Growing up, my mom’s response to the exclamation “Happy Mother’s Day!” was always the same.
“I’m a happy mother!”
Now that I am a mother, I see this response from a more personal lens. I have always wanted to be a mom. I know that not every woman shares this desire for motherhood, which I respect. But for me, it was something I just assumed would happen, along with every other goal or dream for my life. I don’t remember yearning for it when I was younger and even newly married, partly because I was pursuing other ambitions and passions, but also because I believed it would happen exactly how and when I wanted it to. I didn’t see the point in dwelling on it. I would be a mom, and it would be great when the time was right.
Long gone are the days of simple assumptions about anything.
2 years ago, I remember sitting in church on Mother’s Day feeling alone and angry. Dave and I had been “trying” (awkward) for longer than I was admitting to myself or others, and it wasn’t happening. I watched loved ones and not-so-loved ones around me getting pregnant like it was an item on a lunch menu.
“I‘ll have a salad.”
“And I will have a baby.”
My beliefs about life and the way the world worked were being challenged in a painful and paradigm-shifting turn of events. After buying in to the adage that I was “Taking Charge of My Fertility”, both by preventing and then by not preventing, the realization finally hit me that I really have very little control over it at all. This always reminds me of Charlotte on Sex and the City when she says, “I spent all of my twenties trying not to get pregnant and all of my thirties trying to get pregnant!”
So here I was, sitting in church, watching adorable children pass out carnations to the standing women- the mothers– and I finally yearned to be one of them. It went beyond a “you do you and I’ll do me” mindset and it became personal.
“Why them and not me?”
In that moment, I felt like I was becoming the person I hated. The person who believes that everything is about her and that someone else’s fortune is somehow in direct competition with her own. And then something happened. I stopped looking at the women who were standing and started looking at the ones who weren’t. Young women. Old women. Single women. Married women. Women who looked annoyed and others who looked embarrassed. Women who fidgeted in their seats and those who looked around smiling and nodding happily at the standing women around them. I didn’t want to judge them. I wanted to know them. “What are their stories?”
What I am learning as I allow myself to be vulnerable with others about my story is that there are a lot of complicated, painful, confusing, uncomfortable, and tragic stories all around me. There are also countless stories about love, redemption, second chances, joy from sorrow, strength in weakness and healing amidst loss and grief. I am not unique. But my story is valuable. So is yours.
Today, on Mother’s Day, my mom’s words resonate in my heart and soul.
“I am a happy mother!”
I am not happy because I got what I wanted, nor am I happy because I deserved it all along. I am happy because I have seen God work in my life in a real and personal way. I am happy because God had a plan all along that was better than mine, and I didn’t know or understand that two years ago. I am happy because the deep yearning I felt that day in church and the story I have been telling myself since childhood are connected. For me, that’s the key to my story now. It was never about getting everything I wanted. It was about the desires, passions and visions God put in my heart the day I was created that have strengthened and evolved into something more beautiful than I could have imagined.
Mother’s Day is a painful day for a lot of people. It represents loss as much as it represents gain. It reminds people of what they used to have and what they have never had. So in addition to my happiness today, there is room for grief. I grieve the loss of my son’s first mom. Today, while I celebrate my “mom” status with my son, she will feel her own loss acutely, and that pains my heart. I grieve the loss of my parents’ mothers. I am reminded of my mom’s face when my grandmother died and the deep wailing in her spirit as she verbalized that she had become an orphan. I mourn with my friends and clients who never knew the love of a mother. I weep with those who have lost a child or who have a child who is sick and hurting and they don’t know how to help. I hurt with those who yearn for a child deeply.
That’s the beauty of life, really. Feelings are not compartmentalized; they are fluid. They don’t exist one after another, but in a magnificent tapestry, woven together intricately and gently.
If you are a happy mother today, celebrate that. If that label does not fit for you, honor that however you need to. For me, I will enjoy my presents and cards and cherish every hug and acknowledgment. I will also make a conscious effort to be sensitive to the stories of others and leave room for grief and contemplation while still embracing my “special day”.
My road to motherhood was not simple, but it was just as it was meant to be. And for that, I am certainly a happy and grateful mother.