kids - sometimes it just makes me shake my head in wonder. I have to remind myself - thru Him, I can do all things, without Him......not so much!

  • Heather D'Amico


    You have incredible compassion. I think you exemplify 2 Corinthians 1:4, "He comforts us in all of our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given to us."

    I love you, friend!

  • In His Grip

    Mother's Day was created because of grief. So, I do think it's fitting to have those moments where a holiday-in particular Mother's Day- is bitter. Sorry for your loss. I do rejoice with you too.

  • Fether

    Reading your blog is like a opening a book...I just want to turn the page and read more!
    I know your heart as a mother and I know that you are a great mom...Praying for you and your upcoming delivery! Praise the Lord!

    We love you and miss you!!
    Elder Family

  • MooBee Mama

    You are right. SO many emotions on mother's day for me too. Missing my sweet mother-in-law. Your post helps.

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