I had a whole lot of hard Mother’s Days and one good one from the time we started trying to have children until the time our rainbow baby was born.

Mother’s Day the first year we were trying to get pregnant was not too bad. After all, everyone knows that it may take a little while to conceive. But by the second and third years, with our diagnosis of “unexplained infertility” in hand, the holiday was a stinging reminder of what we still lacked.

The Mother’s Day after our daughter was born – that was a great one. We celebrated it with her dedication in church and a party with family who traveled here for the occasion. Life was good, and Mother’s Day was a part of that good.

Until the next year, when Mother’s Day was two months after we lost Naomi, and the year after that, when we had experienced a second loss, baby Kyria. And the year after that, when Jordan had joined his siblings in Heaven. Each year was another reminder of the emptiness of my womb.

I hated Mother’s Day.

The year after THAT, though, Mother’s Day was just over a month after the birth of our son, our rainbow after the lengthy storm of loss. And I was confronted with a dilemma – how do I muster up the energy to celebrate a day that I had learned to hate? How could I revel in the joy of the day when I knew so many mothers who were still struggling in the grief of infertility or loss, or both?

What I began learning that year, and have continued to learn each year after, helped me not only see Mother’s Day in a different light, but other aspects of parenting after loss as well.

Mother’s Day is not just about me.

Nothing reminds me of that more than the history of Mother’s Day, an observation that was begun by a childless woman who had just lost her mother, who herself was a bereaved mother, having lost several children in infancy and childhood. The woman who began Mother’s Day stepped outside herself to honor others. I, too, can celebrate the other mothers around me even when I am not comfortable enough with it to enjoy it for myself.

It’s okay if Mother’s Day is about me.

I am a mom! After so many years of hoping and trying and NOT having a child, it is okay to celebrate and bask in the joy of the young ones who now fill my arms, my days, and my heart. And the older they get, the more of a joy Mother’s Day is to them, in the whispered secrets of making gifts and cards for Mama. Pushing Mother’s Day away also pushes them away and pushes down their joy, and that I do not want to do. But please hear this: it is also okay to make Mother’s Day about you by not doing anything special at all. What does your heart need this year? Do it, knowing that there will be other Mother’s Days in the future.

Mother’s Day can also be about others.

Others who find the day hard, whether they are women who want to be moms, moms whose children are absent, or children (even adult children) whose mothers have died or are simply emotionally distant. Because I’ve been on both sides of the Mother’s Day equation, I understand how many people would prefer just to skip this day, thank you very much. Not everyone’s life is like a Hallmark card commercial – I’d even go so far as to suggest that most people’s lives are not like that, but some holidays can make you feel like you are the odd one out and very, very alone. Because of our story, I can empathize with that, I can reach out with understanding, and I can be an ambassador to help others understand, too.

This year, my Mother’s Day will be about all of these.

I will be cherishing my mother and my mother-in-law, strong women who have influenced and shaped my life, and also other women who have impacted me or my children, whether or not they are mothers in the traditional meaning of the word.

It will be about my children on Earth as they devise ways to surprise me with their creations. It will be about my children in Heaven, as I remember each of them and how God has used their sweet lives to change me and others. It will be about me rejoicing in the life and family God has given me here.

And it will be about others who find the day hard, and doing what I can to make the day sting less. I will wear my bird’s nest necklace to church, the one with a bead for each of my children, both in Heaven and on Earth, and when someone wishes me a happy Mother’s Day, I will finger it, remembering the twists and turns of the road that brought me here and renewing my vow to never forget that everyone has a story and to always look for ways to come alongside others on the journey.

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