I See You, and celebrating Mother’s Day
I wrote this first in Spring 2007, trying to figure out how to really celebrate Mothers Day in the Church, a place which should feel like the most safe and inclusive place on the planet but doesn’t for many. How can we NOT recognize the blessing of mothers, many who selflessly give up all for the people they love. How can we NOT celebrate that God, who in his infinite creative wisdom, gave humans the chance to share in the wonder of being part-creator alongside Him. How can we not? And yet, there’s dread… oh the dread.
First, I want to get one thing straight… I love, love, love my Mother. She means so much to me and I am so thankful for her. I love being my kids’ mother. They are amazing little ones growing into such beautiful people. I truly am so blessed. And although I have at times, gotten some flack for feeling sorry for myself in this area, or having a negative perspective on some things, I think I would fail in making the most of my life experiences if I didn’t do the work of acknowledging the losses that many women feel in light of all the emphasis on mothering and Mother’s Day every year. For some, even for me, even as I am privileged to be a Mother, it is a re-opening of a wound I/they work hard to heal, and I’ve come to realize, again through personal experience, and in knowing many women of character who have endured so much, that a huge part of getting through the heartache is for someone to say “I see you”. And so that is what this is…
“I see you”.
I think the celebration of Mothers is a wonderful necessity in our lives these days. I think a lot of mothers and their influence on their children and therefore on the world has been minimized to a desperate degree. With all the push in the culture towards a woman’s self-satisfaction in her career has overshadowed the immediate role of a person who is a Mother in the life of the child they parent. So celebrating Mothers is good, very good. And I am blessed to know many exceptional mothers who give all for their children. And I celebrate these women.
But what about those who for whatever reason find this day painful, heartbreaking?
I know women who avoid church like the plague on Mother’s Day Sunday because they know all it will do is highlight the fact that they’ve lost… whether it be a child due to premature death, stillbirth, miscarriage, or a child through adoption… or the dream of a child at all because of infertility or the single life. Or through custody disputes in divorce.
And yes, children who’ve lost Mothers through any of these avenues as well. We celebrate Mothers, but I think we do a big injustice to other mothers (or people who long to be mothers) by only celebrating, and not taking a moment just to acknowledge that there is pain for many.
Through years of ministry and just plain life, I have met woman upon woman for whom this day is hard, and you would never know it. They are women who are obviously parenting, but carried lost children in their hearts, and long for the day they will be reunited with their little ones born to heaven or living in another family. No one would ever know their hearts are heavy by their appearance. I know women who have lost many children before they were blessed to parent on earth, and they remember them. I know women who have placed children in another family, and miss their kids every…single…day. I know women for whom childlessness is overwhelming, and they long for things to be different.
For them and so many more living with disappointment and loss in their parenting life, Mother’s Day makes it all the more harder, just one more milestone they have to mark in their loss. I have known women who struggle because mothering the children they love and are blessed to parent is not what they expected, often because their child has challenges that keep them from being able to express love in return. For these, and so many more with very unique circumstances, this day is hard. I see you.
This definitely gets very personal too. Our journey to our family includes having to “live through” the pain of infertility and pregnancy loss in front of everyone, and how we needed someone to stop and say “I see you, and you know, you can have a break on this day instead of preaching, leading…we understand you may be hurting”. No one ever did that. I don’t blame them because looking back, how could they know?
But still, I don’t want that to happen to others now that I know how it feels. We were fortunate during that time to be surrounded by some amazing teens from our youth group, who seemed to be sensitive beyond their years to our pain, who most definitely said, “I see you” and who celebrated us as people of influence in their lives. But not everyone has that.
I know that in any given faith gathering this Mother’s Day, regardless of how large or small, there will be AT LEAST one (but most likely more, many, many more) women who have lost a child and no one knows about it. First mothers through adoption. Childless mothers through infertility. Single women who long for the chance to be a mother. Others who’ve lost babes through pregnancy loss. Or stillbirth. Or abortion. Or cancer. Or an accident. Or divorce. I see you.
Older women who have outlived their children. Or live with regret over the breaks in relationship. I see you.
Children who have lost their Mothers. Through death. Through adoption. Are we ready to remember them, to acknowledge that they might, most probably do, have pain on this day??? We never know who might be hurting even though on the outside, you can’t see it. But I see you.
So please celebrate, but as you do, remember the hurting mothers. See them. And say a prayer of of blessing and peace for them.