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.

You may also like:

Motherhood Was Supposed To Be Paradise

For The Motherless On Mother’s Day

A Mother’s Day With Empty Arms

Leah Peterson

Leah Peterson is a native Nebraskan, living on the ranch her ancestors homesteaded in 1878. She and her husband Matt, met at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and returned to the ranch in 2012 after working and living in Central Nebraska the past 12 years. They are parents to two daughters, Maggie and Lucy. Leah has an undergrad degree from UNL in Communication Studies, and a MA in Leadership from Bellevue University. Aside from her work at the ranch and opportunity to be a stay at home mom, she enjoys writing, photography, community involvement, spending time with friends and family and trying new recipes in her kitchen. Leah published her first children's book in 2011 titled "An Apple for Dapple" and enjoys traveling throughout the state to share her book with children and raise awareness about the importance Agriculture in Nebraska.