I could feel my heart beating as if it was going to burst right out of my chest. I was overwhelmed by the mere fact that it was Mother’s Day and yet I was still awaiting the incredible gift of Motherhood. A dark cloud of fear swarmed over me as I recognized that I may never be a Mother. I felt like I was being choked by a blanket of anxiety as my own worries were suffocating me. I wanted to be in a place to celebrate my Mom, my spiritual Mom’s, my friend’s who are Mom’s– all Mom’s, but that morning my heart was hurting as I grieved the fact that I was not a Mom.
As Ryan and I headed to church, I gripped his hand tightly. My hands were so clammy as I interlaced my fingers with his. We walked up the stone steps towards the front doors of our church and I plastered a fake smile onto my face, as if it would make the day easier. We had arrived late; however, I didn’t mind on that particular Mother’s day as then I wouldn’t have to have any conversations with anyone prior to the service. My stomach was in knots. I tried to think about anything other than fact that another Mother’s Day had come where my womb was barren. However, unfortunately, it seemed all I could wrap my mind around was the inevitable question that is usually asked at some point in most churches on Mother’s Day:
“If you are a Mother, will you please stand, so we can honor you?”
Typically, in most churches the Pastor asks for all Mother’s to stand so that they can be recognized, honored, and celebrated. Sometimes they are even celebrated with a beautiful red rose or a homemade treat for their truly undeniable role as a Mom, which is a generous and thoughtful way to honor our Mom’s. And truly they should be honored to the highest degree on such a special day. However, for those of us longing to be Mother’s, this portion of the Mother’s Day service can be very painful and an emotionally raw moment to say the least. To be honest, on this Mother’ Day, I was dreading the inevitable question and it was causing my nerves to flood my entire being.
How do women walking through infertility respond to this question? How do women whose children died respond to this? I thought about one of my dearest friends who went into pre-term labor when she was 6 months pregnant. Her son, Hudson, went home to the Lord seconds after he was born. Would she stand? What about the woman whose heart was in deep grief due to a failed adoption attempt. Would she stand? Or the teenager who gave her baby up for adoption being that she couldn’t give her/him the life they deserve, would she stand? I thought about me, and my desperate desire and yearning to be a Mother, but still my womb was empty. Could I stand?
The truth is, for those of us struggling with infertility, honoring and celebrating Mother’s Day, especially in the church can be an incredibly difficult and trying event. For some, attending the Mother’s Day service is just another reminder of their lack of children. They may choose to not even come. It may in fact be just be easier that way. Each person walking this journey handles their grief so differently and however they choose to handle it, is perfectly fine and should always be respected. For myself, even though my anxiety was bursting through the seams of my soul that day, I knew I wanted to be at church and embrace this special day with love. I knew it would take a lot of strength, but ultimately, I knew the Lord had my heart cradled in the palm of His hands and He knew the intricate details of my story. I had to trust Him.
Despite the tornado of fear that was covering my being, I managed to find some strength in me to face the service that day. I held Ryan’s hand tightly as we walked down the aisle to the front of the altar. Worship had already began and the sound of the voices of our church body praising the Lord was so beautiful. There is something about praising the Lord through your breakthrough that undoubtably brings Heaven to earth and God’s perfect peace. Throughout worship, I praised the Lord and cherished my intimate time with Him. I let His grace hold Me in His arms. My husband held me close to his chest as tears rolled down my cheeks. Together, we grieved- and together, we praised the King of Glory and soaked in His Presence as His everlasting peace began to consume us.
The order of service continued as worship gradually ended and our Pastor went forward. Through worship, my heart had entered a state of peace, but as worship slowly came to a halt I could quickly feel my anxiety creeping back in and invading my heart as I anticipated the question. And so I waited for what was to inevitably come. Our Pastor welcomed everyone and immediately we entered into a place of honor for the Mother’s in our church. Since everyone was already standing, there was no need to point out who was a Mom and who wasn’t. Thank God. Our Pastor began to pray and thank the Lord for the outstanding role of Mother’s in our lives. My heart grieved, but I was determined to face and embrace this moment and find strength to push through. I was standing next to our Youth Pastor, Gayelee, as our Pastor prayed. She is like a spiritual Mother to me. I put my arms around her and gazed into her glossy blue eyes. She smiled big and pulled me in close to her. I began to pray for her and thank God for giving me such an amazing spiritual mother in Gayelee. She is true gift of Motherhood in my life.
Our Pastor began closing in prayer. I embraced these moments the best that I could, but my heart was still hurting. Suddenly our Pastor started praying for women in our church, like me, who desperately desire to be a Mother, but for whatever reason their womb was still empty. To be honest, it was to my great surprise that I was remembered in these moments. Instantly, tears came swarming down my face. Gayelee and Ryan held me in their arms. I could feel an outpour of support and prayers of people around me. One of my small group girls came and put her arms around my waist and started declaring fruit in my womb. Although, I know this prayer was for one of many women who struggle with infertlity, that day I felt like the entire church body was lifting me up believing faithfully for a fruitful womb. It was such a beautiful moment. The heart of my Pastor was to honor all roles of Mothering and to pray for those of us dying to become a Mother. On this particular Mother’s Day, I was not forgotten by my church.
Grace. God had grace for me when my heart grieved so deeply that Mother’s Day morning. And through His grace He gave me strength to embrace Mother’s Day the best that I could. And finally, He offered His love instead of the inevitable question that I so dauntingly anticipated. As the day continued, He gave me friends and family who showered my heart with text messages and phone calls telling me they were thinking of me on this Mother’s Day. He gave me a strong husband to hold me in my weak moments and celebrate my role as a Mother, even though we still wait to bring a baby into our family. He gave me an entire church body who lifted me up and poured faith and hope into my heart. He gave me beauty for ashes that day.
It is unfortunate that so many women walking through infertility have similar heartaches when it comes to Mother’s Day and the church. It is just a hard day for some of us and sometimes especially unbearable to face. Have grace for us and how we choose to work through our emotions on this day. It is a day where I knew I needed the support of my loved ones because sometimes just knowing that you are remembered on Mother’s Day can make the day a little less hard.
Someone sent me the following poem days before Mother’s day this last year. I think they are the perfect words that beautifully articulate the role of a Mother. If churches could think about the “Wide spectrum of Mothering” on Mother’s Day then I think it might change the outlook of how a women struggling with infertility may view Mother’s Day in the church…
The Wide Spectrum of Mothering
To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you
To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you
To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you
To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you
To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is
To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you
To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you
To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you
To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you
To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience
To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst
To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day
To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be
To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths
To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren, yet that dream is not to be – we grieve with you
To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you To those who placed children up for adoption – we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart
And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you
This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.