It's that time of year again. With every day that we edge closer to Sunday, I can feel the anxiety building up. The familiar discomfort with it all.
These holidays, you know, they aren't exactly welcome for all of us.
This upcoming one, the day for the celebration of mothers and motherhood and mothering.
It's a day filled with pause and reflection and wondering how different things might have been. For some people out there, these holidays are unencumbered days to celebrate with their families, or at least it seems that way from where I sit.
For me though, virtually every year since becoming an adult has brought with it a little bit of heartache. Up until I was married, the holiday was always about my mother. My grandmothers. I'd do the obligatory card buying, letter writing, phone calling.
If I'm being completely honest, I never actually gave it much thought. I never did because back then I was still blissfully unaware of all the bizarre familial dynamics that had driven my childhood, I was still in a place where expectation dictated what I did and when and why.
Simply put, I was supposed to buy the card and the flowers and make the phone calls, and so I did.
Then shortly after we were married and my husband sat in that doctor's office chair and I held his hand and the word cancer slipped out of the lips of the man in the stark white coat, it all changed.
We'd had every intention of someday having children, but no plans at all for them yet. We were 22 years old and newlywed. We were so clueless and unaware of what the future held for us. We were living in a tiny one bedroom apartment and in no way prepared for even the idea of children. They resided somewhere in the future, after we'd settled in our careers and paid off the debt we'd acquired and bought the house and traveled the world.
Until we were told that we might never meet them at all.
When you're 22 and being told that you may never have children, you suddenly want them more than you've ever wanted anything else in your entire life.
Our lives derailed, magnificently, entirely and wholly out of fear.
We took a chance, crossed our fingers, and tried. We had such a short window of opportunity, and the odds were all stacked against us. There was, simply put, no reason to believe that I'd get pregnant.
But I did.
And we were elated. All that planning for someday far in the future was gone, we were doing what we needed to now because we knew it was more important than all that other stuff. Our priorities were forever changed.
Until months later when we sat in the dimly lit room beside a screen that wasn't flashing the way it was supposed to. The baby was gone.
And everything changed.
The following months brought nights of endless sobbing and phantom cries heard at 2am. A diagnosis of infertility after months of trying every trick in the book to conceive.
Mother's Day that year, it came anyway. It didn't care what had happened to us, what had happened to me. It didn't care that I was to be a mother until I wasn't to be a mother anymore. It didn't care that I might never be.
I was, of course, still expected to do all the things for the other mothers in my life because I just was and that day wasn't about me even a little bit because I wasn't a mother.
That year would bring the formal diagnosis of infertility and the most unexpected faint pink line just three weeks later, on my husband's birthday of all days. The doctors were wrong. The roller coaster was heading back up again, though this time we waited, anxiously, for the fall that could come at any moment.
That next year, I was pregnant on Mother's Day, against the odds again.
For every year since, I have had children.
Now that I have my last child, the one that my own mother will never meet, I feel like this holiday finally just belongs to me.
Last year was the first one without her here. The one where I marked her absence, where the void was real and plain and immediate. There was no phone call to make, no card to buy, no expectation anymore. The day was a bittersweet one.
For as much sadness her absence brings, there is peace too. Peace in knowing that she is in a better place now, peace in knowing that she isn't suffering anymore, peace in knowing that she can't co-opt these days anymore and make everything about her, peace in knowing that she can't hurt me anymore, peace in knowing that I don't need to jump through the hoops and surrender a piece of my own happiness at the altar of her need.
I no longer need to feel like I had no choice but to fail her as a daughter in order to protect my own children. I don't have to feel conflicted and torn.
I felt all those feelings before, and I don't have to do that anymore.
I'm choosing not to do that this time.
I'm choosing to live here, in the present, the present that was never supposed to exist.
This year, I just get to be the mom. For the first real time in my life.
With no expectations, with no demands, but with gratitude for all that I have.
These children, they aren't the ones I expected. There are certainly more of them than I ever imagined someday having. They are all unique and different and beautiful souls. And not a single one of them would be here had my first child not entered and then left my life in the way that she did.
She made them possible.
I am the daughter of a woman who did the best she could. I miss her every day.
I am the mother of six children, one that lives only in my heart, five living here with me in this world.
How lucky am I.
Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there, whether their children are with them in this world or not, to all the women with the heart of a mother, to all the women who care for the children who aren't theirs. Gentle hugs to everyone out there for which this day brings pain and sadness. Know that you aren't alone. xo
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