It's our day this weekend - yours and mine. On Sunday morning, the great American machine will come to a screeching halt for mere moments as children everywhere remember mom. Except there may be no breakfast in bed waiting for you. No pitter patter of feet running down the hall to your bedroom door. No paint-pressed handprints on grainy construction paper under a pithy, crayon-etched phrase that reads something adorable like, "Hands down, you're the best mom around." Instead, there may be tears, heartache, numbness, or loneliness. Your child, or children maybe, are not here. I can't begin to understand what that feels like. You know the emotions well; you live them. Yet sadly, like an absent-minded friend who can't keep up with birthdays, we forget you.
I cannot imagine how you have felt in the days leading up to this one. Reminders are everywhere. On TV as endless commercials advertise the perfect gift for the picture perfect mom. Or in the grocery store where the greeting card aisle is adorned in pinks and purples and a maze of Mother's Day balloons. Or even as you pick out something special for your mom, wondering when it will be your turn.
I do not pretend to know your hurt, but I have seen it. This past year alone, four of my good friends experienced eight miscarriages between them. One beautiful boy was stillborn at 18 weeks. I hovered close to his handsome, but motionless body, as he lay in his hospital bassinet. I doted over his fully-formed fingers and toes - there were 10 of each. And though my heart was breaking in those moments, I could not bring myself to cry. His life, though brief, was life indeed, I wanted to celebrate his mere existence, even as I grieved our loss.
I know you have grieved. Perhaps you are still grieving. Does the hurt ever really go away? I don't think so. But somehow, you find the courage to wake up each day, and to keep believing that God is good and life is worth living, even though a part of your soul is unmistakably gone that you can never get back. You suffer in silence year-round as we forget you. At baby dedications. On holidays. At Mother's Day. We forget that even though your children are in heaven, you are mothers. You carried life within you, even if that life was taken away shortly after it began.
We forget because your stories go untold. Some are too painful to tell. There is shame and embarrassment and overwhelming hurt. It is too hard to put up with people who don't know what to say, and even harder to tolerate those who think they do.
You hear other mothers complain about the lack of sleep as their newborns wake throughout the night. Or lament the challenges of the terrible twos. And all the while, all you can think is how lucky they are to be able to tuck their children into bed at night. What you would give to experience the joys of nursing, or potty training, or the gift of hearing your child say their first word. You hear about mothers who abort their babies and wonder why life sometimes seems so unfair. Or you wonder how the child you now have, would relate to their older or younger sibling. What it would be like to have both of your babies here instead of just one. Or some.
Maybe still, you feel none of this. I cannot fully know, having never walked in your shoes. I only come bearing this small token, like an outstretched olive branch this Mother's Day:
You are not forgotten.
I remember you and think of you often. When I sneak in my son's room at night to watch him sleep in the dark, mouth wide open, the reflection from his nightlight making his cheeks glow, I imagine the endless joy you would feel if you could do the same. When I saw the image of our second child on the sonogram at just 11 weeks old, marching like a soldier on the walls of my uterus, so full of life and energy, I wonder how it must have been when you first saw your little one or heard the comforting rhythm of their heartbeat. When I see visibly pregnant women rubbing their growing bellies in stores, in the doctor's office and at the gym, I wonder how that must make you feel.
I remember you and celebrate your resilience. I seek out your stories and cry behind closed doors. I admire your strength. How you show up for baby showers and warmly welcome children of family members and friends into the world. I see your silent struggle. The internal dilemma when you're asked whether you have children, or how many children you have, or whether you want children, or when you're going to start having them.
I remember you, and think of your children. All one million of them who didn't make it here last year, and millions more who have gone on before. Know this, whatever small comfort it may provide, you are not - you will never be - forgotten. I am thinking of you, and praying for you, and though Mother's Day may not look like the traditional, joyful celebration for you, it does not negate the truth. This is your day too.
So from one mom to another, and with all the love mere words can hold, Happy Mother's Day.