I have all kinds of ‘feels’ swirling about my heart and head, and I’m not sure exactly how to calm them apart from communicating them to the world. You see, this week — this ever-dreaded week for so many — looks different for me this year, after years of angst. But the years of longing unfulfilled so indelibly moved/wounded/deepened me that I cannot now think or act without being touched by them. And, oh dear… my tears have already started streaming in these early stages of typing because I feel so passionately about this.
My husband and I suffered through five years of infertility, during which we miscarried a baby that became part of family through embryo adoption, before God gave us our precious snowflake baby, eleven weeks ago. Our story is a cakewalk compared to many that I’ve met who have waited longer and/or walked through ongoing embryo loss through IVF, miscarriage loss, adoption loss, or some combination therein. But through these trials, God changed my heart to be more compassionate, gracious and relatable to others. Of course, I do not want to suffer and wouldn’t want to relive these trials, but I’m so grateful for the qualities (and passion for the sanctity of life!) that God developed in me through them.
This Sunday is Mother’s Day. And Mothers are something to be celebrated, no doubt. Among the greatest blessings in my life are the amazing, loving, generous, truly exceptional parents with which God graced me. But Mother’s Day has been a major source of grief for me these five years… it flamboyantly flaunted all that I longed for. All that I wanted. All that I couldn’t have. Mother’s Day is also a time of grief for many others:
- Those who dearly miss their Mothers.
- Those who are in the ever-numbing pain of infertility, longing to be a Mother.
- Those who have lost their children, both born and unborn, whose babies live on in their hearts.
I truly believe that one of the greatest tightropes we walk in life is this edification found in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Let’s be honest: Often, those with blessing can easily be blinded with the ease of life, and those in suffering often have difficulty making any sense of — much less seeing past — their pain. But, as with most matters of great weight and importance, this very difficult admonishment is vital for living well.
How does the Mother whose life revolves around her healthy, beautiful children, relate to those whose lives are wrecked with fertility treatments or failed adoptions (and the grief and financial strain that come with them!)? How does the woman living with countless miscarriages (but no living children to show for it) or the infertile woman relate to the Mom who just wants a quiet moment free of the chaos that a house full of Littles can bring? How does this relating happen?
Out of the 28 definitions and idioms on dictionary.com, this definition or implication isn’t found once. But the longer I live, the more I’m convinced that the truest definition of love is self-sacrifice. Sure, love implies affection and feelings, but true love — the root of love — is evidenced by disregarding your own needs for the sake of another. Of course, all of time and history hinge on the one person who perfectly exemplified this love: Christ. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
So this Mother’s Day, please show love through consideration. Consider others who may be in ear-shot as you speak. And certainly, consider others before posting on social media. And walk with love and sensitivity towards others in different walks of life than you. Celebrate with Mothers!! Life is beautiful. Motherhood is beautiful. For those suffering, pray that God will give you a heart to love those who are rejoicing! Meditate on reasons to be grateful; gratitude changes perspective. For those rejoicing, take a moment to send a message to someone you know is hurting, missing their mother or child or longing to be a mother!
Last year, I experienced this when an old friend — a mother of three — sent me the most thoughtful message last Mother’s Day. It was simply, “Thinking of you and your sweet angel baby today.” I was angry about our loss and infertility and Mother’s Day itself, so I didn’t write back until last week. But periodically through the year, her kindness and consideration on Mother’s Day to remember our lost baby would come to mind and warm my heart with gratitude. And another friend — acquaintance, really — the wife of a coworker from over five years earlier (and halfway across the country!), sent me a Gardenia in honor of our miscarried babe. I wept upon receiving it and still well up with tears at any thought of such generous love and kindness.
As odd as this may seem, after so many years of infertility, I was grateful to have something tangible to mourn with the miscarriage. With miscarriage, you’re mourning something you once “had,” someone that could be remembered. It’s a terrible ache. But I submit the ache of infertility is no less painful an ache than miscarriage loss. But the pain of our miscarriage was acknowledged by others in a way that our infertility never was, though the desire and outcome the same: childlessness.
My heart and desire in writing this is to be a voice for my friends with infertility and loss… those who are suffering silently. I asked several friends how they felt about Mother’s Day and how wish they could be loved and remembered. These are the responses I was given:
- I want to be acknowledged. I want to be recognized that I want to be a mom and I’m desperately working on it. I want to be prayed for, that my dream would be realized. I don’t want to be ignored or forgotten. I usually skip church on that day… it’s just too hard. It’s always baby dedication day, too. It’s so hard, such a lonely struggle. You don’t write that on the prayer list or share about your period or cycle. Thank you for writing and sharing for those of us who can’t.
- It would be nice if instead of a Mother’s Day card, friends would send a “thinking about you during this holiday” card.
- And it would be nice if people would still wish us ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ as doggy moms, because we feed/clean up poop/take care of another living being too!
- And one thing that stood out a few years ago…. At church, moms got handed roses when they walked in, and were asked to stand up during service if you’re a mom so everyone could applaud the moms. It was just so uncomfortable in that “last to get picked for the team on the playground” kind of way. What about those of us who are trying to become mom’s and God hasn’t “blessed” us yet? Are we not “blessed” because haven’t received our “blessing” yet? I wish churches would offer more support to those who struggle to start their families.
- I actually don’t go to church on Mother’s Day because it’s just too painful. I just like to stay in my pjs and pretend that it is just another day. I try to avoid Facebook as much as possible on that day too. I would really like it if people would just pray for me rather than give me what they think are “encouraging” words about Gods timing. I know all that but it doesn’t change the hurt in my heart. I trust in Gods timing and His call for my life but I still long for a child. If people have never experienced the pain of infertility it is better for them to just say “I love you and I’m praying for you.” than try to give advice.
- For the past 7 years, this has been the HARDEST day ever. I longed to be a mother. To give my husband a child. To start a Family. We would go thru ups and downs on different days, but nothing hit harder than Mother’s Day. It was such a weird time for me every year, because I wanted to celebrate my mom and mother in law but some years I couldn’t drag myself out of bed. I was sad. I was lonely. I felt guilty. I was mad. Infertility is such a daunting thing because there is NOTHING we can do. It is ultimately HIS plan. For me, that was hard. And every Mothers day, it was a BIG reminder that the ONE thing I wanted, was still dangling in front of me. Honestly there wasn’t a whole lot that people could say.. But knowing that friends, family loved and supported me was so sweet.
So, Dear Friends, love well and be deliberately considerate to others, full of grace. So much love,
P.S. Photo by Amber Hoadley of Coffee Tree Photography, two weeks after our miscarriage.