It happens every year. The inevitable sit, stand, awkward hovering in mid air trying to decide all the while feeling that painful tug on my heart. “Would all the mother’s please stand?”
All my life I’ve dreamed of being a mom and I knew one day I would get my carnation on Mother’s Day. And then I didn’t become a mom. At first it was okay, we were just trying. I’d be a mom next year. When the waiting turned to tests and learning there was a slim chance I’d ever be a bio mom sitting hurt so bad we didn’t even go. In fact more often than not when we were in the middle of our infertility pain that we’d walk into church and straight out again. One time we drove a friend to church, saw it was Child Dedication day, turned around, went out for breakfast, and only came back when the service was over to pick them up. I’m sure you can imagine the hurt Mother’s Day call-outs are for a woman going through infertility. So it must have gotten better when my husband and I decided to become foster parents and that first Mother’s Day rolled around with 2 beautiful children in our home. I remember being excited for the day to come. Finally I could stand and be recognized as part of that longed for “Mom’s club”. Imagine my surprise when Mother’s Day brought confusion instead of relief.
For me Mother’s Day still belonged to my little ones bio mother. I was loving them as my own, they were treating me as though I was their mom, but she didn’t stop existing. We made her mother’s day cards. I gave her the Sunday School craft they had made. There was this strange paradox that I was a kind of Mother and yet didn’t feel like Mother’s Day was for me. The more people reassured me that I deserved to be celebrated and that I was a mother only made me feel worse. I felt like a thief trying to steal their bio mom’s day. And my heart still hurt that I didn’t have, and would probably never have, bio kids.
Then I had a strange thought. Maybe Mother’s Day doesn’t need to be for me. Maybe I don’t need to claim the title of Mother to be able to love my foster kiddos as a mom. Maybe Mother’s Day can be about their bio moms and we can honour them as a family. Maybe I can be a mom without having Mother’s Day be about me.
There’s not a lot of room for ‘other’ kinds of mom’s in the church on Mother’s Day. If you’re lucky they will mention people who have lost their mom or are struggling to become a mom. Mostly there’s the part I’ve mentioned, the call to stand if you are one and be celebrated. What about the mom’s who have lost their children? Or mom’s who never got to meet theirs? People whose mom wasn’t there for them? These are all deep, hurtful issues that can’t be touched on in a Sunday morning celebration of Mother’s Day. There isn’t room to properly love on all these people in the few minutes dedicated to recognizing the mom’s in the congregation. At first I thought because it’s so hard on so many of us that churches should just not even mention Mother’s Day. Maybe it could be in the bulletin but not mentioned from the front at all. And I still think that would be a safe road for churches that are uncomfortable with opening themselves up to the deep hurt that can surface on Mother’s Day. But for those churches that are safe communities willing to walk the hard path I think we can move past the “Stand if you are…”. Might I suggest an honest prayer instead of a token gesture. Maybe something like the following…
On this day that brings so many emotions we invite you to draw close to us Jesus. Be with those of us who are rejoicing and fill us with good memories to share about those Mother’s that have been a blessing to us. Be with those of us who are mournful on this day and missing our mothers. Be with those of us who are mourning the loss of our children. Comfort those of us who long to be mothers. Be with those that mother in place of those who cannot. Be with us in the deep hurt and great joy this day brings to us. Thank you that no matter what this day brings you are with us. Thank you that you care for us as a mother. Thank you that you never leave us or forsake us. In your name we pray, Amen.