Mother’s Day is a hard day for many, many women. It is wonderful to have day set aside specifically to celebrate mothers, but it brings out strange reactions from many of us. A day that is intended to be anticipated and cherished by women, can be difficult for others. Women who struggle with infertility, have suffered miscarriages or endured child loss may resent it. Women who feel inadequate as mothers may dread it. It is a hard thing to help mothers of all kinds to feel properly celebrated, when there are so many kinds.
Today I wish to speak of a special group of which I am a part. It is a very specific group, but I know there are many more mothers like me out there.
I am talking about Mother’s who lost their first, and only child.
Mothers who don’t have any children to hold on Mother’s Day. Mothers whose privilege to “mother” was taken from them prematurely. Mothers who don’t get to change diapers or wake up at night to breastfeed, or potty train or do their daughter’s first pigtails. Mothers who will spend Mother’s Day with completely empty arms.
Do not forget these women. Don’t be afraid to talk about their child. Don’t hesitate to offer memories or love or sorrow to their aching mommy heart.
But don’t tell them they’re still a mother.
I believe that spirits are eternal. That we exist before we are born, and continue to exist after we die. I believe that families are sacred entities and that I will continue to be Alice’s mom throughout eternity. I know we are intrinsically tied and her death does not change that, but right now, I am not a mother.
I don’t get to do mother things. I don’t get to take Alice with me to the grocery store and tell curious old women how old she is. I won’t get to see her walk or talk or learn how to ride a bike in this life. I won’t get to take her to her first day of preschool. Of course mothering has a deeper, more inherent meaning, but those things you do to be a mother have been taken from me. I don’t get to do them anymore.
So if you hear a woman say, or see her face reveal, or know her heart contains the sentiment “I miss being a mother” consider saying to her one of the following:
“I am so sorry”
“I miss seeing you as a mother”
“I love you”
“You did a great job”
“Your child was lucky to have such a great mother”
“I miss your child too”
Offer a sincere, specific compliment about the way they mothered
Remind them of a memory you have of them as a mother
Say something you loved about their child
Feel free to anticipate their feelings and let them know you’re thinking of them and you love them
If you can’t resist mentioning the eternal nature of motherhood follow it up by saying, “but I am so sorry you don’t get to do those things now”.
I’m sure these some of these can apply to mother’s who have other children as well. Of course, having other children after or even at the time of loss doesn’t make it better. It doesn’t make your pain go away. It’s just different. I greatly admire mothers who are mourning the loss of one child and somehow managing to simultaneously care for and meet the needs of their other children.
Grief is a hard thing and everyone processes their feelings differently, but try and support their feelings. No way of grieving is wrong. Let me say that again. No way of grieving is wrong.
If you have a friend who has lost their only child and they proclaim proudly, “I am a mother”, respond by saying, “Of course you are!” If they say, “I never want to have another child” say, “I support you, and I love you”. If they say, “I love being a mom to your child” say, “You are a great mom! I appreciate the role you play in my child’s life.”
Support and love is key. And when in doubt, just ask. I love when people ask me what I would like them to say. I appreciate that they care enough to do everything in their power to avoid hurting me. Creating an open and honest communication line is integral to a good relationship.
Let’s all try to support each other. To love and uplift and validate one another. I challenge you to look outward and do your best to not let anyone feel left behind or forgotten. Even and especially those who, like me, for whatever reason don’t get to be a mother this Mother’s Day.