I was an adult before it occurred to me that Mother’s Day might be a hard or complicated holiday for some people. From my privileged position as the daughter of a remarkable mother whom I loved celebrating each year, and with full expectation that I too would one day join the ranks of moms to be celebrated, I didn’t see how this commemorative day might be difficult for those who were grieving the loss or absence of a mother or child.
Through years of observation, maturity, and my own bumpy road to becoming a mom of three, I have come to see the complexness of this holiday and the emotions that it can evoke. It is a day of joyous celebration for those who have given us life, wiped our bottoms and our tears, taught and encouraged and disciplined us, and held our hands through life’s ups and downs. AND it is a day for mourning relationships that no longer exist, have yet to come, or never were. It can be both. It must be both.
I will never celebrate another Mother’s Day without recalling Mother’s Days past when the day was an aching reminder of the empty space in my heart (and womb) that was still waiting to be filled. And—praise be to my gracious Heavenly Father for answering my prayers—I will never let another Mother’s Day go by without embracing the opportunity to rejoice over the gift that motherhood has been to me.
I can’t recall a time in my life when I didn’t want to be a mother one day, so I was surprised that when I did become a mom at age 30, motherhood didn’t come naturally to me. As a former babysitter, teacher, and nanny, I had decades of experience with kids under my belt, but taking on full care for another human that never left my side was entirely new and entirely challenging.
Motherhood forced me to confront the uglier sides of my character and personality that I’d managed to keep hidden before Charleston came along. Through the mirror of my young child I came face-to-face with my own selfishness, hypocrisy, and fallibility. But in him and my connection to him, I also began to see a new woman emerge—a woman who loved fiercely, who exhibited new strength and humility, who refused to accept her limitations but confronted them, and who was more reliant than ever before on the strength of her Creator. In other words, I began to see. . . a mother.
Many woman talk about how they lost themselves when they gave birth to a child. But for me, new motherhood was accompanied by a purpose and identity that was always missing pre-kids. I don’t know if I was ever fully alive before a child entered my world. And this aliveness has expanded since becoming a mom for a second/third time. My children are an undeserved and exuberantly celebrated gift—because of who they are, and also because of how God is using them to make me fully ME.
In the months after Charleston was born (and honestly ever since) I struggled to write about the mothering experience because it felt too significant, too momentous, too comprehensive to encapsulate in a blog post. To this day, every word I write about my children and my connection to them seems inadequate. Instead, I resort to well-worn clichés about love and gratitude—because saying nothing at all feels like a betrayal, yet my own words will never do justice to my expansive emotions towards the three beings I cherish so dearly.
And so, on this most complex of holidays, I mourn alongside those who have nothing but tears for this day. But I also rejoice with children and with mothers across the nation as we celebrate the strong, sacrificial, wise women who raised us, and our own blessed experience of raising humans who call us Mom.