Mother’s Day in the Real World

This post is a “remodel” of an article I wrote for one of my newspaper columns almost two decades ago. As a wise man once said in Ecclesiastes 1:9, however, “there is nothing new under the sun.” The mixed emotions of this day still stand, as do my prayers for peace. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!

Any day now, it will start happening. I’ll catch my oldest two boys quietly conspiring in the hallway–and it won’t be whispered plans on how to convince mom and dad to take them to Taco Bell. My six year old will come bounding in from kindergarten, fairly bursting with excitement, his hands covered in some almost indestructible combination of glue, poster paint and sparkles. And with a little assistance from Daddy, my two young daughters will come up with a secret storage place for a brightly crayoned card and perhaps a bunch of my favourite freesia. The impetus for all this clandestine activity? Why, Mother’s Day of course.

And when that Sunday morning dawns bright and beautiful and I have finished up a big plateful of somewhat heart-shaped pancakes and been the recipient of at least a zillion hugs and opened and oohed over the latest round of amazing ‘Mom’s’ Day’ creations, I will, as on the other eleven Mother’s Days that I have been a mother, spend the rest of the day with an enormous lump in my throat and an even more enormous sense of gratitude in my heart.

If the headlines on my latest influx of magazines are any indication, however, not all of you will find Mother’s Day holding the same events or producing the same emotions. Under the “Quick-Fix Diets” and “Put your best body forward” banners on one glossy cover, comes a very serious and unsuperficial title–“Can’t Get Pregnant? Modern Baby Making–All the Options”. One publication had an article on mourning the loss of an unborn child and another, a major piece on adoption. Peruse any of these articles, or the rash of work on absentee mothers or mothers struggling with significant physical or emotional illness, and it becomes painfully obvious that the flowers, smiling children and glowing-while-slow-motion-running-through-a-grassy-meadow mom scenario is not necessarily a given.

This Mother’s Day, I expect to see close friends of ours at the gathering of our faith community. They will be cuddling their wondrously new baby daughter through brimming eyes and thanking God with the intensity that only parents who have lost two previous unborn children can understand.

I’ve not seen them in church on a Mother’s or Father’s Day for years. The emotion has been too raw for public display, the pain cutting too deep to share openly.

I have other friends who will not be there still. Their years of infertility continue, as does their desire to birth a child of their own. There is ebb and flow to their pain, but the reality of it remains constant. At times they are cautiously optimistic; at times there is calm resignation to a family life that includes only the two of them. But always there is the undercurrent of grief, at this point anyway, quiet, but I know it has also been periodically accompanied by the gut wrench of a loud and haunting wail.

There are also no appropriate cards for my friend whose mom abandoned her after birth and who was never there to protect her from the abuse that began shortly thereafter–and continued for what seemed like forever. What can a brightly coloured note say to someone who wasn’t, because of their own immense pain, able to give you what you needed and who wasn’t there to unwrap even one of your glue-sticky tissue covered napkin rings or plaster hand prints.

This year I pray peace for those women who long to be but are not yet mothers. Single women who want a child, but desire the foundation of a loving stable marriage in which to raise that child. Women who have been unable to conceive.

I also pray peace for mothers who have conceived a child but who have experienced the tears and pain of motherhood with none of its counterbalancing joys and delight. Mothers whose arms hold no baby because that child died before or at birth. Mothers who placed their child for adoption–who decided the very best birth day gift they could give their infant was to bundle him or her tightly, push grief and ache aside, and give that child into the care of another.

And this year, I pray a double measure of peace for women whose Mother’s Day pain is connected to their own mothers, whether still living or passed on. I pray a washing away of any sadness, sense of loss, anger or bitterness that may be there and the beginning or continuation of the journey to wholeness.

Very shortly, many of you will be sending off loving Mother’s Day greetings or hearing equally loving “Happy Mother’s Day” greetings of your own. For all of you, I hope this Mother’s Day is special beyond measure. For those women whose Mother’s Day falls in between the cracks in the card rack, however, I hope the day passes with a new peace for you as well.

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