Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Mixture on Mother's Day

Mother's Day, for me, is a day full of paradox and emotion.  It is not a simple day to celebrate my motherhood, for my journey into that institution was (and is) a journey with complexity, sadness, joy, and anxiety.

My first Mother's Day was in 2008.  It was a day of great sadness and terrible confusion.  My dear twin boys were born just two months before and had died hours after their birth.  The question burned inside of me:  Was I truly a Mother?  If I was, how was Mother's Day built to include me?

The answer - quite simply - was that Mother's Day wasn't designed to include me, but that I was certainly a mother.  My children were gone, but their permanent imprint on my life was to bestow upon me the title "Mother" for the very first time.  Their little lives transformed my own forever, even as they slipped into eternity so soon after their birth.  I could never wipe their little noses or choose the overalls they would wear.  I could never shout at them to hold my hand, or smile when they built a tower of blocks.  I could not worry about them or train them up to be little boys of God, because they were with God.  In that way, my parenting duties were minimal, at best.  But on Mother's Day in 2008, I went to their grave in Lancaster County, and carefully laid flowers there for them and tidied up the space.  (I used to call that 'cleaning their room').  I made everything look as perfect as possible, fussing over every details as any mother would.  But when I left that space, the world didn't see me as a mother.  I ventured out on Mother's Day with my arms empty and no one wished my "happy mother's day".  Few family members understood what to do for me on that day, and I could not tell them.  In 2008, I was left to wonder if the only children I would ever hold were the children that I had buried.

On Mother's Day 2009, my belly was round as I carried my daughter.  She was due in less than two months (but would actually be born in mere weeks!) and I was dressed beautifully in a pastel maternity dress.  We went to brunch.  My arms were still empty, but there was no mistaking my figure - a child would be born.  Strangers would smile at me.  I remember one person who said, "Oh, it's too bad your little one didn't show up sooner - you've just missed Mother's Day!"  I nodded at his ignorance, for he could never know the tiny twins who made me a mother a year before, or understand that even though Chelsea was not yet born, I was already a mother to her.  It was a Mother's Day of expectation, joy, and sadness.  Expectation for the child we had yet to meet, joy and hope for her safe arrival, and sadness for the little boys who didn't share a space at the brunch table that day, but who were very much in our hearts.

Mother's Day 2010 was the first Mother's Day where I ventured proudly into the world.  It was the first Mother's Day where everyone who saw me smiled at our little girl and said, "Happy Mother's Day".  There was no hesitation or confusion.  I had entered the "club"; my daughter looked adorable in her flowered dress and I was a mother, inside and out. 

Mother's Day 2011 wasn't particularly spectacular.  I had been in a car accident the previous day and spent some of my time in the emergency room being examined for injuries! 

Enter Mother's Day 2012.  Again, I venture out with my family.  Again, my little girl looks adorable in her purple fluttery dress.  We sit at brunch, and everyone smiles at us and wishes me a happy mother's day.  I receive a card and the special attention I have earned in my role as mother.  It is a day full of joy, sadness, and anxious anticipation.

There is joy for the little girl who sits at the opposite end of the table, asking for "More bread please!" and playing games with her Pop Pop and Grandma.  There is sadness for the two little faces who will never join us at an earthly table.  There is anxious anticipation, beause this year we know our future son is far away.  He doesn't know he has a mother who is coming.  He has no one with him on this day.  It is my last mother's day as a mother of one living child.  Imagining the Mother's Day table next year is difficult to envision, yet we pray that it will happen quickly and there will be our little Joshua beside his sister. 

Mother's Day is a complicated day, and this one has been no different.  I am the mother of little boys who I scarcely met before they died.  I am the mother of a little girl with autism who has an infectious laugh and glimmering eyes.  And I am working to be the mother of a little boy who weighs 19 pounds and lives in The Bad Place, where few take notice of him and where his health continues to deteriorate.

God bless all mothers today; those who have children in their arms, those who are waiting for their children in faraway lands, and those mothers who are "invisible" mothers, but mothers just the same. 

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