mother’s day: is it for me?

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mother’s day: is it for me?

a year ago yesterday, i sat at the end of the church pew and cried. i couldn’t help it. i couldn’t stop it. each tear effortlessly streamed down my face. why? because the children were handing out flowers to mothers but not to me.

Image carnation

i tried to prep myself the day before, reading a blog that celebrated mothers of all kinds. i knew what was coming, the reminder of what i’d lost and what others have happily gained, the person that i’m not and the mother that they are. but nothing could prepare me for how lost i felt in that moment, how empty.

a few weeks later, while talking with old friends during a monthly conference call, one spoke words of affirmation to me that i didn’t know i needed and became ever grateful for. and these same words are ones many other women need to hear, not to provide a false sense of identity or momentarily ease the pain but to speak truth to brokenness and open up the discussion even more, one that many more voices need to fearlessly join. my story is not yours even if you’ve miscarried, too, and someone else can learn and heal from your seven (or more) cents.

here are my seven from a miscarriage perspective. feel free to disagree. feel freer to listen.

  1. i didn’t think about how motherhood is defined until i got pregnant last year. when you don’t yet have a child in your arms, you wonder whether or not you’re really a mother. is it enough to have one in your belly? if so, do you have to be fully showing in order to be a mother? or does motherhood begin when you’re about to bear down and scream your head off? at what part of the prego process does a woman become a mother?
  2. after miscarrying at almost 9 weeks, you quickly question just how much of a child you really had and if 8 weeks ‘n change is really a loss. the questions are part of the grieving process. they are natural. you want to control the situation as best you can. if you can map it out and connect clear dots then you feel as if you’ll get over it quicker. and you want to get over it. it hurts. it hurts a lot because you’d already started to love what was inside of you.
  3. when you question just how much of a child you had, it brings back into question whether or not you were or are a mother. you lost a fetus, a collection of cells that weren’t fully developed. are you now a former mother? a woman who loses a child that actually lived outside of the womb has clearly experienced motherhood because she clearly had a child and we still call her a mother after her loss. but you, did you clearly have a child if it was never born? 
  4. in many minds, mothers come right after God–that’s how incredible mothers are. so if you can’t be (or don’t think you can be) considered a mother after trying and failing (which is how miscarriage is perceived) then you almost got close to God but missed the mark. sorry, no mega praise for you. you are not amazing. granted, i will always consider mothers like my mum and mum-in-law to be more of a mother than me simply because they now have adult children but more than that, they’ve done an incredible job. even after 10 years of motherhood, i won’t compare (in my eyes) to them. nevertheless, when we hand out carnations, we don’t ask how wonderful a mother you’ve been or how long you’ve been a mother. you just stand and receive one and you’re automatically up there next to God…but where am i?
  5. even though i’m pregnant once again and have moved beyond the typical miscarriage zone, even though i’m 17 weeks strong and have gained a good chunk and have to buy a few more maternity clothes, even though my body has morphed into this foreign landscape, even though i’m finally in a i’m-really-happy-about-this stage because most of the sickness has gone, even though i call the cells within me a baby and periodically write it letters, even though my husband and i have clearly heard our baby’s heartbeat and have clearly seen it’s big head, and even though my husband gave me roses and a card and wished me happy mother’s day, i know that there are women out there who will kindly say, “you’re a future mother,” which essentially means, “you’re not a mother.” i don’t want to get mad at them and i don’t want you to, either. but i have to be honest–that hurts and sends me right back to #1.
  6. i sometimes feel guilty for being pregnant. after miscarrying, i developed an identity based on miscarriage. and even though i hoped for what i now have, i was “that” woman. the more i wrote and spoke and thought about having miscarried, the more i felt as if i could speak boldly to this kind of loss. but now that i’m happily pregnant, i feel as if i’ve betrayed the sisterhood. trust me, i know that’s not true. but i’m still healing and figuring out what all of this means for me. i do my best to take it one day at a time and now that the miscarriage is over a year in the past, i’m certainly have many, many more good days than bad. still, when i saw the roses from my husband, i teared up and when i gave him a huge hug, the tears flowed. i held on for dear life. “you’re remembering last year?” he asked. “yes,” i replied. and yesterday, when the children handed out carnations to the mothers at church, i didn’t stand (because of #5), but when i walked up to sing, one of the ladies in charge of the flowers (and aware that i’m pregnant), handed me my very own and gave me a solid hug. i fought back the tears and won (close call!). she had no idea what she’d just done for me. i’m crying just thinking about it. i wanted to say, “finally, i got my carnation! i am known!” but i had to focus and prepare to sing. it was a bittersweet moment, perhaps an equal mix of both.
  7. i want my first baby back. i want to know it’s face, feel it’s heartbeat, listen to it cry. i want to know it outside of my womb. i want to raise it and love it up close. when people ask if this current pregnancy is my first, i say,”no”. i claim the first. i honor what was. i’ll never stop loving it. but when someone asks if this current pregnancy is my first child, i hesitate…i feel bad for hesitating.

