Happy Mother’s Day – or is it?
Mother's Day 1996

Happy Mother’s Day – or is it?

Nothing brings that special feeling of joy and pride to my heart than being Mom to our two daughters. But it wasn’t always that way.

I remember when Mother’s Day made me cringe. It stirred up painful memories, and reminded me that my infertility made me a failure.

At church, the pastor would laud the mothers of the congregation. The bad, cruel mothers were honored right alongside the good kind mothers, simply because their uterus did its job.

But I saw the ones who were left out. The woman struggling with infertility, like me. The woman who suffered a miscarriage. She was not a mother. The woman whose firstborn passed away shortly after birth. She was no longer a mother. They didn’t get to stand and be applauded, or take home the pink carnation gifted to the special ones who had birthed surviving children.

And what about the people who have already grieved the loss of their mother? They get left out too. Sorry – you don’t have a mom anymore – and you don’t have living kids of your own, so you can just sit here, suffering through your pain, and watch the rest of us celebrating or being celebrated.

Mother’s Day is riddled with emotional landmines for women like us.

I remember, and I still see you. So on this Mother’s Day, let me tell you why I think you deserve a pink carnation.

pink carnations

Maybe your mom has passed away, or for other reasons is no longer in your life. Now what? Someone in your life loves you and nurtures you with a mother heart. Who is it? Is it a favorite aunt? Is it a grandparent? Has a co-worker or neighbor taken you under their wing, brought you soup when you were sick, or kicked you in the pants when you needed it? That’s your Heart Mom. Drop them a note so they know you appreciate them. So what if they already have kids of their own? If they have shown up for you during critical times in your life, and poured love and care into you, they have mothered you. That’s a beautiful thing. That deserves a pink carnation.

Are you the kid whose mother struggled with mental illness and/or addiction? Not so easy to celebrate her on a day designed to highlight the very best about motherhood. But you survived it. Possibly by only the skin of your teeth, but you survived. You are engaging in the hard work of recovering from abuse and neglect. You are learning to love yourself the way you deserved to be loved by your mom. This Mother’s Day, celebrate YOU!! I am so proud of you for surviving, and for doing your very best every day to get better and do better. You are a warrior. You deserve all the pink carnations.

Infertility is hard to navigate, especially on Mother’s Day. There are preggo bellies everywhere you look. The only colors you notice anymore are pastels. If you get invited to one more baby shower, you are gonna show up with a paint gun and open fire. (… maybe that was just me) I remember. I see you.

I feel the frustration of your mother heart, with so much nurturing love to give, and no child to pour it out on. Your mother heart has loved on so many others, though. Maybe you have neices and nephews you love. Maybe you are a teacher and you love those kids like they are your own. Maybe there is a neighborhood kid that you sneak a treat to every so often. That is your mother heart in action. Celebrate that!! You are making a difference to those kids in ways you can’t even quantify, and you may never see the outcome. Buy yourself that pink carnation.

Maybe you are single and/or childless. You are not LESS. You are so incredibly valuable. You are the very best at catching the stuff that falls through the cracks for busy moms. We need you!! We need you in our communities, our families, and our churches. We can’t do what we do without you. I know you don’t feel seen. I know you don’t feel valued. But I see you. I value you. And I think there needs to be a Happy Singles Day, because you deserve to be celebrated and applauded for everything you are. Let’s get on that, stat! In the meantime, I’m giving you my pink carnation, because you deserve to be acknowledged and honored.

Have you sufferd the terrible loss of miscarriage, or still birth, or your child passing shortly after birth. Maybe it was SIDS. Maybe you lost your child – juvenile or adult – to illness, or to violent crime. Mother’s Day rolls around yet again, and your arms and heart remain empty.

My heart is shattered for you! I have no words to describe the intense ache I feel for you. I think of you and all you are grieving for, and my tears fall to mingle with yours. You are still a mother! That beloved child occupies your heart as surely as my living children occupy mine. Your holy place of grief reminds me to never take the blessing of my child for granted, especially when I am worn out and discouraged. And If I ever suffer the loss of my child, you will be there to welcome me into the club none of us wanted to join. I am honored to know you, to know your story, and to share in your sorrow. You deserve an entire field of carnations on Mother’s Day.

Or, maybe, you are a birth mother. You made the most impossible, yet the most loving decision you could – you allowed the child of your womb to become the child of another woman’s heart. Your selfless love made someone else a mother.

Richelle and Alison, you are the reason I get to celebrate Mother’s Day.

When I look at my daughters, I see your eyes in their eyes. They walk like you walk. Their hands gesture like yours. They love and laugh and cry and fail and succeed, because you gave them life. I love and laugh and cry and fail and succeed at motherhood, because you gave them to me.

I cannot fathom the kind of strength of character it requires to make the choice you made. The inexpressable courage it takes to imagine a new future for the baby you carried. And to place that baby in the arms of a virtual stranger? Incomprehensible.

But isn’t that the truest definition of a mother? Someone who will sacrifice absolutely everything, including themselves, for the good of their child. You did that. And I am forever grateful. You hold a place of reverence and honor in our family that is separate from all others.

I am filled with joy and wonder that we are heart sisters. You have been an irreplacable influence on our daughters’ raising. You feed their hearts and dreams, right along with us. You offer them extra extended family. Our girls have more grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and birth siblings than any of us could have ever imagined. You adopted us, the parents of these girls, as surely as we adopted them. And you allow us to be auntie and uncle to your children. That is what Family looks like for us, and it is a beautiful thing.

Birth Mom, you are a Mother. You deserve all the honor and joy and celebration that comes with being a mother. You know selfless love. You know sacrifice. You know endurance through the most intense kind of grief.

Happy Mother’s Day. Here’s a pink carnation. You can put it in this vase, with mine, if you want to. I’m so glad we are doing life together.

three pink carnations in vase
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