Mother’s Day used to be so simple. I was a young boy, and I gave my mommy a card and hugs. Maybe I made something for her myself – I honestly can’t even remember. And I wouldn’t forget my grandmothers, of course. It was a simple day for a child – you love your mother and your grandmothers and you show them that.
Then you grow up and Mother’s Day becomes more complicated. Maybe not always for you personally, but you understand it’s not as simple as it once was. Friends of yours lose their mothers or grandmothers. You lose your own grandmother, then another. You don’t spend the day with your own mother like you used to, as family distance becomes a reality. New mothers enter your life who used to be friends or sisters, and that is wonderful. Then you realize there are people who want to be mothers who can’t, or mothers who lose children at many different times…and this is heartbreaking. Others maybe never met their mother, or have/had a fraught relationship with them. You lose two adult cousins and wonder how your Aunt feels about Mother’s Day. Is it a day to celebrate? Is it a day to mourn? What is this day? Why is this day? Is it just another capitalist holiday to sell cards and flowers and chocolates? It’s more complicated than at first glance.
Then it’s driven home more deeply and personally than you could possibly realize. It is Mother’s Day today – it is also 6 months to the day since our baby boy Luke was born, and died.
Today and all Mother’s Days I will be celebrating my wife, Kelly. Even if we have no other children, she is and will always be a mother. Luke made her a mother – she became a mother when we knew she was pregnant and before we even knew his name or even that he was a he. A switch is flicked that cannot be shut off. Dreams begin, and plans, and purchases, and memories, and all kinds of things. I honor her as the mother she is.
All loss mothers need this recognition of motherhood, even if – no, especially because – they have no living child to hold and raise. Motherhood is not defined simply by evidence…a child you can see, that lives, that grows up. No – motherhood is defined by the love for one’s child. Mothers who lose a child have very little left. The least we can do is honor them for what they are – mothers.
Mini-rant: I am annoyed there is a special day carved out for Bereaved Mother’s Day. Not only does this day exist at all, but it is the weekend before ‘real’ Mother’s Day to make it even worse. Like these mothers need to be othered more than they already feel themselves. They are good enough for Mother’s Day and don’t need a special day like this. I know it was probably done with good intentions to recognize them, but I find it condescending and hurtful. I think that it does help some loss moms, who feel like they are inadequate somehow for Mother’s Day, so it’s good if it helps them in some way. But I recognize these mothers on Mother’s Day, and I encourage you to do the same.
Watching Kelly be Luke’s mother while he was with us is one of the greatest joys of my life. It is also sorrowful, now, but that doesn’t take away how amazing it was being part of the journey. I watched her belly grow as Luke grew. I got to feel him kick and move against her tummy, but cannot even fathom how this felt for her. I would see how she protectively held her hands on her stomach, cradling him. I would listen to her sing to him, and dance with him. I saw how careful she was with her diet, beauty products, actions – doing anything she could to make sure he was safe. I watched her face glow when talking about him, or talking to him. She’s never been more beautiful to me. I’m so happy we have our wonderful maternity photo shoot pictures. I will cherish them forever.
It may be hard to be friend or family to a loss mother – but believe me that it is far harder to be that mother. But you can do things for them that can help. Speak their child’s name to them. Remember with them. Listen and cry with them when needed. Understand if they have to turn down plans or can’t do something. Realize they are not the same as they once were, but if you love them it is worth finding out who they are now. It may also be hard. They are in a lonely place no one should ever be in. If you care at all for someone like this, know that even the smallest thing could be a light amid a sea of darkness. And know that it is far more painful to feel like your child is forgotten than to talk about them.
To anyone else out there struggling with the weight of this day, for whatever reason, you are not alone. And if you are wrestling over whether or not this day is for you, then I have a hint for you – it is. Don’t let anyone, even yourself, gatekeep you from it.
Happy Mother’s Day, Kelly. You are the best mom to our son, Luke. I love you.