I was sitting in a church pew in 2006, as the springtime breezes made the scent of fresh carnations drift throughout the entire sanctuary. My husband gripped my hand tightly throughout the service. I didn’t want to be there. He didn’t want to be there. But, going to church on Mother’s Day was tradition. It’s what we had done since we ourselves were babies.
As the service neared the end, my throat was tight and my eyes blinking rapidly against the pain I felt sitting in the back of my throat. As was tradition, the children of the church walked to the front of the room as the pastor enthusiastically began to talk about the special roles of mothers and how loved “they” all were. He handed the kids handfuls of carnations and told them to distribute them to the mothers.
My husband began to stroke the back of my hand with his thumb, pressing harder as I plastered a fake smile on my face and waited for the kids to pass me by. Because, of course they did. There was no baby in my womb, arms, or next to me on the pew. Because, I didn’t meet the definition of “mother.”
I had never considered how painful the act was. My logical and sensible self knew it was accidental and unintentional to “exclude” me and others. Babies lost to miscarriage are widely unknown and unrecognized. But, boy did it hurt. I wanted to stand and shout. “See me????!!!! I want to be a mother! I have had two miscarriages, and beautiful photos of my babies’ beating hearts. I am a mother too!”
But, I didn’t say a word.
Year after year, that church and other churches carry on with their traditional observations of Mother’s Day, in flowers and tokens and words. They are lovely and beautiful and so essential to observing the contributions of Moms all over this country.
But, I ask you as you enter this week in preparations, that if you have influence in your church or community group, or any other upcoming recognition efforts, that you stop for a moment and think about the women in the shadows. The ones who are mothers to babies never born, who placed babies for adoption, who never were able to give birth or adopt, to foster moms and grandmas and aunts and teachers and a host of others who have poured their love and life into children. Perhaps on Mother’s Day, you place a fragrant carnation in their hands too. I guarantee you, the small gesture will mean more than you would ever know.