Grieving Mother’s Day

To be honest, I’m never quite prepared for the emotions that I’ll feel today. They sneak up on me. You see Mother’s Day has always been that special day to celebrate my Mom. By its very definition, and the years of practicing and enacting this day out, it’s always been about my Mom and my Grandmoms. It’s a definition and a story that my brain has believed for years, decades even. It wasn’t a day about me and that was fine, until I had my first miscarriage just two days after Mother’s Day a few years ago. That’s when it changed, and Mother’s Day split in two.

That first Mother’s Day, post two miscarriages, I didn’t see the tears coming. I am tough. I can get through anything. I realized there was likely still a wound there, a trauma even, and I let myself cry. Another miscarriage later, I went into my next Mother’s Day feeling a bit vulnerable but expecting myself to have cried it out by then. It had been 9 months since my last miscarriage, but I still couldn’t stop the tears. By the following Mother’s Day I was grieving my 4th miscarriage and decided to go to Italy. Distractions help. I honestly have no idea if I cried.

This year, I thought I had Mother’s Day handled. The miscarriages were behind me. I was going to try IVF again, and I practice gratitude regularly. I have a lot to be grateful for. Shouldn’t that be enough? Yet seemingly out of nowhere and without anticipation, the tears started to trickle a few days before Mother’s Day arrived. I clearly felt a bit more emotional than normal all week, but I chalked it up to hormones or the Moon. Full in Scorpio, it’s definitely the Moon! Then this Mother’s Day morning, all it took was a sweet text from a friend acknowledging my “motherliness” and the faucets opened.

Of course Mother’s Day has always been a day to talk to and celebrate my Moms, ordering flowers and sending out cards, texting heartfelt messages to my Mom friends and family. I have always and still do truly feel love, happiness and gratitude for each of them. But now there’s this new scene that’s entered the story. Without even trying or actually wanting to, I now see myself playing a new role in the Mother’s Day play. The woman who wanted to be a mother, but who isn’t, and the tears come. As if adding insult to injury, I experience this grief and sadness, and then start to feel bad. I feel disingenuous in my heartfelt love messages. I feel guilty for feeling sad on a happy day, and even worse, I feel ungrateful.

As someone who practices feeling my emotions and writing about them, I am at peace with the tears. In fact, I welcome them. I don’t want to repress feelings, but after years of tears for the losses and the fear that I may never become a Mom, I do wonder if they will ever stop flowing? Will I ever solely express love and gratitude today without also clouding it by feeling my own grief? And what to do about the guilt, the shame in my lack of gratefulness for what I do have in life? I wonder when Mother’s Day will go back to being a joyous day of celebration without any heartache and pain. I wonder when I will not feel the longing to be a Mom and the loss of the babies that almost made me one.

What I finally began to see after the tears stopped today was that I have been trying to make Mother’s Day mean what it used to for me, when it has changed. I had to redefine the day and make room for all of it. There’s a new story where both love and grief get to play a role. I don’t have to feel bad for the complicated feelings that arise for me today. I can embody it all. Whether you’re trying to become a mother, you’ll never be a mother, you’ve lost your mother, you never had a loving mother, or you’ve lost a child, you are allowed to feel whatever emotions come up for you today. They are all real, all valid and all deserving to share in today. The grief and pain of these experiences are as much a part of Mother’s Day as is the love.

There’s grief as well as comfort in letting go of the old Mother’s Day. A release of things that used to be or almost were and a welcoming in of the new. I’ve learned to appreciate my own journey and how it adds to the beauty of the new story. Strength, perseverance, open-heartedness, vulnerability, sadness. They don’t take the pain away, but perhaps they create space for me to see how they all make the new Mother’s Day that much richer and that much more my own.