As a teenage girl, I didn't dream up my wedding; I dreamed up my life as a transient, bohemian actress/writer who was married to a music teacher (this is no joke) and had a hippy daughter named something like Echo who wore mismatched clothes. While this fantasy wasn't realistic, after I married Nate (a music teacher!), I hung on dearly to the last part of the fantasy: having a daughter...which quickly translated to a desire of simply having a child. Each failed attempt stung more than the previous. After a few months of marriage, people began asking when we'd have kids. We'd respond with the obligatory: "Whenever God wants us to." One of our acquaintances even said, "Having kids isn't that hard, you know..." I reigned in my desire to sucker-punch this guy in the teeth. The final blow for us came at a doctor's office in North Platte when we heard we would likely never have children. I remember wandering out of the office, my body numb. Nate and I drove to a nearby lake despite the day being cold and appropriately dreary. He sat on a picnic table while I sat on the cold sand. We both stared into oblivion. The sobbing eventually came. What was my purpose now? I was a married woman...by society's standard, married women are supposed to have children. Now what do we do, I thought?
Eventually we moved on, but each Mother's Day opened the wound of infertility. While I hate to say it, church made it worse. Pastors calling for moms to stand and be recognized in a thunderous round of applause, pastors handing out flowers or candy bars to moms, a special sermon for mothers....I spent these moments sobbing violently in church bathroom stalls. Eventually Nate and I just stopped going to church on Mother's and Father's Day. While I value the work mothers do (even more now that I am one), this action meant to celebrate also alienates many women--women who can't have children, don't want to have children, have had children but lost them, etc. I do believe moms should be recognized but not at the expense of others. I ran across this blog this morning that offers a suggestion for recognizing the "wide continuum of motherhood." The list does not, I'm sure, recognize every possible scenario, but does honor a wider variety of women.
This Mother's Day is different for me: I am a mom to a beautiful little boy who I thank God for every day. But I still remember the pain of the day--my prayer today is for kids without moms, for the women who desperately want children but don't have them, for the women who don't desire children and seem to be outcasts in society, and for moms doing the tough work of raising kids in a broken world. I pray this day would not be painful, but would be a celebration of the women in our lives or in history (whether they are moms or not) who have come before us to shape who we are and what we stand for.