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Every day I look at Facebook’s “On This Day” app to see what I was up to exactly one year before. My posts seem to split into my own specific version of B.C./A.D.: B.B. which is “Before Baby” when I read my posts and think “dear goodness, could I have created more boring and shallow status updates if I had tried?!” And then comes A.B., or “After Baby” when the majority of my posts have become adorable baby/kid pictures, “listen to what she said today!” posts, and the random mommy rant. Can anyone relate?
“On This Day” can be so fun and a great way to reminisce. Except when it brings up painful memories.
Take today for example… on this day last year I had shared a post from The Time-Warp Wife entitled An open letter to pastors (A non-mom speaks about Mother’s Day), a wonderful piece on how churches can celebrate and lift up all women on Mother’s Day. I just loved the post. It was illuminating for me and helped me to begin sorting out my own embattled feelings about Mother’s Day.
Then, I read the comments.
I didn’t read the comments on the actual blog post. I read the comments on the Facebook post. See the post here. The top comments inflicted deep pain. Until that moment I assumed that other women would feel compassion for the childless, the infertile, the bereaved mother. Instead I sat in stunned silence, hot tears stinging my eyes as I read cruel words that accused hurting women of “playing the victim.”
I’ve never forgotten those words carelessly written that day.
There was, however, one dear voice towards the top of those comments who spoke with kindness and compassion. That one amazing woman who had never experienced infertility or miscarriage offered sweet words that brought hope to my heart; hope that there is still love and sisterhood. She called on the mothers commenting on the post to stop seeking to honor themselves, to stop rubbing their joy in the faces of the hurting, and offered to pray for those who were sharing their pain and grief.
“Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul…”
The post on Time Warp Wife ended up being controversial, which is just an embarrassing reflection on some Christian women.
The week before Mother’s Day 2015 I shared the article from Time Warp Wife with a friend of mine. It came up in conversation and she was curious to read it. I didn’t think any more of it until Sunday rolled around. My husband and I were sitting in church and at one point in the service the pastor began talking about an article that had been shared with him that week. He started to read it and my jaw dropped. My husband nudged me and with wide eyes he whispered “isn’t that the post you shared?!” I nodded and we later learned we both had the same thought racing through our heads: “well, crap. We have to find another church now!” Because of the less than nice reception the article had received that week and how I had been criticized for even sharing it on my own Facebook pages, I thought for sure this moment in church wouldn’t be a good one. Of course that was crazy talking because the article was amazing! Our pastor reading those encouraging words aloud to everyone listening was incredibly beautiful.
The Brutal Truth
Miscarriage changed my life.
After miscarriage I became an incredibly compassionate person that I was not before. So compassionate that I do not want to stand in church to be honored as a mother on Mother’s Day as my friend sits. The first time I experienced this after miscarriage my heart bled for the beautiful women sitting, not by their own choice, as mothers stood all around them. It’s breathtakingly brutal, if you’re paying attention.
After miscarriage I became desperately attached to my little girl. I’ve always loved her, of course. But since the loss of her sibling I need my girl so much more. My heart aches when I put her to bed in her own room because I need her sleeping beside me. My crazy love for my girl is why I would love for church Mother’s Day celebrations to be more focused on the actual mothers and their children rather than pseudo spiritual ritual of giving “honor” to mothers in front of the whole church. I want a Mother’s Day “tea” or whatever on Saturday where moms and kids dress up, have a party, and take a million selfies. I’d love to pick my daughter up from class after church on Mother’s Day and see what beautiful little handmade gift she made for me during the class. If we’re going to make a whole big thing out of Mother’s Day at church, I’d like it to be less awkward and in the face of non-mothers and more about celebrating the bond between me and my precious little one and my own mom.
After miscarriage and in the aftermath I became a broken person. I’m now painfully honest. Excessively cynical at times. I no longer have the luxury of believing the way I used to believe. I now know that good things do not always happen to good people. I have had to grasp the concept of uncertainty in an American Christian culture that assumes to have it all figured out. I’ve been forced into a place where I no longer have the option of the black and white belief that if I do this + believe this = I get this. I have no choice but to become familiar with questioning everything I’ve ever believed to be true and good. It’s because of this broken place in which I live that what I actually need from the church is not to stand and be applauded for having successfully procreated. I don’t need a little token gift from the church on Mother’s Day. What I need is real and accessible community. I need to eat dinner with friends. I need fun activities to attend to make good memories with my husband and daughter centered around church life. I need full acceptance of me even when I sound like a liberal in a room full of conservatives (who knew that being fully on the side of love and compassion and being one of those “Jesus Feminists” would be enough to alienate me from my conservative friends… but whatever man!). I need to see strong women in leadership in my church and community. I need to be a part of a support group through church where I can work through anger, grief, self-pity, hopelessness, and other negative emotions in a completely safe space.
So, now that I’ve gone totally personal, what do you need? Think about it for a moment. How can we each help create the church culture that we need ourselves?
When Mother’s Day Hurts
So many friends tell me they do not attend church services on Mother’s Day. Many who do struggle to balance their joy and sadness.
I have friends who have lost their mother too young. I have so many friends who have suffered painful miscarriages. I have friends who have buried their babies on the day they should have taken them home. I have friends who were abused or neglected by their mothers. I have friends who are dealing with infertility. I have friends who are childless by choice and prefer to avoid the rudely intrusive and cutting judgement of others, and so they don’t attend church on Mother’s Day.
To those who find Mother’s Day painful or at least bittersweet, let me release you from expectation… you don’t have to go to church on Mother’s Day.
(As my pastor friends everywhere just want to slap me right now let me tell you, if you know me at all you know I understand your position deeply. Calm the heck down and listen. I’m on your side more than you may realize.)
Yes, it’s true. You can celebrate a peaceful Mother’s Day in the way that you choose. Church does not have to be a part of your celebration.
Here are some ways to celebrate Mother’s Day when it hurts:
Take a walk in the sunshine.
Enjoy a family brunch.
Write your mom a letter. Deliver it to her and give her a big, grateful hug. Or, sit by her grave and read the words aloud.
Go to a movie with your favorite people.
Dance in the rain.
Have a picnic in the park with your children.
Write letters to the babies you wish to hold one day.
Eat all the chocolate.
Get a massage.
Ride roller coasters.
Paint your nails.
Lay on the couch and watch movies with your children all day.
Sing in the shower.
Plan a big cookout with friends and family.
Read a good book.
Go to church. If you have a beautiful, loving, compassionate, accepting community of faith that will bring you care and joy on Mother’s Day, be there. If not, you need no excuse.