The other night my son announced that he had made me a really awesome card for Valentine’s Day.
“At school,” he clarified. “I made a really awesome Valentine’s Day card for you at school.”
“You did?” I said. “That’s great. Way to plan ahead.”
“Oh wait,” he said, beaming. “Mudder’s Day. I made you a card for Mudder’s Day.” He was proud, excited, and eager.
Nothing—absolutely nothing—could tarnish Mudder’s Day, or Valentine’s Day, or whatever holiday for which the card is intended.
As a child, I felt the same exuberance and twinkly visions of holidays too. Mother’s Day had a shimmery aura that seemed to make everything about motherhood glow. Mother’s Day was like unicorns and lollipops and daisies all rolled into one. It was dandelion bouquets and handmade cards and gifts made out of macaroni, yarn, and copious amounts of glitter. I was fortunate to have an idyllic, if not ordinary, childhood. Mother’s Day was about loveliness, parental devotion, and maternal goodness.
Back then, the sheer possibility that Mother’s Day—or motherhood in general, for that matter—might have a darker, or messier, side was inconceivable. It would have been like learning that the Easter Bunny was the love child of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Impossible. Absolutely impossible.
But now as I’ve grown up, as I’ve lived and learned, I have become acutely aware of just how fraught with complexity Mother’s Day is for many women. For some people, Mother’s Day is just as peaceful and lovely and enchanting as the commercials make it seem. But for others, Mother’s Day is fraught with loss, grief, longing, and bitterness. And for many people, Mother’s Day is a messy mixture of joy, gratitude, sorrow, and regret.
Mother’s Day, for some, is an aching and muddy walk in the trenches.
Despite everything that I thought as a little girl and everything that the advertisers would still like us to believe, there is a darker underbelly to Mother’s Day for many people. There are friends who are grieving the loss of their mother, whether this is their first Mother’s Day without her or they have spent decades as a motherless child because, let’s be honest, the hole made from that loss never really closes entirely.
There are the women whose dreams of becoming a mother have been put on hold or vanished altogether due to infertility, miscarriage, or some other unwelcome twist of fate. There are the women who do not have a spouse or partner to shower her with love and ease the burdens of motherhood just a little. There are the people who may have awkward, strained, or estranged relationships with their mother. And there are the mothers who, god forbid, lost one of their precious babies way too soon, and whenever a mother loses a child it is always too soon and that child will always be her baby.
I won’t pretend to understand what it is like to spend Mother’s Day with such deep heaviness. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of Mother’s Day disappointments and holidays that didn’t go as planned. Because, really, aren’t all birthdays, anniversaries, and major holidays a hotbed for unrealistic expectations and potential disappointments?
But the disappointments and detours I have experienced were minor and inconsequential, and Mother’s Day is a fairly uncomplicated holiday for me. I am fortunate to have a mother whom I respect, admire, and enjoy, as well as a husband who goes out of his way to make me feel appreciated not just on Mother’s Day but every day.
I do not know what it is like to lose a parent or a child, and while I do know the ache that can come from infertility and miscarriage, those struggles are behind me now. I do not know what it is like to feel the deep pain, disappointment, or heartache that you might be feeling this time of year, pain that quite possibly is sitting right next to an inexplicable gratitude and unconditional love as well.
So I will not offer some good-intentioned but hollow words of encouragement, advice, or support. I will not write about remembering the time together, nor will I tell you that everything happens for a reason. I will not say things like “at least …” nor will I offer some kind of spiritual rationale. I will not write about the ever-expanding mama heart and the pain of letting go.
You don’t need to read another blog post about a mother’s love. You’ve read them all before. Heck, I’ve written them before. Nor do you need advice or suggestions or reminders about remembrance, understanding, acceptance, or redemption. You know what you need to do to grieve, forgive, or heal, as the case may be.
The only thing that I want to say is, I see you and I hear you.
I see the murkiness in your eyes, and I hear the regret that lingers in your voice. I see your mom’s smile, gone from this world way too soon, in her grandbabies’ smiles. I see the fierce way you love the child you do have because of the child that you don’t. I hear the way you linger on the phone a little longer than usual, and I hear the way you talk with such pride about the mother and woman who she was. I see the way you shower your nieces and nephews with a focused attention and energy that, as parents, we are sometimes unable to give our own children because bath time and homework get in the way. I hear your silence when the topic of conversation turns toward mothers and motherhood and anything maternal in nature.
So while I might not know your specific pain or your unique web of emotions, while I might not have walked this muddy terrain that you are on, please know that I see you and I hear you.
Happy Mudder’s Day. Happy Muddy Day.
Heck, Happy Valentine’s Day.
Whichever. Just know that you are seen, you are heard, and you are loved.