On Mother’s Day, I can’t think of anyone more deserving than the one who had to give her child back to God.
This weekend, I’m finding a bittersweet peace in reflecting on the nine months that I carried my son, until the minute God called him home from my womb. I’m celebrating Mother’s Day as an invisible mother, but as a mother nonetheless. I’ll never get to hold my precious Joshua, feel his little heartbeat when he sleeps, cry on his first day of school, drop him off at college, or dance with him on his wedding day.
When my therapist asked me what the hardest part about losing him was, my answer was simple: re-planning the rest of my life without him physically here. You see, in the absence of his physical presence, all can I do is hold on to those great memories from my pregnancy. That’s what keeps me going on days that I’d rather be with him in Heaven. I think back to him kicking me every time he heard his daddy’s voice, and squirming around when I sang (off key) to him.
To my fellow mothers who grieve the loss of their own precious babies and children, I love all of you. We have been placed in a club that we didn’t ask to be in. I asked God so many times, why me? Why did I get stripped of the one thing I was so honored and blessed to carry for 39 weeks? Then I was quickly reminded that God gives his hardest battles to his toughest soldiers.
Mommies, as we quickly approach the second Sunday in May, I can certainly say that watching the world celebrate mothers who have living children doesn’t make me feel like a tough solider. After living through my fair share of (invisible) Mother’s Day holidays, I figured out exactly what I need to get through the day.
I do whatever the hell I want. All. Day. Long.
On my first Mother’s Day, I couldn’t even get out the bed. This heartache of me longing for my son overpowered any urge I had to eat, shower, go out, or talk to people. I was smelly and miserable, crying all day long. My tribe was so worried about me and even I didn’t know if I’d come out of that emotional rut.
The second year was better. I still stayed in bed for most of the day but towards the evening, I wanted to be around people. I had this sense of guilt though – as if I was betraying my son for celebrating this day. Weird, right? Well, my fiancé’s mother and my mom reminded me that Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be a dreadful holiday when I’m missing my baby. They encouraged me to do whatever I wanted in order to find a happy place, and I encourage you to protect your peace as well.
Now, each Mother’s Day gets a little bit easier (only a little, but hey, it’s still progress that I can be thankful for) and this year, my gift to you is a list of tips that helped me manage this weekend over the years.
- First, you have to understand that your journey as a mother still counts. Your angel matters and you deserve to be honored as a mother if you so choose. Everyone may not celebrate with you, and that’s okay. I even have some close loved ones who prefer that I celebrate Mother’s Day once I have living children. I can appreciate their sentiment for what it’s worth, but fuck that, I’m honoring myself.
- Think about what you need in order to protect your peace and clearly communicate your needs with those closest to you. One of the biggest mistakes I made in the past was setting high expectations for how I wanted a milestone day (like Mother’s Day or his birthday) to play out but didn’t tell anyone what I needed. I just expected them to read my mind and know what I wanted because that’s exactly how life works (sarcasm). Tell your tribe what you want or need, even if it doesn’t include them.
- Do whatever makes you happy. Literally. Go to church. Day drink and binge watch Martin. Spend time with your family. Cook. Write in a journal. Release balloons in memory of your angel. Have a cake and eat it too. This day (and the days leading up to it) are hard enough as it is. Find your happy place and stay there.
- Remember that you are not grieving alone. The loss of a baby can be hard for those around you – your parents, your spouse, your closest friends. One year on my son’s birthday, I found my mom reading her devotional bible before breakfast. I asked her what she was reading, and she replied, “a prayer of comfort,” with tears falling from her beautiful face. In that very moment, I realized that I wasn’t the only one still living with the pain of losing my son. I shared that story to say – don’t hesitate to talk to people who may be hurting with you. It’s comforting to know that you aren’t alone in your pain and for me, sometimes simply talking about my son and my memories with him gives me the comfort I need.
- Understand things that trigger you and avoid them. Confession: I stopped going out to eat on Mother’s Day because when the waiter asks “who’s celebrating Mother’s Day today,” I’m overtaken by this awkward feeling when I want to proudly say, “I am!”
I understand that everyone won’t consider me a mother since I don’t have a living child, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is knowing how that situation makes me feel but still force myself to endure it just to be in the company of others.
Going to the mall around this time of year is another trigger for me. There’s just something about me seeing these kids with their moms, or watching men shop for their wives or girlfriends, or co-parenting partners. It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also a brutal reminder that my son isn’t here shopping with is daddy or picking out a card for me.
Know your own triggers and avoid them. Protect. Your. Peace.
One year, 2016 I think, someone that will remain nameless told me that Mother’s Day is “just a day.” “Don’t get too caught up in the hype of the holiday,” they said. “Life goes on,” they said. Those words struck me like a Mayweather blow to Pacquiao in round 4. Initially, it pissed me off because I thought they were trying to dismiss my anxiety around Mother’s Day, and who were they to tell me how to feel?! In reality, they genuinely had good intentions; they just did a really bad job conveying that I am stronger than my depression. While a few milestone days every year may be emotionally challenging, they will not define me.
Remember, moms, God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers. We WILL get through Mother’s Day and when Monday morning comes around, we’ll wake up, take a deep breath, pray, and kick ass all day. Peace out.