Mother’s Day isn’t all roses and breakfasts in bed. It can be an in-your-face reminder for Secret Moms of all that they have lost. Secret Moms are those women who have said goodbye to a baby, yet are mothers nonetheless.
A Secret Mom still carried her child, rocked it in the womb, sang lullabies, told stories in the direction of her growing abdomen, and loved the baby within her in the most sacred of ways. That love of a mother for her child is an unabashed flame, burning brightly, radiating its light and warmth in every direction.
That love lives on, even in the face of loss. Even in the face of early and ravaging cramps and the bleeding. Even in the face of the inner-knowledge that something is terribly wrong. Even in the face of doctors’ facts and nurses’ compassion. The statistics proving no comfort. Even in the face of natural order thrown violently out of order. Still, the Secret Mother’s love burns on. It cannot be extinguished — or silenced.
The room my son Zachary was born into was as quiet as death. He emerged that October day without the newborn cry. He never opened his eyes. His life was counted in gestational weeks, not in candles on a birthday cake. That was the moment I went from naïve to wise. I knew the world differently after that day. After that one silent day, but for the pitter-patter of the thousands of tears I shed on the dampened floor around my hospital bed. A floor my son would never step on. His feet forever virgin to this earth.
Now I know the world of Secret Moms. I call them sisters. As we share our stories, we look each other in the eyes. The bond is immediate. Soulful. As deep as the ocean. Because no one else can fully know those depths of sorrow without having loved and having had to say goodbye within one breath of hello. It is a bond as intimate as family.
Everyone’s loss is unique. As is their grief. As is their healing.
For me, blessed with living children, I kiss them longer, hug them tighter, pray for them more fervently, check on them more frequently in the night, save all their drawings in mountainous piles — all because I know. I know the ache of the Secret Motherhood. People cannot count what they do not see. They look at me and see three. Three blonde children with my smile and my husband’s eyes. But there is a secret one for whom my heart is still ablaze with love.
Yes, Mother’s Day can be a trigger, a date on the calendar that elicits all kinds of longings that can never be fulfilled. The day interrupts routine, begging for pause. A day to take stock of what it means to bring a child into this world. To account for the many gifts of mothering. There are the visible things, such as stretch marks and photo albums of family vacations. The boxes of old clothes and envelopes of baby teeth and tufts of hair from the first cut.
And then there are the invisible things. Mother’s Day is a chance to slow down and marvel at the wonder of life and how we didn’t know our hearts could contain this much love. Love for little beings that only take, yet we never tire of giving. And we need nothing in return. These are beautiful things, yes, and yet their absence is a sting for Secret Moms, enduring these Mother’s Day reminders.
To every Secret Mom: This is still your day. Your day to step out of the silence and be heard, your children counted among the little ones loved. Yes, the greeting cards, billboards, commercials, radio jingles do not understand. Your pain is not marketable. Thank goodness for that. Today, Mother’s Day, is not about counting anyway or having to justify who you are. Mother. Is the love there? Yes! Is the heat of it keeping your memories alive? Yes! Is its light illuminating all that really matters? Yes! Then those things trump all the rest.
I celebrate you. I celebrate your child — or children — who have died. We are sisters, mothers, friends, fellow sojourners on this expedition through grief and healing and every moment of this “new normal” as it’s so aptly called. And today, claim it. It is ours. Today is our day.