The first time I cried on Mother's Day was in 2009. We were in our first year of marriage and just a few weeks prior, I thought I was pregnant. We were sure. I remember the night I told Zach that I was 90% sure we were going to be parents. He reached over and put his hand on my belly and we laughed. We were so excited. I took a test the next day. Negative. I took a test the next day. Negative. I thought maybe they were faulty tests. I'd never been late even a day and now I was a week late. It didn't make sense. I made an appointment to go to the pregnancy care center to get a more reliable test done. The morning of my appointment, something happened to make me believe I was having a miscarriage. I was horrified. Sobbing uncontrollably. I was so sure that we were pregnant. I went to the doctor later that day and she could neither confirm or deny that I had been pregnant. She said it was highly possible, but even if I was, it was a chemical pregnancy that never would've survived. Whatever it was, I was devastated. I didn't realize how badly I wanted to be a mom until that moment : the moment it was ripped away from me.
I don't know why we fooled ourselves into thinking we would get pregnant easily. Doctors had been telling me for years that I would never have kids. That my body was broken. That it would take a miracle. So that Spring, as Mother's Day came around, I was a mess. My sister in law was beautifully pregnant, her belly was growing, and everyone in our lives were thrilled. They congratulated her and wished her Happy Mother's Day and said things to me like, "You're next!" Wink wink. Elbow shove. They didn't know the torture that was going on inside of me. I was so excited to be an aunt, but I was green with envy. It almost hurt too much to even see her.
The second time I cried on Mother's Day was in 2010. We'd been actively trying for over a year to get pregnant. We did all the tricks. We ate all the things. We prayed. We cried. Every month was agony. Sex was a passionless chore. A few months in, I couldn't stand telling Zach that the test was negative again, so I stopped telling him. I would secretly buy pregnancy tests and take them without him knowing. When the "not pregnant" words popped up, I would sit on the bathroom floor, biting a towel so he wouldn't hear me sobbing. When my brother in law called to tell us they were expecting their first baby, I ran to the bathroom, climbed in the shower, bit a washcloth, and sobbed into my knees. Thirty seconds later, Zach was there in the shower with me, fully clothed, holding me while I cried. I hated how jealous I felt. I hated that I couldn't be happy for my family and friends that were getting pregnant all around me. I hated that I couldn't talk to anyone about it because I didn't want anyone feeling sorry for me. I hated everything. Mother's Day that year was awful. They gave out flowers in church. I didn't get one. The woman handing them out winked and said, "Maybe next year, honey!" She meant well. But it broke me.
Little did I know, baby Jonah was on his way. Almost exactly one month later, I would take a pregnancy test and break the sound barrier when the word "pregnant" popped up. I didn't know. All I knew was my pain and my envy. All I knew was that everyone around me was experiencing something that I never would. All I knew was my brokenness.
My infertility journey was so short that I really don't feel like I qualify to even say one word on the subject. I was able to conceive naturally and have three beautiful babies. I don't for one second take that for granted or pretend to be an expert on infertility. I'm not. But I know what it's like to be childless on Mother's Day. I know how it feels to crave children. To feel like your children are out there, somewhere in your body, somewhere in the world, but you're not allowed to hold them yet. I know how it feels to watch your friends have babies, and then second babies, and then third babies, while your womb is still empty. That pain is familiar to me and it always will be. Even now, as my third baby sleeps on my chest, I can feel that distance that I felt five years ago, and then again three years ago, when we struggled for a second time. That pain is so tangible I can taste it. I wish I could pack it up in a box and never feel it again, but that kind of sorrow never leaves you.
If your arms are empty this Mother's Day, whether it's because of infertility, or because your child passed away, or because you just haven't found that person to settle down with yet, please know that I see you. I could offer you words of encouragement and tell you to hang on and that your time is coming and that you'll be a mom soon, but I won't do that. I won't tell you that you'll be able to have kids, or that you can adopt, or that "heaven just needed another angel." But I can assure you that you aren't forgotten. I know you're lonely. I know you're afraid. I know you're jealous and angry and confused. I know you don't want to go to church on Mother's Day. I know that no one knows what to say and you're tired of the looks of pity and trite Christian sayings. I know your arms are painfully empty and no gifts or words or blog posts can fill them. I just want you to know that I see you and I see your pain.
If you have a loved one who is childless on Mother's Day, please refrain from making promises that you can't fulfill. "Your time is coming!", "You're next!", "You'll be a mom next year!", "God has a special plan and a special baby just for you." Please don't ask her to babysit and for goodness sakes, give her a dang flower! It's not your job to fix her, it's your job to love her and acknowledge her pain without promising that it will go away.
The next time I cried on Mother's Day was in 2011. I woke up early in the morning because my four month old in the bassinet by my bed was hungry. I picked him up and snuggled him close. It was still dark, the house was quiet, and Zach was still sleeping next to me. It was such a moment for me. This little baby was mine. He was mine. I was a mother. On Mother's Day. And so I cried a few happy tears. I tried to say a little "thank you" prayer, but I was so overwhelmed with gratitude, that I couldn't even think the words.
I can't promise you that you'll be a mom next Mother's Day, but I hope that you will. I hope that your empty arms will soon be full. But even more, I hope that you know that right now, in your brokenness, you are seen and you are loved.