and the crazy thing is, after all these questions and emotions i’m still okay with celebrating Mother’s Day. i’m still okay with carnations being handed out during church. i’m still okay with all the videos like this that leave me sniffling. there are so many great mothers out there and i want them to be celebrated. i don’t want to be the person that says, “down with Mother’s Day.” rather, i want to be the person who says…

here’s my struggle. i know i’m not alone in this. for those of you who share similar shoes, i’m holding you in my arms today and every day. i’m questioning with you, crying with you and celebrating hope with you. our journey is our journey. we have to be honest about it but not kick everyone else in the pants because of it. our identity is not solely in who we are to others but more importantly whose we are. and we are God’s children, God’s daughters still in need of healing. and if we’ve loved the child within us, no matter it’s age or how long it lived, we are mothers. you may not feel as if today is your day. please don’t feel pressured to believe any differently. but please do all you can to heal. we need your love. please don’t hide your love.

and thank you to all who’ve wished me Happy Mother’s Day (with or without modifiers). and thank you to all who’ve spoken up about your experience with loss. you’ve helped me heal…you’ve been a mother to me. 

…Justin’s gift

0 thoughts on “mother’s day: is it for me?

  1. Beautiful. I am profoundly sorry to hear about your loss last year. That baby will always be one of the sparks in your eyes and a note that you sing. S/he will always be yours. I am profoundly happy to hear about this new gift. You are blessed. 🙂

  2. your writing slows me down. the way one grows quiet when a prayer is being offered. it feels gritty and earthy and yet, sacred at the same time. you are a precious soul and we’re all uniquely blessed to know you. and your little one will be, too.

  3. So beautifully said! I didn’t miscarry, but we chose to wait a long time before having children. It always bothered me when on Mother’s Day Sabbath I would be handed a flower & told that even tho I was not a mother, I was a “mother in Israel” or some such thing, because I was always working with the children. While I appreciated that people wanted to include me, it always seemed to kind of cheapen the honor given to real mothers somehow. When we did finally decide to have a baby, it turned out to be twins, and one only made it 1/2 way through the pregnancy. So even though I ended the pregnancy with a beautiful baby girl, & had another one 2 years later, I will always miss my other baby girl who I never met except via ultrasound but loved with all my heart. Praise God for those babies we will finally hold in our arms in Heaven!

  4. Wanda
    Thank you Michaela, this is an amazing post. Mother’s day is difficult for every woman who isn’t a mother. For many reasons, but especially if you’ve lost your mom. It’s particularly difficult for people like me who will never be anything but “a mother in Israel.” But I have come to realize that even though I didn’t birth any children, I have taken care of and nurtured enough to qualify for the “Happy Mother’s day” greeting, and even perhaps the flower should someone care to give me one. Mothers are revered because they pretty much determine the outcome of the child in the world. Dads have some influence but nothing like moms. If you show love to your child, he or she will show love to the world. If you hold back love from your child, he or she will appear cold and unfeeling to the world. You are God’s woman. He will give you all you need to give to your child. Happy belated Mother’s day for both of your children.

  5. Thank you for sharing. I sat in church on Sabbath and wondered if anyone could understand what I was feeling all the while trying to hold my emotions together. Your story is God’s way of telling me someone else has walked in my shoes. Thank you Michela and I mean that with every fiber of my being.

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