Last night I I texted my pastor friend and asked "How Mothers' Day-y will things be in worship tomorrow?"
Later I tweeted this:
3 months ago I had surgery that means I will never be pregnant, give birth, be a biological mother. It was absolutely the right decision for me. AND I am having feelings about tomorrow. Because both can be true.
For most of my life, Mothers' Day has been mostly letting my mom know I love her (sorry I didn't get you a card or present this year Mom). As a minister in a congregation, it was about finding a delicate balance between acknowledging mothers and caring for those for whom today is a painful one.
What I have come to realize is that more of us have grief of some kind on this day than do not.
Grief for mothers who have died
Grief because of the pain of infertility, of miscarriages, of motherhood that has been unrealized
Grief for children who have died
Grief for mothers or children who are far away - physically or emotionally.
Grief in the limits of the binary language of mother when one struggles with the limits of our language and definitions.
Grief of illness, of fractured relationships, of abuse, of all the ways our human relationships are messy and not simply love and gratitude.
I remember as a child sitting next to my mom at church on Mothers' Day and her being sad as the day was acknowledged in worship. She missed her mom, the grandmother I never met because she died in the months before my birth. It was a moment where I felt the tension between gratitude and grief.
When I have spent Mothers' Day leading worship, I have compartmentalized my own feelings. I switch into "minister mode" - hyper aware of the ways the different parts of worship will be heard by those in the pews - from the Happy Mothers' Day! welcome to the elder's prayer at the communion table, offering permission and grace where I could.
Grace and compassion to everyone else any way. I didn't stop to consider how I felt as another year passed without a significant other with whom I might build a family. Or the growing feeling that all those childhood debates about what names I would give my future children were for naught. Or the physical distance from my own mom that meant there was no Mothers' Day lunch or gathering to go to.
This year though there is not congregation to care for and my body will officially never carry a child.
It is not a decision I regret, it was the right one for me and for my health. And yes, there is still the chance that I will be "mom" to someone in the future. But today I grieve the ways I have not been able to share love.
The grief is layered and nuanced and stings a little more because of current circumstances.
...The ways my relationships with my nieces are changing as they become teenagers.
...The lost opportunity that would have moved me closer to a friend and her family who I so want to shower with love in person
...The liminal space I have found myself in, that I used to justify putting my personal life on hold but didn't expect to last quite so long.
I don't have a neat bow to tie everything up with. No deep theological conclusion or "and then everything was ok!" Just the need and the desire to name that this year today is hard in new ways.
Whatever this day holds for you, may you be known.