Mother’s Day is this weekend, and I will admit I am already feeling more than a little jittery about the whole thing.
In my own little family, the past few Mother’s Days have been one horror show after another. One year, a stomach bug hit three of us mid-day. Another year, my oldest child was recovering from a nasty concussion. Last year, one of my children had a harrowing emergency surgery on what was supposed to be my big day. Another time, there was a nasty case of conjunctivitis that just refused to die a final death.
My husband is irrationally apologetic about this series of bad luck. He, kindly, as the father of my children, feels a certain responsibility to make the day extra-special. (He’s a good one.)
And yet the truth is, I have had a cursed relationship with this day since well before I became a mother. And maybe you have, too.
Pain for myself, pain for others
After two miscarriages, I know what it’s like to live through Mother’s Day gripped with fear that I would never be a mother.
I also know the pain my own mom endured each year on the holiday, when talk always, somehow, seemed to turn to discussions of labor and delivery – an experience that she did not know and never would.
I’ve also spent the day wondering about my biological mother – worried that she was feeling pain or guilt for her decision to give me up for adoption when she was just 19 and recognized that she wasn’t fully equipped to give me the life she felt I both needed and deserved. At the same time, I also worried that my mom wasn’t wondering about me – that she wasn’t alive or maybe that she was but never thought about me at all.
This is the first Mother’s Day where I know how to reach my biological mother. I know a bit more now about how she feels. I thought this would help, somehow – being able to know that she is OK and that she knows I have a good life. It helps, a little, but my heart continues to break for the pain I now know she has shouldered through the decades.
I think about my friends who are without their mother for the first time this year. No matter how old their mothers were when they passed away, there is a tremendous sense of loss – sometimes for the loss of what was, and sometimes for the mourning of things that never were.
Several of my friends have moms who are with them in body only – their minds and spirits mostly lost, long ago, to the ravages of Alzheimer’s, addiction or mental illnesses. These friends often don’t know how to speak about their mothers – or how to explain their relationship with this day, which is supposed to be chock full of love, admiration, chocolate, sappy sayings, flowers, greeting cards, and mani-pedis (or at least that’s what the marketing folks tell us).
Someone I know recently lost their adult child quite suddenly, in the middle of a weekend that was intended to be one of mighty celebration. It’s a tragedy that is so horrific I almost feel I can’t speak the details of it aloud. I have no idea how she will survive this Mother’s Day, or almost any day, really. I have no words to salve that sort of pain. (And at the same time, I know that, astoundingly, inexplicably, she will survive. We women tend to do that.)
Other mothers I know have children that aren’t with them for one reason or another. Some are separated by distance – sometimes geographical, sometimes emotional. Things happen. Life is hard and tends to gunk us up inside. Relationships suffer along the way.
Most of us know the pain of being disappointed in and hurt by our mothers or by other mother-like figures in our lives. It’s a pain that is hard to get over – a primal sort of wound.
You are Not Alone
So this weekend, as my little family tries to shatter this Mother’s Day curse – not just for me but for all of us – I will choose to keep expectations low. I will be thankful for the goodness of the last year. I will enjoy my children and husband for who they are now, in all of their beauty and honesty and glaring imperfection. We will keep things simple.
I will remember those who are hurting, and I will accept, as best I can, that life is breathtakingly beautiful, but also far more ugly and complex than any Hallmark card – or Instagram photo – can possibly express.
I hope it’s a good day – or at least a tolerable one – for ALL of us.
But if it’s not, know, at least, that you are most definitely not alone.