I'm writing about it this week, along with many other talented bloggers. You can find them all here.
Many, many years ago, a childless woman named Anna Jarvis decided that she wanted to celebrate her own mother, Ann. Over the course of her life, Ann lost seven children, yet persevered through it all and raised her surviving babies to adulthood. This website can tell you more about her story and about this day.
Though Anna is widely credited with the establishment of the holiday here in the United States, she came to resent the commercialization of it all, and the resulting societal exclusion of the very women she intended to include - those who had lost their children.
With that history, this new date was created.
In past years, I have written about how Mother's Day marginalizes all those women. How they need to be remembered too.
We are reminded to buy flowers and jewelry, to make phone calls and send cards. Those of us with children now are urged to enjoy runny scrambled eggs and dandelions picked by tiny hands...and we do.
For too many of us, and for too many of our sisters without the children they should have, there is something missing though.
A mother's love comes from her heart.
It begins long before she even becomes pregnant for the first time.
It lasts forever, even if she says goodbye long before then.
It is her will to create life, to nourish it, to raise it up and let it go, that makes her a mother.
It is not her uterus, or how long it was occupied or if it ever was.
It is not her breasts, or how long they fed an infant or if they ever did.
It is not her arms, or whether they are full now or if they ever were.
It is her heart.
As a woman who has lost a child of my own, I know the void. I know something is missing, someone is missing. I know the pain. I wonder all the time what could have been. What should have been. I wonder what her eyes would have looked like, what color her hair would have been. I wonder what she would have loved, who she would have been. I wonder how she would have interacted with her siblings, then I wonder if they would be the same people they are if it wasn't for her absence.
I know that things would surely be different if her life had never been a part of mine. I know that I loved her even though we never met. I know that she changed me as a person, changed everything about my life, and that she changed it forever. I know that I'm not the same person that I was before her.
I know that losing her stole the joy for so many things in my life, joy that I would never get back. I know that I never again naively assumed that everything would be okay. I know that when I would find comfort that my following pregnancies were going as they should, the panic would always find it's way back into my heart again. I know that I worried because I knew how horribly wrong things could go. I know that in some ways I attached myself more to them our of fear, and that in others I distanced myself more out of that same fear.
As a woman who endured infertility, I know the pain that comes every single month. The mourning something that wasn't ever there except in your heart. I know the games you play in your mind, like maybe it was just a day too early to test, or if I just bought every brand one of them would tell me what I wanted to hear. I know how it feels to envy all the women in the world who are able to do this when I can't. I know how it seems like every woman in the world is pregnant or snuggling a newborn. I know that pain is real and genuine and valid. I know that there is no utility in comparing pain with that of anyone else. I know that sometimes all I need do is look into the eyes of another woman and I know that she understands. I know how crippling hope can be when hope isn't enough.
As a doula, I have helped women through losses. Some early, some late, some after babies were here and in their arms for a little while. I've sat in a hospital room with a mother and simultaneously celebrated the healthy life within her arms and mourned the one who was gone. I've held that mother's heart in my heart.
As a friend, I have seen women faced with horrible choices where there wasn't really one at all. Who want more than anything to have a child that they cannot. Who have put their bodies and their minds and their hearts through hell and still cannot. Who were tied up in pending adoptions, who had outfits selected, who had nurseries ready, only to have it all fall apart at the end, leaving a hopeful mother with empty arms again as the future she imagined slipped silently away.
As a writer, I have come to form amazing connections with women who've endured losses the rest of us could only imagine. Who've lost multiple pregnancies. Who've delivered stillborn babies in sterile hospital rooms. Who've held onto those babies for a day or a week or a year or five years, only to have them taken. Who've fought with those babies against diseases for minutes or years. Who've done every single thing they could think of to save them. Who've had to decide that it was time to let them go. Who've laid beside them when they left this earthly existence.
the ones who were here, then they weren't
the ones we never met
the ones we held for too short a time
the ones that only ever existed in our hearts
all of them make us who we are.
They all make us mothers, whether it seems like anyone else ever understands it or not.
Let us celebrate them, and us, in this moment. Let us reach out to one another and share our stories. Let us tell other women that we love them, that we appreciate them, that we honor them, that we value them, that we grieve with them.