Mother's Day has tended to be an odd holiday for me. When I was younger, it was a day to celebrate my mom and grandmas and godmother. It wasn't a big day, but it didn't go by unrecognized either. Then college graduation fell on Mother's Day. My parents dutifully traveled out of state to share my graduation with me, and mom never complained that my celebration had taken her day. When I finished graduate school, commencement once again fell on Mother's Day. This time, my family and my in-laws all traveled out of state, but none of the four moms who came to celebrate made me feel as though it was anything other than my day.
Over the years, I had seen how emotional people got during church on Mother's Day and, although I could rationalize why it happened, I didn't really get it. I couldn't understand why certain hymns would make grown women bawl during service. It was just another holiday to get a card and a present and celebrate some annual event.
Then came last year. I had been on one or two rounds of fertility medications by that point, and all tests had indicated that this should be all we needed. I was feeling quite hopeful. Whether it was a byproduct of the medication, or the disappointment, or some combination of both, when I woke up Sunday morning to discover that we had failed again, I became an emotional wreck. Having learned a while back that when I was in such a place, going to church to be surrounded by those who loved me was a better option than sitting home alone, I pulled up my big girl shorts and went to church. I think I cried throughout the entire service. It didn't help that I felt like I was on display because I was sitting with the choir up in front of everyone. The hymns made me cry. The prayers made me cry. Everything about that service was an affirmation of my failure to become a mother once again. It felt like the worst form of emotional torture.
After service was over, there was a time for special prayers in the sanctuary. A dear friend (and dynamic pray-er) laid hands on me and prayed over me. Although she never remembered the words, they washed over me and worked to heal my heart and soul. Among other things, she asked God to "let this be the last Mother's Day that Mary is not a mother." I clung to this prayer a lot in the past year. Month after month as things didn't work out, I kept telling myself that I still had time--it wasn't Mother's Day yet. I remember calculating out that if I had gotten pregnant in August, I would have been due Mother's Day. I became certain that August would be my month. When it wasn't, it took me a while to realize that it didn't mean the prayer hadn't worked. So long as I was pregnant by Mother's Day, the prayer had been answered. I was still leery, though. I remember telling Phil that I wasn't sure I could go to service on Mother's Day if IVF didn't work. But Phil is an amazing man.
In between all the surgeries and information sessions and everything else we did, Phil and I talked about how to make Mother's Day service welcoming for all women. It is a day to celebrate our mothers and grandmothers; those mother's who birth children that others raise; the women who raise others' children, whether as adoptive moms, step-moms, guardians or foster moms; those women who conceived children that were born in heaven; sisters who mother their siblings; aunts who mother their nieces and nephews; and the women who mentor, teach, console and comfort children. It is also appropriate to recognize the infertile women who suffer, as did several prominent women in the Bible. And so Phil put together an amazing responsive prayer for Mother's Day that set out to remember and honor all of these types of mothers. Even though I knew it was coming, it still made my cry. It was amazing. I felt in that moment that, even if I hadn't been pregnant, I would have felt like the day honored me.
But this Mother's Day was even more special, because I got to give thanks for answered prayers. As it turned out, last year was the last Mother's Day that I was not a mother. I am blessed, grateful, humbled, and terrified. So as I take my place among the ranks of mothers, I want to thank all of the women who have mothered me. I wouldn't be here without you. Thank you for not only sharing your day, but your lives with me. And to my mom--thanks for sharing my first Mother's Day with me.