Mother’s Day. The day of breakfast in bed, homemade cards, and heartfelt sentiments of love and appreciation. The day when everyone else does the dishes and the laundry and cooks all of the meals and miraculously figures out how to clean the house. The day when you are a queen and any of your royal subjects who whine or fight are sent away for the day. NOT.

I mean, sure, it’s a little like that sometimes. But Mother’s Day in my house mostly feels the same as all of the other days of motherhood: HARD.

I don’t remember my first Mother’s Day.  My brain somehow came with a convenient Etch-A-Sketch feature where I shake my head back and forth for a little while to rid painful memories from my brain, and they mostly disappear. All I know about that first Mother’s Day is that I was supposed to still be pregnant with my first baby, but I wasn’t. I was ignoring the grief I felt from losing that baby and was pregnant with my now oldest child, desperately trying to avoid getting attached.

I don’t remember my second Mother’s Day either, but I’m guessing that was because I was about five months into probably the darkest time of my life, and I was drowning in Postpartum Depression.

But my third Mother’s Day I remember with clarity. My oldest was 17-months-old. I was pregnant with my second child, and we were sick.

These were the days of the dreaded H1N1 Swine Flu Virus, and if the Swine Flu caused projectile vomit and violent yellow diarrhea in toddlers, that’s what we had.

I was exhausted from being pregnant. My body ached. I was running a fever and had the chills. I had been up all night with the toddler who was puking and coughing and crying. And my husband had to work all day. We have no family nearby, and I wouldn’t have dreamt of exposing any friends to the nonsense we were in the middle of. It was all on me to be as sick as I’ve ever been while taking care of a sick toddler. Happy freaking Mother’s Day to me.

At one point in the day, I had collapsed on the kitchen floor because getting all the way to the freezer for my son’s electrolyte popsicle was just too far. It was then that he came crying to me with arms wide-open, ready to be held. So, of course, I opened my arms, prepared for him to snuggle into my lap and cuddle there on the floor before regaining the energy to make it to the freezer.

But instead of my toddler landing in my lap, his vomit did, and before I could get up, he snuggled into my vomit-covered lap and proceeded to ooze foul-smelling yellow diarrhea out from every direction of his diaper.

And what could I do? He cried into me and I cried back into him until we calmed him down enough to head up to the tub, only for the next round of puke and poop to wind up all over the bathroom.

Happy freaking Mother’s Day to me, indeed.

I’m sure it took me the entire day to clean up both of those messes because of how exhausted I was, but the hardest thing to overcome was the bitterness that grew inside because what I experienced was not how Mother’s Day should be.

I should’ve still been pregnant.

I shouldn’t have struggled with Postpartum Depression.

I should’ve been grateful to have a (usually) healthy son.

This day should’ve been about me.

I should’ve been happy.

My husband should’ve been home taking care of us.

Should, should, should, should, should. But life does not exist as it should be. Life only exists as it is. And life is hard and messy and full of poopy things. And after years of holding on to the ideas of how my life should have turned out on any given day, I have resolved to accept it as it is.

I have had some lovely Mother’s Days since that day. My sons are precious and hilarious in their notes to me, but when I go back to creating versions of how any holiday should go, I am always disappointed.

So, friend, on Mother’s Day, I hope you get a restful day of breakfast in bed and flowers and sweet children and all of the things you love. But if you get bad news, lice or explosive diarrhea instead, know that you’re not alone. There’s another mom out there grieving with you. There’s another mom cleaning up vomit or combing through hair searching for nits. There’s another mom praying for a miracle. You are not alone, and there is also an infinitely loving God who is holding you and loving you . . . even through this.

Emily  Donehoo

Emily Donehoo is the lone female in a family of five, a former teacher, and an outdoor enthusiast. She's crazy about books, tacos, pizza, Jesus, and snuggles. You can read more of her writing on her blog